Wednesday March 1st 2017
I finally slept well last night. I fell asleep when I went to bed and slept until 10, just to get fully rested. I was able to work on my play again for the first time in a week. Writing is something that keeps my head straight and out of damaging thoughts. It was a really hard day for me. I have a lot of fear about our inability to sell CDs anymore. We used to sell a lot every day and people clamored for them, not anymore. People don’t even ask about them. It has had an impact on our income. Our albums are beautiful, but I know people don’t buy music anymore. They listen on Spotify and Youtube. When I was a teenage if you wanted to buy an album or rent a movie, you went to Tower Records or Blockbuster. Both stores have shut down and disappeared. The first time I listened to “Phantom of the Opera”, we went down to Tower Records to buy it. Now you just look it up on Youtube, as well as countless bootlegs of the show. When we wanted to watch a film version of Phantom, off we went to Amazon to buy a copy. Now it’s all on Youtube. Sure, it’s convenient as hell, but all artists and musicians are suffering because of it. Even though our music isn’t available anywhere but through our website and from us in person, there is no demand for it. We’re going to have six albums out after this new one is released, but it was our very first, the live version from the Angel Tunnel in 2009, that sold the most copies. It was the least good quality of all of our albums to date. It was live. People even complained about it. There is little motivation to release new albums when people rarely say anything about them and we don’t know how to sell them.
This is how I felt as I was doing my makeup. Scared and unsure how we will survive if the one thing that gives us any amount of stability is disappearing right before our eyes. We biked to the park and sadly it was really empty. My hope that the prayformance would cheer me up went right out the window. We played and gathered a crowd, despite that there weren’t many people around, but they just stood there when we finished, or walked away. I realize that a lot of my frustration comes from what other people do (or mostly don’t do.) I can’t control what people do. I can only control myself and my reactions to what people do. Today I felt like I’m wasting my voice singing outside for free for anyone to listen, yet I don’t know of any other way other than doing what we do to make a living and continue to perform and be creative on a daily basis. We should be performing indoors. Playing in public truly is beneath us, but the market is so clogged up with bull shit and untalented hacks fighting for fame and glory, there isn’t any room for our work to be seen other than in the street. We are pushed to the side. Our beautiful, unique and completely original music in the whole world is pushed into the street to be heard. I don’t know of any music or theater festivals that would touch us. We have so little to show for what we do. People have to see our gifts and hear our work for what it is and know in their own hearts we are gifted beyond measure. Is it our fate to be street performers until we die and struggle to be able to continue our lifestyle forever? We like to be able to do nice things for ourselves, but we can’t these days. We have to lay low. Work on our projects, go play in the park, make just enough to survive and lay low. We don’t like lean times. We’ve experience them before, much worse in fact. In Marrakech and Barcelona and Edinburgh and Berlin, even in NYC, and we were always OK eventually. It all balanced out in the end. The deep fear is that eventually we’ll hit such lean times we won’t be able to bounce back. If we were allowed to play our music freely without fear and sell our albums and travel to any city we wanted to, we can take care of ourselves. It’s when the limitations come upon us that we face fears of our work not existing anymore. Even if we were homeless and starving on the street, we would still prayform. People have their own problems. People just want to think we’re these magic fairies who play in parks all over the world and have no worries or woes. People think our life is a dream. News flash friends, it’s not. I am aware how blessed I am. I am. Thoth is here. He will never leave me. My family is here. They love me and will help if things get really bad. We have fans who care about us. Not many, but they do love us. I wish we knew people who had influence who could really help us and lift us out of the life of street performers. We know James Lapine, but even he can’t help us, even though he loves us and he loves what we do. Can anyone help us? People have over the years. Friends who have given us places to live in Barcelona, Porto, Marrakech, Amsterdam, London, Santa Cruz, Oakland, San Francisco, even Portland and Eugene and Gold Beach. People have hired us for performances in Madeira and Malaga and Sao Paulo and ALMOST in Rio and Martha’s Vineyard, even one time in NYC. We keep ourselves alive through our public prayformance. It’s the only thing we know.
