The Velawesomeraptor Himself (clayrobeson) wrote,
The Velawesomeraptor Himself

Everybody says don't...

Everybody says don't,
Everybody says don't,
Everybody says don't-It isn't right,
Don't-it isn't nice!

Growing up, I had this amazingly supportive family.  My parents went to all ends to make sure that if I wanted to try something, I got to try it.  Guitar, Accordion, Clarinet (I only wanted to play because of Marni Gomez, but when I found out she wouldn't be in the same band class as me, I gave up), Science Kits, Theater, Singing, Dancing, Writing, Computers, Horseback Riding, Cub Scouts (I didn't continue on to Boy Scouts cause I didn't like the scoutmaster), Reading (MS Read-a-thon regional winner, baybee), Photography... you name it, they supported it.  And I'm not sure how I didn't realize this back then.
Everybody says don't,
Everybody says don't,
Everybody says don't walk on the grass,
Don't disturb the peace,
Don't skate on the ice.

The thing is that the non-parental influences in my life have always DISCOURAGED me.  My high school music teacher told me point blank that I didn't have a solo voice.  I've had directors tell me "You could never handle that part."  I've lost a professional Improv gig (for numerous reasons, see previous journal entries to get into THAT)... but every time, instead of giving up, I sort of got pissed and did it anyway.
Well, I say Do,
I say,
Walk on the grass, it was meant to feel!
I say Sail!
Tilt at the windmill,
And if you fail, you fail.

I didn't realize it at the time, but having my high school music teacher tell me I didn't have a solo voice was really the start of it.  Shortly after his glowing tidbit of advice, we were rehearsing a jazz piece after school, and the guy who got ALL the tenor solos just kept screwing it up, and screwing it up, and screwing it up.  Finally, I turned to him, and I think I said "Are you EVER going to get it right?"  He looked at me and replied, "If you think you can do it better, go ahead."  So I nodded. And I did.  First try.  And I got to keep the solo.

Here's the song. I'm the guy second from the left.  It's a TINY solo, but I wanted it, and I took it.  If only I'd realized I could continue to do that.
Everybody says don't,
Everybody says don't,
Everybody says don't get out of line.
When they say that, then
Buddy that's a sign:
Nine times out of ten,
Buddy, you are doing just fine!

I'm sure I get part of this stubbornness from my dad, and alot of it from my mom.  They're both stubborn in different ways, but I see some of each of it in how I react to being told "no, you can't" -- I'd rather prove you wrong than argue.
Make just a ripple.
Come on be brave.
This time a ripple,
Next time a wave
Sometimes you have to start small,
Climbing the tiniest wall,
Maybe you're going to fall-
But it is better than not starting at all!

When I lost the gig at the Asylum, I was crushed.  Like, ten tons of boulders coming down on me crushed.  And I sat down and asked myself, "Do I really want to keep doing it?"  And I couldn't picture my life without Improv in it, so I sucked it up, kept the teaching job (I was good enough to teach, but apparently not to perform... yeah, whatever, it TOTALLY wasn't a personal thing with the new director, right), and found other places to perform.  There was talk at the theater about them opening up a San Francisco venue.  I walked straight into the owners offices one day and said, "If you do it, I'm there.  I want in."  They nodded and said "Good, we'd be happy to have you." (see previous parenthetical comment)  The theater never happened, but that's what started me contemplating a move back to CA.
Everybody says no,
Everybody says stop.
Everybody says mustn't rock the boat,
Mustn't touch a thing!
Everybody says don't,
Everybody says wait,
Everybody says can't fight city hall,
Can't upset the cart,
Can't laugh at the king!

