Day 6: Breakdancing

14 Skills for 14 Days a.k.a. Stay Home, Learn Skills

Day Six: Breakdancing

I can only speak for myself, but when I think about breakdancing, I think about dancers in contact with a hardwood floor swinging their arms and legs around wildly. Most of these maneuvers take a lot of training and/or redbull. For the armchair enthusiast, here are a couple moves that fit that description that can potentially be achieved on your living room carpet after eating half a pizza.

The Coffee Grinder

The Six Step

 

If that’s still too much, you can always stick with some toprocking, the showy on-your-feet stuff where you don’t have to so much as crouch down.

As for that, the only real trick is the attitude. Because if you have the attitude, it doesn’t matter if you have limited mobility. Teeny little arms. An oversized scaly head. All you have to do is have the confidence that you’re the king.

 

14 Skills for 14 Days

14 Skills for 14 Days a.k.a. Stay Home, Learn Skills.

It has come to my attention that many people are suddenly looking for creative options for socially-distanced activities.

Not to brag, but between the ages of 10-15, I was pretty incredible at social distancing.

I had very few friends. I was homeschooled. I participated in solo sports like tumbling, trampolining, and rock climbing. My hobbies included hiking, learning circus skills from books, and reading science-fiction.

DIY skills
A plethora of self-teaching books

And honestly, I got a LOT done. The skills I developed in that window have gotten me a foot in the door for a lot of professional artist gigs. And I’ve never gotten back to that level of self-taught productivity. Sure, I’ve had windows of social downtime that have led to picking up weird skill sets (learning jumpstyle dance in 2012, becoming a freelance audiobook narrator in 2016) but the years of my childhood where I got out of the house the least were the years that I picked up the most special skills.

Now, I’m not going to talk about *WHY* someone might be looking to spend a lot of time practicing new skills at home. That’s not my field of expertise. I’m not trained as a sociologist or epidemiologist. I cannot speak to the state of the world or best practices for personal health.

I’m trained as a writer and entertainer. And if people are looking for ways to stay occupied for 14 (or more) days at home, well BY GOLLY I’m going to give it to them.

For the next 14 days, I’m committing to staying in my house and practicing socially distanced creative skills. During this time, I’d like to share one skill a day that I have successfully taught myself. Some of them I’m good at. Some of them I’m bad at. But most importantly, all of them are fun challenges that YOU TOO CAN TRY FROM THE SAFETY OF YOUR OWN HOME.

The subjects I’ll be covering include:

  1. Monday, March 16th – Baking Bread
  2. Tuesday, March 17th – Juggling
  3. Wednesday, March 18th – Cartooning
  4. Thursday, March 19th – Unicycling
  5. Friday, March 20th – Stop-Motion Video
  6. Saturday, March 21st – Break dancing
  7. Sunday, March 22nd – Self-tape Monologues & Solo theater
  8. Monday, March 23rd – Building a catapult
  9. Tuesday, March 24th – Puppetry
  10. Wednesday, March 25th – Yo-yoing
  11. Thursday, March 26th – Headstands & handstands
  12. Friday, March 27th – Moonwalking
  13. Saturday, March 28th – Audiobook Narration
  14. Sunday, March 29th – Tabletop Theater

If anyone has a range of skills they’d like to spend two weeks sharing from home, I challenge them to create their own iteration of this. Let the games begin!

 

A Year of Kicking my Brain in the Face

This is it.  It has been one year since I embarked on my Finding the Framework challenge.  I would say that I had no idea what I was signing up for on Oct 1st, 2015.  But let’s be real.  I knew this would be a comprehensive and exhausting creative challenge.  I’ve pushed myself as hard this year as any year during my undergraduate career, pursuing projects that were well beyond my comfort zone.

While I feel that I could have gone further with many of these projects, I’ve come to terms with the fact that a year is still a finite length of time.  I’ve explored a wide range of avenues of artistic projects, and have ended up with a much clearer picture of where my strengths and interests lie than I had a year ago.

I’ll spend some time in the next few months synthesizing my experiences pursuing different artistic fields, but here at the 1 year mark, I’d like to briefly overview each category, and rate how successful I think each challenge was:

1. Write a novel – 8/10

novel

Last November, I completed a 50,000 word manuscript as part of National Novel Writing Month.  I’ve written similar projects before, and thoroughly enjoy the intensive one month writing project.  However, I know the draft has a number of plot holes and stylistic flaws.  I didn’t invest time in rewrites, and while I know I’ll be writing more prose fiction manuscripts, I don’t anticipate them reaching a professional level any time soon.

