Oct 31, 2013

Late Bloomers

Pablo Picasso (age 26) and Paul Cézanne (age 57)
I'm a late bloomer. I have come to most of my big realizations and guideposts in life (vocation, serious relationships, marriage, political awareness, owning appliances, etc.) relatively later than the norm. I'm okay with this. It is how I operate and I can do little to change it. The process usually just takes longer for me. I explore a lot, if something is important, before I get to any sort of destination.

(Don't get me wrong. I make arbitrary decisions sometimes, so a decision is made and things progress forward... I hate the "well, where do you want to eat..." conversation with a searing sun-hot intensity.)

As for my creative endeavors, I have after 20 years in the theatre just come into my own since maybe 2009/2010. I wrote plays for over 12 years before I finally found my "voice" (and am still finding it). When I create now, I put my name on everything. These days I have purpose and pride in what I do. Everything that I do. Leading up to this point, I was pretty hit or miss. That is as it should be. Theatre, in particular, is a public art. You have to do it, live for an audience, in order to get better at it. 

And though I feel creatively successful, finally, I am by no means successful with my art in the marketplace yet. I am not known.

I will be. I have faith in that. But I know it is a process and I am just now at the point where I am confident in getting my work out there. I'm ready to market myself and what I do.

This late blooming is something I've struggled with. Some artists make a splash on the scene at a young age. They come out into the world seemingly fully formed. These sorts of artists, I believe, don't worry too much about if they will be successful, but just how successful.

In a New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell entitled Late Bloomers: Why do we equate genius with precocity? he cites two kinds of creative geniuses (as defined in David Galenson's study “Old Masters and Young Geniuses: The Two Life Cycles of Artistic Creativity.”).
.. conceptual and experimental.

He compares Cézanne and Picasso. Cézanne, though he started his artistic pursuits at roughly the same age as Picasso did, he didn't sell hardly anything until he was in his 50s. Picasso on the other hand, splashed on the scene in his late teens as a full fledged force of nature. Both had a major impact on art. One from the start. Another bloomed late.

Gladwell states:

The Cézannes of the world bloom late not as a result of some defect in character, or distraction, or lack of ambition, but because the kind of creativity that proceeds through trial and error necessarily takes a long time to come to fruition.
"Trial and error..." I like that.

And I relate to it. I don't feel like I had my art figured out early on (and even now, i still search), but I do feel like I've been on a journey through my process. I've tinkered and toyed with things and tried and failed and gone back to the lab so many times I've lost count.

The troubling thing is, while I go about the long exploration of figuring things out, I will appear to be nothing more than a small-time failed dilettante.

Here's how Gladwell puts it:

On the road to great achievement, the late bloomer will resemble a failure: while the late bloomer is revising and despairing and changing course and slashing canvases to ribbons after months or years, what he or she produces will look like the kind of thing produced by the artist who will never bloom at all. Prodigies are easy. They advertise their genius from the get-go. Late bloomers are hard. They require forbearance and blind faith. (Let’s just be thankful that Cézanne didn’t have a guidance counsellor in high school who looked at his primitive sketches and told him to try accounting.) Whenever we find a late bloomer, we can’t but wonder how many others like him or her we have thwarted because we prematurely judged their talents.
The whole article inspired me. Being just good right now means I can still be great later. Just gotta stick to it. I'm a late bloomer. And that's okay.

I'm in it for the long haul.

More articles about conceptual vs. experimental creators HERE and HERE.

Also Galeson's book is really thorough. Check it out... HERE

Oct 26, 2013

John Golembeski

John Golembeski 1944 - 2013
As an undergraduate student at the College of Santa Fe in the 1990s, I had a work-study job in the library on campus, the Fogelson. I also worked at the computer lab off and on. To get to either of these places, I often passed a gentleman standing outside on a smoke break at the top of the steps out in front of the library. His name was John Golembeski. 