Since we didn’t have crowds today, we played four new pieces. One was the new 3/4 we’ve been playing for a while. The ending was beautiful. Just our two voices weaving in and out of each other, like making love with our voices. Afterwards people clapped, sort of, but they just stood there. Not wanting to show their support, but not wanting to leave. It’s as if they are in awe, yet unable to process what they just saw. Our voices are god dammed beautiful! You’d think people would be flocking forward to say something and thank us for what we do and show their support. No. They just stand there. People sometimes say I’m entitled to people’s support, but you know what? People are entitled to watching us and giving nothing back. Taking photos and videos, saying nothing supportive and walking away. The gall people have! Even if our fans can’t give us money, they hold space for us and talk to us and care about us and ask how we’re doing and spend time with us. That is something. There is so little people can do. The most our fans can do is come see us every day, which is amazing. We want to record albums with a band and a string quartet. We want to do shows with other artists, musicians and actors. We want to perform in beautiful venues with great acoustics. All of that requires money and lots of fans, neither of which we have and both of which we don’t know how to gain. This is the year of my Saturn Return. All of the feelings of wanting more success, wanting to be less invisible, wanting our talents to be recognized are coming forward strongly. I’m in a happy marriage, Thoth and I love each other. I am proud of what I do for a living. I am proud I am traveling around the world. I am proud to be working on creative projects like drawing and blogging and writing a play and a book and running two vlog channels. I’m doing the best I can. I get pessimistic because all the work I do seems to not matter. Things have got to get better. They do usually. We had a rough time last year at the same time, and then the documentary was made about us. Something good has got to happen. I don’t have it that bad. If I didn’t have Thoth I don’t know what I would do. He takes care of me. He’s watching out for me through this time. We know how to hunker down and lay low. We don’t like it, but we still have each other. We’re not going to starve or die or not be able to prayform. Everything is OK. I have to stay hopeful. Maybe this year will bring something incredible to us. Something I can’t even imagine. Maybe we’ll get a commission or a place to live and create new works, or maybe we’ll be given a beautiful place to prayform indoors, or maybe we’ll be given the opportunity to work with the people we want to work with. It’s so hard to be positive when the country is so f-ed up. I have to find a way. Thoth has been able to, so I can. I am blessed to be alive. Something amazing is coming. Amazing things have come, but something more amazing than anything before is coming. I know.
Tuesday February 28th 2017
I’ve been having trouble sleeping the last few nights. The night before last I got to sleep at 4am and got up around noon. Last night I got to sleep at around 2am. I woke up sometime when the sun was out and went back to sleep until noon. I finally feel rested. Finally, after three days. I need at least eight hours of sleep to be able to function normally. I wasn’t able to work on my play. I haven’t been able to write for a few days now. I’ve been too tired. I need to be fully alert to be able to write. It takes all of my brain power. Instead I painted my scary faces drawing with acrylic paints I’d been working on for a week. I painted all afternoon. Thoth took the bus to Sprouts to buy groceries. What a sweet husband he is. I started feeling really shitty eventually. Feeling like I’m immensely insignificant and that our work is illegitimate and unimportant. Fear starts to seep into my head. Fear that I’ll be forgotten, fear of Thoth dying, fear of being by myself and unable to cope with it, fear that no one will care, fear of how little anyone cares in general, fear of not accomplishing the things I want to in my life, fear of disappearing, and fear that none of it matters anyway. We have no stability. We have each other and we have our talents, but we have no consistency accept our will to go out and prayform in the park. We can’t be street performers forever. Being an artist for a living is so difficult, but it’s the only thing I know. I’ve never done anything else. I have to count my blessings. At least I can sing well enough to support myself. At least Bunny loves me. At least I have a family that loves me. I’m never going to be homeless or starve to death. All of that said, I want us to be recognized for what we’re doing with our life. We are worthy of more support and less fear doing what we do. All we can do is continue to do it and try to keep hope alive. By the time I’m 30 I will have been prayforming in the street for 10 years. That is the longest time I have done anything. It’s not that nothing has come of doing it either. We’ve made beautiful 6 albums, we will have traveled to Europe 5 (almost 6) times, we have performed in public spaces and rare private events all over the world, we have friends all over the world, we have created something that is incredibly unique, we’ve performed in front of thousands of people, we even have some dedicated fans who read this blog and the vlogs with open, nonjudgmental hearts. I want for us to be able to be so much more than be street performers. It’s hard to be grateful for what you have when you want so much more. I need to count my blessings and not give myself a hard time.
