¿Quién es ese señor?

A couple are dancing together at the front of an Omara Portuondo concert in Mexico City. Their feet seem sown together, they shift back and forth, the husband occasionally interrupts their rhythm with a strange hesitant step that his wife always follows. All they are doing is looking into each other’s eyes. A man next to them watches. Before he leaves he tells them he admires how they are dancing and how happy they are. The husband asks his wife ‘And who was that man?’ She tells him ‘That was Gabriel García Márquez, Nobel Prize winner’.

The couple are my parents-in-law. They’re still dancing.

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Whoever comes are the right people

What are we REALLY going to do about Race and Diversity in UK Theatre?

Lemn Sissay [British Library]

Lemn Sissay [British Library]

I went to the recent Devoted & Disgruntled event at the Southbank Centre last week. The invitation was written by Tyrone Huggins, actor-manager & playwright. The poet Lemn Sissay opened the open space, reading from flashcards provided by Phelim McDermott/Improbable Theatre. It’s a script I know well, having attended four D&Ds in the last few years. Lemn stuck to it, but added a little decoration as he got distracted by the general usefulness of the statements he was reading, statements such as: ‘the brilliant thing about the people who are not here is that they are not here’ and ‘whatever happens is the only thing that could have’ and ‘when it’s over it’s over.’ He did a bit of walking backwards then reverted to walking forwards again with the observation that it’s pretty much the same.

This D&D was about race and diversity. It’s the first themed D&D I’ve attended. My previous D&Ds were in Devon, where I used to live. The Plymouth event was almost entirely white, as expected; the Exeter event was almost entirely white, as expected. Then I moved to Birmingham a little while ago so attended one here (almost entirely white, unexpected).  I’ve also managed to get to one of the London ones, not the latest, but the year before (almost entirely white, unexpected).

Birmingham and London are the two largest cities in the country, both with non-white populations of around 40% - so why don’t the people around the D&D circle reflect that? Are the artists out there but not coming because they don’t know about them? Do they know about them but choose not to come? Never mind. ‘Whoever comes are the right people.’

Last week’s event was pretty ‘diverse’, when it comes to theatre. I heard people reflecting happily about the number of East Asians there, but one of the sessions was titled ‘why aren’t more black people here today?’ And the man who called it said he’d looked around the room in disappointment, full of white faces, again. Oh well. ‘Whoever comes are the right people.’

It’s a weird thing, to be so focused on skin colour. It’s weird because people are people, we’re all the same and we’re all different. It’s strange to be a ‘white’ woman talking about ‘black’ and ‘of colour’ and cautiously using such labels because I can’t use them comfortably, without feeling that I might be ‘othering’ others from my white position, but not to use those labels is to pretend ours is a colourblind culture, which it isn’t.  I don’t want to be a definer, I don’t want to ‘do’ race, but just as, at the recent Black and Asian Writers Conference in Manchester, Fred D’Aguiar talked about the skin of the black body allowing access to a larger history:

The black figure isn’t confined to time and space … you are able to get into a larger history and a larger hurt … something about skin and the nervous system allows you to know and feel things beyond the limitations of your body …

…likewise the skin of a white body makes us part of ‘a larger history and a larger hurt’ from the side of those who did the hurting. I may not have had anything to do with colonialism but I can’t assume that I have nothing at all to do with the traces of history and hurt that are still so present, as Steve Martinot puts it in his brilliant book, ‘The Machinery of Whiteness’:

Because whites are the definers, “race” as a concept is inseparable from white supremacy. That is, “race” as a concept is inseparable from the white hierarchical domination that constructs it. (19)

I have some gaping gaps that require filling in when it comes to the history of this country. My schooling didn’t mention colonialism, and from the sounds of it, Michael Gove’s proposals are not going to provide a solution. Perhaps if the middle classes were better educated, British period drama wouldn’t be quite so limited to Austen and Downton.