John spent most of every day in the library. He was on a mission. He was in the process of reading 1000 books over ten years. While I knew him he was closing in on the 900s. He smelled of Camel cigarettes and seemed vaguely crusty. He had bad teeth. He was always wearing the same denim jacket, the pockets filled with small note pads where he had scrawled countless notes. He always waved or nodded as I passed by. After I had spoken with him a few times he would wave and say "Keep up the thinking..." He could converse on nearly any subject imaginable. I was not the only student he talked with. He would start up a short conversation with anyone who approached him, and since he took multiple smoke breaks throughout the day, he spoke with a wide array of people.

John was homeless. He did odd jobs for the physical plant at school and I think he slept in a storage closet, especially when it was cold outside. He sometimes was around campus pulling weeds or planting flowers. Sometimes he would disappear for a while, when he got burned out on the reading. He did a lot of traveling. He told me once he had hitchhiked all across the country. A student journalist once asked him about this and he said he had been to 49 of the 50 United States and most of Canada.

He told the interviewer that he had been "exposed to different lifestyle levels." He had once worked at the top of the food chain, he had been middle class and now was concentrating on his reading. He felt if he needed to he could elevate himself "back to the top."

He took his reading seriously and when not outside smoking and talking, he was sitting reading thick books at one of the well-lit study cubicles on the ground floor of the library.

I lost track of him after I graduated. I went back to CSF (now called the Santa Fe University of Art and Design ) in 2010 and looked for John. The librarians didn't know who I was talking about. I lost track of him.

I have thought about him many times since I left Santa Fe. He was sort of an inspiration. He had stripped his life down to the barest of essentials for such a simple goal... knowledge. When I think of my liberal arts education I think of John. He gave up everything to build that holistic, broad foundation of knowledge. The resources were there and he utilized them. 

I recently learned that he passed away this past summer. I mourn his passing. He was a truly unique guy.

Here is his official obituary (with one correction by me)...

John E. Golembeski, 68, died Sunday, Sept. 9, 2013, at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo. 
John was born Oct. 15, 1944, to Anthony E. and Josephine Kevlinsky Golembeski in Holyoke, Mass. After high school John worked with his parents doing clothing manufacturing.
He later got into landscaping, where he ran a landscaping business. John became a groundskeeper at the University of New Mexico [College of Santa Fe] before he moved to Moab about 15 years ago.
Everyone in Moab knew of John. You would see him rain or shine, cold or hot walking around wearing that big puffy coat.
At John’s request, cremation has taken place and he will have his ashes scattered in Massachusetts at a later date. A simple gathering to remember John will be held in Moab at a later date.

Oct 25, 2013

Six Seconds Left

A while back I read David Hopkins' short story "Six Seconds Left" for an audio fiction podcast. I'm love the story. Ms. Chris Humphrey worked her audio engineering awesomeness on it. The project was a co-production between my theatre company Audacity an the sci-fi and comics folks at Space-Gun Studios. The image above, that accompanies the podcast, is by Space-Gun co-founder Jake Ekiss. Jake is the one that brought me on board the project.

Have a listen... HERE.

Oct 23, 2013

Daily Working Schedule

I've never really kept a consistent working schedule. This hasn't been from lack of trying. I'll go for weeks at a time getting up early, going to the gym, keeping a journal, making steady progress on projects. Then, I'll get off the mark a little and the whole thing crumbles. I'll go from getting up early to sleeping far into the day. Most of my time is spent drifting through life from day to day, making occasional strides forward. Sometimes, I'll get really obsessed with a project and single-mindedly dedicate my life to it for the amount of time it takes to complete. The whole pattern consists of an absence of any recognizable patterns. I operate in fits and bursts. 

Lately, I've spent a lot of time reading and thinking about artists' schedules and working habits in Mason Currey's excellent book, Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration And Get To Work. It might be expected that I would have some insight into what makes for an ideal daily routine. Is there some combination of sleep, work, exercise, coffee, and reflection that is most likely to lead to consistent creative breakthroughs? Or, at the very least, are there some basic guidelines that will stave off blocks and distractions and, you know, guarantee a minimum level of intellectual output? 