2. Write a full-length play – 10/10

playwriting

This is my jam.  Writing roadmaps for living, thinking people to play with and put into action in real time and space is a place where so many of my creative drives overlap.  I wrote a play Baikonur to complete thins challenge, which I’ve submitted to some workshops and am also revising on my own.  Buuut, just for good measure I also wrote the 50 minute show Outside the Lines, and the short plays Road Rage, Unknowingly Agnostic, Waiting for Kyle, Give Me the Chicken and a collection of monologues for both Caution: Not a Step and Find Your Backyard.

3. Perform in a play – 10/10

Acting.jpg

I performed in a 2 week run of Deirdre of the Sorrows at the Dairy Arts Center, for 2 weeks of my solo show Outside the Lines in the Boulder International Fringe Festival, and in short runs of Find Your Backyard, Caution: Not a Step, and Five 5ths of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth.  I realized during Outside the Lines, though- I’m really not looking for a career as an actor.  I am capable of acting, and sometimes I enjoy it.  But performing night after night onstage in major roles takes a huge amount of energy from me, and I know it’s not something I could sustain for a routine work schedule.  I will continue to end up on stage, but realizing that stage acting is not going to be my primary artistic pursuit has really helped to hone down my focus for future projects.

4. Perform in a dance showcase – 6/10

dance

If I had world enough and time… This year started off well.  Back when I sat at my desk job, swimming in tens of dollars of expendable income, I could pay for aerial dance classes in my free evenings, and jazz dance classes during my lunch breaks.  And then I began to get more serious about my artistic pursuits.  The expendable income went away as I began sinking money into producing shows.  And the free evenings went away as I began designing costumes and teching shows.  And then the lunch breaks went away as I transitioned to freelance work.  And so the dance went away, and I was left rehearsing my movement pieces alone in apartment with no appropriate dance flooring.

But gosh darn it, I performed my dance piece anyways.  There was music, I moved around in a relatively coordinated manner, and people clapped at the end.  That’s all that matters, right?  Caution: Not a Step was honestly much better received at the Ft. Collins Fringe than I thought it would be, and this was definitely an activity that stretched my boundaries as an artist.

5. Produce a show – 10/10 

Production.JPG

Prior to this challenge, I had only officially produced 2 theatrical events outside of college- one staged reading, and a one-night only dinner theater show.  Now, in the past 6 months alone, I have produced a 30 minute dance theater showcase (Caution: Not a Step), a 50 minute play (Outside the Lines), a 75 minute variety show (Find Your Backyard), and a 10 minute act for a fundraiser (Give Me the Chicken).  Now that I’ve realized that I possess all the tools to make original live entertainment happen, I have a feeling the fun is only just beginning.

6. Produce a music album – 7/10

Album.jpg

To stick to the original challenge, yes, I teamed up with composer Nigel Deane to create a soundtrack for Outside the Lines.  And by that, I mean I threw some ideas and words at Nigel, and he came back with fully formed auditory masterpieces.  But hey, team effort, right?

But, in the world of audio production, this year I realized another major field where my various interests overlap.  Audiobook production.  I took a class on audiobook narration starting the first week of this challenge, and it caught my attention.  One year later, I’m finishing up the editing on my 10th audiobook title.  I had never even thought that it was a plausible freelance gig to pursue, but all it took was a little creative push and some support, and now I have a whole new avenue of creative projects.

7. Create a webcomic – 4/10

Webcomic.jpg

I absolutely love comics.  I now also realize how much time, effort, and creative energy they take to routinely produce.  And patience, big time.  Technically, I did create a webcomic this year- Best Fiends.  However, I have only completed 5 strips, and haven’t developed any routines or patterns for consistent drawing and posting like I had hoped to.  But through my research and attempts, I have a much better understanding of the process of creating webcomics, and certainly have more practice than I did before this year.

