“Life is a BOOMERANG…” I love that….
Now, before I wrote this I thought a million times of just letting it go… because I know this blog might be EXTREMLY unpopular… and, Sharron, maybe IN THIS CASE it might be better to shut your pie hole…but I just…the thoughts just kept rolling and rolling around.
This is something I have considered writing about a million times. Now, before anyone gets cross at me (I have been watching a lot of BBC…I am all British in my speak) this is something that I think I ALWAYS need to keep in mind when embarking on a project…I am not just waving my pointing finger and a judging others…I also can find myself an offender in regards to the following ideas.
Let me start with a little story about myself to break the ice…and to make myself look like a shit before I go further.
A couple of months ago I was on one of my fave walks through the cemetery here in Stratford (if you are following along at all you know how I love it there…) and I ran into two very dear friends walking their dogs. We have known each other for years and we all sometimes work in the independent cabaret/theatre world. We were lamenting and celebrating a number of things but wound up in a conversation about what it was like when someone you don’t know very well or have a relationship of any kind with, asks you to do what you do…for free. Yes, we ALSO talked about the occasions when we are all happy to work for free…I have done their shows…they have done mine…and one of those dear hearts wrote a fucking letter for me for a grant…so I owe him FOREVER. WE were talking about real give and take. At the end of the convo I said how I would love to have them on our Christmas Sing A-long…and then told them how we are building the show in Stratford…and as I got to the end of the sentence…I realized I was going to, after this conversation, ask them to work…for free.
Lord. I felt like a dill hole. I know…I know.
After feeling like an ass (with my cemetery walking pals)…and they were so very kind and laughed and laughed…and not even nervously (we have known each other a while)…I then, embarrassedly, explained to them that I had some rules for guest asking…I never ask a guest to work for free twice in five years, if you perform two nights in a row I need to pay you, if I am building a new show and/or brand I am most certainly asking a favour that I will do my upmost best to pay you back in a way that makes a difference and/or is really helpful…yes, I have rules…and YES, I AM NOT PERFECT IN THEM… I AM NOT JESUS WITH THE RULES…BUT I TRY TO STICK TO THEM AS BEST I CAN…but I do think the most important thing about the conversation we had, a subject which we then talked about at length while standing surrounded by grave stones, was the give and take of the ask.
AND AGAIN, I am not saying am perfect, far from it…but I really try to figure out, if I am asking someone to do something for FREE, how can I support them back in a way that is helpful…that will show fruit.
THIS is the thing I think I BELIEVE FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART that I can NEVER forget about. There is give and take. There should to be give and take. What if there was GIVE AND TAKE?
I have been asked (as we all are) to give time, support, and/or services to a cause, to a business, to a show, to a cabaret, to a fundraiser, or something along those lines…and, again, some of these things I am pleased as punch to do…if it is a cause I believe in, a theatre I believe in, and artist I believe in, a person I believe in…and there IS a moment (and I would be lying if I didn’t say it) when I look at the ask…I look at the person or company, and think back to their presence in my life up until this point.
NOW, BEFORE YOU GET ALL CHARGED UP, IT ISN’T ALL, “What have you done for me lately…” IT REALLY ISN’T. I have come to believe it is important to just have a moment when I think about that presence, because it is so easy to be supportive of people in ways that are small…in ways that are big…and how had this person or entity supported NOT just myself but other people in my life (or outside of my life, for that matter) in the past?
Now, I am not satan, I am not always looking for something in exchange for a ask…there are events where we donate our time. And that is wonderful and we can choose what we give that very special time to!
BUT why, you ask? Why do I feel this way? Do you think I am clocking people’s support because I am tit for tat?
Nope. I just think continually pouring water into wells that are bottomless is a bit bad for the soul. It sets a bad precedent for living. I really would rather save that time, that date, those hours or that favour just in case a person and/or company who sees the benefits and joy of give and take happens to call up.
I do not judge or begrudge people who ask me to do something…and I really hope they don’t begrudge my option to politely decline (which isn’t always the case…a few years ago, I walked into a room and heard someone bitching about how I said I did not want to do a certain gig for free…the irony was in this room we were rehearsing for a benefit for the Actor’s Fund)…I DO take that moment to think about that presence I just mentioned…which to me, is not judging or begrudging…it may feel different to you…but this is how it feels for me. Again, if I am free, and I believe in the project, person, artist, company, I am happy to show up.
SIDEBAR: Here I would like to point out that there are a great number of people who have, and continue to, supported my endevours and have, when I have had not a lot of cash, done amazing things for me for a song…design, photographs, video, PR…people who I have life long relationships with whom I really try to pay forward in some little or (if I can fucking manage it) big way. I appreciate this support in a way I cannot even describe. I also had hundreds of amazing people who funded my first glorious tour to Edinburgh and New York City. For which I will be eternally grateful.
Now, before you freak out on me…I don’t assume that people are being piggish…I don’t think they are being fancy or self centred….in the heat of a fundraising campaign we pull out all the stops…when casting our night one can excitedly put out the call…and sometimes you might just be so jazzed about your business you might not realize that what you ask has maybe not been reciprocated…and sometimes you just gotta ask…WHICH I HAVE DONE….which are not crimes…I don’t think the hammer needs to come down.
But how awesome would it be if there was GIVE AND TAKE?
My George, who is one of the most supportive people in the world, has taught me the bulk of this lesson in our almost 24 years together. He really taught me that the littlest thoughtfulness and support makes a difference. He has always believed and lived that. And I have benefited from watching him practice this.
It is like crowd funding…we can just pay it forward…we can help each other get works done…GIVE AND TAKE…we can just pass it around and make our community and business stronger and stronger.
I think maybe we (I AM INCLUDING MYSELF) might wanna keep this in mind that we can keep the river of support flowing…or, maybe realize, when we ask, we might have not stepped into that river at all and make the effort to effect a little GIVE and TAKE.