When Life Imitates Art

October 30, 2012

Meronymy closed on Sunday, and I followed through on my Red Eye post-show ritual of performing a karaoke number at the bar around the corner (Neil Diamond- but NOT Sweet Caroline). Afterwards, Ben and I talked about how daily life has been strangely mirroring Meronymy. In the show, everything involves, refers to, and is represented by a house. The dialogue echoes images of house and home constantly. Meanwhile, we've been moving into a new house, and have found ourselves thinking about the (to us) strangest shit:

Paint tones. Cabinets. Rugs. Lighting.

Maybe some people are naturally wired to know how to discuss color with the man at the hardware store, but I am not this person. WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT HAS GREEN UNDERTONES? The bottom line for first-time painters: it never looks like it does on that little tiny square of paper at the store. And, when you slap something dark on a huge wall, it's equal parts scary and awesome. Also: put two super opinionated people in a room and get them to decide on a paint color. I DARE YOU.

But, the painting is over, and our marriage made it through the decisions involved. Although other parts of the house are still very much in progress, I'm liking what I see! We specifically moved because we thought this would be a great creative space. It has loads of light, office space, and just enough of a living room for tiny performances. The task of bringing it to life- while a bit daunting- it just like creating anything else. Except, you need to know how to talk about fixtures and color tones. I'll work on that.

I'm moving things back into my newly painted office, and have found a spot for the emergency hula hoops. You know, in case I (or a client) find myself in a creative rut and just need to hula it out. So, you should come over and try them out.

I've been thinking about the kitchen cabinets. What about rearranging them?

I bet we could make them more efficient. --Meronymy by Rachel Jendrzejewski

Go outside.

October 24, 2012

Life looks so much sunnier and in-focus when my feet are firmly planted on the ground-- as in, not the hardwood floors of my house. I actually remember to breathe. And, switch between perspective-filled thoughts and not thinking at all. Instead admiring the paint detail on the neighborhood houses, and meeting the local cats.

It helps that most things are within walking distance-- the Y, coffee, co-op, watering holes-- in our new neighborhood. So, I'm stepping outside and walking around twice a day. At least while it's still a balmy fall like this, and at least while mother nature keeps unveiling the killer colors and fallen leaf patterns. Go outside-- you won't believe how much better you feel.

More Fun

October 22, 2012

Ben was out catching up with a friend this past week, and the friend asked a great question: What are you doing these days for fun? Ben didn't know how to respond. Because, a lot of things we've been up to these days have been more out of necessity than fun. Like, painting walls, and raking leaves. And, even though the theatre production I just finished was fun much of the time, It was also hard work.

So, I've been thinking about fun. I've been thinking about the spontaneous kind, about doing things JUST BECAUSE I like them-- which shouldn't sound so rebellious.

We've been good at the fun thing before. It often translates into cooking epic meals for friends, serial television marathons, and experimenting to create the perfect Old Fashioned. I like days wondering through thrift stores without a real agenda, documentaries, reading with a cup of tea, and writing my sister letters-- the kind sent with a stamp. I'd like to make time for lunch downtown from a food truck, a Saturday cooking something that takes hours, spontaneous road trips, more wine on my porch, and skyping with my English godkids.

Yesterday, Ben and I had the whole day off together. We walked to get groceries and returned to make brunch-- making the kind of food that needs a certain amount of leisure to plan and cook. I sat on the kitchen stool drinking French press coffee and watching Ben flip omelettes. We finished our coffee on the back porch, on one of the most gorgeous fall days we've had. It was good.

McGinley Motion

October 19, 2012

It was a little over six months ago that Ben and I noticed that our work lives were starting to intersect more and more. I've been increasingly drawn to helping creative entrepreneurs (artists and small business owners) take their big ideas and break them down into concrete next-steps. A big part of this is helping these creatives figure out how to better talk about themselves (what sets them apart?) and their work (who is it for?).

Ben's love is storytelling through video. He's worked with clients ranging from theatre ensembles to television networks with many of the same goals-- connecting their story to an audience. But also, strategizing the most effective way of doing this. He has a knack for talking to people with idea overload and helping them realize their vision in a way that also produces some pretty, pretty video.

