Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why I Want You To Give Me Money

This is the poster for our (meta)Physical Feast of PARADISE LOST.  Ain't it neat?

Money Money Money

I love haggling.  Just recently, on a trip to Syracuse I got myself upgraded hotels.  Not just hotel rooms (who hasn't planted someone else's hair in the bathroom to get bumped up to a suite), but actual hotels, in the process moving up from a studio at a glorified Days Inn to a stunning 1BR in a wanna-be Ritz Carlton.

Maybe it's because of the time my ancestors spent in bazaars, but haggling comes as easily to me as mixing cocktails does to a WASP.  And yet, I hate asking for money for many reasons.  Maybe because so much of my life has been defined by its absence.  Maybe because my parents fought about it (in a nutshell, the positions - my mother, Armenian: Let's live!  my father, the Isareli:  Let's save!).  I saw friends starting theater companies and funding films and begging/borrowing/stealing for something they believed in, and I never envied them.  Even the idea of running an institution and having to ask for money on its behalf terrifies me, and not just because it's the part of the job that my friends who are Artistic Directors bitch about the most. 

I've been slowly working through my money issues.  The first thing I try to do is determine whether or not an expenditure is inevitable.  Toothpaste?  Inevitable.  Pinkberry?  Evitable.  If something's inevitable, I try to reason to myself, there's no point in torturing myself about it.  Since I'm going to do it inevitably, I might as well just do it now and get it over with.  The evitable things are trickier for me, but after all, man cannot live on bread alone.  Or Pinkberry, as a week of research showed me.  Right now, I'm just trying to minimize the self-torture I perform after succumbing to the evitable, so that I can actually enjoy that pomegranate frozen yogurt, rather than lacerate myself for having spent money on it as I greedily spoon into my face.

I'm thinking about money these days because I've finally taken the plunge.  I found a project big and weird and epic and unique and lots-of-other-adjectives enough that it has inspired me to leap over the hurdle of my money-asking phobia.  In December, a company of 20 actors and I began adapting PARADISE LOST for the stage.  When I sent the first email out to the actors, I had no idea what our final product would be - or if we would even have a final project.  But on the first day we met, when I was detailing to them what I wanted us to do, I heard words coming out of my mouth, describing a day-long concert reading of our cut adaptation of the epic poem.  With two meal breaks.  And naturally, we'd make the food.  And serve it as well.

I don't really know where the words or even the idea came from.  I love to cook, and a few summers ago, prepared dinner for a colony of 75 artists every night for a week at Lake Lucille, where Brian Mertes and Melissa Kievman would produce site-specific multi-media deconstructed Chekhov plays.  I would plan my summer around these events, and getting to see Bill Irwin do Vanya inspired me to saute, bake and simmer out of my comfort zone.

I used this image for a previous blog post and just think it's so hilarious I can't help myself from using it again.
Another integral part of this PARADISE LOST process is that we, the artists, are self-producing the project.  And, like Spidey, we've found that even with a little power comes great responsibility.  We have formed committees.  We've created video footage and launched an indiegogo campaign (I'm obviously going to beg you for money at the end of this blog, but if you want to donate now because you believe in art and in me, here's the link: I believe in art and in you, Michael ).  We've created menus, organized master recipe lists, researched ingredient costs.  We've summarized and laid out. We've even already gotten a grant, from the Drama League's New Directors/New Works fund.

This is the basic gist:  we've cut the poem down.  We're going to perform a concert-reading of it over the course of one day, and we're going to break that event up with two meal breaks.  We're going to prepare all the food for those meals.  And we're going to serve the food.  And the whole thing is going to be free.  But, the only way we can make it free is by getting you to donate money.  

The basic guiding principle behind this event is the desire to create something epic, something sensual.  I want to create an experience that is the opposite of the four-character, living room, unit set play.  I want to create the kind of theatrical experience that I love - unique, epic, bizarre and delicious.  People can come to as much or as little as they want, but what I hope is that by hearing this epic poem and sharing meals, community will be formed within the audience as much as it is within the artist community that mounts the event.

We're trying to raise 10K in 25 days.  By this time this blog hits, it'll probably be more like 22 days.  That's a lot of money.  It's more than 9K, but not as much as 11K.
In letters like these, people always write "even ten dollars help."  I never believed them, but now that I'm on this side of the equation, I really get it.  If you donate ten dollars, then we'll only need to raise $9,990.  That's less than 10K.  So even ten dollars really does help.  But not as much as twenty.  Not by half.


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