Something I long for is privacy, however it is a luxury we can not afford. We are able to save money and travel because we always live with other people. We’d need to make a huge amount more money to be able to live alone. It terrifies me to imagine settling down. It seems to involve so many horrid responsibilities. I can’t even imagine what city we would settle down in. I wouldn’t be able to do the things I do now, like be creative all the time. We’d have to find a way to make more money, which would take time away from our creative projects. We always find a way to make due with what we have. We are flexible. We must be. I worried like hell about NYC when we were in Amsterdam, and everything was fine. We never can know what will happen. I need to not worry. Worry about things I can’t control is the only thing that can destroy my peace of mind. Thoth’s too. My friend James would say to be patient and wait for our time to come. It will come, he says. That is comforting. I tend to be immensely impatient. I’m scared of leaving here. I’m used to the luxury of privacy. We still have two more weeks. I need to be in the present and enjoy it while we’re here. Who knows if we’ll ever get to experience it again. I already know this time will be like a crystal due drop in my memory. One month of blissful quiet time to do whatever I’d like, with not one responsibility but to myself to be creative.
I could never give up our lifestyle. I was feeling like vlogging and blogging is really a waste of time, but it’s not. It’s for me to look at. It doesn’t matter if people don’t watch or read. It’s special for me to have, for posterity’s sake. It’s important for my own feelings and memories to be encapsulated. It’s hard a lot of the time to keep doing it, but I just need to keep it in perspective. It’s for me, not for you.
I started drawing from my own imagination on Christmas day and writing, two things I’ve been longing to do. I’m trying to focus on getting the more difficult-to-start creative things out of the way in the early mornings. I write three or four morning pages (as many as is necessary to get all the fretful/distracting gunk out of my head) starting at 8am and then I write for an hour starting around 9am. Morning pages is causing me to be more creative. Hopefully I can lengthen that time eventually. I then draw and listen to music until noon. This way I get the two writing things out of the way before the double digits. The only way to find my own voice, my own images, my own story is just to do it a little bit every day. Eventually something will come out of it. The internet, when used in an unfocused manner, will kill creativity. Social media is a creativity killer.
A woman across from us at Christmas dinner sat there stunned as I sang Christmas carols after dinner. Our first real Christmas dinner in 6 years. For some reason I decided to dance dramatically in my room that night, after so much food. I wore off some pounds! It was such fun. When was the last time I could dance unheeded in front of a mirror?
Making these acting videos is helping me to break free from a creative block. I am trying to focus more on myself and what I need to do to be the most creative and happy. I always thought I couldn’t act, but making acting videos, watching, editing and posting them has given me a lot of confidence. If I like the way I look, then I’m happy.
From my last post, I can see how few people read my blog. It really gave me perspective, but also made me a bit sad. I take solace in my friend James’ blog. A man of immense talents whose musings on art go unseen and un-commented on, yet he writes with such depth and style. He write play upon play too, and yet they are rarely produced or have audiences. One can only hope to attain that level of prose in writing and commitment to his craft as he has achieved. The truth of the matter is that I am writing only for myself, which is difficult, to put it plainly. God knows if there is any other reasons. For posterity I guess. If I think on it too much, depression and disillusion sets in all too quickly. It did show me I don’t need to post every day. I’d be better just keeping a private journal. That’s what my friend does, gives one more time to work on personal creative projects. This takes a shit a lot of time to do!
For some reason I feel like people are expecting me to share something every day. Like I owe it to people to share videos and blogs, or I feel that the more I share the more possible it is for us to get the attention we need to become more successful. The truth is no one is expecting anything of me. I am putting this pressure on myself. I’ve been sharing our life and our work for years, and yet there is no more attention to our work because of it. It’s like I’m banging my head against a brick wall. Doing the same thing over and over again thinking something will change. I need to focus on my own creative projects!
And yet here I am, sharing my thoughts with you again. When I was younger and I didn’t have a computer I didn’t need to always share. I didn’t have any way to. I would draw and write for hours and show my friend Will and my mom and dad and sister and that was pretty much it. I put all my energies into being creative for myself. I didn’t need to show a bunch of people to feel validated or seen. Social media is a deep, dangerous well can all fall into too easily. It takes away too much from my own creative projects. Hard, focused work on my own creativity and not looking at other people’s work is the most productive and powerful thing I can do to improve myself. Getting a bunch of “like” on social media is false, trivial and means absolutely nothing. All my favorite creative people know that. Now finally I do too. What a concept.
