Creating on the extremes
Five days ago I told a Smut Slam-style story as part of a late-night cabaret. Half the crowd had already drifted off to the dance floor elsewhere in the building; the other half was getting increasingly drunk, so while the comedian and the blues-guitar duo got some well-deserved hoots and hollers, my style and content did not go down smoothly. The emcee saw my distress as I stepped into the green room, and hastened back to reassureÂ me that my bit went well, but I justÂ shook my head as I gathered up my gear. I had known in advance that I didnâ€™t belong on that program. I amÂ not hardcore enough.
Yesterday I got a note from a small-town festival that Iâ€™ve put my name in for hosting a sort of sexy variety night. They want to have room to vet any acts or material that I bring in; the venueÂ is interested in â€œsexyâ€ but not “controversial”. I’ve done shows there in the past; I think I mightÂ have a reputation. I wonder if I belong in that town, or really any town below a particular size. I am too hardcore.
In the course of one week, I have ridden the pendulum from not enough to too damn much, and aside from the emotional whiplash, Iâ€™m mostly just feeling annoyed at myself.
Like, I should know better. I know exactly what it is that I do, and within two minutes of talking with someone about a gig, I can tell whether or not that gigÂ will actually work for me. I can sense whether something is going to be the right fit for the kinds of things that I do. I know whether or notÂ I have something in my back pocket already for the gig, or if in fact Iâ€™m going to need to write something different. That last item is such a labor that, unless I feel that I can take the resulting piece somewhere on my own, like, develop it out into a longer work or a full out play, I donâ€™t do it, I pick something that I already have done.
The challenge is,Â mostly what Iâ€™ve already done is never EXTREEEEEEME. Itâ€™s never hardcore, or if it is, thereâ€™s always some goddamn emotional subtext thatâ€™s waiting to grab a fistful of heart strings and yank. Nor is my work ever a gentle musing sort of anything. I mean, it might be. I can ramble gently with the best down-home storytellers, but damn it if a cock or cunt doesnâ€™t just pop up from time to time. It’s not that my stuff is middle-of-the-road, it just … is a piquant mix, which is fine, but it turns out a lot of gigs and other opportunities take sides. There aren’t many places that allow for a mixed bag of graphic and heart-grabbing.
I donâ€™t know what to do. Part of me is still poking away at the prospect of developing more different kinds of shows and Smut Slams, creating somethingÂ for small towns and other conservative environments. I OBSESSÂ about how I can make my Smut Slam idea work for universities (which are essentially conservative environments, sex-ed weeks and blow-job workshops notwithstanding). And what about those glam, power-cabaret spots, where they want high-impact visuals or audio or costumes? Do I have something in me that really goes POW?
I can see the worth of this, developing and expanding my repertoire. Itâ€™s definitely oneÂ way to stay gainfully employed: multiple eggs in many different baskets.Â But at the same time, I alreadyÂ put in a lot of work just doing what Iâ€™m doing. Maybe I need to just put in a little more time and find the right audiences for what I already have.
I donâ€™t know what to do. I’m still working on it. GAH.
This is the messy creativity that I am slopping around in right now. Welcome to my play pit. If you want to help me build the system out of the chaos, now is the time: become a patron of mine over on Patreon!