Saturday, August 15, 2009

The First Small Steps

Jamey here!

Only five weeks until the show! Sweet Jesus that's just crazy. Still, though, sometimes the best things are created when there's no time to overthink it. Or in this case, think about it at all.

I want to explain the beginnings of Side Work, but first I thought I'd share a little funny thing that happened tonight. My girlfriend and I have a tradition that whenever we are about to open a fortune cookie, we first think of something we'd like the fortune to address or relate to. For instance, we might say, "This fortune will be about my new job," and then we'll open it and see what comes up. More often than not, it's pretty astonishing the accuracy with which the fortune speaks to our subject.

Tonight as I was about to open a fortune cookie, I thought about the prospects of success for Side Work. I opened the cookie, and was totally stunned when it said -

Well, you'll just have to read on to find out.

So. Side Work came about through my participation in Landmark Education's Self-Expression and Leadership Program (SELP). Not to get too deep into it, but the crux of the program is to create a project that takes a self-cultivated identity into the community. While success is certainly a goal, ultimately the intent of the program is not what becomes of the project, but what you become in creating it.

I've spent a lot of my time in Los Angeles bemoaning how much my fate is out of my hands: How I can't believe how sucky my job is, yet how I can't afford to not work it, how I'm late because of traffic, how I'm not being creative because I'm tired or don't have time, how I can't make it as an actor because of politics or arbitrary factors (or having to actually work for it), etc. etc. etc. I got to the point where I was so resigned that I spent the better part of two years doing nothing but drinking, getting high, playing videogames, and slogging through boring days at work.

And oh, the
anger. The slashing, white-hot, uncontrollable fits of intense rage at nothing or everything. I got so good at suppressing my constant despair and disatisfaction that my body craved any kind of emotion at all, even terrifying leaks of pure insanity. Ask Todd. We laugh now at my tennis court tantrums, but behind the irrational clown hitting balls into the stratosphere was a very sad human being.

There's only one word for my identity throughout this period: VICTIM. And the real bitch about being a victim is that it's a self-propogating cycle. I became a victim of being a victim.

Another time I'll elucidate exactly the kind of hyperdrive you have to engage to pull away from this identity black hole, but for now suffice to say that it all begins with the word

From the beginning, Side Work was about possibility. So much of my experience of Los Angeles had been about what I couldn't do, what seemed unlikely or even impossible. Forget arguing for my limitations, I was going to bat for them. Getting myself to the point of thinking I could launch a collective of artists to spark their creativity and collaboration felt something like reinventing fire. It wasn't pretty, and dentists have yanked out impacted wisdoms with greater ease, but somehow I got there.

My SELP coach, who loved my project from the get-go, had to bodily pull me over the hump. I recall our conversation where I was hemming and hawing about how to set up the first meeting of Side Work.

He told me, "Just set the date."

"But I haven't gotten everyone's availability," I protested.

"Set the date."

"How? I don't know what day is best."

With a knowing laugh he again said, "
Just set the date."

And so, I set the date. I reached directly into my ass and pulled out March 5th.

"Good," he said. "Congratulations, you have a first meeting scheduled."

"But what if no one comes?" I wailed.

"They'll come."

I was skeptical. I even moved the date back three days to March 8th. I got confirmations, then cancellations. I worried about the location, the timing, what I'd say, if anyone would be interested, if anyone would come along with me at all.

And you know, he was right. They did come. Not everyone has stuck around, and some here now weren't there at first. It's morphed and shifted and grown and changed and become something beautiful.

Somewhere along the way, so did my life.

And that's all there is to it. Just set the date. Just make it up. Just create your identity any way you like it. Let fate do the editing.

That's how I began Side Work. Next time I'll talk about the artistic vision, and how it has shifted and developed.

Oh yeah, the fortune cookie. It had this to say about Side Work:

Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.

Well well well...

- Jamey

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