Risk of Burnout

So The Rocker was just named Artistic Director of the festival, we have actual dates, I am confirmed to go to Taiwan to support him at the end of June (which gives me a little more time to support the project in Japan), and that I will be in the show too, which makes me even more excited. On top of that, Cirque Human has agreed to be part of the festival.  Loving this business shit.  He’s finally the boss which is fun for a while…  until all the shit hits!

It is a strange thing.  When things start going well, you have to be quick enough to stay on top of all of it or you start to lose control of everything.  I’m nervous, for example, that The Rocker signed a deal with an arts management firm to manage both the production of the show and also any possible Taiwan Tour.  In other words, they are going to be doing roughly what Adco proposed to do for the Tokyo Tour; finding corporate sponsors in Taipei, etc.  If there ends up being a huge connection between the business ends in Taiwan and Tokyo might they just take over everything from me?  The Rocker understands and told me that it would be a good idea for me to connect with them to let them know what I’ve been working on in Japan:

I’ve been approaching the project from two different directions.  The first is the “Big Business” direction as “New Project Coordinator” for The Rocker.  I present the project to advertising and production contacts that I developed as Acrobatic Team Co-Manager at the Toyota Pavilion at the Universal Expo in Aichi, Japan in 2005.  So far they have shown interest in bringing this project to their clients as an advertising campaign for companies that are interested in associating with the “Circus Brand” in advance of Cirque Du Soleil’s 2008 Tokyo permanent show.  They see investing in the circus image and the associated “cool” early as a chance to get a head start now rather than play “catch-up” with Cirque-centered advertising monopoly later.

The other approach I have been taking I call the “grass-roots” approach, and is essentially taking on the role of a representative of The Rocker’s company as a small, internationally-minded, arts organization that is looking to produce a limited engagement but high-visibility show in Tokyo.  I have been working with a partner who has an impressive network of politicians, artists, arts organizations, and philanthropists, and who is very enthusiastic about helping this project come to Tokyo.  We are proceeding in a stepwise fashion, securing one part of the puzzle at a time.  We are trying to get good quotes on theater rental, local publicity costs, and trying to attract smaller companies and investors with the project on out own.

Both approaches are moving forward steadily, and I have a guarded optimism about our chances of bringing the show here in 2007.

On your side, is there any interest in helping to bring The Rocker’s show to Tokyo?  If so, what is the best way for us to pool our resources to work effectively and efficiently?

In any case, now that things are confirmed, casting and its associated drama is accelerating.  For example, The Rocker told me that he just learned that a competing circus director will be working with the circus school to open a circus show on the same day as our festival.  This is the same circus school that we were supposed to be working with for our show but The Rocker insisted on keeping first pick of their artists since, “HE WAS THERE FIRST!”.

The only question is if we can use the school’s rehearsal space or not.  One of their graduates is very excited about working with us to develop a Chinese “rock” circus and shared a video of the student’s personal work that is very interesting.  The Rocker also may be able to sign two straps artists who are former Cirque du Soleil artists.  If that happens we’re increasing our chances of success in Tokyo.


Even more excited but I’m ever more aware of the risk of burnout.  I am working harder than ever…  somedays I crash so hard emotionally that I can barely open my eyes… other days, I am flying high…  it is like a sick, sick drug.  The only thing I can compare it to is the rush of being on stage!


A Waste of Two Months

I’m trying not to get depressed about my long-distance relationship with The Contortionist.  I tell myself that things just happen the way they happen, and it is fruitless to try and control them.

Things are tough with her right now – it’s easier for me to deal with distance than it is for her.  I get really lost in my work; I need to keep going with these projects, and for now that means I am in Tokyo 100%.  It feels like she has pressure to be with people who are on tour with her.

The Contortionist asks how things are going outside of work.  Well, there is no “outside of work,” and that means that everything sucks.  Today I had a really depressing meeting with another producer friend of mine…  I’m basically about to give up on everything in Japan.  I am looking to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life.

It feels like The Contortionist is saying goodbye to me as a boyfriend but maybe everything in my life just looks really dark to me right now.

Sometimes, I wish we would just forget about everything, and other times, I wish that we could just go back to the way things were in circus school…

I am at a new low in my life, feeling really alone.

