I’ve always been an independent person. I am comfortable being alone and working by myself, and though I recognize the great value of working with a team or a group, I find it much easier to get things done on my own.
Rehearsals, for example, are much more challenging when you’re in a troupe or a band than when you work solo. You gotta get everyone together at a certain time and place, hopefully everyone’s prepared and in the mood to work.
Working by myself, I never need to coordinate with anyone else – I’m free, I rehearse. No bad moods, no goofing around, no egos… boom, done. The difficult part is turning off Facebook and actually doing the work.
So far, that’s moved me along just fine. I have my business, I do my solo shows. I play a bit of guitar, I play a bit of accordion. I’m not wildly crafty, so I buy my puppets, mostly inexpensive puppets commercially available on Amazon.
In short, I’ve done what I needed to do to get this far. But now I want to go further. I want the work to be better. I want to feel like a true artist and have a strongly positive impact on an audience. I want to increase the quality and value of my shows on all levels.
So… hard as it might be for a stubborn, independent person like me, this means asking for help. Step one: accordion and magic teachers.
As a professional ballerina for 25 years, my wife took ballet class and rehearsed every day. This dedication resulted in a long and successful career. Why would I expect similar results without a similar effort?
As luck would have it, our neighbor is a professional accordionist. What are the chances of that? Plays with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Tell me that’s not fate. Boom – started lessons last summer.
Similarly, I found a magic teacher through the same store that first piqued my interest in magic when I was a kid – Magic, Inc. That place and the people who worked there when I was a kid probably have more to do with my career path than anyone else.
Finally, the puppets. A couple years ago, a friend and lifelong professional puppeteer saw one of my shows. He said he appreciated the entertainment value of my shows, but suggested that I invest in higher quality puppets.
I agree. But, like accordions, professional puppets are not cheap. They are functioning works of art that take a long time and lots of skill to make. Professionally made puppets range from $350 to several thousand dollars each.
When you consider I generally use 3-5 puppets in each show, that starts to add up. And that forces the question – how serious am I about this? Major gut check time.
Do I have enough confidence in myself and a particular show to believe that $1,500-$3,000 worth of puppets will result in a more bookable show at high enough prices?
Do I have enough confidence in myself, my discipline to practice, and my musical ability to believe that $850-$1,200 spent on an accordion and $200 a month on lessons is a worthwhile investment?
So far, the answers have been yes. I have worked diligently at the accordion. I have purchased a professional instrument which will be shipped to me shortly. I have focused on practicing magic routines and have incorporated several new routines into my shows.
I have pushed myself to do better, more expressive puppetry, and recently purchased an entry-level professional marionette. The work is coming along.
And, yesterday? I met with puppeteer and builder, Connor Asher, and have commissioned him to build the muscleman puppet I have mentioned in a few previous posts. I thought I might build it myself, but it is time to up my game. It is time to make a greater investment in my shows.
I am nervous and excited. And when I start to fret, I tell myself to let that go and think only in positive terms about my shows henceforth. No time for doubts and worry. Time to be bold.