One of the sessions focused on the impact of education on careers in theatre: ‘what’s school got to do with it? How did you get where you are today?’ At drama school the British actor Mitesh Soni was constantly asked to put on an Indian accent and ‘do a funny head shake’  – all good preparation for professional auditions for which he is told to bring his own turban (he’s not Sikh) … Questions were raised such as, should drama school be explicitly teaching its British students of colour to do an array of accents to give them the tools they will need in an industry in which they will be typecast? Or should they continue to pretend the problem doesn’t exist on the surface whilst asking a young woman who has had what she describes as a ‘white middle class upbringing’ and who speaks with the most refined RP I’ve ever heard offstage, to do an accent that’s like her mother’s, and when that doesn’t result in what they are looking for they say: ‘a bit more fresh off the boat’. Perhaps the answer is to set up new schools.

The problem is that men watching TV shows full of men don’t notice there are no women in them. White people watching a play with only white actors don’t notice there are no people of colour. We don’t see what we are not when it is not there. This not seeing, is one way in which we white people ‘do’ race:

White people “do” race in the sense of “committing” certain practices, actions, and attitudes … What white people do to others through these practices, however, tends to remain unseen by their white perpetrators once the practices become elements of a cultural structure in which they simply “go without saying.” (Martinot, 23)

So, it ‘goes without saying’ that we just have to put on period dramas with all white casts. It ‘goes without saying’ that 12 Angry Men ‘aint broke so don’t fix it’. It ‘goes without saying’ that a drama school has to limit the number of black actors they accept. It goes without saying that English = white. It goes without saying that actor = white. It goes without saying that a cast list that doesn’t specify skin colour will be cast as white. It goes without saying that political dramas will be full of posh white men.

BBC4_buys_new_Danish_drama_from_the_makers_of_The_Killing

The British public (or perhaps that’s a particular slice of the British public) has only recently realised how great it is to see women in leading roles in TV drama. They weren’t reported missing until The Killing and The Bridge and Borgen. But in spite of Roifield Brown’s observation that  ‘the ability to talk effortlessly about … increasingly, the right fashionable Scandinavian drama’ can gain you entry ‘into this club’ (referring to the UK media), the producers in the club don’t seem to have clocked why viewers are so enamoured. The BBC Radio spin off version of Borgen thought it was the coalition Danish politics that’s the important thing. The four male characters are listed as:

The ‘unflinchingly determined’  ‘permanent secretary for the Ministry of the Environment’ [Hans, the lead]

‘A  hard drinking journalist’

‘An environmental rights campaigner’

‘The permanent secretary for the Ministry of Finance’

The two female characters are listed as:

‘Han’s daughter’

‘A long standing friend of Hans’

In Danish drama women get to solve crimes and run the country. In the UK we are cast in relation to the leading man.

Francesca Beard [R Denney]

Francesca Beard [R Denney]

Apples and Snakes (with generous Arts Council funding) were instrumental in cultivating a diverse English spoken word scene (also described as ‘performance poetry’/’poetry in performance’ etc). They have always done this consciously, looking to support the ‘disenfranshised voice’. In the eighties that was the black British voice. Now the focus is on voices from the regions. I believe that one of reasons why the spoken word scene (although by no means perfect) is so much more diverse than the theatre world is because it has no gatekeepers at its entrance. Anyone can do an open mic. Everyone is applauded. I started out doing open mic. That’s the way we can experiment. We can get heard. No unpaid internships. No writers’ groups that you don’t find out about until you’re too old for them. No unofficial mentoring via a friend of a friend. No job offer via your mother. No debt-for-life trip to the Edinburgh Fringe. Just the opportunity to try out work and get better at it, and then the open mics turn into paid gigs, opportunities to work with others, and maybe that turns into a touring theatre show. Like these: Francesca Beard; Lemn Sissay; Hannah Jane Walker; Ross Sutherland; Zena Edwards, Inua Ellams, Kate Tempest (not to make assumptions about how these artists got to where they are, but …they have all worked with Apples and Snakes). I think this section of the poetry scene (which increasingly bleeds into the theatre scene) is becoming the new mainstream when it comes to poetry, (either that or it’s not poetry at all, depending on who you ask). Certainly, far more poets working in performance reach an audience and earn a living by writing/performing than those who focus on the page.  But that debate aside, when it comes to race and diversity, can theatre learn from spoken word?