So- we joined forces! And, we created McGinley Motion. The strange thing about setting up a business is that their are so many logistics to take care of. Sometimes you forget that you will actually- one day- be able to focus (mostly) on doing business! Until then, there are accountants to talk to, LLC's to figure out, websites to design, names to register (did you know that you need to get your business name printed in the paper for it to be official? No joke.), tax ID's to attain, and business accounts to open.

Easily the most important part was the branding work we did with Kathleen and Tara at Braid Creative. They helped us clarify our own business story using the Braid Method, so that we were able to get specific about what we want to do and who we want to do it for. Like many creative people, Ben and I deal with our own idea overload. They helped us sort through it all and find a logical way of progressing into our new endeavor.

We're just now at the point where I'm seeing past the logistics and into the work. Yes, certain logistics (accounting, packaging services, returning emails) will always be there. But, the important work is starting to present itself. And the people that this brings me into contact with are inspiring. They are gosh darn smart and full of sparkly ideas, and I'm thrilled to help them dig in and get some momentum.

Keep your eyes peeled- we're excited (in the best, slightly frightened way) for what's to come.

[Photo from the instagram feed of the talented and delightful Emma Freeman.]

The Creative Schedule

October 16, 2012

As I work with artists and creative business owners, the topic of time-management always comes up. Maybe you know exactly what you need to do to get your work propelled in the right direction, but you're not sure when you're ever going to fit it into your life.

I get it. This has really been challenging for me, especially since my schedule is always shifting depending on the day and the job I'm working.

Despite the inconsistencies in my schedule, though, I need to feel some momentum-- like I'm working towards the goals that I've set for myself, even when there are a lot of other things on my plate. And what it comes down to, I've decided, is finding and utilizing peak creative times. Author and entrepreneur Jonathan Fields writes about this in his book Uncertainty.

Essentially, we all have really different times of the day that we do great work. Rather than fighting this, Fields writes that we should take note of this and use it to our advantage.

So, rather than using my morning time-- when I'm the most creatively productive-- to answer emails, scroll twitter, or go through mindless edits on a document, I should really use this time to do the things that take the most brainpower (writing, meetings, future planning). During my afternoon slump I can read internet articles, answer emails, or take a break to run errands, because these activities are less dependent on big brain and energy surges.

I like Fields thoughts on creative productivity, because they aren't geared towards getting creative people to figure out how they can be working ALL THE TIME. Instead, it's about figuring out how you can do better work, so that your down time is also more satisfying.

So, I'm experimenting. Hopefully working during my peak creative times will help me get better work done. Because, momentum breeds momentum.

Fellow freelancers: How do you plan your schedules? What works? What doesn't?

Check out more great stuff about peak creation windows from Jonathan Fields.


October 12, 2012

Happy Friday!

Exciting things:
  • According to the Star Tribune, there are over 916 performances happening in the Twin Cities this weekend. Check it! One of them is Meronymy, opening tonight at the Red Eye. I love this play. And, the cast is completely stellar.

  • I am not a parent, nor have I any plans to be one in the near future. But, I have often wondered how being a creative freelancer and parenthood might go together. I've been listening to Comedy Suitcases' podcast Pratfalls of Parenting lately, which addresses this very dilema. This week Levi interviewed Kate O'Reilly- aka Clever Kate. She's wonderful. The end.

  • As the election draws close, I'm getting more and more excited to vote. Specifically, to vote NO. This email exchange about marriage equality, posted on Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw's blog, is fantastic. Minnesotans, I have many dear friends that would be discriminated against were this amendment to pass. Please support all families this November!

  • While the website for our new business, McGinley Motion is getting finished up (copy and photos completed this week!), you can check out our facebook page. More on the baby steps of starting a business next week...

Have a wonderful weekend. I plan on taking all of this gorgeous fall daylight and bottling it up.

