So, last week was a power one for me, mainly because of the completely overwhelming response I got from friends and strangers to Drive With Me. Powerful too was that I was, without too much effort, able to get three little full houses to see my show. Compared to Grahamstown this was a real success, and on a deeply personal level I was able to bury the disaster that the festival was, and rebirth Drive With Me into recognition, being visible and appreciated. I definitely feel more hopeful, proud, encouraged and fulfilled after a magnificent short time at Alexander Bar.
But this triggered another really big deeply personal realisation about me and what I do. And it has to do with this blog. My initial inspiration and motivation (back in 2007, can you believe?) was to write review style posts about the theatre I saw. I was immediately controversial, and this also meant readable. Every time I wrote a review post my readership spiked, people left comments, I was agreed with, passionately disagreed with, fought with and I was even part of a theatre scandal that took me ages to recover from as well as a recipient of a deeply personal dressing down by a friend, for something that I unintentionally did to hurt her. In all this I continued writing about theatre, and defending my position, but I didn’t make the connection, even though I was warned about how inappropriate it was for me to ‘piss where I slept’. People loved reading what I had to say about other theatre, but didn’t want to see the theatre I would make. I was the person people loved to hate. It crept up on me, getting worse and worse every time I tried to rustle up an audience for something I was involved in. My tragic experience in Grahamstown brought all of this into sharp focus, and while there is no doubt I was paranoid, desperate and most invisible, I also felt like I wasn’t doing myself any favours by writing about theatre at the same time as making it. IÂ could manage the contradiction but people in the industry couldn’t, and made it known by actively not supporting me.
It was very hard to decide to stop writing about other people’s work, and I had to wean myself off it. At first I couldn’t resist writing about stuff that I loved, convinced I would be able to help it get an audience.I decided that I wouldÂ onlyÂ write about things I loved, but of course it was obvious then what I didn’t love, by the absence of writing. I also had to take responsibility for being on a few opening night invitation lists. I was being invitedÂ as ifÂ I were a critic. I was much more valuable as part of a publicity campaign for others, than as a producer of my own work. Eina. A hard lesson.
And now the challenge has been to reestablish myself as a player. I write, perform, direct and make theatre. I won’t write about other people’s theatre any more. I am sorry it has taken me so long to get to this place, but I am suddenly so much more at ease. I will heartily recommend stuff I enjoy, and I will also write about my thoughts and experiences of the industry in general. And, so, it is time to get your honest response, reader. What doÂ youÂ think?