Wednesday, September 15, 2010

today (is a flashback) that coughed up a 'plan'

It's grey, rainy and crappy here, and I am feeling ill-motivated. This is especially weird because I have been really on-it the last week and a half. I had been letting everything I need to deal with pile up post-fair, thinking I'd have all this time on my hands. Ha. Should have known better of myself.

How did I get myself here? . . . Yes, this is not just a question drunk 20-somethings ask themselves when they wake up in an unfamiliar front yard.

The first two weeks of August were filled with Fringe and trying to amiccably navigate my way to the end of my employment with Bedlam. They are fly-by-the-seat, and I am sometimes almost too organized for my own good. I thought in that regard maybe I would learn something from their operating method, and if it were a show or artistic project I had been involved in, that may have been the case. Because employment seems to be one of the few things where I have seemed to think I could locate consistency in my life, I came to see that while I very much respect their mission and what they do as artists, and have loved having the opportunity to produce work there, me and the administration just were not meant for one another. My last week of work was the week previous to my show, the last long-run show in the space.

All this got me thinking a bit more, particularly as it became clear that, beyond August, my financial situation would require major revamping in terms of working enough at a good enough rate to subside. However, I put this tangle of thoughts aside to get my show up, running and closed.

The show was generally a success. In the middle of it all, I found myself getting pretty overwhelmed with the amount I had taken on. The amount as a dancer, no problem. The amount as a producer, no problem. The amount as a choreographer, definitely not a problem. The problem? All these loads mixed together into one big lump of cookie dough with not enough water in it. I came through, but there were times that I questioned the amount I took on. However, dancing in 4 out of 9 of the pieces in the show was precisely what I wanted for myself as a performer from this opportunity. Considering the kind of work I love and excel at is not happening as frequently as I'd like it to in the Cities, when I create opportunities for it to be presented, of course I am going to do everything in my power to perform within it as much as possible. Yes, it caused some headaches, but I do not regret it in the least. I got to work with choreographers who I had always wanted to work with (Jeffrey Peterson and Jennifer Glaws), and got to continue working with my deeply respected mentor, Karla Grotting. Though the week itself was insane, I am glad I did it the way I did.

This year's show also brought some unexpected difficulties. Two major things stick out to me; first, the choreographers seemed to think that the space was available for them to use, no need to ask. This caused overlapping 'rehearsals' and general discord. It also did not help that I happened to be the Booking Assistant for Bedlam at the time, the exact person with whom to schedule such rehearsals. This was a task I was not planning on having to fit into my to do's that week. We got it under control by putting a 'space sign out' sheet up backstage that noted the ONLY available times and split them into equitable slots. The other thing was the audience videotaping! We made announcements at the beginning with the normal stuff (no cell phones, no flash photos, etc), but didn't think we'd have to make an annoucement about video! The last night, the house manager spotted someone taping and went in to tell them to put it away, only to discover the same person taping by the end of the first half again. Rude as hell. So we made an annoucement at intermission stating that videotaping is strictly prohibited - it blocks the view of others, and Heather and I were paying to have a professional video done. If people want a video, buy the damn DVD - we are only planning to charge $10, which is ridiculously cheap comparitively. So after that annoucement, there was a guy in the FRONT ROW taping. I got so pissed I wanted to stop dancing and tell him to put it away, but I knew that would obviously only make me look like an asshole too, so I refrained. But boy, did I want to!

Overall, it was great - audiences were not has big as we wanted Thursday and Friday, but Saturday made up for both - we had people sitting on the floor, and considered it an overall sell-out! The work was great - the show itself was generally seen as even better than last year, and I got written about specifically in a review - I have never had a reviewer focus on me as a performer, so that was VERY exciting;

Then, it was almost immediately off to the fair. I had one day of nothingness (I had it written in my calendar for months. The day following the show, Sunday, was labelled 'Nothing Day,' and I promised myself to plan nothing). I ended up taking myself for a bike ride, out to breakfast, and went tubbing with Kris on the Cannon River. Good times. The fair was what it was - every year I end up feeling like I am eternally frozen at 16 in that building. People tend to forget that 4H kids grow up and get real jobs. I often found myself feeling frustrated by how tiny little changes could do a lot of good, but how people who have worked there for many years simply respond 'but this is how we've always done it,' and make no effort to absorb new ideas. I think that my time working for 4H at the fair is limited. I really love giving back to the program and being in that building, but I want to be able to utilize my skills (I have been a manager for crips sake, it's really hard to be treated like a teenager) to the best of my ability. This really got me thinking about how it would be a dream job to me to work year-round for the Fair! In short, I was happy to be there, I cannot imagine being anywhere else during that time of year, but I am hoping that I will be there in coming years for a different employment situation!

During the fair, even though I had pushed off thoughts of 'what's next' for after, I found myself starting to think about the upcoming year, and realizing that my slate was not clean at all, like I thought it to be. Even though I decided to stick with my coffee job and not add any hours to make up for my lost job, I still feel like the world has piled on me. The next week, I sat down to assess my commitments for the year and their duration, as well as my future goals. I used to have a big, detailed ten-year plan, but my experiences are coming to suggest that such things never hold true when they are so stringent. Part of good planning is to realize that your plan my be de-railed by a life circumstance or a new opportunity. So I revised this ten-year plan of sorts into more of a list of goals and information, split into categories that reflect my current and desired commitments. I also wrote myself a personal mission statement in attempt to define more clearly what I actually want and am trying to accomplish with all these pursuits. In the course of this, I also re-did my resumes. Beyond that, I sat down and attempted a general assessment of what a typical week would look like for me this fall, and where the open spots were to pursue my projects. I was expecting to work about 20 hours, and have about 20 hours for projects, not including rehearsals for Eclectic Edge Ensemble. Sadly, during a period that I really thought I am under-committed, it turns out all the projects I have on my own really take something like 30 hours a week. I think I am coming to realize that my weaknesses do not lie in planning, but rather in the execution, specifically in regards to estimating how much time a thing takes.

I have realized that I have a tendency to just make a list of all the things I need to do and think I can accomplish in a week, without really thinking about how much time each thing takes. Sure, I have even gone so far as to give tasks days, but I still never tried very hard to figure out how much time each would take. So I have attempted to turn over a new leaf in that department.

I am planning to make a to do list for each week starting mid-week before, depending upon the progress of each task on the current week's sheet, as well as looking at my goal document and seeing which smaller elements of major goals I could begin to take on. So this fall, I have found myself committed to the following; working at Ginkgo three mornings a week, teaching dance one night a week, choreographing a piece for the Zenon scholarship program, choreographing new work with a composor/ live musicians for a showcase in February, making prorgess on my personal training certification, attempting to further develop Rhythmically Speaking, dancing and being on the board for Eclectic Edge, taking dance class as much as I can, and taking voice lessons with my dad to improve my voice for auditions. I also want to put a lot of energy into figuring out the best plan for my career/work development. I am starting to reach the point where I can no longer work between 3 and 4 jobs at a time, many of them for crappy pay, just to make ends meet and allow me to pursue dance. However, I still place great importance on my development as a dance artist. My major goal is to make more money in less time (who doesn't want to do that!). I am trying to be reasonable, and figure that if I can find the right job (involved enough that it modivates me but not so involved that it fries by brain from being creative when I am done), it can work. I don't think it is unreasonable to think I could get $15-$20 an hour at my current experience level, and especially if I get further schooling. With that, between 25 and 30 hours I am set! To figure out the right way to navigate this and what path to take, I plan to go on a shit ton of informational interviews(have already started setting them up) and to start opening my search to corporate job boards. I used to pride myself on never having worked for a corporation, but when it really comes down to it, not all corporations are evil, and not all non-profits are awesome. Bottom line, corporate jobs are a lot more likely be to paying in the range I need, and may also open me up to areas of work that I had not been able to break into or consider previously. I do know that I do not desire to work in arts administration at this time - it has started feeling ridiculous to spent a bunch of brain power trying to better one arts non-profit when I could be taking all that thought generation and applying it to the development of my own pursuits. Ideally, my work/time situation would lay out as 20-30 hours a week in a fulfilling and well enough paying career-esque job (event planning, public health, other areas of interest), and 20 hours pursuing my development as an individual creative force within the Twin Cities dance community (as a producer/ curator, performer, choreographer, teacher and writer).

Oh boy, that is a lot of stuff.

Obviously, I have been putting a lot of thought in. And now, the challenge is to make sure those thoughts turn into actions. Particularly on a day like this.