The discussions at D&D focused around the mainstream theatre, the casting of actors of colour, and possible solutions. There’s no getting away from the fact that ‘mainstream’ theatre and TV is where the money and the work is, so it’s not as easy to say, ‘make a new mainstream’ as it is in the poetry world. There are also a large number of white actors, writers and directors who have given up on the impossible task of trying to crack the little London circuit and are making their own work. Both Lemn Sissay and Tyrone Huggins got established by making their own work.

I was inducted into the make it yourself philosophy in Amsterdam and then at Dartington College of Arts. At Dartington there’s no talk of the ‘industry’ or ‘agents’ or ‘casting directors’, there’s no question that anyone’s skin colour will have anything to do with their success, there’s no unofficial quota on how many people of colour can be accepted. But then, there’s no Dartington anymore either. And when there was, it was overwhelmingly white. Hidden away in the Devon countryside, I only knew about it because my mum did.

One of the sessions called at D&D was ‘Is anyone else tired of all this shit?’- something like that. These are conversations that have taken place many times before, issues that have been raised many times before, it’s shocking that the issues are still issues. Kwame Kwei-Armah, discussing his decision to leave the UK to become the artistic director of Baltimore’s Center Stage: ‘I thought we had won those arguments already. I couldn’t face it again.’ He adds: ‘we still cannot get through glass ceilings to save our lives back at home.’

D&Ds can be very cozy and comfortable. There are rules (principles) that help us feel comfortable. Whoever comes are the right people. In Devon I knew pretty much everyone there. When I went to the general London one, in spite of the fact I’ve never lived in London (and in spite of the fact I’m pretty outside of all this), I knew quite a lot of people. It’s a tiny world.  Is it too tiny? Whoever comes are the right people. I could try to argue with that, and it’d make a nice conclusion to the blog, but these D&D open space principles are pretty solid. So, let’s go with it. We are the right people. But we, the right people, also have a responsibility to try and bring in the people who aren’t here, whether those people are casting plays, running theatres, or working on a weekday. And then, whoever we are, as Tyrone Huggins says: ‘I think we have to bust this thing open. “They” (whoever “they” are) are never going to fix this. It’s down to us. To me and you.’

‘When it’s over it’s over.’

It’s not over. Here are Tyrone Huggins’ questions:

Is it pointless to continue to discuss issues of diversity?

 Why bother to take the complaints of black theatre to an industry that has mastered the art of inertia?

 Given the literary core of the British theatre aesthetic, is it not an exercise in futility to image an equitable sharing of resources for alternative theatre forms and practice?

 Isn’t it true that when we talk about race we’re really talking about skin colour politics?

 Why talk about race anyway, shouldn’t the focus be on excellent work?

If the Creative Case for Cultural Diversity holds any truth, why is it not at the heart of our creative industries?

If Black Asian and Minority Ethnic audiences don’t turn out for theatre in sufficient numbers to support its economics, why spend time or money worrying about them? 

Does the digital world hold any opportunities for diversity or race in the performing arts?

#DandDRace

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Hannah Silva’s Forms Of Protest

Originally posted on Tears in the Fence:

Sound poet and playwright, Hannah Silva’s long awaited debut collection, Forms Of Protest (Penned in the Margins 2013), admirably illustrates the variety of her poetry. Her range encompasses sonic repetition, sonnet, collage, monologue, list, SMS messaging symbols, and probing text and is never predictable. There is a great sense of musicality and of contemporary language use. Indeed my sixth-form students love her work both on the page and read aloud.  One of our favourites, ‘Gaddafi, Gaddafi, Gaddafi’, echoes childhood playground chants, and works through its long, flowing, circular lines, as if on a loop, as much as the repetition of the word Gaddafi.