I would suggest to follow my vlog channel. I post at random intervals. If I’m inspired, I’ll post every day. If not, I’ll post once a week. Always something there. I also always like videos of songs I’m digging, so if you’re interested to know what music I’m listening to at any current time, it’s in my playlists.
I’m not going to post this blog on social media. It will just sit here and if you pass by it, well then drop a line and say hello and tell me what you think.
Sunday November 27th 2016
Our last prayformance at the Angel Tunnel is always bittersweet. We don’t miss New York when we’re not here, but we do love the Angel Tunnel. It’s the most beautiful venue we play in in the world. It’s like a church for us. We dress up for it and we always expand a lot when we’re here. I never know how I will grow when I’m here, and I always feel a need for a big change when I’m here. This year I expanded into a darker realm. I’m very happy with what it’s been doing for my acting in prayformance.
Paul talked to us at the tunnel as we waited to play. Cover Story was there. We were glad that we’d be able to say goodbye to them. I hugged each of them and thanked them for their professionalism and kindness. We’re going to miss them. I never got tired of their performance. They were a pleasure to listen to as we got ready to play this Fall. Great group of guys. They know how to put on a show and they’re acoustic, which we highly appreciate. Our friend Chris and his daughter Owen came to see us play. Paul and another gentleman who’d watched us a bit last Sunday talked to us as we got ready. We had a nice pre-audience for our last day. I like when that happens.
It was a brilliant prayformance for us again. This whole week I’ve been giving %110 of my energy and expression into the prayformance. After today we get an entire month to rest our bodies and voices. We need it. I don’t know how actors perform 8 days a week on Broadway. 5 days a week at full speed is too much for us. It’s like singing an opera 5 days a week for 2 hours a day. Playing the Phantom is hard, but he’s only onstage for 30 minutes of the show.
I made another vlog outside the tunnel while Paul talked to Thoth for the last time. We’ll miss Paul. We’ll miss the tunnel. We won’t miss the grind and the people and the city though. This city is too hard and rough and uncaring for us. Paul complimented me on how much better I’ve become in prayformance. I appreciate that he recognizes that. We went home and Meli made dinner for us.
Saturday November 26th 2016
I have a routine I get into in every city we travel to. I’m ready, and have been ready for weeks, for that routine to change. I’m an artist. A certain amount of routine is important in order to maintain focused creativity, but too much can kill it.
Dan Rubin came to see us for the last time. Tomorrow is our last prayformance at the Angel Tunnel for this year. We never know if we’ll be able to come back. It gets harder every year. Dan and I took some pictures outside of the tunnel before prayformance. ALL PHOTOS BY THE INCOMPARABLE DAN RUBIN.
Paul was there to lead the applause again. What a big help that is for us! Having both Paul and Dan there is so nice. We have very few fans in New York, but the few we do have are more priceless to us and our work. They keep us going. We both sang and acted and danced and violin’d our asses off. Our friend Marianne surprised us at the end. She got to see “Wet Tango.” “That was the most amazing Tango I’ve ever seen.” she said. She is so supportive and enthusiastic. I made another acting vlog outside of the tunnel and Dan went with us to have dinner. I took crazy pictures on the subway home.
Friday November 25th 2016
I worked for hours on my makeup, despite how little it matters to the prayformance. Doing this little complex wispy looks has to be done only because I want to do it. Nobody cares if I do. People don’t even look or say anything about it. The challenge in prayformance is to challenge ourselves every day. Most street performers don’t. They don’t have to. They get complacent and do the same thing over and over just to make money. It has nothing to do with being creative or being self expressive. Our work has everything to do with that. I do it because I need to.
We went to the park both feeling depressed and uninspired. Yesterday’s very bad Thanksgiving prayformance was a big let down for both of us. We expected nothing for the rest of the weekend, and this is our last week in NYC before we take a month and a week off in Nashville.
