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Taking my lumps

This will probably not come as shocker to many, but I’m stubborn – which I’d prefer to just call tenacious (and I’m not even sure I want to know what others call it).

Small insight into me: my first grade teacher sent me home one day with a note, as I hand it to my mom I beam “She says I’m obstinate!” Even then, I knew. Sometimes though that can work as well against me as it can work for me.

Sometimes I need those close to me to lean a little harder back on me so that I always think big picture. We only know what we know, right? We work in a collective model because input, opinion and perspective can enrich what it is we do and discussion can make things better for the future. If we’re not, we’re truly wasting time.

A very close associate of mine let me know today that I might have unintentionally messed with morale in how I started hard-selling Inishmore midstream, citing all the financial implications and jumping in with both feet into a big fat mud puddle of begging after it seemed sales were going the way of the Dodo. That maybe my approach looked poorly on the artists involved. I can totally see that point in hindsight, even if it was the furthest thing from my intent.

Doesn’t really matter though, if that’s how I ended up making people feel, right? What’s that about the road to hell being paved with good intentions?

I mean, I take all this really personally, so it would make sense if I’m doing so that I might communicate it with the same sense of passion and intensity to others, right?

This associate told me even if it was brought to my attention at the time I’d likely have done it anyway due to how critical it was that we move tickets and that since hyping the praise wasn’t working that I wouldn’t sit idly by and do nothing. This associate knows me well. Though to be fair to myself – I would have been open to suggestion.

That approach really represented my last-ditch effort – I tried hard to pitch the show accentuating the positive: indie-film-come-to-stage, epic bloodbath featuring maybe the coolest effects seen on stage in Tampa, a hilarious sexy feckin’ thrill-ride. All that. Even when I was on my knees wringing my hands, I was still convinced of the show’s merits and, I felt, made those clear.

Truth is, I was begging for the artists. Not because of them. I know I’ve talked a lot of how much I demanded of them and how well they delivered. How many hours they all worked and for what doesn’t add up to very much money. I mean, they did just about everything I asked of them, got at least five sensational reviews and people left loving the show – what’s not to be proud of?

“Breaking even” is never really the bar for me though – it’s just the bare minimum. I want every seat of every show full and every added performance possible – because I want to reward that dedication, the hard work.

As I mentioned before, I don’t have a problem bragging on success and it felt to me like maybe it’s only fair to be as equally honest when we struggle. Particularly when all I ever heard from people was how we had to be making bank and sold out every night when that wasn’t at all the case.

Was I panicking a bit when it looked like the show was likely going to lose money? You bet your bippy. Yes, I was also simultaneously baffled and angry that we had such an avalanche of great press in every conceivable form and yet it wasn’t selling tickets. I was getting grouchy about people saying for weeks they’d be coming over and over, but I’d never see them there.

Maybe sometimes shit just happens. Maybe the recession finally hit us. Maybe we loved the idea of the show more than the public did – after all we learned after the fact the show was only doing 60% in NYC, and we did 80% overall, which sounds like a success to me. And maybe honesty on a public blog sometimes is too honest when I’m not thinking of everyone, of the entire big picture. I’m still learning where those boundaries may be.

Something about the past few months just leaves me feeling so demanding, which isn’t solely a bad thing. I only really note it because it’s what I’ve always felt but haven’t always communicated or necessarily demanded out in the open. I’m still adjusting.

I’m demanding of myself, of the artists around me, of the media, of that part of the populus that deems themselves arts supporters, of those who claim that the arts here or that this area in general has nothing to offer them.

I’m demanding because I love what I do more than anything, basically, and because I don’t really believe in doing anything half-heartedly. I hold myself, my colleagues and the general citizenry up to the same set of high standards. I do this because I don’t know how to do anything else, or if I do know I think it would in the end just be a waste of my time.

My passion, my demanding nature, should probably be better tempered sometimes. This is a lesson to learn. Else my passion for what I do come off as elitist to outsiders. Else my anger over a lack of response come off as contempt for those same people who I’m trying to bring in. Else my concern over the artists I preside over and the brilliant work they do come off as trying to pawn off the ugly daughter as a consolation prize.

I am doing all I can to make a difference, to show theater is not dead – that it can still be immediate, relevant and impacting. That it’s not just for old fogies and that it can be affordable and accessible to all. We do cool work, and we want to share it with as many people as possible.

Jobsite is truly fortunate to have the body of artists that we do, and I would go to hell and back for them. If I don’t ever make that clear enough, print this paragraph out and put it in your wallet.

In the end, Inishmore covered that ridiculous budget. That’s thanks to a whole ton of people. If you’re reading this, you’re likely partially responsible.

We’ve never attempted anything like that bloddy effing monster. I think it left all of us feeling a little wrecked, but still missing it fiercely in our own ways. It’s going to pave the road for us to do even better work on a show like Night of the Living Dead. We know a lot more now about what will be needed for budgeting and technical elements than we did just three months ago. This show essentially cost us around $60,000 when all was said and done, easily the largest we’ve taken on.

Like I said, a lot of lessons learned. I will be a better director, producer and artist in general because of this show. I will also know better next time everything doesn’t go exactly my way.

There’s a lot in here I’m not even going into as to how a lot of our problems are symptomatic of greater issues we have in needing more sponsors, donors and grants that would help alleviate a lot of these worries (or maybe I’ve been reading too much Mike Daisey this week). That’s not lost on me, but it’s a fight for another day.

So, to the choir, or to those who gave up so much of yourselves to make Inishmore what it was – thank you for reading. Thank you for your patience with me. Thank you for believing. Thank you.

I have a few more ideas running around in my head as to how to make this blog better, which I’d like to get into practice here soon. If I’m more honest more often about more things – maybe it gets easier to hear what I’m really trying to say and why.

If you have anything to ever add or contribute – please do!

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3 Responses

  1. Honest post Dave. You are doing one of the toughest jobs in the world. Know that many of us appreciate it.


    Joe Popp

  2. Dear David,
    I was so happy that you guys did Inishmore. I have never seen anything like that on stage, and I was raving about it for weeks. If I could’ve come back a second time I would’ve.
    And I totally hear you on this point “I’m demanding because I love what I do more than anything, basically, and because I don’t really believe in doing anything half-heartedly. I hold myself, my colleagues and the general citizenry up to the same set of high standards. I do this because I don’t know how to do anything else, or if I do know I think it would in the end just be a waste of my time.”
    I whole-heartedly agree with you. Steve and I promoted the show to anyone who would listen. Keep churning out the edgy/different/uncomfortable plays, and I will keep paying to come and see them!
    Ever your loyal patron,

  3. You’re fighting the good fight, David. That’s one of the reasons I felt so passionately about the show is because I could see how passionate you were about it. I’m looking forward to seeing whatever Jobsite has in store for us next.

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