Friday, June 2, 2017

Wanting to be a part of everything

Since a couple years ago I've had a pretty steady amount of offers to be in many different kinds of burlesque and variety shows. This is normally an awesome thing, as it means I have to hustle less to get myself booked. I appreciate and am grateful that enough show producers can find a place for me in their plan for an entertaining evening.

I had a moment recently where I found myself hesitating while writing a response email. A response in which I was declining a gig.


I had a really hard time writing this one email, and was worried about how what I was saying might come off. Typical anxiety notwithstanding (this producer will hate me/never book me again, I'll miss out on a chance to do something fun, if I don't do this it'll look bad, etc), this is an activity I find more stressful than all of the preparation that comes with an acceptance. Though I've written these types of responses before, I think the reason why I'm having so much trouble this year is for two main reasons;

1 - Due to recent life circumstances, I have the capacity to take on fewer commitments than ever before.

2 - Having done festivals and shows in a wide mess of new places, I now know EXACTLY what I'm saying "no" to.

Saying no to things that are too much for you to handle is a healthy practice. With that said, I've -NEVER- been good at it. Despite Lucifer Christmas's recent blog post assuring me that "there will always be another gig," I know that in my own little mind, there will be some degree of omnipresent regret for saying no. It's awful, and I don't know how to make that go away and shut up with the noises.

As I watch my friends head off to other cities (and countries) to go to festivals, I do feel a little bit of FOMO. I always make a short list in my head every year of all the festivals I want to do, and make a casual attempt to remember when and where they are each year.

Further compounding this is the mathematical fact that I only have a finite amount of years left to try to follow up on some of these dreams before I retire from burlesque or die.

A few more shots to the head like this, and that day may be right around the corner.
Photo by Rob Starobin, NYC Nerdlesque Festival.

On the other hand, I am writing the majority of this after having just finished a 2 hour nap in the middle of a relaxing getaway in New Hampshire. Between a demanding 9-5 weekday job, regular circus and strength training, and an average of 10-15 various gigs per month, I forgot how completely satisfying an afternoon nap can feel.

Granted, this last week was a grind--six shows, three of which involved acrobatic and physically painful stage combat (thank you for that, Holy Shitsnacks, An Archer Burlesque). The show turned out amazingly, and the cast was completely on their A-game. And speaking of which, look at this amazing cast intro video;

Video by Adriano Moraes, all cast credits contained within.

Some people have the ability to grind it out and make this whole burlesque thing their living, but I know that I don't have the energy to do that. Frankly, I'm looking forward to being able to rest up a bit and take the biggest swing I can at the next thing I'm able to go 110% on. To me, that seems like the best way to get back in, and I know that I'll be less stressed (and tired) if I'm able to choose what that next thing is.

There's a lot of questions spinning around in the blender here for me. What kind of fulfillment do I get from packing my schedule full of things that scare me? Why do I have such ennui about declining things that my Meyers-Briggs test results tell me I should hate? Why do I find satisfaction doing something that makes my father uncomfortable?

Maybe it's because of that time I threatened to cut off another man's muttonchops.
Photo by Roger Gordy, Old School Game Show

What is it exactly that I'm afraid to give up? I guess the best answer I can come up with is....that I enjoy being other people. Is that escapism?

As burlesque performers, we all want to entertain--that much is universally true. I look at entertaining others as a side benefit, since I feel like there's a bigger thrill to be had by exploring the lives of people and characters with other perspectives. Each time I get to perform on stage is an opportunity to move, speak, look, act, and briefly live like someone else. I even treat my professional life that way; I get a truly embarrassing kick out of being the regular human coworker at the water cooler that also likes sports.


Maybe a part of that is the rush that I experience from fooling people around me into thinking I'm "good enough" to keep a job, have social skills, or fulfilling emotional relationships. Maybe it's the counterweight that the edginess of burlesque offers to an otherwise perfectly normal life. Maybe I'm just scared of having to experience and sort through the feelings and experiences that come with each day on my own.

Whoa man. That went right into the abyss.


Anyway, I think there's an intangible value in feeling like you're in demand. If people want you to do things, it would be selfish to deny them what they want, right? But I'm feeling lately like taking some time to be a regular life person should be a way for me to get re-centered, re-prioritize everything in my life, and remind myself why I love performing. Regaining some perspective might help me get back there.

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