Thoughts from the Associate Artists_______________________________________________________________
For a different perspective, we asked Rumble's associate artists to recall a moment in their careers that, for them, marked emergence as a professional in their artistic field.
As an electroacoustic composer the most formative events were a series of national conferances/festivals organized by the Canadian Electroacoustic Community roughly between 1986 and 1992. These gave me the chance to hear almost everything that was going on in the country, and meet the people making the work. Despite the shortage of money these sorts of opportunities still exist today. They are a great way of showcasing your work and developing contacts.
The sardonic side of me wants to put the moment of my emergence as a professional down to the first paycheque I received for services rendered. The realist in me remembers the moment, or at least tries to. 'Cause there must be one, mustn't there? One epiphinal moment. Or was it a string of moments all mushed together... Moments between auditions, between jobs, between moments that seem to stretch into one long unemployed haze. Moments just prior to packing it all in, when I realize there is nothing else that I can do. Not necessarily because of ineptness, but because of that moment, that first time I saw a piece of theatre.
30 years old. I crowded into the social development centre of one of our finer Federal Penitentiaries to see Tamanhous Theatre who had brought Happy Days by Samuel Beckett. I'm not sure of the exact moment, but during the second act I realized I was crying. Not because I understood what Beckett had to say but because I felt... something. I wasn't privy to the vocabulary then, well, for that matter I'm still not, but it was words, and voice, and movement, and visuals and... a mix. So I guess it was "that moment" that made me need to be a part of the mix. As for what I emerged as...
There's no singular moment, but rather a continuum of moments: receiving my first paycheck for my work in 1983; being technically recognized as a professional upon receiving my Canadian Actors' Equity Association card in 1987; feeling professional, which seems dependent on my self esteem, employment opportunities and contracts, and respect received from artistic directors, directors, administrative staff and community; and knowing I am professional as I regard my work, sense of integrity and hunger for bettering my craft.
Emerging from what? Established among whom? Useful as they may be in sorting grant applications, these categories measure what amounts to creditworthiness. Theatre however, unlike the more progressive arts which parted company with their public no later than 1945, has maintained its charming insistence on audiences, and stubbornly refuses to produce revenue. Very well: money isn't the standard, what is the evidence that professional life has begun?
Is it the deformation professionelle that causes us to actually believe that our social insignificance equates the heroic stance of artistic autonomy while we speed-dial du Maurier's number one more time? Or is it membership in some association, even one that fails to enforce the minimum of ethical standards enjoyed by, say, orthodontists? Never mind the payscale; can one be professional in an unprofessional profession, where harrassment and predation are most punishable by a bit of gossip? Since the 50's, there has been the institutional dodge, of course, when the university degree in the arts was invented to get at the lucrative market of prospective customers formerly left to finishing schools and tutelage. But this, too, aids little in the daily professional struggle which is to find ways of expressing ideas that others can use.
As for a defining moment, it is like ageing; you don't feel it while it happens; you only realize that it has happened. The rest are symptoms, it seems to me, of the conflicting notions that compound the desire to play with the need for approval and legitimacy in a place where the mercantile and competitive models reign supreme.
I think there is not single moment. I think it is more to do with a sort of coming of age, the result of a dynamic sequence of events and experiences, i.e.: dreadful, horriblating failures and exultant moments of success. The act of being able to actually translate what is in your head to the stage is a professional achievement.
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