Sitting here in Sugarhouse coffee in the Sugarhouse neighborhood of Salt Lake City. It’s become a defacto office while I’m here for Great Salt Lake fringe festival. Today is Theatre Dojo’s (our company) final showing of our new work in creation, Songs of Un-Creation. An aspect of fringe festivals in being abele to debut your new works and test the waters so to speak. This new one is so new we are constantly tweaking, improvising and rewriting each show. As a creator you’re always asking yourself, “Am I communicating my story clearly and simply enough?” “Am I finding the emotional kernel?” When I see new works here I know they are works in progress as well and give wide berth. So far the new play is well received. Some have come more than once. The feedback is that we are stripped-down storytellers and primal in our approach. Some have expressed feeling deep emotions and on the edge of their seats. I’ve certainly seen folks lean forward during the “creation songs” as we call them.
Songs of Un-Creation is about taking the creation stories from cultures like the Hopi, Pueblo, African, Aboriginal and a Buddhist story. “…and they are songs. We don’t think of them as myths, folklore or fables.” My character tells the audience at one point. “Because songs are true or false. They are songs.”
By taking these creation stories and applying modern conditions like the poles melting, nature backfiring on the planet, flooding, bizarre weather patterns, Songs of Un-Creation, in effect say we know these stories well and have seen them time and again. The Hopi say creator, Sotuknang, has had to recreate this world four times and the Hopi Blue Star Kachina prophecy says we are near the beginning of the fifth world and Mayan writings reflect this as well. We then offer how to change and get the audience clapping in rhythm before singing our morning song. Don’t want to give away too much, but suffice to say the play ends on a joyous note.
Presenting a play like this in a traditional theater setting would be prohibitive both financially and getting butts in seats. By being here we get feedback from other artists in a supportive setting as well as presenting it to the world, getting reviewed if we’re lucky and “woodshed” it out. The limit is under an hour at fringe fests so we can develop it into a longer work and will have three plays in rep.
I already tell Native American stories in my shows so this has been a real treat to develop them into a larger work with pathos. And of course being able to use my music as a live soundscape is me in my element. A local producer, teacher and program director for a university saw our show and was very generous saying we are on the edge with what we are doing, storytelling with such minimal props, theatrics and such. I suppose we are but it is what I already do as an independent artist touring the country. I figure if you have the authentic emotional truth you in your work you shouldn’t need pyrotechnics, gimmicks, giant costumes or glasses. Sorry sir Elton John.
This same person was at another show where I was in the audience. I try to attend and support as many of the other fringe artists as possible. It’s called “fringing” when you binge on fringe. Anyway, he saw me afterwards and said, “I looked over at you during their play. It’s as if I could see music flowing out of you. You just exude music. It’s in your being. It was like the music that was in the play was coming from you.” He went on, but suffice to say I was so humbled and almost in tears. He was commenting on the melodies I composed for our play and I laughed saying compose was a kind word, but that actually I improvise the whole time. His face was a giant incredulous, open-mouthed “Wha???” and I loved it.
The sense of community and mutual support is something I have found at fringe fests. Many eyes were on us being the winners of last year’s “Fringe Pick” with Killing Buddha. But my expectations are always in check. I have none other than trying to do the best work I can each and every time.
Tomorrow I head out east to The World of Faeries Festival in South Elgin, IL next weekend. Where I will end up Monday night I have no idea. That’s how it is when you end a festival. You’re sleep deprived, exhausted and have had little to no time to play your next move. I continue on to concerts in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Washington state then Tacoma (Flute Quest) and hopefully Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. Please check my Calendar page. There have been some glitches and bumps regarding some of these gigs. Quite stressful when you are on the road already and “banking” on making a certain amount of income potentially. Scary as shit really. But few have the faith of artists. The only consolation is working my butt off and knowing I can always sell more of my instruments if needed. No, I’d rather not of course. It’s not about food on the table or gas money, it’s about having the opportunity to thrive as an artist, pay your bills, reinvest back into your work and bringing some beauty into the world. You can always help support those goals via my Patreon account.
Thank you and see you down the road.
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