Well, kind of, but not really. What I have gleaned from the book is twofold. First, for every kind of artist there is a different approach to doing art. Just starting the day varies greatly from person to person... Benjamin Franklin spent his mornings naked taking "air baths." Writer Patricia Highsmith ate only bacon and eggs. Marcel Proust breakfasted on opium and croissants. Beethoven personally counted out the 60 beans his morning cup of coffee required.

Some artists stayed up late, some got up early. Some took walks, some swam. Some drank coffe, some took tea. Some hit the bars, taverns and cafes in the evenings, others stayed in and read. Currey lays out as many different ways people went about harnessing their creativity as there are people profiled in the book.

The second thing that stands out is that all the creative people in the book - composers, painters, dancers, novelists, poets, playwrights and so on - they all had some sort of consistent daily routine. Even though each system varied, everyone pretty much had a system. Most tackled their work everyday, at least for several hours.

The lesson I glean is that I need to pin down a system for myself. I need a set of routines and an approach to my creative work that consistently turns out the goods. This floating from project to project is kind of a spinning-my-wheels approach, if it is any kind of approach at all.

I'll be paying attention to this stuff over the rest of the year. I mean, I'm a pretty prolific dude now, but imagine what I could put out into the world if I had my ducks in a row.

Oct 19, 2013

Esquire's Life of Man

To commemorate its 80th anniversary, Esquire is creating a living portrait of the American man, ages one through 80. Here's my submission...

Brad McEntire

Born 1975
South West
Entertainment, performing, and fine arts

My story...
I write plays. Draw things. Perform stuff. Married a great gal. Like adventures - the inside ones and outside ones.

The best advice ever received...
Fight to stay excited

I'm most looking forward to...
My second act

Also see it... HERE


My short play RUDNICK THE CANDLE-HEADED BOY will be included in an evening of holiday-themed one-acts by Nouveau 47 Theatre. I'm thrilled to be in such awesome company with the other playwrights involved and that my wife, Ruth, is one of the directors.

Playing December 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, 28 @ 8PM and 22 & 29 @ 2PM

At the Margo Jones Theatre at the Magnolia Lounge, Fair Park, 1121 First Avenue, Dallas TX 75210

More info HERE.

Oct 10, 2013

Kitsch with Significance

A few weeks ago a friend and I met over beers and started brainstorming what a magazine article on each of us would look like. Neither one of us has even been profiled in a magazine, so we started just blurting out what each of our profiles might include. This ended up as a drunken challenge to each other to go home and write our own profiles. Though, in hindsight, this is seriously the peak of narcissism, I created one for myself, complete with a fictional interviewer and photo shoot. It ended up a neat introduction to who I am and what I do, actually. Here it is...

Brad McEntire playwright performer
Brad McEntire                                                   [photo credit: Cornelius J. Wonderblett]

Kitsch with Significance
Theatre maker Brad McEntire is figuring it out.
By F. Thomas Bonnigan - September 28, 2013

A conversation with Brad McEntire can be a multifaceted affair. One of the first things you notice about him is that he likes to talk. And though his topics range all over the map (Nikola Tesla, Texas Independence, YouTube, and so much more) what he always seems to come back to is what he likes to talk about more than anything. He talks about theatre. And let me tell you, this guy has thoughts on all sorts of aspects of the theatre.

We are sitting on the back patio of a mom-and-pop Mexican restaurant in Dallas. McEntire is a large man with broad shoulders. He has small almond-shaped eyes and a wide face. He talks with his hands. Despite his stocky appearance, he moves with an elegant fluidity. He becomes very animated with an edge of excitement in his voice when he gets off on a tear.

His speech pattern is a staccato rapid-fire stream of ideas. He speaks in unexpected patterns, sometimes peppering in hiccups of ums and uhs, sometimes sprinkling in big SAT vocabulary words alongside “awesome” and “sucks.” Sometimes he repeats himself. Occasionally he’ll stop suddenly, gather his thoughts, and then launch back into what he was saying. 

He is on his second beer. He nurses his beers. I’m on my fourth. When I ask him about it, he says it is a habit that he’s developed from being “light in the wallet.”

He holds a cigar between his thumb and finger in his right hand. He takes deep draws from it and lets the smoke drift out of his mouth in a thick cloud. He enjoys his cigars and that is why we are out on the back patio. He likes patios. He dislikes that there are so few places to smoke nowadays. He particularly dislikes how he is sometimes treated as a cigar smoker by non-smokers.

“People are sometimes extremely rude to cigar smokers. There is seldom a polite ‘would you mind?’ as much as they look at me like I impale baby heads on spikes.”

McEntire, 38, has had a productive year. His original commission for Denton’s Sundown Collaborative Theatre, CARTER STUBBS TAKES FLIGHT, premiered in April. It played to mostly good reviews both at Denton’s Green Space Dance Studio and at the Margo Jones Theatre in Dallas’s Fair Park.

McEntire wrote the play especially for the small theatre group, having company members offer suggestions by way of objects, text and images in a big bag. He then drew them out and discussed each item with the whole group. He took notes. He looked for common themes and arresting images. The end result was a play about an office drone who is given a rocket pack by a dying friend. He flies off to a Micronesian island and ends up fighting a tiger.

Rockets, tigers, mundane office culture - these are the building blocks of McEntire’s plays. They are often as weird and haunting as they are hilarious. Earlier this summer he debuted DINOSAUR AND ROBOT STOP A TRAIN. This fanciful piece follows how the two time-traveling main characters supposedly saved a small child from a speeding train. The piece was presented as a press conference. The premise being that the dinosaur and the robot addressed the audience who were, of course, obviously there to hear what they had to say. McEntire’s longtime collaborator Jeff Swearingen played the Dinosaur to McEntire’s Robot.

Oct 1, 2013

Thinking about the big/little

"That’s the thing you have to understand about the whole process of art (or the work that we do) – you’re only half of the equation. It’s an interaction between you and the person who’s going to experience the work. The person who’s going to experience the work is bringing just as much to it and is just as important as you are."

I listened to a great interview today with writer/artist Austin Kleon. The quote above is a great reminder. I am struggling lately getting the work done. Nothing drastic. Just the usual reach into the recesses of my soul and imagination to see if I can cobble together an original idea. Driving home from my teaching gig just earlier today a whole bunch of thoughts on my theatre activities whirled through my mind. I was thinking about why I do my theatre work, how I want to share it and the connections I hope it makes.

Actually, I've been thinking about my theatre work a lot lately. Part of this is because I've been doing a great deal of theatre lately.

Travis Stuebing and Tashina Richardson in RASPBERRY FIZZ
I've been rehearsing RASPBERRY FIZZ with some kick-ass actors. I'm taking it to the Houston Fringe Festival at the end of the week. As I am directing the play I am reminded by the process that it has been a long time since I have been in a sort of traditional rehearsal process. My eyes go to the details of the performances and I'm torn between what I did a lot in my earlier days (shaping and molding a performance out of an actor) and more recent interests in multiple approaches to acting decisions and an emphasis on spontaneity. It is definitely a workout for some mental muscles I haven't flexed in a while.

RASPBERRY FIZZ is a small play. It is a one-act that times in at under an hour. The process of working on it has emboldened two ideas in me... 1.) I love the size of the play. It is small, close, and intimate. It is not a play to run in a large amphitheatre, but instead would work well in front of a few dozen audience members in a cozy venue. 2.) The size also makes me want to work on something large in scope.  This play is like having an appetizer, and I now want to move on to the main course of a mighty feast.

I realize these are two somewhat opposing ideas... the small and the large. I think, though, this can be reconciled. I think I can create a piece that is truly significant working in weighty, important thematic territory, yet at the same time still keep it very intimate. I think of small-cast heavy-hitters like Beckett's WAITING FOR GODOT, Frayn's COPENHAGEN or Stindberg's MISS JULIE. I big/little play. This is what I want to share with audiences. 

I think I know what I'll be doing in 2014...