An Artistic Brand: Transatlantic Love Affair

October 10, 2012


I always gets excited when I see performing arts groups that are gaining momentum and doing well for themselves. Minnesota Fringe darlings Transatlantic Love Affair are no exception. This physical theatre ensemble formed in 2010 to produce their first Fringe show, Ballad of the Pale Fisherman. It was a huge success. With their 2011 production Red Resurrected, audiences were anxious to see if they could follow up with another memorable show. They did, and then again this past summer for the 2012 Fringe. Then, to top it off, co-artistic director Isabel Nelson recently won the Emerging Artist Ivey Award. Yay!

As you might expect, they are an exceptionally talented group. They are also doing a few really smart things that I think we could all learn from.

Slow Growth- In addition to co-directing Transatlantic Love Affair, Isabel and her husband, Diogo Lopes, have busy lives (like us all). Rather than trying to put on a whole season at once, they built their repertoire a show at a time- but with consistency. Specifically, a show a year.

Make It Tour-able- Their shows don't involve fancy sets, props, or other elements. The sound and scenic elements for the show (with the exception of their last show, which did have a solo musician), are all created by the cast during the show. So, now that they've developed and staged 3 shows, they can easily continue to tour them and make money off of the hard work they've already done.

A Core Group- While there have been a few minor variations, the core ensemble for all 3 productions has been mostly the same. As a director, this means that you can start to build a language with the people you are working with. Coming back to a common language and method for working saves time. And, when you continue to work with a consistent method, you just keep getting better at it.

But, the thing I notice the most in their work?

A signature Style-- a brand, if you will: Transatlantic Love Affair has a signature style to all of their work. They tell a story (usually a take on a classic- a myth or a fairytale), but with their own theatrical style. When I walk in the door, I know what to expect: there will be some a capella singing to accompany the staging, there will be familiar characters (Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood), there will be some clown work performed with amazing precision to illustrate the activity on stage (doors opening, water running, wheat waving). And, there will be tons of heart.  This isn't to say that they are predictable-- the company finds plenty of ways to surprise. But, I know what I've signed on for. This shows in the way that word spreads about their performances-- people talk about the signature aspects of the company. So, finding your specific artistic voice is important-- knowing what you are and what you aren't.

When I interviewed Alan Berks, he said that 'making art (or doing anything you care about) is f*cking hard work. But, you can find ways to achieve a certain stability.' I'm excited by artists who are doing just that.

What do you notice about performing artists that are thriving right now?

The Week Before Tech: a metaphor for our lives?

October 8, 2012

Hello! I'm alive! This blog has been shoved aside while we've been packing boxes, and unpacking boxes, and picking out paint colors (and then discovering we know nothing about picking paint colors), and having business photos taken. But, I think it's safe to say that it's coming BACK! Which is good, because I've grown to like it.

This week we're in tech for MERONYMY at Red Eye. If you've been through tech weeks, you know that they are full of stop and starts, repeats, constant adjustments, and lots of tweaking of transitions. The days are long and exhausting for the actors-- but probably even more so for the lighting and sound folks who are making the magic happen (not to mention the director).

But, last week I was thinking that the week before tech is the hardest, really. It's the week where you really have to analyze the structure of what you're working on, to make sure you're ready for tech. It's the week where you pull things apart and put them back together a new way. It's the final push of the hard work. And, then I realized that this is a great metaphor for whatever we're working on in life-- you know, not just art things, but life things. Like big transitions. You put your head down and work hard, and then you realize that you have 1 more week until tech. And, this is stressful on one hand, but it's also really hopeful-- you've done the work, you're almost there, and the lighting artist is going to make the work look really beautiful on stage. Woohoo!

But, it's also the point where it's very easy to lose perspective. Did I do good work? Is there still more work to do than I'm going to be able to get done? Is the end really in sight?

I have a lot of buddies going through big transitions, and also working through big uncertainties. Man, they are DOING the work (not all painful work-- some of it is really joyful work, actually). A lot of them (myself included) are having moments of 'Is this really going to work out and be worth all of the work I'm putting into it?'.

I'm thinking it is. I'm thinking that all of the positive actions that we put into building something (or simply moving forward in our lives) matter, and eventually take shape--maybe just when you think they won't. It's that week-before- tech moment, where you start to wonder. But, tech week, friends...I see it ahead. It doesn't mean the work is finished, but it does mean that we're getting there. Maybe we can all breathe just a bit deeper.

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