I feel like a hundred million things have happened since my last post. Granted, that’s partly because I skipped a week and a half–you caught me, guys–but it’s also related to the reason I skipped a week and a half, namely, that this past week and a half has been really freaking busy.
Here’s the stuff I could talk about, with the stuff I am going to talk about now starred once and the stuff I will leave for future posts starred twice:
1. Tech week and previews for “pr0ne” (aka how the heck do you even mount a storefront show?)
2. The Amanda Palmer house-party-slash-concert*
3. What happened after the concert**
4. Press opening for “pr0ne”*
5. What it’s like getting reviews as both an artist and a business person**
6. Bisexuality and “Orange is the New Black”**
7. Stephen King and Neil Gaiman and their respective portrayals of women **
8. How to cope with a lot of change all at once when you are also ridiculously busy**
Is that clear? We’re going to talk about a concert and a play and leave the delving into larger themes that have been on my mind to a later date.
First events first. I feel like I owe the friends whose reactions to the pictures I posted of Monday night were “WHAT WHAT WHAT” a bit of an explanation.
About a year ago, Amanda Palmer, once of “The Dresden Dolls” and now a solo artist, had a Kickstarter for a new album. There were all kinds of perks. One of them happened to be this idea: what if we got fans to host a party that Amanda would attend and perform at? It’s such a simple concept, and yet something I’ve never heard of before, outside of a few really rich people who can afford to hire Justin Bieber to sing at their kids’ birthday parties. My friend Kayleigh found out about it and we shelled out the appropriate cash, got put into touch with the event organizer, and got really, really excited.
Then we waited a year.
There were circumstances. Amanda chose to cancel a good deal of touring to stay in one place and support a friend with cancer. The timing became tricky. It got to the point where we almost forgot that it was happening. But finally, the date was set, and attendees started planning together–we made an email list and a private Facebook group, chose what to bring to a potluck, talked about art projects we could do, and generally crowd-sourced the entire party.
I showed up at the host’s house a little late and a little rained on, though thankfully the rain had passed. I was nervous that I would have missed something–technically I arrived slightly after Amanda was supposed to join us. I needn’t have worried. It wasn’t until I deposited the cheese and crackers I had brought in the garage with the rest of the food and drinks that Amanda casually walked down the yard in a kimono and sat in a lawn chair to start chatting with people.
Here’s the crazy thing–we were as excited about meeting each other, the other people drawn to this kind of party, as we were about meeting or interacting with Amanda.
Sure, she’s a larger-than-life music goddess married to my favorite author and who has been a feminist icon for me for ten years now. Sure, I’ve seen her in sold-out concerts three times and she’s done awesome theatrical and video work and I have, multiple times, fantasized about becoming her best friend and falling into a life of adventure and music and great costumes.
At the same time, Amanda’s always been very straightforward in her blog, in concert, in the statements she makes to the media: She’s a person. The way we’re people. And she thinks other people are pretty cool too.
So here are all these folks who resonate with that, and there’s a canvas roped to the side of a garage and illegal (in Chicago!) spray paint to decorate it with and this one girl is an acrobat and she’s lifting me onto her shoulders and this other guy bought a white suit at a thrift shop and is having us decorate it and suddenly I just want to be painted too but I’m not wearing white so I take off my shirt and have them spray my back and stomach and there’s this adorable four-year-old girl with ringlets running around with glowsticks and tables of really delicious food and and and–
And so creepy hero-worship wasn’t at the top of my to-do list.
Which does not, let us be clear, mean that I did not get my photo taken with Amanda, or help her to spray-paint female genitalia on the canvas, at one point straddling her for a photo op, or that I did not love listening to her later play the ukelele and talk about her life and her marriage and the things she’s learned as an artist trying to do her best in the world.
It just means that I also woke up with about 20 new Facebook friends and selfies of me with people I just met that looked like we’d been friends for years.
After the concert wasn’t so fun. It involved me feeling drunker than I wanted to be and not being able to find a cab. But that’s a conversation for another time, maybe.
Fast forward to Part II of Performance Week, which is the name I just chose for this week–“pr0ne’s” press opening with food provided by Jewel and beer provided by Revolution Brewing.
This post is getting long, so I’ll leave you with the highlights:
Beer. Lots of beer. Six cases of beer which all disappeared by the end of the night.
Over fifty people talking and laughing and eating and drinking, crowded into the lobby of Dramatist’s.
The first roar of laughter on the opening line of the opening song of the show.
The second and the third and the fourth roars of laughter.
An intermission that probably stretched somewhere in the vicinity of 25 minutes because of the length of the line to the bathroom…but that no one seemed to mind. There was beer, after all. There was a lot to talk about.
The guy who said, “I don’t like theatre, really, but this is phenomenal.”
My friend who said, “I really don’t like musical theatre, but I’m having a great time.”
A quasi-standing ovation.
What seemed like the entire cast crowded back on stage for our talkback.
Another…half an hour? Forty-five minutes? Of talking about our “research” for the show, the themes that came up and made people think, the kinds of porn we watch and what we think about it, until we had to tell everyone, “Seriously, guys, it’s time to go home.”
The conversation overheard in the line to the bathroom between a traveler from Montreal who didn’t know anyone in the show and another man, in which Man One asked, “Is this what most storefront theatre in Chicago is like?” and Man Two replied, “No, this is much better.”
All in all, it was a great start to what I’m sure will be a phenomenal run. Our first review came out, from a man who had to have been about 75, calling the show “a foul-mouthed crude dark unfunny comedy.” My co-worker immediately posted his comment: “Naaaah it was hilarious.”
I love this review. I think it means that we did exactly what we set out to do. And with people falling over themselves to tell me how much they enjoyed the show–and this is not my first rodeo, I know what it’s like to be in or even to produce something that didn’t quite work–my feelings are not hurt in the slightest.
So that’s a taste of what was going on behind the radio silence this week.
It really wasn’t so silent at all.