 

I am going to tell you my name Gaddafi but I am

Going to tell you my age Gaddafi my age is ten

Gaddafi and I am going to tell you about a game

Gaddafi a game that I play Gaddafi I play with my

Friends…

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Our language; Nuestra lengua

When I get asked why I play with language

…. and voice…sound…words and silence

This would be a very good answer. 

 Zacatecas 1997. Opening address at El Congreso International de la Lengua Española.

By Octavio Paz

Octavio Paz

Octavio Paz, 1990 Nobel Prize winner

El amor por nuestra lengua 

Callings are mysterious. Why does one child tirelessly draw in his school sketchbook, whilst another makes boats or planes from the paper? Why does one construct canals and tunnels in the garden, builds cities of sand on the beach, whilst another forms football teams and leads bands of explorers, or locks himself alone in a room solving endless jigsaws? Nobody knows for certain.

What we do know is that over the years, these inclinations and affinities become crafts, professions and destinies. The mystery of the poet’s calling is no less uncertain, yet more enigmatic.

It begins with an unanticipated love of words, their colour, their sound, their brilliance and the array of meanings they display. As we sound words, we hear meanings. This love soon becomes a fascination for the reverse of language, silence. Each word at once speaks and silences. This understanding distinguishes the poet from the philologists and the grammarians, from the orators and from those who practice the subtle art of conversation. Unlike these masters of language, the poet is known for their silences as much as their words.

From the beginning the poet knows, indistinctly, that words are inseparable from the grave and womb of silence. The word buries silence; the earth germinates the word.  We are children of the word, it is our creation and our creator, without it we wouldn’t be. In turn, the word is the daughter of silence: born and taken by her depths.

Octavio Paz, 1997

translated by Hannah Silva

 Read and hear the original. 

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Seventeen Reviews and a Picture

Stephanie Greer, photo by Eileen Long

Stephanie Greer, photo by Eileen Long

It’s a bit of a tricky dance to entice the ‘main’ theatre critics to come to a play that has five days at the Pleasance next week [tickets on sale now]… I am guilty of many attempts to get Lyn Gardner to see my work, and it’s a tough wish to let go of, because I think she’s pretty impressive…and also, and this is the idiot part…because of how much store is put in hers and other ‘National’ reviews by those people I could do with some help from. Am I an idiot for wanting the national critics to notice my work for those reasons? Or is the system idiotic for putting me in that position? Or something else entirely? Anyway, that is for another day…perhaps it was for yesterday…

Because today…

…we are in a new world of crazily-intelligent-and-informed-theatre-bloggers (you  know  who  you  are) …(to name just a few)

…and as well as them, there are those people who come into the theatre and buy tickets and sit in the chairs and …well…those are the ones we do it for…those are the ones who are incredibly generous and honest in their reactions…so perhaps those are the ones who should tell each other whether it’s worth the journey and the ticket buying….

 As Lyn Gardner recently pointed out, twitter and Facebook is a place where we rarely see negative responses …so it’s not that I’m picking out the best bits below…I’m just picking out all of the bits…(whether I’d post negative stuff if I had it I don’t know…prob. not. It’s hard enough as it is!)

We already have a collection of beautiful and personal thoughts about ‘The Disappearance of Sadie Jones’ on my blog, and below are seventeen more recent responses, but first, what one of our audience members – Katherine McDermott-Darley describes as ‘a visual interpretation’ of the work.

by Katherine McDermott-Darley

by Katherine McDermott-Darley

And her comments (from Facebook):

 A unique lyrical, rhythmical script, brittle, unstable, dischopated . . . and Sadie’s dark shadow cast on the side wall of the auditorium – this image inspired by that and her inwardly collapsing world…Something also about the physicality of the play – shamanistic, raw . . . stunning performances by the cast of three.

(If ‘dischopated’ isn’t a word it should be). And she also posted this quote:

During depression the world disappears. Language itself. One has nothing to say. Nothing. No small talk, no anecdotes. Nothing can be risked on the board of talk. Because the inner voice is so urgent in its own discourse: How shall I live? How shall I manage the future? Why should I go on?

(Kate Millett (b. 1934), U.S. feminist theorist, literary critic, essayist, autobiographer, sculptor. The Loony-Bin Trip, pt. 3, Simon and Schuster (1990).)

This visual response seems very appropriate. One of the first things we did when we began working on the play was read it…then respond to it on a bit of paper…and the actors all drew pictures.

Hunger1

The Tweeters:

@tom_mansfield Really enjoyed Hannah Silva’s Disappearance of Sadie Jones ‪@mac_birmingham this eve. Beautifully written, formally inventive stuff.

@jonathanapemrys Such a great launch night ‪@capitalplays with ‪@finkennedy talking ‘In Battalions’ and ‪@HannahSilvaUK ‘s The Disappearance of Sadie Jones!

Mark Wallace‪@southfields ‘The Disappearance of Sadie Jones’: affecting, innovative theatre. We’re lucky to be seeing this calibre of work in Devon.

sarah chapman ‏‪@MsSnails Wonderful performance tonight. Visually beautiful. Acoustically delightful. Highly recommend ‪#TheDisappearanceofSadieJones

Jayne Stanton‪@stantonjayne‪@NeilMay1 ‪@UpstairsWestern ‪@NineArchesPress ‪@Joanne_Hartley I liked having space to interpret characters/plot myself.

Neil May ‏‪@NeilMay1Enjoyed ‪#TheDisappearanceofSadieJones by ‪@HannahSilvaUK ‪@UpstairsWestern last night, a cohesive fusion of naturalism & physical theatre!

Nine Arches Press ‏‪@NineArchesPress Entrancing & charged performance ‪@UpstairsWestern tonight, thoroughly recommend ‪@HannahSilvaUK‘s The Disappearance of Sadie Jones

Joanne Hartley ‏‪@Joanne_Hartley Really enjoyed workshop and performance of ‘The Disappearance of Sadie Jones’ with & by ‪@HannahSilvaUK . Inspiring, refreshing, exciting.

The Wild Writers ‏‪@WildWriters ‪@Seven_Arts ‪@UpstairsWestern ‪@LTLiv Dead good this. The dialogue was poetic.

Alexa Tewkesbury‪@AlexaTewkesbury Do grab the chance to see ‘The Disappearance of Sadie Jones’ from ‪@HannahSilvaUK . Beautiful & stunningly performed 

More Facebook responses:

‘It was visceral in every sense of the word’

‘wow, a brave and subtle, dynamic piece of theatre. We both enjoyed the play and had lively discussion afterwards. Great actors too – especially the actor playing Sadie.’

‘I went to see Hannah Silva’s play The Disappearance of Sadie Jones in Plymouth last night. It didn’t disappoint. Daring, original, and lyrical it is poetry in motion. The acting is superb and the words stick, get under your skin and demand your attention. Interactive in the best sense of the word.’

‘It was startling and memorable to experience such a direct and compelling dramatisation of mental illness.’

‘Last night – experienced The Disappearance of Sadie Jones, by Hannah Silva at Peninsula Arts. AMAZING piece of theatre. Weird start, crunchy middle, verbal onslaught after verbal onslaught on the mind, and silence at blackout. Then the applause. A must see performance.’

‘Great writing, and lovely performances: a tense word net that holds us in suspense knowing the worst and knowing nothing at the same time …’

‘It was so refreshing to hear from a writer with similar approach to myself and to learn that I’m not alone in my experience of feeling frustrated and deflated by dominant paradigms in playwriting. I’m so pleased you pursued your instincts.’

Me too.

Thank you for your generous responses,

we shall be disappearing in London next week and are looking forward to it.

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Artists are Idiots (have some compassion)

Some Do Nots for writers and artists:

  1. Beg
  2. Tell your life story
  3. Enclose a poem (unless submitting to a poetry magazine in which case enclose 6-8, single spaced, typed, previously unpublished)
  4. Include a picture or an illustration (not applicable for visual artists)
  5. Worry about someone stealing your idea
  6. Accuse someone (famous) of stealing your (unpublished) idea
  7. Post on Facebook about how difficult being an artist is
  8. Write a blog about how you should have been invited to see the Queen
  9. Spell the important person’s name wrong
  10. Chase up continuously
  11. Send simultaneous submissions
  12. Criticise another (better know) writer/artist or their work publically
  13. Respond to a rejection
  14. Ask for feedback
  15. Send your work to the wrong place
  16. Send your work to the wrong person
  17. Tell a critic they can change your life
  18. Tell an agent they can change your life
  19. Tell a random person working in a theatre/funding organisation etc they can change your life
  20. Use lots of different coloured fonts
  21. Quote your Grandma

Anyone would think artists are idiots.

Why do we do these idiotic things?

Because we’re young/inexperienced/mentally ill/deluded/having a bad day

sometimes

But often, I think, because this line of work is soul destroying. Of course most of us are warned of this early on. The warning has absolutely no effect on us stubborn folk who don’t see any other option for our lives except to write/to make theatre/to perform etc etc… and therefore find ourselves continually looking for help, support, opportunity, money, audience, publication, commissions…

Working in this industry is soul destroying and that can result in us suffering from temporary mind-loss and doing some pretty ridiculous, irrational things.  Of course these aren’t big things. No wars have been started over a silly covering letter.

Because these aren’t big things, because our silliness doesn’t hurt anyone, I wonder if it’s reasonable to request some compassion from those on the receiving end of our idiocies. Many of those on the receiving end are actually being paid to receive our mistakes. Many are not, many are writers or artists like the rest of us and probably made similar mistakes at some point. So either way…

Here’s an example from my own true-life story:

Five years ago I submitted a few poems to a magazine and forgot about them, being accustomed to sending poems into black holes. I set up a do-it-yourself website for the first time. I put a few poems on my website. I received an email from the editor saying that she had read my poems with interest but then discovered I had already ‘published’ them on my website:

‘I realise this may be an alien concept to you, as someone who appears to be more at home performing than publishing, but if you want to get ahead in print as well as on stage, it’s something you will have to accept and embrace…otherwise you will very rapidly make yourself unpopular with editors.’

I’d only just made the website and it’d had about three views, I’d partly forgotten about the submission, but I also hadn’t quite clocked that putting it on my personal website counted as ‘publishing’. I immediately took the poems down and apologised profusely. Of course my poems were not published in nameless magazine. I was let off with a slapped wrist and instructions to buy the Writers and Artists yearbook (which I’d bought and read years before).

(That is by no means the most idiotic mistake I’ve made but the other ones are so idiotic I’m too embarrassed to share them.)

Of course we need to put ‘soul destroying’ in perspective. Cleaning toilets for a living is more soul destroying. Standing in a dole queue is soul destroying. Working in a call centre is soul destroying. (Whether or not the above activities are more soul destroying for aspiring artists than for non-artistically-afflicted folk I can’t say.) Artists and writers should be grateful for any shred of encouragement, or sliver of success we get, we should be thankful for any time we manage to spend writing/making at all. The trouble with us is we’re insatiable and ambitious.

What makes an otherwise rational and intelligent person act like an idiot?

I believe the answer is a mix of ambition, Sisyphus, and black hole syndrome.

black_hole_image

Black hole syndrome is when you get no response to your communications. These could be emails, letters, submissions, tour booking queries, invitations to see your work, etc. When no replies are received to a large number of the above, over a period of several years, you feel that you are pouring yourself into a black hole. The whole exercise becomes slightly absurd. You lose perspective, you might (subconsciously, you understand) start to view yourself as a kind of subhuman creature not deserving of a reply.

By Patricia Piccinini

By  artist Patricia Piccinini

You get so used to receiving no response that you start to believe it is indeed a black hole, and at this point, a kind of fuck it mentality takes over and that is when the idiotic email is sent. And of course, sometimes, the idiotic email gets a response. Not a good one.

Sisyphus is basically a Greek version of the above.

sisyphus

Ambition is a Jekyll and Hyde character. Hyde is about success, acknowledgement, maybe also about money (even if just on a paying-the-bills scale). The Hyde side propels us to submit scripts, to write funding bids, to email important people, to keep emailing important people, to keep looking for opportunities. It makes us blinkered and driven, it prevents us from being satisfied with where we are, with what we’ve got, it produces in us a strange cocktail of self belief and hope and persistence, ambition is what makes us constantly unsatisfied therefore constantly trying to get our work seen, made, heard, acknowledged.

The Jekyll side of ambition propels us to make better, to write better, to take risks with our work, to think big, or small and complex, or simple and beautiful, or new and strange…  This side of ambition doesn’t go away either, not even when the book is published or the great review received or the commission achieved, ambition is what makes us constantly unsatisfied therefore constantly trying to make better work.

Of course not all people have split personalities. Some might only be Hyde types. Perhaps they could go down the commercial route if they are naturally talented, but ambition for success without ambition to make better work is not a winning formula in the long term. Then of course there are those with the ambition to keep developing their work but no ambition for success, acknowledgment, etc. There are quite a few of those. Some reckon that being good and working hard at what they do is enough, they perhaps think they shouldn’t have to send endless communications into the black hole. Some don’t have to, because they get lucky early on. Some make great work but no one sees it. If they’re happy –great. But I’ve met a few folk on this side who are a bit bitter. Maybe that’s because they’re not listening to their inner Hyde.

dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde1

(Neither Jekyll nor Hyde are ever satisfied.)

*end of dodgy literary metaphors

‘Normal’ people, when faced with rejection after rejection, decide to change career/expectations. This is perfectly rational. Artists and writers, because of the strange mix of ambition, hope, self-belief and love, stick with it. Obviously this makes us a little unusual. It makes us a little deluded, if we weren’t, we’d give up. This delusion ingredient is essential, but a bit risky, at some point we need to stop being deluded and start to see our work in perspective. Hopefully we are only just the necessary amount of deluded to keep going.

So black hole syndrome resulting in idiotic communication is one feature. Another is idiotic email/letter/communication sent to important person in response to actually getting good response from important person. This is of course ludicrous. Writer/artist in question finally receives the news they have been waiting for. Perfect opportunity to act like a normal human being and respond in rational fashion. But artist/writer does not do this, writer/artist responds in idiotic fashion. Why would artist/writer self sabotage in this way? I think the answer might be because writer/artist has pinned so much on this response, has been waiting so long for this response, is amazed that they are actually receiving communication from a human, has bottled up all their ambition and ideas and hopes for so long, is pinning everything on this poor person, that  suddenly they let it all out and say too much/beg/explain how difficult they are finding it or commit other idiotic mistake listed above. Writer/artist doesn’t hear from important person again. Artist/writer mortified.

The web is full of people giving advice, full of rules on how to submit work, full of Facebook comments from editors complaining and laughing about idiotic communications they have received, and full of earnest writers and artists making mistakes. I have beaten myself up on many occasions for being an idiot. I’m sure I’m not alone.

So next time we fuck up, instead of directing our anger at ourselves, let’s instead think of all the other writers and artists who are at that moment fucking up too. Let’s pool our mortification and self-loathing and blinkered ambition, let’s imagine it draining away into the black hole of our collective hope, and let’s give ourselves a fucking break.

To those on the receiving end of our many idiocies, please remember that this profession is full of hope and full of rejection. Constant rejection makes even the best of us act like idiots now and then.

Artists are Idiots.

(Have some compassion)

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Yours Truly,

Hannah Silva just got her first poetry collection published, you can buy it from Penned in the Margins

And she is currently touring a play ‘The Disappearance of Sadie Jones’

Birmingham, Capital Theatre Festival 20th November

Plymouth Peninsula Arts 21st November

London, The Pleasance, Islington: 26-30 November

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Filed under Playwriting, Poetry

Social animals need to stay in touch

Hannah teaser launch

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November 13, 2013 · 2:43 pm