Monthly Archives: May 2016

Feeling So Successful!

Saturday May 28th 2016

I wore no makeup tonight. I was still blowing my nose too much. It rained like mad while we played, but a crowd still gathered. I was stunned. That’s what happens here in Lisboa for us, thankfully. I was feeling so happy and successful. Even though it rained, we had a wonderful night. It’s amazing we can live like this. I don’t understand how it is I fell into Thoth’s life at the time I did and in almost 8 years we have done so many amazing things together, just through making music together. Who knows what lays in store for us. I thank god for my voice. I love singing. I love the feeling of singing. I love the sound of my voice with Thoth, my little Bunny. Isn’t it funny I call him Bunny? No one’s ever asked me why. I hardly ever call him Thoth anymore. Only if I need help with something. He is my husband, and my beautiful singing partner He and the prayformance is the center of my life. I am completely committed myself to this work. I can’t imagine what will happen when I’m 40… 50, 60!! I wouldn’t believe you if you told me I’d be where I am now 10’s year ago. I have so many dreams, and we are completely capable of making all our dreams come true. We are so successful, no matter what anyone says or thinks.

Sunday May 29th 2016

I was all better tonight. My voice was clear and strong! We played to a crowd spilled out across the road trying to catch a glimpse of us tonight. There must have been almost 100 people all in front of us at one point. It was so cool! I keep saying this over and over, but over and over we have this experience, but it’s amazing and we’re so blessed to be able to do it. It’s worth all the worry and fear we have about the future to experience that. I can’t really explain clearly because you’re not me and you could never truly understand. I don’t know why I bother trying to explain it. I can only convey so much through my vlogs and blog. You have to be here and see it live to really understand. I like when people talk to us, when people stay for a long time and say touching things. I’m so glad I can share as much as I can with those who are interested. I just have to keep plugging away. A new friend took us to dinner. He’d met Thoth back in 1999! He didn’t know anything about me.

Support from a New Fan

Friday May 27th 2016

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 5.22.18 PM

I didn’t do anything outrageous with my look tonight. White face and my hair in a bun. That’s it. I wore my favorite white dress and wrapped some tulle around my head. We left the apartment and someone leaning out of a door said, “You look amazing.” to both of us. I have a lot of confidence these days. The prayformances have been so beautiful, the audiences so supportive, the words so warm and genuine. It’s like walking on a cloud. “Word seems to be spreading more quickly this time.” Thoth said.

Tonight it was cold, and it was our first feeling of it being a “slow day,” whatever that means. We still do well, which on a slow day is especially surprising. Two girls talked to us after “Plucking Song.” “Can I give you my honest opinion?” she asked. “Of course.” I said. “I feel pain in your music, and it’s beautiful. Your show is the best I’ve seen.” she said. She and her friend sat for the rest of the prayformance. We love and appreciate people who hold space for us. It made the performance lovely.

We had dinner and I was watching at the waiters rushing around serving people food. We don’t have to do that. I have never been in customer service in my life. I don’t know how anyone does it. I feel immensely grateful and content. Content that we can travel the world and live as we do through our music alone. I love living like this because we don’t have to beg anyone to come see us, we don’t have to do anything but get ourselves dressed and get out to our performance spot. Even if the world has limited street perfomance as much as it has, we’re still able to do our work with relatively little interference. Imagine if the world was wide open to public performance and we were welcomed everywhere we went. Even so, we have still managed to carve out a niche for ourselves and have found places to play and a way to live and be, on the whole, happy.

I Almost Fainted

Thursday May 26th 2016

I barely ate anything before going out to play tonight. A few strawberries, some cereal, and a yogurt perhaps. Nothing substantial. I just wasn’t hungry enough. However, during the prayformance, I started feeling weak. My hands were trembling. “I didn’t eat enough today.” I immediately thought. After our 4th or 5th song I turned to Thoth and said, “I feel like I’m going to faint.” “Sit down and put your head between your legs.” he said. I did. “I need water.” I hadn’t brought enough. I knocked on the door of Gardenia, the shoe store that has made it possible for us to perform there, and asked if they’d fill up out bottles. The manager, Jose, did immediately.

I drank water and sat while Thoth played a solo. There was a very large crowd watching, including fans sitting in chairs in the space. I felt very vulnerable and exposed feeling the way I did. I managed to stand and prepared to play a piece that required a lot of movement. I didn’t think I could do it. “Let’s do ‘Plucking Song.'” I was shaking as we played, and tried to put my head down as I sang. It was very strange. I started feeling better and managed to play from 8:15 until a little past 10 pm.

Our friend Juda, one of the guards who works at the space, came to say hello. He loves us. “You’re my best friends.” he said. Wow.

