If you want to get better at your art, you need a master practitioner to give you critical feedback (a "personal dramaturg" is what one friend called this person, to frame this relationship in a positive supportive way. Mentor, coach, etc etc).
If you want your art in front of a lot of people, you need a personal champion.
A lot has been written about the former: the student/teacher relationship. Within the context of the "10,000 hour" rule, the sometimes-overlooked half of that is "with a master teacher" portion. You become a master not simply by doing something a lot (but that's important) but by doing it a lot with someone who is better than you giving you insight, support, and correction.
I've read less about the notion of a champion.
The pervasive myth is comprised of bootstraps, and DIY, and the "overnight success," at least in America anyway. Especially within the past twenty years, when the means of production and distribution have flattened and been put within everyone's reach, we are primed with
"if we promote our art enough, we'll be successful"
OR "if we follow the path exactly as it's laid out, we'll be successful."
Truth: we don't have to wait to be picked, we can create our art and put it out there and build relationships and find our tribe.
And yet, we still need a champion. We still need a neutral third-party who says to a fourth person, "Have you seen this artist? I like this art." The telling is the key. A champion is not just a tribe member: they bring other people into the tribe for you.
The champion used to be the picker. The book editor who said "this book will be published" or the producer who said "this play will be on our stage." Even a wealthy patron who said "I will pay you, particular artist, for your art."
Then we went the other way and all became our own brands, publicists, and marketers. Bootstraps.
It strikes me that journalists used to play this role to some extent. But in these days of "pay to play" local story writing and the sheer amount of information available across media, it is unlikely that they are brandishing any one particular artist's work before that artist is already famous in their own right.
But we haven't lost the need for champions. While we've likely built a relationship with this person, they are not our best friends, they're not in it for the money, they don't do it because we've asked them to. They like our art and want others to experience that same joy.
Doesn't have to be someone famous [to whatever degree]. Doesn't have to be someone who is wealthy. It could be someone who shows up at every show and always brings new friends who then come with their new friends. It could be someone at the next level adjacent who gives you a hand up the ladder. It could be someone who has all the connections and convinces people to donate to your organization (this is the one area--capital campaigns--that I do hear about champions on a somewhat regular basis).
Champions are the ultimate raving fans. You can't buy them, you can't hire them, you can't steal them. But they are as critical to your success as any other member of your team.
Saturday, June 4, 2016
1990 doesn't seem like that long ago. I can remember that far back.
Twenty-five years ago seems like forever. I can't remember what I was doing twenty-five years ago.
I'm working on a book about the history of independent theater in the Triangle of NC, roughly titled "Like Mushrooms on a Log: 25 Years of Independent Theater in the Triangle, NC" (catchy, huh (Don't answer that. I said "roughly.")). I've bracketed my research from 1990 to 2015, for numerous reasons which I'll illuminate later. As with most research of historical incidents, nothing stays that neat.
I'm going to blog about interesting things I find along the way: tidbits about the area, things I don't know actually fit into the book but I don't want to lose, insights and questions I have about myself that arise. Maybe even one day I'll publish actual portions of the writing here. I just need another place to get stuff out of my head.
But back to 25 years. I do remember 1990. It wasn't long before I myself got started into the theater scene. But going back, trying to immerse myself in what is now very murky waters, is simultaneously depleting and energizing. There's a puzzle to piece together, which I love; there are people who are still around--many still working--who were there then, but many others who aren't. Or, worse yet, it'll be a major archaeological dig to find information: tracking down leads to only find a 2-year old piece of pottery that was made to look like an old dinosaur bone.
Good thing I enjoy hunting. (see also: my 10 years experience as a propsmaster in Triangle Theater. A separate but equally as entertaining book yet to be written.)