Early on in this performance purgatory, I realized I was probably going to fall into the same trap I’d fallen into in the past. A fear that the lack of a creative outlet for an indefinite period of time would cause atrophy in the part of my brain that normally brought the “good shit.”
Much of this had to do with being laid off before COVID hit, coupled with the fact that it was one of those “big zero” birthday years. The broken clock of my life was running down, while I was face down on the floor, moping about the unlimited time I had on my hands.
Before I knew it, I was double chin deep into five creative projects, each one more stressful (yet fulfilling) than the last. Gradually, a couple of these dropped off, soon replaced by two more. Then two more. Some had distant goal posts, some monthly and one is still going strong four nights a week.
And while the “Gallant” side of me knew that these projects were simply a half-assed way of overcompensating for being physically trapped within a tiny, 1950s house in St. Paul, the “Goofus” side didn’t care because at least I was creating. Regardless of quality, it was quantity, right? And eventually, everything would return to normal, right?
Well, if I learned anything during this time, it’s that “Goofus” is “Gallant.” They’re actually the same person, this lumbering, two-headed, wrong-meets-right monstrosity named “Goollant,” who’s still trying to figure out this new terrain.
That confused monstrosity, my friends, is me, you and all of us in the performing community. We’re new “Goollants,” craving what we remember as normal, while trying to make it all work during abnormal times.
So, as a fellow “Goollant,” here are some things that I’ve learned to integrate into my process as a creator/performer. They might not be right for everyone, but if any of them speak to you, I hope you can successfully integrate them into your own process:
BE THE PERSON/PERFORMER YOU’VE ALWAYS WANTED TO BE
What a perfect time-out moment for our community. A great time to take stock and redefine parameters. Now let that affect how you want to be seen from now on. Go in a new direction. Find an outlet you’ve never tried. Then, surprise people who thought they’d finally figured you out with something new.
FAIL MASSIVELY & OFTEN
The scariest thing is to fail. And in our world, this generally happens on accident and live. But what if the whole point of your next outing was to aim for the big fail? What if you suddenly made it your goal in life? What if failure became bigger, better and more spectacular than winning? What if failing looked really good on you?
This has more to do with changing the perception of what it means to create/attend a show than creating a new format from scratch (“water polo improv,” anyone?). We’ve already accepted Zoom shows as valid. So, why drop it completely and go back to the old way? This hybrid can continue. Let’s keep exploring that.
FORGE NEW RELATIONSHIPS
Obviously if you had a choice, you’d stick with your same partners in crime rather than hitting the streets and looking for another gang to pull a heist with. But knock on doors you haven’t darkened before. If there’s someone you’ve always wanted to work with, hit them up. Drop your ego and show off your humility.
“EVERYTHING’S ONE NOTE”
This is a Zappa thing, so I won’t go too deep, but here’s the gist. “Everything in the universe is made up of one element, which is a note. A single note.” Watch the blanket scene in “I Heart Huckabees.” We all know it’s called “show business” because it’s a business. But it’s all “the show.” All of it. Even when you think it isn’t.
SCARE YOURSELF, CHANGE PERCEPTIONS
You know you better than anybody. But no matter how much we try not to, we all fall into the same “type traps.” We’re all seen as something else by others: casting agents, directors, employers, your stupid cat. Morph into something new. Make them rethink you and make yourself uncomfortable in the process.
DON’T GIVE ‘EM WHAT THEY WANT, GIVE ‘EM WHAT THEY DON’T KNOW THEY WANT YET
This might’ve been stolen from designer Diana Vreeland, but it applies to every creative process. It puts the impetus of creation into your hands, not your audience’s. It explains why there was no “Pulp Fiction 2.” It validates every future choice you make. It gives every terrifying leap you make more confidence.
ACCEPT IT FOR WHAT IT IS, NOT FOR WHAT YOU WISH IT WAS
Yeah, every creative person finds fault in their own work, regardless of how well it’s perceived. But within this quarantine, I found myself coming back to this mantra over and over again. It kept me sane. It kept me from wanting to tear my hair out. Most of all, it kept me wanting to create with more abandon and a less critical eye.
Okay, there’s a lot more, but the ones I left out either bleed into these basic ideas or aren’t fully baked yet, so they’ll need to cool on the windowsill before I let you have a slice.
Basically these all veer in the general direction of an overarching takeaway: if we haven’t evolved after all of this, we haven’t learned anything.
Godspeed, fellow “Goollants.”
Let’s go break some hearts.