We talked about me learning how to be a soloist. That is something that truly terrifies me, the idea of going out and prayforming by myself. Imagine though how empowering it would be for me to be able do that? I’d have to create a repertoire of my own first. Just in the past year creating my solo has giving me incredible confidence. I couldn’t (nor would I dare to) perform solos 8 years ago. It takes so long to learn! It’s taken me years to become the person I am today. Confident and independent, and I will become more so as years continue to pass.
We didn’t rush to the park to be on time, even though we were anyway. No reason to sit there waiting to play and get cold. Paul was there. He knew it was our last weekend here. “I’ll be here all weekend for you.” he said. He is our biggest fan and dearest friend in the park, besides Dan. Paul helped us have a better day today. He stands hidden in the corner and leads the applause. It helps more than he knows. He is such a big fan. Not just of ours but of Thoth’s. He’s known Thoth for years. A young man sat and watch half of our prayformance. I had to see if he knew us before he ran off. Of course he did know us, and said we are inspiring. I felt inspiring today. I can only hope I am. I really sang and acted and expressed myself more deeply today. More than I usually do. I was very proud of what I did today with the prayformance. I just went for it. I grit my teeth and just f**king went for it.
I made an acting vlog outside of the tunnel with my back to a carved sandstone pillar. Today’s was more emotionally devastating and I used more emotive sounds and gestures. I thought as if I was in emotional pain that became physical. Using this deeply emotional acting side of me has brought out some amazing things in the work we do. It’s incredible how I can constantly grow and expand.
We had burgers on 42nd Street for dinner. So lovely!
Thursday November 24th 2016
Today, which is supposed to be the best day of the year for us, I did myself up. I’m going to do dark makeup all week, just to see what difference it makes for me. My sister said she loved the vlog I posted last night. “I couldn’t tell if it was real or not.” she said. I decided I would post one every night this week, just as a challenge for myself.
I was continuing to feel incredibly inspired and turned on. I’ve been watching a lot of “Phantom” clips. 🙂 It always does that to me. (Turns me on I mean.) On the train I was taking pictures of myself making crazy faces. I feel changed, different.
It was busy at the park. Only Kishan was outside of the Angel Tunnel doing bubbles. No other performers or noisemakers. It looked like it would be a great day for us. As we started though, the audiences fell flat. Both of us felt it. For three or four pieces people didn’t clap at all. It got a little better when the darkness came and we turned our light on. A group of people watching the solo section of our opera clapped really enthusiastically, but that was the only enthusiasm we had for the day. Also Lee, the ballerina, decided to perform right outside of the tunnel just when we started. She is using a boom box now, which just ruined our day. I hate asking people with boom boxes to move. I never know what they’ll do or how they’ll behave. I hate confrontation. When we had 20 minutes left, and Lee seemed to be taking a break, I went over to Lee. When she saw me, she turned the boom box off. “I thought you guys were finished. I’m sorry.” she said. Just then it started raining. Great. We finished our prayformance to no audience and no applause. How depressing.
We went home and had another simple dinner. I made another “acting” vlog in the bathroom. This one was more emotive. It’s a mixture of real feeling and acting. This character is someone I’ve been playing in private since I was around 10 or 11 years old. I’ve never filmed myself doing it or shared it with anyone. A lot of the scenes I’ll do in private are much more erotic than the ones I post online, but it is the character. He’s a man who’s lived his entire life alone and has never known love or acceptance. He struggles with his suppressed emotions and his ability to feel. He hates everyone and everything because everyone hates him, but deep down he just wants to be loved for himself. He was abused and unloved in childhood. The only thing that brings him joy is his music.
Wednesday November 23rd 2016
I was so inspired today. Inspired by Michael Crawford and Phantom and darkness and morbid fancy. I did another dark look using only black eye shadow and glitter. This type of look changes how I perform.
It wasn’t the best day, but I was extremely inspired. I literally cried during “Plucking Song.” There were tears pricking my eyes. I watched a clip of Michael last night talking about when he had to sneeze at the organ during “Phantom”. Instead of sneezing, he stayed in character and made this gruff, growling sound. People loved it. He used what he was feeling for the character. I can use everything I am feeling and experiencing for the prayformance. Just as long as it is coming from a genuine place within me, all the better. That’s the beauty of what we do. I can do whatever I want in the context of the work. Whatever I’m feeling, experiencing, or am inspired by can be used to increase and expand the work for me.