One Week in Lisboa!

Wednesday May 26th 2016

We had a hard day. I’d been sick all weekend and my mind was working against me. All of this was eased, thankfully, by a beautiful, well attended prayformance at 56 Rua Garrett. I am so grateful we have that space to play in. So grateful. If we couldn’t play there, we couldn’t come to Europe in the summer.

I find that when we expect nothing, we usually have a great prayformance. If you expect nothing, something is bound to please you. We started up at 8pm, and a very big crowd of people gathered around us. It was astounding for a regular weekday night. We continued to play, and our friend with red hair showed up. She used to watch us play all the time, and cried when we left a few years ago. She embraced us when we finished our song. I love playing in that spot. It feels theatrical with the light pointed up at us and we are welcome there. Having a light here in Lisboa and in New York’s Central Park is a great for getting people’s attention. In November, when the sun goes down in NYC, the light shining at us playing music in costume is beautiful.

We played for an hour and a half. Didn’t want to overdo it when we have four more prayformances to go this week, and I’m still a little stuffy. I’m very happy I have been able to sing through this illness. Usually I can’t, and I would have been incredibly disheartened to have lost these first four or five prayformances in Lisboa. I don’t know what to do with myself when we’re not prayforming. It is my whole life. It’s what keeps me stable. Otherwise, I have a hard time coping with my chosen lifestyle. Everything starts breaking down in my mind. I guess you can say the hard thing about having found something I love to do is that when I’m not doing it, I’m out of sorts.

I am so happy to be here. I have to go cuddle with Bunny now.

Finding My Way, One Prayformance at a Time.

Wednesday May 25th 2016

I’m sick. Even though I was ill on Saturday morning, I was able to sing through two almost two hour prayformances, but I got sicker on Monday (our day off.) I thought I was getting better. Thoth got sick on the plane, then passed it to me. It’s no surprise. We were stressed out after traveling hundreds of thousands of miles up in the air in a metal tube in the driest, germ-ridden air imaginable, for 10 hours. I am proud I got myself to sing this past weekend, and I’m sure I’ll be able to sing tonight. Even 3 years ago, if I got sick, I wouldn’t sing. My voice is my livelihood, but I don’t have to sing so fully when I’m ill. Singing when sick is very humbling. It takes away a lot of my strong suits when it comes to prayformance. My high register is unreachable, I can’t sing sustained notes of any kind and I can’t wear makeup. It makes me feel very bare, but the space we sing in here lends its self well to the sounds I’m able to produce. I can pop out a note and the reverb will sustain it for me. I don’t have to force anything. I wouldn’t dream of hurting myself for the sake of strangers watching us perform in the street.

Not wearing makeup the past two prayformances was eye opening for me. It showed me how much I rely on makeup in performance. I don’t need to. Many actors wear nothing on their faces when performing because they sweat too much. My husband doesn’t wear very much makeup for the same reason. Just a little gold on his cheeks, some black eyeliner and a little lipstick. It’s the same every time, too. For years I’ve been challenging, sometimes forcing myself to do a different look every single day. There’s no reason if I don’t feel like it, especially in public performance. If we do a special indoor show, I can put my creative skills to use then. This doesn’t mean I’m not going to wear makeup in public again, it just opens it up as a possibility. Now that I think about it, it’s incredibly stupid that I thought I am nothing without my fanciful makeup. For a few years, I thought I had to wear incredibly complex headdresses with tulle and feathers in order to be beautiful for prayformance. What nonsense! Prayformance is about what’s in my heart, in my soul, not what’s on my face or in my hair. That’s superficial. I always said I do makeup and fanciful costumery to express what’s inside, but that’s not always true. Sometimes I do it because I feel like I have to, like people are expecting it.

My sister did a show recently where everyone wore black. She had on black jeans and a black shirt. She even had her phone in her back pocket. No makeup, of course. My sister rarely wears makeup. The show was about the actors physicality and their voice, and I was spellbound for the entire hour and 15 minutes. My sister did three dance numbers, which were fantastic. She’s a good dancer! Another actor I saw a few years ago does all his shows in dark clothes, sometimes his face is smeared with blood or grease paint, but that’s it. It’s the man’s face and body that captivates the audience, not what he’s wearing. And I am transported into their world for the length of the performance because of their commitment to it. It’s always magical and inspiring to witness that.

