Monday, March 21, 2011

Begin Anywhere

Begin anywhere.

Credit composer John Cage for that gem. It's my mantra for 2011 -- maybe the rest of my life.

Not exactly dime-store magnet wisdom. Grocery store, actually. I bought that message on a magnet at my favorite upscale grocery store. It caught my eye as I passed the greeting card display en route to bulk snacks, my treat after a yoga class.

When I bought it last fall, it spoke to me immediately, and I realized that it represented a huge shift in my thinking. Because I'm kind of a neurotic planner by nature. But planning can be paralyzing.

"Plan paralysis" began plaguing me when I worked for PR agency that did brilliant projects which always began with writing many, many plans. While a lot of plans made it to reality and launched impressive new products, services and causes, many plan did not survive. At times we would write a razzle-dazzle plan only to be met with resistance every step of the way. Idiosyncrasy. Unrealistic ideas. Cost. Timing, Implementation. Executive paralysis. And more serious causes: stock market implosion. 9/11. The reasons varied appropriately, and many were understandable. But I began to dread writing plans. Because so much creative and strategic energy went into them, and then the ideas would die.

Writing them still gives me some angst, and I write them out of necessity. They do help clarify goals, articulate timing and demonstrate interrelated processes. These days, though, I work to embrace a just-do-it attitude. To see ideas come to life -- creatively, professionally and personally -- I had to stop thinking ahead so much.

So in the spirit of "begin anywhere," I want to share a story of the mantra in action.

In May 2010, my dancer friends and I were flying high after a 4-show run of a musical theatre revue called "100 Years of Broadway." We played turn-of-the-century shoppers in "Ragtime," German hookers in "Wilkommen" and flappers doing the "Charleston." We channeled 60s mod and the ghost of director/choreographer Bob Fosse in The Propellerheads' "History Repeating" (see photo below and watch our flash mob on YouTube).

"History Repeating" - Broadway in May 2010, Ballet Austin's Butler Community School

We had a damn good time.

With all that rep in our bodies, I was inspired. My birthday was approaching in August. I wanted to commemorate it in a unique way: performing with my friends. Over a few margaritas, a couple of site visits to Austin restaurants and clubs and a few "I hope they write me back" email messages, we booked a gig. We became the Wayback Lounge Act, with a one-night-only show at Austin's East Side Showroom on E. 6th St.

It was not exactly an ideal theatre. No stage. Maybe a 7'x 7' dance space. We needed room for a drummer. It was going to be tight.

Begin anywhere.

Our singer began building his repertoire of crooner standards: "Come Fly with Me," "A Wink and a Smile" and a Michael Buble-inspired version of "Fever." We did a classic Charleston to Django Reinhardt's arrangement of that classic speakeasy tune of the same name. Stole "Hot Honey Rag" straight off the stage from the musical
Chicago, and the same for "Bye Bye Blackbird" from Liza With a Z (thank goodness for friends who like to sing!). Over the course of two months, we sketched out sets, assigned dancers to songs, organized and reorganized the flow. Who danced the most? It was probably me, the birthday gal.

Then we had to TELL PEOPLE about it. Oh, that is harder than it sounds. It helps when you can simply point to a listing online and say "hey, here's our gig, come see us."

My friend Daphne created a flier for us. We told more people. And they told a friend. And they told a friend.

The Wayback Lounge Act (photo: Z. Penner)

And it was a beautiful thing, we filled the dining room and bar with nearly three dozen people on a Sunday night, mostly dear, supportive friends and a few pleasantly surprised (amused?) strangers.

My co-producer and I suspect we could have catered a nice affair with the money we put into the show. Rehearsal time with a director, voice lessons, studio time, musician time. It's like restoring cars, he said afterward. Don't count the receipts.

It was a beginning.


For me, it simply marked the beginning of another beautiful year on planet Earth. And I just passed its half-way mark. (I have kids, and that 1/2 a year matters to them.)

So hooray! Shall we dance?

Just begin anywhere.

(c) 2011 Laura Bond Williams. All rights reserved.

2 comments:

  1. Oh.My.God....Laura, can I say that it seems like you are looking right into my soul? Only your text captures it so much more sucsinctly than my own blog...which i fear is a little rambley and disconnected.

    I did start at The Butler School in September and am struggling to reconcile the soaring feelings inside and the akward Elaine Benis (Steinfeld) ability. (I talked with you last Friday at Broadway Fit) However, I do plan to the point where I can't even move any move and the taking of this class was my first step.

    And the syndrome seems to apply to my other endeavors too. Whether knitting (where I probably can contribute more creatively in terms of designing) or dancing. I'll keep going, but am still in a hesitant watching stage.

    Your blog is definately on my favorites now. Thanks for articulating it so "spot on."

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  2. Hi Heather - Thanks for reading! I'm so glad you are coming to class and finding time to create what makes you happy. About dance classes, Danny likes to say "it'll never be harder than the first time" -- so remember that. All you need to do is simply show up. (No judgment allowed.)

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