We went home and had a simple dinner. I was inspired to make an “acting” vlog. I’ve never done that before. It was amazing to try, and took everything for me to watch and edit. I felt vulnerable posting it to the wide world. Acting is very specific and personal to me.
I love prayforming. It feels good to sing in front of an audience. I love surprising passers by in the street with our music. I love bringing something unique and beautiful into unassuming ears and eyes. Hearing cheering applause and “bravo’s” after we sing is a fantastic feeling. Seeing how much I’ve improved as a musician and as a person is liberating. I love being with Thoth every day. Singing with him, dancing with him, being in each others presence. He always finds ways to make me smile and show how much he loves me. We are closer and more in love then we ever have been before. Traveling and constantly being in new places is tough, but it’s good for my mind. I’d go nuts if we settled down. We get to share our music with more people this way.
While all of this is true, and I am grateful we have found a way to make music, I have realized recently that performing in public is the only way we can do what we do. We can’t perform indoors unless people come around us who can make that possible, which rarely happens. I realized this in the last few weeks when I tried to set up an indoor show for us in London at the end of August. It didn’t work out. The venue cost too much and we had no way of getting people to attend. Why would we? Nobody knows us there. Maybe some people do, but there is no way of reaching them. It’s not that we don’t want to perform indoors, it’s that we have no way of doing so.
We’ve been doing this for almost 8 years together and our fan base is very small. Within each city we go to and for how many performances we do in that time, so few people actually make the effort to come out and see us. Why would we expect otherwise? We’re not famous, and they’re busy with their lives. Makes sense. Our audiences are mostly people who have never seen our work before, and most will probably rarely think of us again after watching us, until they stumble upon us again. We do meet people during almost every prayformance that recognize us from somewhere else. That makes us feel kind of famous, but it’s because our sound is so unique anyone who has heard us before will recognize us anywhere. A few people even seem to consistently watch our vlogs or read our blogs, but in order for us to be able to perform indoors, we need thousands, if not millions of people paying attention to our work consistently, and I just don’t know how to do that. Unless fame or some kind of large success happened, which is honestly unlikely, us being two talented artists (among millions) starting from the bottom up.
Sure, we’re doing our best with the resources we have. Sure, we’re doing something unique that no one else does. Sure, we do hundreds of shows a year and travel as much as we can. Sure, we’re both well trained and skilled musicians. However, we are fiercely independent and do things our own way. Going the “traditional” route is against our core values. We’re artists. We don’t cater to people’s tastes or beg people to come see us perform. We make art. That’s one big reason we perform in public like we do. We just want to play. This is the only way to do that as far as either of us know. At least we get to perform a lot.
The thing is that we have been very successful as street performers. We could live this way for the rest of our lives and we’d be OK, but I want so much more for us. I want us to have a touring show of our opera with a small band (hand drummer, bassist, maybe a string quartet), dancers, actors and circus performers and a crew. We know people who could do this, but we don’t have the money or the resources to make it happen, and it would be idiotic to try and do something like that on our own, as I learned by trying to do the London show.
After trying and failing to put on the show, I’ve realized no one is going to help us in the long term. It’s either sink or swim with Tribal Baroque. We’re on our own. It’s always been that way for us. We’ve had to pull ourselves up from our boot straps from day one. Nobody paid for us to fly to Europe or travel around back in 2009, or any time since. We have to pave our own way. We have friends, but they are scattered throughout the world and we have no means to bring them all together to help us. I know we have people out there who believe in us, but for the most part, we feel very isolated and alone doing this work. We need to have a community for success to happen for us.
The awareness (which is always at the front of my mind) that my hopes and dreams for Tribal Baroque may never come true in our lifetimes is debilitating for me. We stare that reality dead in the face day by day, and have to try our best to be strong and do the best we can and never ever give up. I want us to have more ease and less fear in our life. Sometimes people say, “I KNOW you will have success.” and I believe them, while other times it feels like it’s wishful thinking. The cold, hard fact is we have to take care of ourselves, and we do. We have turned our backs on the world and basically said “F**k it. We’re just going to make music.” The incredible thing is despite all of this we manage to do this work by ourselves. It’s actually f***ing amazing. We will never stop doing this work, even if the world never manages to catch up with us.