Theater is simply heightened reality. Playing violin and singing our original duets full out in a public space is heightened in and of its self. Take away the makeup and costumes and people still enjoy it. Physical additions add a more heightened effect, but it’s not necessary. We are fantastical simply by being what we are. What I’m realizing is I should do things because I want to do them, not because I feel like I have to. If I feel inspired to do elaborate makeup and dress, then I should do it, but there is no expectation from anyone. Only a few people comment on how I look. Our photographer Dan especially does because he is our photographer. I enjoy dressing up when he comes to see us in Central Park because I get some great shots out of it. I think this past weekend has brought me one step closer to feeling comfortable being myself and not having to apologize for anything. That’s what prayformance is all about, boldly being yourself, whatever that happens to be. Happy, creative, angry, depressed… It’s about letting all of our emotions out through music.

We invest in flights and housing in different countries in order to perform year round. We’ve been doing this for almost 8 years, and it works incredibly well. It’s the only way for us to perform regularly that we’ve discovered, which is imperative for our health, and sanity. I have a dream, though, to tour our operas indoors with sets and lights and actors and musicians. The reason I hesitate is because we’d have to settle down for a while and invest a good deal of money in order to make it happen. Performing regularly in public is beneficial and feasible for us in every way, but I have a dream for something much bigger. If we stopped prayforming in public for a long length of time, it would be very hard for us. Unless we were provided a grant or commission. The only way we were able to record “Esh and Ee-ay,” is because we invested our money to create it. I can’t imagine how actors feel when they’re unemployed for months on end, like many I know. A few actors I know have learned to combat this problem by writing and putting on their own shows. Even with last year’s commission, we still needed to perform all year round to keep ourselves alive. It’s hard to imagine taking the time off needed to put up an opera on our own.

This feeling is what is stagnating my desire to write another opera. The synopsis for Ee-ay’La took months to write, but our operas need to be seen indoors to be truly appreciated. “The opera is lost to the public.” a friend once said after coming all the way from Edinburgh here to see it. We have enough music to play in public. Every public audience is mostly seeing us for the first time, so continuing to write more music isn’t needed, unless we truly want to. Getting it staged indoors is what is needed, but that is a precipice I am terrified to jump off. I started writing “Ee-ay’La” because I felt we needed to write another opera, but we don’t. We don’t have to do anything unless we want to. That’s the great thing about performing in public, there is no expectation of you, but that’s also the downside. All motivation must come from within. When people expect things of me, I’m inspired to deliver. That’s why we were able to write “Esh and Ee-ay” in 8 months. We have no expectation now, so writing is uninspiring, daunting and overwhelming. Not that it wasn’t all those things last year, but there was an excitement that we would be performing the work for lots of important people at the end of the year. Public performance keeps us alive, but it’s unstable. Investing in a show might help us to be more stable, but it’s the scariest thing I can imagine doing. We bought two one way tickets to Amsterdam 7 years ago, and look where we are now. We’re pretty successful for being out-of-the-box, on-the-edge street performers, but I want more than that. It feels like we’re on the cusp of something new, but I don’t know if we have to take this big, dangerous plunge to make it happen like we did 7 years ago, or if things will fall into place to make it happen, just like it did 7 years ago.

It’s possible I feel this way because performing in the street is considered an illegitimate way to be “successful.” We get questions when we’re performing in public that jab at me like bee stings. “Are you performing anywhere?” “Do you perform in the opera?” “Are you famous?” All these questions revolve around how many people perceive public performance, and pull me towards my desire to perform indoors. They seem to want to be told we have rave reviews from theater critics, we tour with an opera company, and we are legitimately respected artists, singers and musicians. When we performed our commissioned opera, we were treated with such respect and awe, same when we performed at the documentary debut. We are treated with that same awe and respect in public, but people don’t understand how something so good is happening on the street. If that perception didn’t exist, then I probably would be completely content living the life I live. It’s difficult to be perceived as less than I am because of how I choose to share my art. Children don’t see us that way. The little girl in the vlog from Sunday didn’t feel that way. She was transfixed, transported and amazed.

It’s only when people grow up that they’re told what to believe and what to think. People are taught that street performers are less than because they’re along side beggars and homeless people. I think our job as performers bringing great art into public spaces is to challenge people’s idea of where and how great art should be seen. I think a lot of people assume that talented people’s work is naturally seen in fanciful, elite venues and they’re famous. We perform our work in tunnels, hallways and parking garage entrances. Living a life out-side-the-box is hard for the very reason that people judge you and try to make you feel like you should change. It’s my duty as I grow up to learn that how people perceive how I live my life doesn’t matter, as long as it makes me happy and what I do touches people. I do the work however I can to reach as many people as I can. I never looked down on Thoth because he performed in public. He makes outdoor venues his own, and he is passing that knowledge on to me. We don’t have to wait around for someone to pay us to put on an opera, we do it ourselves.

I am finding my way, one prayformance at a time.

“It’s not every day people follow their hearts and dreams as both of you have. Stay beautiful and proud and always original. The world is already full of way too many carbon copies.”