8. Create a short film – 5/10

Short film.png

I had really hoped to spend a week out in the sand dunes shooting a short post-apocalyptic comedy with actor friends from around the country.  I had kind of hoped to spend a weekend in an empty office building filming a comedic short about internships.  I had vaguely been interested in drawing strange cartoon hedgehogs on old brown paper packaging and animating them to music.  But then I got sucked into all my other projects and put all my resources into show producing.  So I ended up with some eclectic promotional videos instead, like this one.  and this one.

I hope to put together at least one more project from footage and ideas I got from this year.  But for the time being, you can also have a link to the Five 5ths of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth footage as consolation.

9. Display an artwork at a gallery – 2/10

Gallery.JPG

Yeah… about the whole “gallery” thing.  I’m not going to pretend that I can casually teach myself to be a successful visual artist from a couple of books and youtube videos.  I had kind of planned to just display an artwork in a nearby community arts collective on one of their open studio nights.  And then I stopped by one of their events and realized that a lot of their events were centered around talking through their experiences with mind-altering substances and sharing paintings of flowers resembling genitalia.  Thanks, Boulder.

Ironically, I now actually work part-time in a building with several galleries, and talk through art with paintings and have actually made a couple of sales.  I’m refining plans for a collection of sarcastic art jokes masquerading as a gallery, but I couldn’t rush through it enough to fit it within the official year of the project.  Stay tuned though!

10. Learn to make macarons – 8/10

Macaron.JPG

I am so glad I added this challenge on to the end of the list.  Honestly, I think this was the category that I had the most growth in.  I started at a skill level of absolute zero as far as macarons were concerned, with my first batch ending up as sticky, almond-flavored glop.  Now I have the process down to a relative habit, and can whip up a batch with little effort, complete with a custom maple-brown syrup filling.

On top of these official challenges, I have also ended up fully submerged in all the arts world related activities that falls between the lines of the categories I laid out.  It’s a little ridiculous how much things have changed.  At the start of the challenge, I was an assistant at a small publishing company who did performing arts on the side.  Now, I’m a freelance artist working for a number of the region’s big arts groups for a living.  In the past year, I have been paid to work as a costumer, carpenter, welder, props manager, stage manager, actor, producer, playwright, director, stagehand, lighting technician, sound engineer, projection designer, makeup artist, house manager, and box office manager.  I’ve taken some substantial risks, failed spectacularly a number of times, and racked up a huge pile of rejections.  But letting go and leaping into the unknown has led me to a crazy new life as a fully fledged member of the artistic community.  I still have a long way to go, but I really can say: I found the framework.

Finding the Framework: Dance Performance

I set out to perform a dance in a show at some point during Finding the Framework, and by golly, I was going to perform a dance.  Due to schedule and mostly not being able to afford dance classes and recital fees for local programs, I made the totally reasonable decision to just produce another show and do a dance piece in that.

focofringe

Caution: Not a Step was a variety showcase that incorporated sufficient movement and musicality that parts of it could indeed be considered ‘dance’.  There were also the usual shenanigans – stand up comedy, handstands, backwards Shakespeare, and impromptu juggling classes with audience members set to ragtime music…

Juggling class.jpg

The show was in an arts collective warehouse on the outskirts of Ft. Collins and I had absolutely no time to market or promote the performance.  Somehow though, I still had larger crowds for some of my 30 minute acts than for some of my full Boulder Fringe performance of Outside the Lines.  It was great to get to bring a weird, experimental show to a community that was so ready to embrace the full fringe-eyness of the festival.

Caution: Not a Step- Photoshoot

Caution 3 Square

Just another day at the office.

Oh, yeah.  Except I don’t have an office.  Please, by all that is good in this universe let me not have to work in an office again.

Today Grace helped me take some promotional photos for my Ft. Collins Fringe Festival show, because they were due today at 5 PM, which seemed like a pretty good reason to me.  I don’t have all the choreography of the show worked out yet (because I’m closing 5 shows and opening 2 more between now and then) but I know enough to be able to take some fun pictures!

Caution Not a Step 2

 

Caution Not a Step 1

 

And if you were wondering, the process of getting into these poses is not elegant in the slightest.

IMG_1392

 

Preparing to Dance

I commited to doing a dance performance this year as one of my creative immersion challenges, but until a week ago, I had no idea what it was going to be.

Recently I met a group of clowns performing inside cardboard boxes who convinced me to sign up for a slot in the Ft. Collins Fringe Festival.

You might think, “didn’t this guy already say he was performing in a Fringe Festival?” 

