What is Success?

To see Storm Large for next to no money at a venue as intimate as Dante’s should be a crime. With her seismic talent and killer instincts the woman is Badass through and through. I feel most fortunate to be part of the crowd though it kind of feels like we were stealing from her. Maybe she’s keepin’ it real. Maybe it doesn’t matter where she sings as long as she’s out there. Maybe after years of Wednesday nights, Dante’s has become her home. Maybe it’s work. I choose to believe she’s orchestrated the perfect life for herself choosing gigs she wants rather than needs. Still, I wait to hear word that her one-woman show, Crazy Enough, has secured a reputable theatre and will soon open in New York. Crazy Enough is relatively low-risk for a theatre with a second stage. There’s no cast, hardly a set. It’s all lights, music and Storm. Honestly, I don’t understand what’s taking so long.

The other night, after being blown away by our local Goddess of Crazy-Ass Talent my friend E and I discussed what distinguishes a great performer from the Real Deal. This is a conversation I’ve had again and again with like-minded actors and directors, and we always agree that while both artists must possess the requisite talent to captivate an audience, the Real Deal has something more. It has to do with survival – the Real Deal draws from creative energy that simply must be released, expressed, channeled or she will die. When artists of this caliber are on stage there’s isn’t any room for self-consciousness, contrivances, or preconceived notions. They ride the waves, moment to moment, without fear. They reveal their deepest truths. Whether they knock it out of the park or ground it to first is inconsequential. What matters is that they swing BIG (which is all they really know). Exposing oneself to such a degree is high-risk to most, but for them everything (even what some might consider failure) is art and everything is worth exploring. I believe their curious nature, courage and unyielding passion is the difference between performers who are great but don’t pop. The Real Deal gives us all of herself and more.

Success is commonly measured in monetary terms. It isn’t fair, but even I’m guilty of this narrow-minded thinking. It’s the reason I question seeing Storm Large for less than the grossly inflated price of a mainstream rock concert. We subject performers to unreasonable ideas of what success is. A relative once said, “Jeff Goldblum: he never really made it, did he?” Really? Goldblum? The man has managed to star in several of the top grossing films of all time while working on scores of indie films because he wants to, not because he has to. How far up the ladder must one travel to be considered successful in this business? The A List is impossibly short and with the exception of a handful of actors it changes on a dime. Other industries aren’t held to the same insane standards. I’ve never heard anyone say of an engineer, graphic designer or physician, “She never really made it, she doesn’t have her own reality show.” And yet, I walk around with this odd thought pattern that lashes out every now and then. It looks like this. My car pulls into a parking spot and when I turn off the engine and my favorite song from my favorite non-pop singer stops blaring. A car parks beside me. We get out at the same time and I think, “Hey, You! Why the aren’t you writing a check to Storm Large or Martin Sexton, Mother Fucker?! Get out your fucking checkbook and support these people now! They’ve earned it!!” It happens all the time when I take out my earbuds. But there’s no need for me to be fantasy-screaming at people. These artists seem to be doing alright for themselves. It’s just that I get lost in the notion that success equals learjets and Rolling Stones prices. It doesn’t.

For days my friend, E, has been obsessed with Storm Large. She can’t stop singing 8 Miles Wide. It tends to have that effect on people. I’ve stopped trying to censor myself in Fred’s. When I’m with my children I whistle some of the lyrics, but I sing most of them and the kids join in. What harm can it possibly do? It’s such a happy tune. I knew E would fall hard for Storm. Frankly, I don’t know how anyone I’m even remotely connected to can resist her. She’s got the biggest set of balls imaginable and I don’t mean her band, though they also kill – holla to The Balls, what. In my own small way I support her and all the other artists who inspire me.

It’s hard to be a writer who hardly writes. I know I’ve whined through half these posts, but it’s no longer possible for me to stare into space and listen-in on conversations my characters would have. It used to be all I had to do was sit down and type whatever I heard. But now, all I’m left with are voices. I used to think success meant making a name for myself in American Theatre. Then I thought it meant signing with a great literary agent and/or writing for a theatre with subscribers. Then I started thinking it might be to just write another play. Now it’s just to write words – something, anything, whenever. These artists I’ve come to admire are important to me. They remind me to find a way, to dig deeper, take bigger risks, tell the truth at all costs, to not give up and to not put a band-aid on it. A fellow student in my writing class asked our teacher to talk about discipline. Mark answered, “Discipline is OK. Enthusiasm is better. Obsession is best.” I quite agree. However painful my obsession is, it does create some of my richest material. Someday it’ll find its way out.

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5 responses to “What is Success?

  1. I am wondering at your choice of pronoun when discussing The Real Deal. They? Are you asking for compliments, attempting to be objective, or do you really stand in an ‘other’ position? Ultimately, it matters not what we think – you must satisfy the audience of one: you – although you may consider that we are all in this trip together. Anything in isolation dies with the One and therefore it really is all about sharing. You give, I give, we are Us.

    And for the record, I love Storm Large. Glad you got to another show.

  2. HA! Yes, I was asking for compliments. Actually, no, it was more like, send me money, Mother Fuckers!

    “They” are performers. I’m not not a performer. They’ve vanished into their roles on stage and film. I’ve vanished into Motherhood for these last years and the next few, but when I burst from the flames watch out! Rraaahaahaa! Seriously, I’m almost the Real Deal… on days when it’s not my turn to car pool.

    I do believe art is ultimately about sharing, but it springs from intensely personal experiences. And this chapter, where my kids and my art are both wailing like a banshees, is part of that experience. One day I’ll lay it out and write my own version of The Yellow Wallpaper. Until then, I’m eating fistfuls of M & M’s and thanking people for reading this blog.

  3. Obsessed. Yes. STORM.
    Connected to your discussion here, I have been mulling over “goals.” (A partner to “success.”)

    What is the point of a defined goal? Shouldn’t the path be the goal? Especially since whenever you get “there” there is always another “there” to get to…”Great. Now I am here. Now I want to get there…”

    So much time is spent in transition (perhaps it is all transitions anyhow?).

    Can’t have these thoughts without thinking of dear Gertrude; how wise you were. “There is no there there.”

  4. Success is not measured by how far you’ve come, but the distance you have traveled from where you started.

  5. Read your last paragraph, out loud, at least once a day.

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