Saturday, October 23, 2010


I've been struggling quite a bit over the past 5 or so years with implementing true compromise. Communication dogs me day in and day out, but at the heart of interactions with people the need to compromise is readily apparent; whether I look at my relationships, family issues, business endeavors or creative collaboration, compromise has been essential.

When individuals' values align, the amount of compromise required from each side becomes much less. Think about the friends you have, the people you work well with and the partner you choose and it's easy to see that we gravitate towards those with common values in an effort to minimize the need for compromise. Now that's a pretty obvious statement, but lately I've realized that I am having trouble concisely stating the values other people in my life hold. Furthermore, when I also have trouble concisely stating my own values. Not a pretty situation.

There is plenty to improve in my life, but I hope to tackle this first and foremost. So here goes:

1) I value complete honesty
2) I value inspiring others to do better, even if it just a little bit
3) I value the realization of potential
4) I value respecting a person's right to decide their own values

Bah. Well, I guess it's a start...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Living the dream

I've had several conversations over the past few months that have revolved around the premise that I am 'living the dream'. That is to say that I am making a living as a performer. Frankly, how else would you describe the circumstances of being paid to spin fire, make a fool of yourself and/or throw things in the air? I cannot argue the fact that I am a professional performer---my profession is as a performer, it is my full-time job.

Now here's the tricky part: I neither perform frequently enough to feel like I do that full-time nor do I make more than 'just enough to get by'. I'll tackle these two individually:

1) I feel that a full-time performer should average about a show a week (maybe take a handful off for 'vacation). This means I should have about 45 gigs a year. Last year, A Different Spin was contracted for 36 gigs. That's close, right? Well 16 of those gigs were for 2 or fewer performers. 9 of those 16 did not involve me. So I personally performed at 27 contracted gigs. This year we have a vast majority of 4-performer gigs but only about 26 or so have been lined up. There are still a couple of months that can add gigs and *one of the ~26 is a the Tulsa State Fair*. This is important because that one gig is the equivalent (both in pay and in performance) to about 7-8 gigs. Let's be optimistic and call this year's total 35 for me. Still not there yet.

2) When I say the phrase 'make a living as a performer', I mean that I can pay my bills, buy food (and I spend more than most due to dietary restrictions) and I can get from point-A to point-B easily (I can pay to maintain a car, spend on gas or use public transportation at my discretion). Probably the only other expense I haven't listed that is substantial is health-care. Since I live in good ol' Massachusetts I have that covered *for free*! However (there always is a however) I only have free health-care because I do not make enough money to qualify to pay. And the only way that can be true is if I am below the poverty line...which I am. (Side note: if I can afford to rent a room, buy food and maintain a car, I wouldn't think of myself as living in poverty let alone below it. I'll take my free health-care but I am a little puzzled by the definition used here)

Now I'll analyze the substance of both of those points from above:

1) Progress! Not only will I make more money this year than I did last year, but we have contracted 'more' gigs (remember that I am counting Tulsa as multiple---just as if it were a week-long tour without the traveling and sweaty hooligans...check that, there will still be three other performers with me for those Fire Shows so the sweaty hooligans will be present). Though I have not met my self-imposed standard of 45 gigs, I am trending upwards and am hopeful that this is an attainable goal!

Another important piece to consider is that though I do not spend a full-time-job's-worth (or even my own standard of the performer-equivalent) of my time performing, there is a TON of off-site work that needs to be done. Booking travel, negotiating contracts, contacting new clients, editing a website, creating new promotional material---the list can go on. On top of that I've helped start The Boston Circus Guild and that literally doubles each of the items listed as the same tasks exist for both businesses. Luckily I have at least one person to share these responsibilities with, but that rarely feels like enough. But that is subject for another post...

2) As I said, I pay my bills, can fill up my car with gas and myself with food. Free health-care thrown in so I am able to meet my standard of living. I am comfortable but do not live in luxury. Though I do not go out it is usually more often for a lack of time instead of a lack of funds (though if I somehow found a place I could eat out at and went there often or was one of those who enjoyed frequenting bars this would not be true).

So if *your* standard of living is beyond that, then maybe I am not the model to follow. But though my standard for 'full-time' is not met, I feel my standard for 'making a living' is. I have no need for more money than will allow me to meet these requirements so as long as I am doing so I feel I can keep living this dream.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New year coming

I am itching for the new year to get here because there is so very much to do. Well, in actuality I am antsy for two important meetings (that still need to be scheduled!!!) that will occur in 2010 and allow me to put all my talk of scheduling and achieving into action:

1)meeting with the fabulous Chuck to determine how we will run The Boston Circus Guild
2)meeting with said Chuck as well as Chad to determine the course of action for that yet-to-be-named Circus and Spinning Arts 'school'

The first is extra exciting because in the short time that I've been working on promoting and following up on leads for the BCG I see immense success as a real possibility. The website looks better (though it still needs plenty of work) and I am getting positive feedback from clients about how I am presenting our artists. Ricky and I are attempting to wrangle performers as he has hopes of a potluck and I still am trying to get specific pricing and media from everyone last one. But the planning for the future all hinges on a meeting with Chuck.