In college, I worked with the Thespians on campus, and with the local community theater, too.  I'd only gotten bit parts in both forums, but I kept trying. My last summer there, a director took a chance and cast me in a lead roll in My Three Angels (I had Bogart's part).  While we were blocking the show, when we got to my one HEYOUGE monologue, I looked to him for direction.  He just looked at me and said "Take the stage."  I blinked. The grumpy older man in the cast looked shocked and appalled. "TAKE the stage," he repeated.  So I did.  And it was... amazing.  It was a huge confidence builder for me.  Someone trusted me THAT MUCH.  And when I walked out on stage for curtain call opening night and the applause got louder... wow.  I was hooked.  It wasn't until AFTER the run of the show that the director admitted to me that he had two different "Teams" picked to play the "Three Angels" -- a comedic team and a dark team.  He wasn't sure which direction he wanted to take the show.  He ended up going comedic, but apparently I was the centerpiece of both teams, so it would have been me in that role no matter how he'd cast the rest of the show.  That still boggles me to this day, just a bit.  Especially because I know who the other two people would have been, and it would have been a COMPLETELY different show that way.  That may be one of my biggest "What If"s.
Well, I say Try!
I say
Laugh at the kings or they'll make you cry.
Lose your poise!
Fall if you have to,
But buddy, make a noise!

I spent four years of my college career (which was significantly longer) studying international folk music and dance.  I joined the group to spite an ex-girlfriend (I told myself it was because the only friends I had were people I knew from the group she performed with, but that was bullshit).  But I joined as a "Singer" not a "Dancer."  When I got there, the Singers were sort of the "You can't dance, so why don't you go sing?" part of the group.  They rehearsed separately (same time, same building, different room), and really only joined up with the group when we were getting ready for performances.  I was one of the first (maybe THE first, I'm not sure) person to join the group with the intent of being a singer.  The Singers were fun, and awesome.  Four years later, when I was vocal director, we'd gone from six people (one guy) and 1/4 of the stage time to over a dozen Singers (1/3 of whom were men) and nearly equal stage time to the Dancers (who outnumbered us two to one).  I fought tooth and nail to get the Singers to a place where it was actually cool to be a Singer.  And it was in the middle of this that I discovered that cool is really self-perception, not how others perceive you.  One evening, the guy who eventually became my best friend and I were chatting after rehearsal, and talking about someone new who had joined the group-- we decided that she was going to be one of the cool people.  Then we looked at each other, realizing that it was really *US* that decided who the cool people were.

1994 Polish Number.  Our opening number, integrated song and dance, which required that one (or more) of the male singers dance, and that all of the male dancers sing.  I'm the one in the middle of the circle... keep in mind that two days before this performance, I broke my pinky finger by snapping it sideways.  Just keep that in mind.

What had started me down this path, though, was the inequality that existed between the Singers and the Dancers.  Dancers could come by whenever they wanted to learn a song or seven, and they could perform them with us as long as they learned them.  We were cool with that, cause we liked having more voices and new people.  The Singers, however, could only "cross over" to one dance per year, and only if it didn't conflict with something else, and only if... blah blah blah.  Well, my second year in the group, I decided to go to the workshops for some of the dances.  The first was the Bellydancing workshop... at the time there was no men's dance (that came later), but it was a fun workshop, and we all got to learn how to do hip isolations and stomach rolls and such.  After that came the Chinese Iron Fan dances, which the choreographer put me in to (much to everyone's surprise).  And then the Indian Tipni and Bhangra dances, which the choreographer (different one) put me front and center with the student director for the dances.  Top that off with the fact that we were opening with Polish, and I had to dance there, I was "crossing over" to three dances.  Well, the director came to me one day and said I had to pick one to stay in.  I think she expected me to pick Polish, because that was a singing AND dancing piece, but I picked Indian, because it was AWESOME.  So I did Indian.  And I got to keep Polish, too.

Indian Bhangra, 1994. I start the dance front and center.  But then we move EVERYWHERE.  Watch for the guy who loses his pants.  That's Suphi.  He's from Turkey.
Everybody says don't,
Everybody says can't,
Everybody says wait around for miracles,
That's the way the world is made!
I insist on Miracles, if you do them,
Miracles - nothing to them!
I say don't,
Don't be afraid!

And so here I am.  Stubborn.  Making what I want to happen, happen.  Learning that I can't wait for everyone else.  I can't rely on people's approval.  Or on their opinion of my capabilities.  I just have to make things happen.

That's my Mutant Talent, Professor X, making things happen.  It's not always easy.  It's usually exhausting.  But it's damn satisfying.  And I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Thanks to those who made it all the way through this completely self-indulgent episode of Klae's of our Lives, and thanks to Sondheim for the song Lyrics
  • Post a new comment


    Comments allowed for friends only

    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded