Saturday, August 09, 2014

Diary of a Performance

I'll be kind. I won't name names. I'll use only aliases, but the aliases will be cruel.

A couple weeks ago I had a strange experience performing at a local historic venue. The organizer, who I'll call Cyrano, or Cy, for short, asked me to perform. I wasn't paid, nor did I expect any compensation.

I've known Cy for a few years. I've seen him many times hanging out at a local cafe where I've played open mics. He organizes shows there and elsewhere under the rubric of a performance group he calls Tin Can Theatre (another alias). He's the only person in town who organizes multi-act shows at various venues using mostly local talent. Most of the shows have a theme, either centering around a band or a movie franchise. The event I performed in was Movie Spy Night.

Cy's a shifty sort. Can't look a fella in the eye for more than a glance. He puts his hands to his mouth often to chew on his nails before he realizes he's in public and then quickly puts them down. He moves his head from side to side and often sits down, only to bound back up again a moment later and walk away. But he's a nice enough guy. He likes progressive rock and one of his favorite albums is Tales of Topographical Oceans by Yes.

He does a good job gathering talent together for his shows. There's a diversity of local talent, from models to singer/songwriter performers, and even a belly dancer or two. More importantly, he organizes venues and times for local talent. No one else in town is doing this. And that's the problem. Cy's got no competition.

I knew Cy was a liar. He's not malicious about it. He's so full of his own crap, his own strange and conflated worldview, that I believe he thinks he's telling the truth. But to a shifty sort like Cy, truth is an elusive commodity. And I'm not talking about Capital 'T' Truth in a philosophical sense. I'm talking about being true to your word. If you say something, you mean it. Possessing that kind of truth is essential to getting along with others and gaining their respect. Cy is so untrustworthy, his word is so worthless, he is so full of crap, that no way, no how, will I ever participate in a Tin Can Theater event.

Let me elucidate.

A few weeks before the event, I asked Cy how long my set would be. He said 20 minutes, and I prepared accordingly, practicing 8 songs, which actually timed out to about 25 minutes. Just before I was set to go on, he said 15 minutes. Fine. I'm willing to adjust.

But then, 12 minutes into my performance, just as I turn away from the microphone to adjust my guitar effects, he took to the stage. I said, "I still have time for one more song." He said, "Can I just make an announcement before you do that?" "No!" I said. (I don't possess an ounce of stage fright). But he continued. I stood to the side, adjusting my guitar effects and glaring at the audience with a dramatic look of boredom and annoyance on my face.

I wanted to do like what Pete Townsend did to Abbie Hoffman at Woodstock and throw Cy away from the mic, but my parents and in-laws were there, and I didn't want to risk jail or lawsuits, so I glared.

A couple days before the performance, I asked Cy when I would be going on. He said I'd be the second one to go on and gave me a 15 minute time window. I needed to do this because my parents and in-laws were coming down to see me, and I didn't want my conservative Christian relatives to risk eternal damnation watching a belly dancer!

But Cy failed me once again. I ended up being the fourth performer, about an hour after he told me I would go on. There was no explanation for the change. I just had to roll with it.

Cy talks all the time about his being a performer, a director, and actually writing scripts for these shows. I've been to a bunch of these Tin Can Theater productions and never seen any evidence of writing. And why is there Theater in the production group's name. There are no skits enacted, no dramatic readings, no role players, and more importantly, no evidence of organization of any sort.

Don't call yourself a writer if you don't write. Don't give yourself credit for that which you don't do.

After the performance, one of the other performers complimented me and thanked me for standing up to Cy when he interrupted my show. "He does that all the time. It's annoying."

A few tips for Cy: You're doing a good thing. Keep bringing the shows. But work on your organization. If you're going to have fashion models, describe the apparel. Tell the audience a little something about the acts. Tell some jokes. Write some skits.


Peace out!

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