Before I mention Saturday night's performance of "The King is But a Man" I need to mention that my matinee, yesterday, was cancelled due to weather. Ice and snow, to be exact. A snow storm I feel compelled to point out was not even on the radar earlier in the week. Such, it seems, is my luck with such things. (Especially since this show was originally intended for late autumn of last year.)
Regardless of how a show goes, it is difficult to not have some closure. True, I had virtually no set for this show, but I would have gotten a sense of completion of my mission had I been able to perform all three of my long-awaited (by me) performances at that venue. That sense of completion would have been capped off by my putting the precious few items from my set back in their respective places in the venue. Now they will merely be put away by the next play which will rehearse tonight. (And with whom I had to share the stage over the last five weeks, unexpectedly, as both shows rehearsed in the same time frame, hence my late nights.) This pains me somewhat.
As does the fact that in the end, so few people came to see the show. It is difficult enough when one spend six weeks or so practicing someone else's play with other people under the guidance of someone else, only to have few people come watch it. To spend over a year creating your own work, all by yourself, to have so few people express an interest in it is even more of a gut check in some ways. Especially when, like me, you did everything in your power to promote the project.
I am not ashamed to admit that most of my creative projects have audiences in mind. I of course get something out of my writings and performances, and I strive to do well in both endeavors. I can be proud of my work in my own right, and I am for "The King is But a Man" in both writing and the two performances I delivered of it. But unlike some, possibly more enlightened souls, I rarely write or perform in a vacuum. That is to say I write so people will read my words, and be entertained, moved, forced to think by them. The same with my acting. Better people than I can write novels that nobody will ever read, that nobody is intended to read, and be fine with that. I know actor who can perform for empty houses all the time, and get by on just the fulfillment of a job well done. But that isn't me.
This isn't to say I seek validation for my whole existence through applause. Yet this stuff is not easy to do, folks. And I imagine plenty of people in other service oriented fields, (which is how I think of the arts to some extent) would feel similar as I do now, if nobody partook of their efforts. One who cooks a lavish meal, and has nobody show up to eat it is probably not celebrating the fact that all of it is headed to the dumpster at the end of the evening. Food is to be eaten. Words are to be read. Music, listened and danced to.
So I don't feel guilty for my disappointment.
As for Saturday night itself, it was a better experience than Friday night. There were only seven people in the crowd, but they were a responsive group. They laughed at some of the jokes, and seemed generally interested in the story I was trying to tell, by way of my own words and those of Shakespeare. I received several compliments after the performance. Though I did stumble once or twice in some of the speeches again, I do believe I corrected myself in such a way that nobody was the wiser in the audience. Making mistakes still irks me to no end, but it's more tolerable when the flow of the scene is left in tact, and I believe that it was.
Mistakes aside, I am satisfied with my performance on Saturday. My energy, (which was flagging a bit in the evening before I got to the theatre) picked up once the shoe go under way. Responsive audiences help with that. And I've said before I'd rather have ten people in the audience who are into the show, than thirty who are passive and unmoved. I don't know if the audience on Saturday totally made up for Friday night, but it was certainly a relief to have a few more people.
One member of the audience, a friend of mine, expressed regret that more people had not come to see the show. "They don't know what they're missing," she said. The same person, along with her companion for the evening also told me of their hope that this weekend would not be the final time I performed the piece. I mentioned that I had always intended for this to be just a premiere, but to then take it around to other venues, if they would have me.
To be honest, however, I am no longer sure if I should. Having so little return on my investment, mixed with other difficulties during this process took a lot out of me. On top of a string of creative failures in this area over the years, it has left me feeling rather flat. True, it is all still raw for now, and my mind may change as I get some distance from the experience. Yet right now, I don't feel I have the energy to go through cold calling venues, convincing them to give me a try, have the majority of them say "no" and have little interest from audiences in any venue that happens to say less. The experience of the original venue has nearly sapped me dry. Do I have it in me to continue this elsewhere? Is it even a marketable product, or has this experience proved that nobody wants to see this?
I don't know. I've been asking myself these questions all weekend, and will probably continue to do so for some time. I have other creative projects of my own in the pipeline for this year, and they will take their own large amounts of energy. (Especially if they don't succeed as planned.) I may not be able to pursue all of it, now that I've taken a hit like this. Again, I'll have to think on it for a while. The iron is certainly not hot coming off of this weekend, so there is no need to strike quickly on this decision...
I have a regular play that I am editing, and I've been asked about the possibility of directing something locally. Those two projects are the next two immediately demanding my attention. (If I take on the directing job that is. I must read the script.) Beyond those, I don't know.