I have nothing to report on the second meeting as it has been *forever* since we last met and I am really relying on Chad and Chuck to give me direction to help bring our mutual dream into being. There is a mountain of work to be done to make it happen but I see glimpses here in there of hope---mention of abandoned warehouses that are being torn down to create shopping centers makes me believe the government's need to appease the 'culture' side of things can balance this, Boston Spin Jam growing and murmurs of real classes being needed, etc. This is a project I know I cannot begin alone when I have so many other things on my plate so it definitely hinges on a meeting with Chad and Chuck. Maybe Ricky will end up joining in this endeavor, who knows?

Speaking of the new year (ha! Look, I am attempting a semblance of cohesion!) A Different Spin has a huge show coming up on December 31st. We've been booked by Boston First Night to perform our Circus Arts Show in Hynes Convention Center. This is, in short, a pretty big deal. BFN is a 'signature event' in Boston and attendance is massive. I'm a little worried our first show at 1pm will lack an audience as it is literally the first event on the day's activities list but if thousands of people come to HCC for entertainment there is a chance we will get great crowds in at least one of the two shows. We are debuting a brand new show and our rehearsals and line-throughs have been mixed so that is added stress. We may even have new costumes by Thursday which would be a boost in any case. Who knows?

As far as my health goes, I had quite a scare in the beginning of November that saw me hospitalized for five days. Pretty intense and not something I ever want to experience again. Messy details aside, it took me a bit to get over my being bed-ridden and on meds but I've been 95% healthy since getting back home. The one major blip has been these last few days when almond butter has apparently caused me to cramp up. As much as it would suck to randomly find another thing I need to avoid in my diet it would be much better than the alternative explanation, especially right now.

All my focus is on being as energetic and spot-on as possible for Thursday's shows regardless of my health...but the new year has so much more in store.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I'm not sure where I read it last (perhaps in Alexander the Great) but I read somewhere that people that achieve greatness do so by rejecting the commonplace, the routine, the norm. In the same way a truly great scientist dares to believe, any person who achieves greatness has to break free from normal constraints and imagine something, well, greater.

For all I know I am completely romanticizing myself to give reason to past actions, but I feel like there have been several moments, situations and/or opportunities to take the easy/normal route in my life, that I have reacted to with unease and hesitance---maybe even disdain. More often than not I have given in to 'base' desires and taken the easy route but I am thinking that maybe I should not. I have met with many challenges in the past 8 or so years of my life (and by no means do I feel these challenges have been earth-shattering or on a scale remotely close to that which so very many are forced to face daily) and I do not think I am truly happy with how I have handled them. I think I may want to be great. There is a part of me that wonders if I should shake off a lot of the 'nice' things in life and focus on what drives me and moves me, what I have felt I am 'meant' to do---which I know believe is really my feeling I am mean to achieve greatness.

Over the past three years I have wrestled with these thoughts of how to best utilize my time as I am often frustrated with myself for the choices that I make. Whenever I have had a good conversation with someone on this topic the conclusion is agreed on that time is not wasted when it is spent on yourself, that you need 'you time'. Two thoughts come to mind now:

1) maybe a great person does not need 'you time'
2) maybe 'you time' needs a stricter definition

In this moment before I head to bed, I am truly contemplating taking the first thought and putting it to action. There have always been excuses in my past. Maybe I should quit cold-turkey and just make myself accountable until I find out I should adjust and take well-defined 'me time'. Because I am worried if I start with well-defined 'me time' I will end up back with excuses again.

Then again, I could just be completely romanticizing this all and I could be perfectly content with my path if I just accepted it as is. Or, I may forget this all come morning...

Thursday, October 15, 2009


A Different Spin's agent (for colleges, military and cruise ships) has been extremely disappointing up until this point in time. Many times we have discussed the possibility of actually be relieved if our contract with him expires come the end of March (the only way it does NOT expire is if he secures us a showcase for NACA before the end of March or we out of a fit of temporary insanity ask him to renew the contract).

