Reverb12 Day Ten: Greatest Risk

Went back to this list of prompts for today.

What was the greatest risk you took in 2012? What was the outcome?

It was starting my own theatre company.

I studied theatre in college, and in the years since have appeared in many plays at various local community venues. I even get paid non-Union scale once in a great while. I blog about theatre  at Always Off Book. I wrote a column for Showbizradio for four years. A Washington D.C. based news site even ran a short piece about me.

Point being, I’ve got a lot of experience in theatre, and know what I’m talking about. I’ve worked with many local people who, based on what they say at least, would agree with that self-assessment. So when a few years ago I started to become somewhat dissatisfied with the politics and type of vision of the local theatres at the time, the idea to start my own company was born.

My vision for a theatre company is not unique in the world. People do things similar to what I envisioned all over the place, I’m sure. But nobody was doing it around here, as far as I could tell. So after a year or so of pondering, and another year of writing up plans, thinking of bylaws and mission statements and giving quite a bit of time, energy, thought and passion to the idea, I announced during the first few weeks of this year, that I was ready to accept others into this project.

I know literally dozens of theatre-oriented people in this area, who in turn know many others in the local theatre scene I have not yet met. I don’t like asking for help, so that was a big part of the risk I was taking. But I did so for this project for a new kind of passionately simple theatre company that would travel the area doing maybe a single show a year. Possibly two at most.

The Facebook page I set up was updated weekly with the things I was doing, how the company’s vision was different, and requests for help and introductions. Seven months of weekly updates in fact. Each update coming from a place within me that was still not comfortable, (after years of attempts) to market my own project, but nonetheless believed in it enough to take the chance to do so, despite the slight discomfort.

In addition to the Facebook page, I’d explore various local arts boards. I even placed a few calls for volunteers on Craigslist. (I have been told people find volunteers quite frequently there, and audition notices are often posted in same.)

The email address for the company was set up. Bold plans were laid. I put myself out there.

And failed. In the most miserable, gut wrenching, disappointing (though sadly quite familiar for me) manner, I totally failed.

All of that effort eventually yielded the following:

-One generous offer from a colleague to help me rent a local venue for the first performance once the foundation for the company was laid.

-25 or so “Likes” on Facebook. (Which isn’t even enough to activate the analytics.)

-An email of interest from a local actress. An email to which I responded, though I never heard from her again.

That’s it. That was the result of this large personal and artistic risk I took in 2012.

A few months ago, after the updates on the Facebook page began to wane, I posted one more…announcing the project dead.

It stung.  It was disappointing, deflating, and mind boggling given the network, the planning and the passion I tried to bring to the idea. Yet to be honest, each of those feelings, (and more, like anger) were somewhat blunted this time. That’s because it wasn’t the first time over the years I have invested that much of myself in spearheading a project that went nowhere due to lack of interest from other people. In fact, it wasn’t even the only one this year to end this way.

My talents and knowledge are sometimes highly sought after in service to the projects and dreams of others in this general area, and I often agree to help. I receive accolades for doing so. But my talents don’t inspire a reciprocity, by and large. I’ve gotten used to that and somewhat numb to this sort of thing. Generally in fact, it has been so inevitable and ubiquitous that I have taken fewer and fewer risks as time goes on. They just never pan out enough to make it worth it.

We’re supposed to assess failure and glean a lesson from it. Truth be told, however, I’m don’t think I learned any thing particular from this failure. Nothing, that is, that hasn’t already been learned from the accumulative body of failed endeavors with my name on them.

To begin with, as I already mentioned, I learned I can’t expect a great deal of reciprocity. As a result I won’t be attempting to launch anything that requires the help of others for a while. I have in fact already begun to alter my future artistic plans to better suit solo efforts of various kinds. Those that require the help of maybe a single person, or nobody at all. (Perhaps that was meant to be? Perhaps that is the greatest lesson of them all…to go solo artistically. I’ll find out.)

For I’ve learned that while my talents and knowledge are at times appreciated locally, my personality and my vision is not. I lack the charisma and appropriate vision to move others on the scale to which I have been referring. I’m a decent guy, but not an inspiring one, it would appear.

And I know a lot of decent people around here. If they were not decent, moral people they wouldn’t be my friends. Yet even friends fail to gel in certain ways, and I am starting to learn that many of my local friends and I don’t gel artistically as much as I used to think we did.

Another thing I have not learned, (since I can’t be certain of it yet) but I have considered is that the location prevents me from finding artists and clients of like mind for my own projects. Is it possible that if I lived elsewhere I’d have a better chance of meeting and befriending people willing to follow my lead on at least something? I suppose of course that is possible. It’s a huge country, after all. Truth be told I suspect some of my friends with whom I would be most compatible artistically are the one that live the furthest away.

There are others, I would guess. Yet right now, I wouldn’t know where to find such people. So until then, (and until I can afford to move to such a place) I have to accept what little authority to shape the future I have here.

I apologize for the somewhat bitter tone of this post. I don’t rage about these things, but they do leave a, well, bitter taste in my mouth at times. In general risk taking leaves that taste in fact, not merely this risk. Compared to years ago, I have no qualms about confessing that I am more risk adverse these days, and getting more so with every passing year.

That is one thing about some of these prompts for Reverb. At times they seem directed towards or conceived by people who through their many adventures big and small are able to explore, evolve, create, experience and process the wonders of life, through meals, books, movies, art, risks, rewards, love, passion and pain. I find myself at times to have “underlived” in 2012 as in relation to the spirit of the prompts and hence must approach some of them from a somewhat different angle.

But stay tuned in 2013 for a bit more information on some solo endeavors I’m thinking of pursuing.

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