You mention pressure and it makes me think about an implicit pressure I feel and sense among many artists, to just keep doing something, whatever little thing, to keep your name out there, so to speak. So you can end up running yourself ragged doing these small projects, often for other people, that don’t have a lot of artistic payoff.
It’s true, yeah.
I wonder if you’ve managed to avoid that.
Well, normally, a lot of my shows begin as a first draft somewhere else, like at a university or even in a workshop, say in India, or something. And that is priceless. What I miss is that I don’t get to have a lot of drafts or versions of a show before it presents itself in New York—lately I haven’t had that. Certainly it was my preferred method of getting a show on its feet.
The other thing that’s hard is you feel extremely vulnerable when you present a brand new show in New York and you may not be as finished as you’d like to be, in any way shape or form. In puppets that can mean a terrifying variety of things, like the neck isn’t connected yet, you know—really hilarious things like that. A really well-rehearsed show that’s got greatness in it, that’s just fantastic. With my current show, I’m really very much in love with the script and the performers, but yeah, that rehearsal factor is the hardest thing.
Do you have any sense as to why that development time is missing these days. I know you can only speak for yourself, but what’s your sense of it?
I’ve had varieties of experiences. For example, there was a time when I was invited to Europe all the time, and then that segued into a time when I was invited to India to develop works. And then there was a period of time when universities in the US invited me to do residencies. So, things have shifted, it’s a combination of things—it’s a combination of funding drying up, it’s a combination of other artists who are newer and are having a moment, and I think that’s all what it is.
To stay for another minute on the topic of longevity in an arts career—as I’m coming into my thirties, I’m starting to notice a number of people making the decision to leave the arts. My impression is that that’s something that happens in every generation.
Oh, it does, it totally does.