Posts Tagged ‘artist’

From the Editor’s Perch…

May 18, 2014

Carl1 (1) Carl1 (1)Web

Erasing Yourself

 

One of the hardest things when preparing your home for sale – beyond the enormous amount of work involved – is scrubbing the place of your personality.  We like to believe we’ve added something.  It’s a very special place and first, of course, we found it.   Homeowners, before they are anything else, are like happy, ruddy-faced beachcombers returning with a ‘found object’.  Perhaps it’s a conglomerate with a bit of barnacle, aggregated gravel, some seaweed and a seagull feather stuck hard to it – all with a greenish, slippery touch that doesn’t immediately suggest itself as a paperweight.  But this is what the realtor is for – for making this connection; for painting this realization!  Because then, after finding our home, we realized its potential.  Initially, it wasn’t that paperweight you see resting on my desk today.  Oh no, no, no, no…  A lot of effort, dare I say talent for this sort of thing, and money went into creating what you just saw.  Our place, though small, is a jewel, with tremendous sparkle in a one of a kind location which should provoke a quick sale at a high price.   All we really hope is that we can find the person for it that will appreciate it properly.  And all the realtor really has to do is to show it!  We smile and nod emphatically.

 

The realtor often doesn’t quite see it as we do.  Their excitement level may not be ours.  They might make a few suggestions, besides asking open-ended questions such as, “What kind of person do you see as buying a place like this?”  ‘Well,’ we supposed, ‘individuals much like us!’   (We smile and nod emphatically again.)

Or, they might not be suggestions.  “Those cat silhouettes (hanging on the window and inner door frames) should go.   Lots of people don’t like cats.”   “That moss on the patio stones should be pressure washed away.” – “But moss is beautiful.  It’s a romantic detail that defines a patio bower and fits it within the community of the other vegetation.”  The realtor shakes their head.  “It’s moss.”   – “But I like moss.”  Deadly pause.   We walk back into the home.  “The chandelier needs to go.  And everything in the kitchen should be packed away, except maybe for two canisters and a bottle of wine.”  “No personal pictures.”  “Think empty.  Space is better.”   “And, of course, it all needs re-painting.  But I wouldn’t bother about that.  The buyer can handle that after the sale.”  “And are we far enough out that they could cut down that cedar, or what are the rules here on that? ”  He asks, staring out the picture window.    –  “Don’t cut that  cedar.”  “It’s in the view.”  – “But the view is more than some stiff scene way in the distance which could be replaced by a painting.  It’s also trees and vegetation, and things closer by, that move!”  –  “The buyer is not going to care about that.”  – “Well, you might tell him that it can get real hot here in the summer on this hillside and if he cuts down that cedar he can figure on paying about $150/month more for watering.”  –  “I’m not going to tell him that.”

 

“You don’t like moss.  You don’t like trees.  You don’t like cats.  I can’t see us bonding,”  I tell the realtor halfway through our stroll.  He doesn’t respond; just looks at me.

“But,” I continue, “I don’t suppose that doesn’t mean we can’t work together.”

“It’s not what I like, or don’t like,” the realtor explains.  “As a professional, it’s my job to tell you the things which will help you to realize a quick and profitable sale.  And what I have been mentioning are those things.”

I nod my head.  “I guess my personality isn’t  worth much.”

No one says anything, and we continue on.

In the days that pass, what I can’t stuff into a carton for transfer to our new home, I farm out like a foster child, or trash.  For quite some time it will feel like we’re living in a motel.  My office has even developed an echo.  And I’m about ready to leave.

Photo by Carl Nelson

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From the Editor’s Perch…

May 12, 2014

Identical  Businessmen11

“You’re the Devil”

 

My son asked me if I planned to continue participating in live theater after we moved to Ohio.  And I said that I wasn’t sure.  But that I’d probably “continue writing my serial fiction, because I enjoy making up stuff.”

And he said, “What’s the point of writing stuff, if people don’t read it?”

This gave me pause.  “You’re the Devil,” I replied.

 

What is the role of failure?  Success seems all important.  People kill themselves for lack of success.  It’s the all too common reason for suicide.  Why is success so important!  Why does it badger us so?  Failure seems a particularly human affliction.  It is hard to imagine a squirrel hanging itself, because it feels like a ‘loser’ – or a bird, or an ant, or a worm for that matter doing themselves in.  Lemmings run off of cliff sides.  But does an actual feeling of despair initially sweep across their community beforehand, so that they lose all bearings?

And if success is so important, where does that leave mediocrity?

Very few of us are successful.  Fewer still are wildly successful.  And even the wildly successful often remain ambitious – or even moreso.  And history has shown us (in quite lurid detail) that ambition is insatiable, and probably makes us – even more suicidal!

Yet statistically, the vast majority of us must be mediocre.  There is no logical way around this conundrum.  So what is the role of failure?

 

More than anything, we tend to react to failure as if it were the Devil’s pronged fork.  We distance ourselves from the pointy end as much as possible!  “I’m not a failure.  I’m successfully earning a living.”  “I’m on my way to success.”  “I am learning the ropes.”  “I am supporting my family of five, all of whom are way above normal.”  “I am helping the less fortunate.”  “I’m in an internship! J” “I could be more successful, if that’s what I really wanted.”  “No one is a failure who has friends.” “I feel I’m already a success.”  Or, perhaps the most desperate, “I’m a good person!”

Sorry.  You are nearly all ‘losers’.  You are not ‘dying with all the toys’.  And you are not  ‘the winner’.  The good news is that this is only sounds harsh if you think it does.  Otherwise, it’s a source of wry humor… which, (to my way of thinking), is God smiling.

 

But where does this leave the artistically inclined?  Most artists will become, like most others, mediocre.  Even most successful artists earn a living with difficulty.  Artists must push an enormous burden to raise a family.  And, their activities are more often than not, self-centered.  It is very hard for an artist to distance him/herself from the prongs of failure.

So, to get back to the issue raised by my son, ““What’s the point of writing stuff, if people don’t read it?”

Well, you know, (my son), the cup is always half full.  Very few of the solutions, and most of the problems of my artistic life have come from the people who have ‘read it’.  An audience can be a burden – even a hex.  If you don’t believe this, just attend any artistic ‘talk back’.  There is usually a moderator present to protect the creative type – both from the ‘haters’ and the ‘lovers’.  Once you have raised an audience, there are packs of hungry egos out there to both want it / and to demean it.

As for money…  Once people pay for something, there is this feeling that they own it.  And people pay an artist, because they want more of the same thing.  But, if you’re not paid a cent, no one owns you.  And no one tells you what to do.

 

But, even acknowledging all of this, if you’re mediocre, people might ask, what is the point of producing more work?  That is, if your art accomplishes nothing, what’s the point in making it?

In responding to this, I think back on a Sunday morning brunch my wife and I enjoyed years ago in a Portland Café.  It was upscale and sunny.  And we were visiting with my wife’s Uncle, a retired architect.  And somehow the conversation turned to religion and he suggested that wasn’t going to church a waste of time?  He pointed out that couldn’t the time be much better spent in doing some social work that would actually help someone?  His eyes showed concern.

‘And that’s what we’re doing now?’  I laughed to myself, as I enjoyed the fresh coffee.

 

“What do the people who aren’t attending Church do with their Sunday mornings?”  I might have asked, sharing his concern.  “Do they consume a big breakfast?  Do they sleep in?  Do they visit friends?  Do they go duck hunting and blast a couple birds?  Or maybe snag a fish and smack them on the head?  Do they watch the pregame festivities on TV?  Maybe work in the yard, or catch up on some home repairs?  Or maybe they read the New York Times?  Or maybe they are still up drinking beers?”

 

But the larger – more serious – point my wife’s Uncle was dancing around was “what in the world does going to Church on Sunday morning actually accomplish?  How does this make us more successful?  How does this make other people’s lives more rich and meaningful?  Does God listen?  Will it change anything even if He does?  Isn’t it possible that this whole ‘God’ thing is just one big shame and that they are all just wasting their Sunday mornings over there blowing smoke?

 

People without faith can’t understand that the foundation of faith is doubt.  Attacking the faithful only makes them stronger.  People like my wife’s Uncle are actually the shoulders that the religious stand on.  (Look at me.  Here I am!)

 

Because doing things to no purpose is actually a spiritual activity.  And the Devil just hates this sort of thing.

Photo by Carl Nelson

Seattle Celebrity News!

March 28, 2014

Lazzo Laughs6WEb Lazzo Laughs9bWEb

Troupe Comique to Make a Movie

While shooting promo photos for the upcoming Midnight Mystery Theater, (Coming to the Eclectic Theater in May.  Watch for it!), Mystery Theater writer/director and producer John Ruoff, revealed in a private chat that he was planning to produce a full length silent movie utilizing the Theater Comique players.  This is all he was wont to say.  (And, of course, it’s just about useless speaking to a mime, except to say that they appeared very excited!)

John Ruoff / Artistic Provocatuer

John Ruoff / Artistic Provocatuer

Midnight Mystery Theater Players

Midnight Mystery Theater Players

Photos by Carl Nelson

 

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

June 3, 2013
'It's a clear cut case of demonic possession', thinks Ralph.

‘It’s a clear cut case of demonic possession’, thinks Ralph.

…and Squirellier

(Episode 54)

 

  As Leland and Agent Hailey settled back with their drinks, Ralph began.

“Good evening.”  Ralph gave a hesitant smile.

“Good evening, Ralph!”  Someone from the back called, to a titter of laughter.

Ralph nodded.  “I hope so,” he began tentatively.

“Just show us the painting!”  That someone called again.

“Shut up!”   Someone else called.

The commissioned painting was hung directly behind Ralph and covered in black velvet.  It was quite large as befitted a fifteen hundred dollar commission.

“As you know,” Ralph began again.

“Speak up!”

“Shut up!”

“As you know!”  Ralph leaned to close to the microphone.  The feedback nearly deafened everyone in the room.

Ralph pulled back immediately, and hesitated tentatively as if he were afraid to go near the mike again, which brought on another titter of laughter.  Ralph gazed out over his audience with saucer-sized eyes, and a hand dove for the peanuts.  He stood their cracking and eating several while his audience sat, waiting.

Finally, with both cheeks full of nuts, Ralph approached the microphone again, hesitantly.  “As you know,” he said.  “I am primarily a painter of rural, and that is in our case, agricultural settings.”  Though with all of the nuts in his cheeks this came out a little more like, “ur his hin hower cashe , hagghricalshurrrel shittings.”  This last got a laugh.  Ralph swallowed and drank some water.

“But fine artists down through history have not only reveled in depicting how their friends and neighbors earned their livings, but felt it their duty to celebrate it in song, story and painting.”

George Everlee nodded and started the applause.  “Farmers are the backbone of this community,” he  called out, “and we owe it mostly to just a great breed of Guernsey we have developed right here and now – in Kimmel County!”

There were lots of cheers.  Even fist pumps.

Ralph nodded.  “Praise the Lord for our abundance,” he said.

“Yes.  Yes. Yes,” it was murmured around the room.

“Are we in a tavern and drinking here, or are we in a church?”  The voice called out.

“Shut up!!!”

“As you know also, from my other times up here, that I believe ‘Wherever the Lord has brought abundance, the Devil views jealously.”  Ralph’s eyes narrowed.

The room was quiet.

“Wherever His Good Works Are In Evidence, the Devil plots.”  Ralph’s voice dropped and paused.

“Ah yes.  Yea, yea, yea,” some in the audience responded.  Others began to sway, (some from drink).

“And WHEREEVER the Good Lord Savior most blesses, THERE is where old Beezlebub most seeks to leave his brand!”  Ralph’s eyes bugged.

Hands were lifted.

But not George Everlee’s.  In fact, George Everlee was smiling stiffly, but looking around, wondering where this evening was headed, while his wife Arlene fought, inconspicuously, to get Ralph’s attention.  But by now, Ralph’s eyeballs were surely big as saucers, and the veins in his temple bulged.

“George Everlee’s Guernsey, Daffodil, was surely most blessed,” Ralph continued, pointing to the cloth covered painting, and with a nod to Ralph Everlee.

Leland had a feeling.  ‘This is fast turning into a wake,’ Leland thought.  ‘And for that, someone has to have died…’

But Ralph Everlee smiled, relaxed a bit, and nodded tentatively.

“Why I can still remember that frosty morning she was first delivered,” Ralph said.  “I was working on another portrait of a sort in a far part of the barn of Henrietta, George’s prize sow.  Many of you, of a few year’s memory, surely remember her.  I’ve got to say, she had the best flesh tones of any sow I’ve had the pleasure yet to paint in this area… mostly yellow ochre and Old Holland white with just the barest highlight of vermillion.”

Arlene blushed.  But George pumped his fist to a general cheer which arose from the crowd.   “It’s Stumps Magic Sow Cream” for any of you who are interested!”  George called out.

Ralph nodded, then moved closer to the mike.

“I know many of you here now – right now – have either laughed slightly, or just coughed, when you have heard me say up here in the past that an Artist has to Beat the Devil, each time he takes up his brush.  That Art is so important to the glorification of God, that the Devil must see to it himself, that this process – lent to us by God Himself – we call creation goes awry.  So that what is meant to be a glorification instead becomes an abomination.”

            Arlene and Ralph Everlee were now looking worried again, as were his kin, nestled nervously around, as to where this was going.  There was tittering and nervous reaching for drinks.

“I think you’d better just show us the painting, Ralph,” the voice in the back called.

And this time it was answered by a murmured chorus of assents.

“Before he does!”  Arlene Everlee stood up, bravely trying to turn the river of  some dark destiny to which it seemed Fate had deemed course through their celebratory evening.  “I just want to say how proud I am of my husband George, and his prize Guernsey Daffodil!  for the honor he has bestowed upon all of us here this evening who are gathered to toast our profession.  And I just want to add,” as she teared up, “that George has been as good a husband and provider these 25 years as he is a breeder and Daffodil is a milker.”

“Hear!  Hear!”  Voices cried.

They all drank to that, while Arlene blubbered and George Everlee kissed her.

“Show us the painting for Godsakes, Ralph,” another shouted.

“Well, to paraphrase Kris Kristofferson, I’m not going to say I beat the Devil,” Ralph said, gripping a corner of the drapery, and pulling.

Inwardly Leland prepared to cringe.

“But I drank his beer for free.  And then I painted his Face.”

Ralph had gotten most of the prize Guernsey Daffodil right excepting for the face, which resembled exactly that of a chipmunk.

A gasp rose up.

Silence gripped the room, while everyone fought to realize what to say, and turned generally towards George Everlee – whose jaw had fallen nearly to the floor – for guidance.  It was George’s herd manager, Earl, who finally spoke first.

“Well, he got her tits right,” he remarked gruffly.

Graphic of painting by Carl Nelson

Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

May 17, 2013
Ralph couldn't get the head right.

Ralph couldn’t get the head right.

Opening Night Jitters

(Episode 50)

            Ralph Bunch still didn’t feel quite himself Thursday morning as he hung his show in the back room of the Campaign Café.  He’d tried calling the Everlee’s to see if they could postpone the unveiling of the prize Guernsey till next month, but Cynthia Everlee had pleaded with him to try and finish.  It was to be for George Everlee’s 50th birthday and people were driving from some distance to attend.  So under deadline, Ralph was still painting as it hung on the wall.  He’d been up all night and the past day, and drinking coffee mixed with a little Three Feathers Whiskey to keep him from getting too jangled.  And he had kept at it but couldn’t get the heifer’s head at all right – in fact, not even close to right, and in the flurry was smearing and dribbling paint.

It was a matter of likeness – the lowest of all aesthetic indicators to an artist Ralph felt, but one of the highest to a patron.  It kept looking like a squirrel!  Or maybe it just ‘felt’ like a squirrel.  Ralph didn’t know.  Whatever it was, Ralph just couldn’t hit it on the sweet spot where everything felt done and…  well, Guernsey-like!  ‘For Pete’s sake!’ Ralph swore at himself, ‘You ought to know a Guernsey.’

Ralph walked backwards with his eyes squinted.   Then he walked forwards with his eyes squinted, and then extra wide open, and then squinted again and made an adjustment – all the while nibbling nuts.  Which was the problem really, ‘he really didn’t feel like himself’.  He rarely nibbled nuts.

Painting this way felt like trying to drive a narrow,  twisting alley, while seated sideways in the driver’s seat.  ‘Damn!’ if he just couldn’t  feel with his brush, where that heifer was anymore.  He was losing – or had lost – his ability to feel Guernsey.

With this realization came an electric bolt of fear running from his bottommost shakra right up his backbone causing him to splatter even more paint.   Because losing the ability to think Guernsey in dairy country could be devastating.  He was going to starve and then to die – cold and alone, maybe even sober.  Every unsuccessful artist realizes this.   “If if must happen, then it will happen.”  That’s what the Realists all say.   But Ralph Bunch had tried his best, until now, to ignore all the signs.

He sucked down some more coffee, shut his eyes tight, then opened them.  He must have painted 500 Guernseys  in this life; he gripped the brush  tightly.  He could do one more!

Painting by Ralph Bunch

From the Editor’s Post…

October 28, 2012

Editor’s Note:  I was thinking a little bit about plays…

From “Saving Harry” with Chuck Brastrup and Daniel Woods.

Getting ‘Stupid’ Right

The most important part of crafting a play is getting ‘stupid’ right.   Plays can have great dialogue, ready wit, sparkling language, lots of drama, but if they don’t get ‘stupid’ right, there’s a good chance it will not be a hit.  ‘Stupid’ is that thing below all the language which makes everything move.  Some playwrights are born getting ‘stupid’ right and some have to really work at it.  ‘Stupid’ is what young people drink to become.  ‘Stupid’ is what happens in extreme situations.  ‘Stupid’ is what the young woman who has the handsome software engineer boyfriend over for dinner says, after she’s heard about Moore’s Law for what seems the fifteenth reference, as she pours him some wine, “I think,  tonight, I’m going to have to get you a liiitttttle stupid.”

Responding to stupid is something everyday audiences are good at; cultural mandarins sadly, not so good.  Cultural mandarins (and many critics) are like alcoholics; it’s hard to get them drunk; it takes a lot, and when you do it’s often on stuff which will make you go blind.

Photo by Carl Nelson

Work, work, work with Rita Andreeva…

August 19, 2012

Editor:  What’s our Rita been up to?  I saw her at the most recent WARP Production with a new video camera.  So I figured she might have come into some money.  She didn’t answer that query, but here is her reply:

Time to go!

“…planning to move frantically and sporadically…”

Well, I’m still planning to move soon, very soon, so I don’t have time for anything else but planning to move frantically and sporadically. Probably to cheaper South. Why is South always cheaper in all the cities, do you know? It’s not that much hotter… Although, there is like a common theory that sophisticated and intelligent go north, and those who stay south basically eat bananas, drink margaritas and laze around so they aren’t as cool… and north is cool because it is colder and motivates you to be busy and invent technology.  So all the cool new technology is up north, like Redmond, and all the losers are down in Kent and Auburn, so I’ll be joining them soon and talking with a southern drawl (or is it drool?) and probably join KKK. – Rita Andreeva

Editor again:  By the way… If you are interested in Rita’s musings on the Meaning of Existence, attend her Church of the Eternal Mind, right here:  http://churchofeternalmind.blogspot.com/2012/08/does-your-religion-of-choice-discount.html#more 

Photo by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch…

August 3, 2012

What if Who You Are is a Loser?

Artists struggle with this fear constantly.  And well, the good news is: it’s not all bad. 

With losing comes an incredible amount of freedom.  Nobody much wants to regulate you, or direct you or to control you – because there isn’t much in it for them.  And hapless as you are, it would require a lot of effort.   So you can pretty much say what you want, do what you want, act as you want, dress as you want, dream as you want, do just about anything as you want – as long as you remain unsuccessful.  If you consider that most things have very humble beginnings, this places the loser out there on the forefront of just about everything, with the opportunity to create just about anything, and to move the world! I mean, most everything new which ever happened in this world began with a mistake.  (Why, just look in the mirror!)  And that’s you.  So keep your spirits up, first off.

The bad news is that when you are a loser, you’re alone.  And it’s the loneliness which is almost crushing.  No one will listen to you.  And it’s very difficult to make money.  People will laugh at you.  And without these levers of money and attention, moving the earth is very difficult.  In fact, doing anything is trebly difficult – and this can include just getting out of bed.  You may sink into your depression as if it were a soft mattress.   And you may think, as you stare at the ceiling fan turning in the sultry afternoon air in your cheap, anonymous rented drab green room and finish the warm beer, which doesn’t taste very good, but it’s something,  ‘Where’s the daylight here?’  ‘Where’s the good news?’ ‘ Why not just put the gun in my mouth?’  Well, my friend, the daylight is streaming in here, right in through that window!

So.  Alright.  And just to keep my readership up, I’m going to suggest something…

What to do if Who You Are is a Loser.

Surely you’ve seen the horses racing at the track.  The tinier the rider, the faster the horse can go.  So if you’re a loser, the first thing you need to do is to face up to it.  The surprising thing of it is, is that what keeps most losers down is their unwillingness to ‘go with it’.  They keep contorting themselves into a winner’s posture.  It’s a ‘failure to launch’, really.  Accept what you are, and let it out.  Let it go.  Let it free!  Let it thrive.  Quit imagining yourself as a winner, and take a little pride in yourself.  Allow yourself the freedom to parade yourself and to exploit the pride you find in your uniqueness.  You are small, but you control the horse.

So if you are a loser, what you need to do is to attach yourself to a winner – in a way, that makes you an asset.  You need to sniff around until you find someone who can take advantage of you.  Oppress you to their needs!  Yes.  Sure.  Place yourself in a position where they can sniff you out.  Go to where the action is.  Find out who the players are.  Go into your juggling act, and see who is hiring. Remember, weakness is provocative!  You are a great catalyst; an initiator!  You are what makes the world go ‘round.  And you needn’t get rid of your pride; but just save it in a different place.  Make it appear as a different object, so it isn’t trifled with.  Because every winner requires an awful lot of losers.  They need more of you than you of them.  So the only trick you need is to make them pay for your services.  And they’ll do that when you control the situation.

You all set?  Okay.  We’re done then.

OR, there is this one more strategy:  Find a natural winner whose nature and outlook you trust. Join their team!  Help them, and be a loyal follower. 

This anecdote from a Reader’s Digest article years ago has always stuck with me.  A teacher was writing a letter of recommendation to an Ivy League College for a student of his.  After enumerating all of the student’s exceptional talents the teacher went on to say, “I can’t say he has the qualities of an exceptional leader; but he does make for dependable and resourceful follower.”   The Dean of Admissions included this note to the teacher with a copy of his Letter of Acceptance.  “With all of the natural leaders we admit around here, we can probably use one good follower.”   

The one thing a leader cannot buy or coerce is loyalty.  And the wise winner cherishes them dearly.  Are you a loser capable of great loyalty?  Well then, you’re a shoo-in. 

Photos of Troupe Comique by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch…

July 28, 2012

We’ve Had Our Suspicions

Criminals as Spiritual Savants?

A country song called the Pittsburgh Stealers is a “cheatin’ song” about a steel mill worker who works the day shift; who’s carrying on with a “southern girl” whose husband works the night shift.  And they’re “stealin’ luuve, every chance” they git.  Sung by a father/daughter team called the Kendalls, it has always been a favorite of mine, if for nothing other than the opening line:  “I found myself in Pittsburgh, working in a steel mill.” 

I loved this idea of life as awakening to find yourself in some situation with an amnesiac’s idea of how this came to be…  finding yourself as this fine melody (with a whining pedal steel) in Pittsburgh having an illicit affair… sneaking around, meeting again and again on back streets.    The sentence, “I found myself in Pittsburgh, working in a steel mill.” for all its commonality seemed filled with awe. It seemed to heap awe on top of the prosaic, the quotidian, the dull, daily, repetitive, common grind of very common people like a dollop of ice cream making an ala mode out of what otherwise was a pretty common slice of life.  And then, serving it up for the higher menu price.

Anyway, while singing along with this song on my way to work – putting a dollop of something better on top of my own very common day –  the uncomfortable thought struck me that I had heard sociopaths on tv and read about sociopaths in prison cells describing their criminal experiences in much the same way… as if the crimes they committed were somehow fate  …as if some other agency were responsible for their life and actions, and they had just watched, as if from a dream. 

Long ago while enrolled in medical school and learning how to interview a patient, I remember the attending saying,  “Listen to the patient.  They are telling you what is wrong.”  And it has struck me throughout life how often people are telling me just that.  So perhaps criminals are not lying to excuse their guilt; perhaps their lives really are aw(e)ful affairs; and we have the criminal as a spiritual savant. 

…huh? 

And it came to me how evil – and seductive – this sense of awe can be; this sense of connection to something much larger and all-knowing and powerful than ourselves.  Can proper religious experience and spirituality be so easily hijacked?  It’s something we search for in the Arts; and yet which is most often found when we pry the top off our Ids, which is, as Webster’s describes it, “the undifferentiated source of the organism’s energy…”,  and let all Hell loose.  – Carl Nelson

Photo of the actress Ruth Tru by Carl Nelson

Seattle Celebrity News!

July 16, 2012

Editor’s note:  Rik Deskin gives us good insight as to just how the numbers pencil out when running an under 99 seat black box theater… and the travails from running any live theater venue.

Rik tries to manage a plethora of theater and live comedy and keep it all in the black.

A Note About Fiscal Responsibility

By Rik Deskin

Earlier today, I got word from my monthly renter of one of the three studios that make up the Odd Duck Studio that we had received a 3 day pay or vacate notice from the property management. The amount due now is $5050.69.

This is not a surprise as we have been two-three months behind in the rent for several months now. A very large rental and a few smaller rentals canceled their shows at the last minute in May and June. An actual worse repeat of what occurred last summer due to the size of one of the rentals being a 3 month-long booking.

I of course had no other recourse but to solicit other companies/groups looking for space. No one was looking that late in the year. So I put together a summer series of comedy shows to help fill the weeks partially. None of them has sold more than half capacity (yet as we have one more tomorrow night) and three did not even make the rent for the evening. And one had a performer oblivious to the policy I had put into place that rent must be paid before performers in a box office split, demanding reimbursement of their expenses or face small claims court, putting us behind by an additional $85. Because being the nice, easy-going person that I am, I wrote them that check even though we could not afford to. That was the last vestige of fiscal irresponsibility that I will allow.

In May we instituted the policy of shows that are co-productions, resulting in a box office split, the first $125 that comes through the door per night, always goes to the rental of the theater. The next $125 goes to the performers/co-producer. After that, it’s a 50/50 split. This reduces Eclectic Theater Company’s risk, still makes performance space accessible to groups that cannot afford a rental, and puts the onus on the co-producer to sell tickets. This has been an occasional problem in the past because some co-producers failed to make much effort in promoting their shows, resulting in reduced attendance.