I spoke with the contact for the New Mexico State Fair yesterday and she was extremely impressed with our website (yep, Tim is awesome) and the way we presented ourselves via phone and the interwebs. A startling issue is that we may not be *big enough for a venue* as she wanted us to increase our playing space of 20' x 20' to reach a larger audience. Having new performers in the 'A Different Spin Performer Stable' (ADSPS...yeah, I doubt the phrase or acronym will live long) makes that actually possible so who knows, it could be grand! But I digress...the relevant piece of information she had for this particular issue I am grumbling about---namely having an agent---was that in her long experience it was best to stay independent as long as possible. Though she had some anecdotes of times it was nice to make a phone call to an agent to tell them to convey to their artist that they were behaving like total asshats, she agreed with me that the *product* you create as an independent artist is by and large a much better one. From personal experience I definitely believe this as I feel we are:

1) better salesmen for the product because we KNOW it inside and out and can paint a pretty picture. We also are therefore much better at 'up-selling' as when you are involved in the booking process you get a sense of the event and/or organizer to find additional ways you can be paid for being awesome
2) more invested in the success of the group as (for some of us) it is our sole source of income
3) able to handle questions of 'can you do this?' because, well, we usually know right away if we can or not

It also gives the organizer a feeling that they are really involved in bringing in our group, which DOES have its downsides (that can never truly be predicated) in that some people prefer to talk to straight-numbers/organization people. But I feel these instances are few and far between and can often be charmed out of issue.

So you got all of that? Cuz here I go turning it on its head. What I just today experienced was the reason that having an agent is actually a good thing: freedom to create. I honestly have had an absolutely AMAZING time running A Different Spin as a business and I look forward to continuing to learn on the job. Hell, it is going to serve me well as I help promote The Boston Circus Guild and embark on some wonderful circus/spinning arts commune endeavors in the future and I can also contribute to the community by offering to teach a class in Spring '10 at WildFire on the process...but it takes so much time to do all of this work. With Jeremy stepping out back in September and knowing Tim will come January I realize that the task is insanely time consuming. Ricky and I maybe overwhelmed and I honestly worry how that will affect the success of A Different Spin. So what happened today? Well, I saw some videos of other performers (more than just the fire-acro for Dream State Circus and promo and an act from The Flash)that reminded me we not only don't have a truly polished show, but we don't have a circus show that is going to be very adaptable to new performers. I am very worried that Joanna and Roger being involved in any combination of a four-person circus performance is going to be a VERY different show. Thinking positively, it could turn out to be a totally rockin show...but it will take a lot of creative time to make it so and past experience has shown that the 'everyone go sit in their respective corners and come back with solo acts to smash together' approach makes for a subpar show. So what an agent *ideally* does is make it so that the performers can focus on polishing great foundational shows and work on making great new ones. I think A Different Spin has a great foundational circus arts show that will only ever be performed if the original four 'east coast boys' perform and will only ever get to be a great show if we all work on it...which we won't because Ricky and I will be overwhelmed with business stuff, Jeremy will be pursuing grad school and independent circus workshops/performances and Tim will eventually be busy working/researching tech theater jobs. Frustrating. And a good agent could make this so much easier by freeing up time. It would be far from ideal (as my experience thus far has shown) to rehearse and create new material piece-meal and with many different combinations of performers, but it would be better.

Realistically, A Different Spin can still succeed even without an agent or with a bad one, it will just take longer to achieve success. Sometimes I'm scared of how much longer.

EDIT: Having slept on it and continued to muse a bit, I wanted to add for the record that I believe the original 'ideal plan' for A Different Spin could still work---pushing really hard for several months with four people doing the 'agent' work to establish the contacts and learn so so much, then having there be a rotating schedule of 'office work' where each member does a limited amount per week to keep the machine running. Not that this is all that positive now that I think about it as I won't ever really know. Bah. But perhaps it will inspire someone else to try it even without our having tried it first.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Time to get moving

My mom's sister finally lost her husband this week. He was a brilliant, talented man who was hit hard by Parkinson's and has been declining for years. I don't know half as much as I should about what he struggled with and am sure that comes from my pattern of wanting to deny the hardships in life. My aunt is one of the sweetest women I've had the pleasure to meet and I am so very glad I can call her family. She suffered greatly when she lost my mom but has the same enviable strength my mom did and she made herself available to my brother and I to fill the void left behind. The same strength has shown over the past year while I've visited with her (she lives just 25 or so minutes away from me) and she has relayed her experience watching the man she loves die for quite a long time. I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult that must be but she managed to handle it so well.

I don't really know my dad and I don't really know my brother, but I can say with complete confidence that my extended family is unparalleled in their talent, kindness, perseverance and resilience. I hope I can make them think the same of me. I want to be accountable and I want to be great. To get there I will need to focus and be harder on myself and be accountable to ME first. One of the most truly amazing individuals I have ever met has tried to have me harness the power of positive thinking and I WILL do my best to do so moving forward. Good friends and good family await me this weekend. That seems a good place to start.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

New Direction

Well despite the positive nature of my previous post (and the fact that the next gig after the two written about---which occurred at Drew University---was also totally kickass) things for A Different Spin are headed in a new direction. More to come as Ricky and I piece together plans over the next couple of weeks, but I currently doubt I will continue to post a follow-up to the rest of the shows that we have this semester as it would be a bit bittersweet. I'll do my best to channel the wonderful Margaret and think positively throughout the journey to come and keep the woe to a minimum in here. Then again, I could end up feeling quite emo at 2am and spouting it out here. Who knows?