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Discouraged Artist Thoughts

Friday February 3rd 2017

This blog is an honest reflection of my life. No fancy talk. No falsehoods.

This morning I was just sitting and staring at the manuscript for my synopsis of the play and I couldn’t think of anything to write. I wrote a little, but I felt like a complete idiot. Yesterday I felt like I had a great plot, now I feel like I have nothing. It’s not true, but it is how I feel. I get so discouraged when Thoth reads my stories and challenges and questions my choices. He’s only trying to help me, but I feel broken down and worthless. I’m lucky to have his help, most people have to figure this stuff out on their own. I cried I was so frustrated. I made the vlog today to be as long as needed. People don’t watch it anyway, so why do I care to make it short and entertaining? It’s only for me and Thoth. I also got up late, so I didn’t have as much time to work on the things I wanted to work on.

We got to the park and I was prepared for no one to stop and watch us, like yesterday. I felt completely invisible. That’s how I feel when we’re not prayforming. To my surprise, two young men passing us asked, “When are you starting?” It was Robert, an actor who came to see us last year in Balboa Park and said, “You’ve given me inspiration for the entire year.” I was so flattered. I saw our friend D., who gave me a very sweet hug. I asked him, “What is the point of life?” and he said, “There is no point. Only that which we assign to it.” Thoth agrees. We assign prayformance and each other as our reason to live, so I guess that’s the point.

As we began singing, people did not stop. For the second piece, people stood on the other side of the railing, watching from a distance. That is never good. When people watch us with some barrier between us and them, there is no interaction or support, just us giving our music away to them and them taking without giving anything back. It’s energy depleting. People don’t think about it. I couldn’t smile. During our third song, a little girl with her family stood stock still within a feet of us. Her mother knelt down next to her, also very close, clapping her hands. We felt crowded and I felt very objectified. The last two days I’ve been remembering a quote Erik says in my favorite book Phantom by Susan Kay. “I no longer had to prostitute my skills in order to eat.” That’s what I felt like. We’re prostituting our skill in order to survive, and we’re not even being duly compensated for our service. I love singing in public, but it is our livelihood. Sometimes I’m absolutely terrified we won’t be able to live anymore doing this.

Robert and his friend came to watch us, as did Pascual, during our new piece, “Bird Song” (which we improvised on for almost 8 minutes). I left the entire, uncut version of it on the vlog. A bunch of people stopped to watch. When fans come and stand near us to watch without fear, it gives permission for other people to do the same. A bunch of people came up to us afterwards to us, speechless. They couldn’t understand how they could have just stumbled upon something so beautiful. One man wanted to know who we were and what we did other then this, as if we must be famous or something. We’re famous in a certain way, but that’s from street performing all over the world just the two of us for the past 8 years. We just happen to be really f**king talented and good at what we do. That’s all. Haven’t been discovered yet, nor will we likely ever be. Probably only when we’re long gone will the world truly understand what we’re doing.

I felt much better after that song. Robert said he loves my blog because it talks about the struggles of being an artist. “If you guys are still doing this and performing your opera, then I have no excuse!” he said. That was interesting to hear. I imagine our life would be an inspiration to others, but people don’t say that much. Despite all the difficulties of making art in this world, we still go out and do it every day together and we don’t give up. Most of the time I feel like people don’t give a flying f***. I finished feeling much better then I did when we started. I hope I can get some work done on my synopsis tomorrow. i can’t give up on it. Our friend Chris wrote to me yesterday:

Hi Lila!
So awesome that you are forcing yourself to work on your play and work out these ideas! Good for you! As always I have such respect for you as an artist. Don’t stop writing. I wish you all the best!

Just a little encouragement is so helpful!

 

We are Alone, Together, Doing This Work

Photo by Dan Rubin

Photo by Dan Rubin

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.