We also now have a new invoicing software so that we can efficiently manage rental productions and are enforcing the 25% deposit and no cancellations less than 30 days before, otherwise if you cancel in less than 30, you are responsible for still paying the rental. We refuse to be put in this economic situation again so will be stringent on this policy.

Eclectic Theater Company, out of a desire to give back to the theatre artists, used to give space credit as a form of compensation. That is no longer economically viable. We will always strive to give a stipend based on box office after rental costs are met. That is all we can do for now.

The fiscal reality is that we have monthly rent, electricity and insurance to pay. That does not go away.

Because we are being as fiscally responsible as we can be with less revenue than we actually need to run the place, we’ve fallen behind again.

Live Comedy: Tossing wadded balls of money at them, or anything valuable, is generally appreciated

Add to that a lapse in Eclectic Theater Company’s ability to fundraise through a revocation of our non-profit status right before we were about to receive a gift of $5000 in May, we were injured by not being able to accept that gift a few months ago.

Because we’re trying to be fiscally responsible with no paid staff and only a few volunteers, we applied to the Shunpike’s Associate Artist Program. They excel in fiscal responsibility and the business of art. And they are now Eclectic Theater Company’s fiscal sponsor and will be doing the back office work that being a volunteer, I never had the time to focus on because as an unemployed actor, my first priority is seeking employment.

We’ve also taken on a partner, in House of Cards Theatre Company, who are paying $200 a month in order to regularly produce three shows throughout the year and help to upgrade and beautify the interior and exterior of Odd Duck Studio.
This weekend members from House of Cards Theatre Company, The Schoolyard, and The Confrontational Theater Project are teaming up to replace the theater seating with newer seating.

The ecology at Odd Duck Studio is and has always been very fragile. Our monthly rent is $1500. We have Alleged Tattoo that leases a space monthly from us paying a third of the rent ($500). We have WARP which nearly always rents Tuesday night from us which is another $108-$135 a month. The rest has to be made up via box office revenue or additional rentals. Most months there are an abundance of performances that help us make ends meet. I like to stack the deck and hope that some shows sell even when some don’t. And hope that concessions sales contribute.
Today after posting the initial announcement of being sponsored by Shunpike and my renewed plea to donors, I received a reply asking why we need to raise money for rent again when we just did that last year, raising $2075. This person questioned our fiscal responsibility.

This is what I need and ask from the community:

1. If you have booked a rental, please pay your 25% deposits now. If you can pay the full rental booked, even better. Current tally of invoiced rental revenue that is outstanding is $9978.50. 25% of that is $2494.62. That deposit amount alone gets us nearly half way to being caught up.

2. If you have rented space and have not paid yet, please do so now.

3. If you are a producer and have a show you want to rent space for, we will bump Eclectic Theater Company’s shows in favor of the rental revenue. As long as we are not already in production.

4. If you are a producer that can’t afford to rent but have a show or shows that you know you can sell tickets for, we’ll consider continuing the co-production box office split scenario based on the policies noted above in paragraph four. The key to this being successful is that you must market and promote your show. Be responsible.

5. If you can buy tickets to shows, that’s always good.

6. If you have loaned us money in the past that we have been unable to pay back, please consider letting that be a donation for which we will request a retroactive donation receipt from Shunpike (if that is even possible). Or continue to be lenient with us paying you back. We will eventually.

7. Donate to our cause. We are an important facilitator and incubator in Seattle for Theatre, Improv, Stand-Up and Sketch Comedy, Screenplays, Independent Films and have a great history and legacy of moving theatre and film artists forward in their professional careers.

8. If you cannot give financial gifts, consider volunteering in some capacity. We want to build the company into a stable organization that can actually pay artists and staff. We can only do that with people engaged in helping to set Eclectic Theater Company up for success.

Thank you for your belief, faith and support in the work that we do at Odd Duck Studio.

“And while I’m at it, how about a Celebrity Drink?”

Photos by Carl Nelson


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