Yes, I am.  I wrote Outside the Lines for my playwriting challenge, and it is premiering in August at the Boulder International Fringe Festival.  I’ve spent 6 months preparing for it, and have everything planned out for it.

Then I got a 30 minute slot in this other festival in mid-September, with a fraction of the time to plan the content, designs, and format.  But I knew:

1. It needed to include dance.

2. To save budget, it would utilize the set pieces from my previous show- namely, 2 stepladders and a series of modular platform steps.

3. It was probably going to include a quirky theatrical script, because that’s kind of my thing now.

With that information, the route was pretty straightforward.   I’m premiering my first dance-theater piece, “Caution: Not a Step” on September 15th.  It’s a series of variations on what is and is not a step.  And yes, there will be dancing on stepladders.

I’ll be writing more as the project goes on about choreographing for the first time in about 3 years, training for dance, and writing for a primarily movement-based script.  But I just wanted to share the news about the project!

Here’s a glimpse of my wonderfully Fringe-y venue:

  

Onward and Upward!

Success in artistic projects is very gradual.  Most days I have to work to keep the perspective that my progress is incremental.  Today, though, has been a great day of progress milestones.

Dance- I learned how to do a Bird’s Nest in Aerial Dance today.  Some moves just feel really cool, and this is one of them.

Bird's Nest pose

Writing- I crossed the 10,000 word mark today for my NaNoWriMo novel!

NaNo Day 5 Word Count

Theatre- I got a part in a local theatre’s production of Deirdre of Sorrows!  They had a last-minute casting need, so I had my first rehearsal tonight, and they open in two weeks!  The play is a predecessor myth to the slightly more familiar Tristan and Yseult.  I don’t have a photo from the rehearsal, because it’s hard to take pictures while you’re holding a shortsword and a dagger.  Yay sword fights!

Rawr swords
All words used to describe my character tonight.

Finding the Framework: A Year of Creative Immersion

Over the past year, I have been researching the creative process.  This was partly for my own benefit, partly for understanding the drives of fellow artists.  Through all the books I’ve read, films I’ve watched, and lives I’ve examined, all I can tell is that creativity is wonderfully multi-faceted.

Sometimes, this can be unhelpful.  In exactly one year, I will begin applying to grad schools for my MFA.  The problem is, I still can’t decide which creative field to specialize in.  Years of deliberation and practice of numerous art forms have yet to lead me to a clear answer.

So.

It’s time to play a game.  Over the next year, from October 1st, 2015 to September 30th, 2016, I’m going to undertake 10 major projects, each in a different creative field.  When the year is up, I will begin grad school applications for whichever specialization has had the most successful project.

The projects are as follows:

  1. Write a novel
  2. Write a full-length play
  3. Perform in a play
  4. Perform in a dance showcase
  5. Produce a performance
  6. Release a music album
  7. Create a webcomic
  8. Create a short film
  9. Display an artwork at a gallery
  10. Learn to make macarons

While this division of effort will sidetrack energy from some of my strengths, I believe it has a number of advantages.  First, whatever track I choose, I will have hands-on experience in other fields, allowing me to better appreciate the works of different kinds of artists.  Second, creativity thrives on interdisciplinary thought.  The best way I have found to visualize it is through the theory of multiple intelligences.  Howard Gardner’s theory looks at intelligence as being broken into eight different modalities.  I picture creativity as a networked process nested right in the center of all eight of these.

Creative nesting

My projects are selected to draw on all eight abilities.  By spending a year in cross-disciplinary training, my creative ability should become far more well-rounded.  My success in each area will also give a rubric for evaluating my skills comparatively.

This process is going to involve writing about 150,000 words, researching, taking acting classes, dance classes, drawing classes, voice classes, rehearsing, reading, recording, reading, getting a headshot, designing business cards, learning an instrument, acquiring AV equipment, and countless steps I haven’t even anticipated yet.

Did I mention reading?  I’ve put together a list of 50 books to read, review, and reflect on over the next year, spanning all of the disciplines involved in this challenge.  I’ve picked 50 books not because I think that’s all the information I’ll need, but because it will allow me to read and write about one book a week all year, with one week off for Christmas and one off for tech week during Project #3.

All progress and creative revelations in this undertaking will be shared through this blog over the course of the next year.