Four circus school students

The Cliché Of The Depressed Art Student

after living three days in total motivational paralysis, I’m writing in hopes of ejecting myself out of this self-involved downward spiral or at least understanding why i keep ending up in them and why they keep getting worse and worse. 

for a person who thinks about suicide as much as i do, i found it interesting that in all of my journaling and in all of my description of my creative processes i provide nothing more than passing references to what my friends see as symptoms of severe depression. 

but it’s all too cliched.  the suicidal, depressed, angry, violent, sensitive, misunderstood, lonely, artist.  and cliche, i think, suggests social redundancy, i.e. being a cartoon instead of what we all want to be — the individual. 

so there you go: depression leads to cliche leads to the loss of individualism leads to depression.  unstable equilibrium.  slippery slope.  downward spiral. 

but this is my zone.  depression plants creative seeds.   

an idea for a show i might write over the course of this year.  called “shit that doesn’t make sense,” is an examination of the world’s largest fully self-propagating social hologram, a first-world dictatorship of ignorance, the united states of america.  my country tis of thee i sing. 

and in writing of my number i see now how it can all come together, how i feel right now, sitting in my room not 20 minutes walk away from where i should be training to be superhuman, put on stage in sequins and smoke effects and what?   

there i go again: cliched, self-involved artist.   

why question the depression? why not enjoy it and the situation that permits me to study at one of the premier performing arts institutions in the world?

i never anticipated the psychological impact of focusing wholly on one aspect of your life. focusing as hard as i am on circus arts, atrophies other passions: science, philosophy, music, subtlety in the performing arts, friends, the ability to make meaningful connections with people, caring about things other than those which directly affected me. 

so what are my options then?  do i quit circus school?  it would be the first thing in my life that i ever quit.  a new cliché: the guy who couldn’t cut it in circus school, and went back to a conventional life with a comfortable salary and office flirtations that go nowhere.  i will let people down, the people who donated so that i could be a selfish starving artist in quebec. 

but i can’t forget that circus provides all of the things that i feel are important in a life.  travel, a sense of asceticism, camaraderie, discipline, self-destination. 

but at what expense?  i’m asked to abandon my theatrical instincts.  to ignore the goings-on in the world around me.  i’m asked to accept that my development as an artist and as a professional is in some way more important than actually saying something meaningful about the world around me that won’t be forgotten as soon as the show is over.

i will be 26 or 27 when i leave circus school.  if i tour for a few years at least, i will be 30 by the time i really need to make another decision in my life.  grad school?  another 3-5 years?  what of my desire to have kids one of these days?  how will i afford to offer my children a lifestyle even close to the level that i grew up in?

and more than that, the notion of not having made a real statement in my life by age 35 is a terrifying one.

some people are happy to live working 6 hours a week.  their days are filled with cooking, doing dishes, bathing, listening to music, going to bars, and having sex.

and so what?  Is that better or worse than buying useless crap, going to an office or a lab, making money, eating out, and reading what to believe in the newspapers and on high-speed internet connections?

is that better or worse than being a self-involved whiny artist who has the luxury to study handstands 24 hours a week, cook, and sleep, while fooling himself into believing that there is some sort of ascetic nobility in this lifestyle that makes it all worthwhile?

but if all these lives are worth nothing in the scheme of things what better justification for recurring paralyzing depression?

well there you go.

is anything solved?


Circus school student getting stretched for his center splits

Psychoactive Tuna

My computer died so I had to reinstall everything.  These two weeks of silence have stemmed from me feeling as though nothing I accomplish in life is going to make me that I’ve finished anything.  Weird to look ahead at a whole lifetime of feeling that way.  But what is, is. 

I’ve been feeling very misanthropic.  It’s just been frustration with people who seem to be at the school just to have fun and play around and pretend to be circus artists.  It makes it difficult to really train seriously.  I’ve been concentrating so much on the problems I have on form in handstands or that various tricks aren’t coming. 

We have a new huge coach for hand to hand, Ivan, who is taking over for Sylvain.  We call him “Ivan the Terrible” (behind his back of course), but we all really like him.  He worked in Australia for 9 years.  Sylvain is working with him now because he doesn’t speak any French, just English and Russian and it is obvious that there is a big difference in their styles.  I get to be a flyer and a porter which is all good.  

Today The Clown and I went on a “porter strike” in ITA because the Quebecois in our ITA class had been complaining that we never do trapeze or high bar.  So today,  we just did that and left the flyers to port each other which I’m not sure they enjoyed.  I think they got our point and we got to relax from porting for a day! 

We’ve had two Quebecois guests come to talk to us about substance abuse and balance and life.  We all had to bring in a can to make the case that you need to put big stones in your can first and then put the little stones in because if you put the little things in first there won’t be any room for the big things.  It was in French so I didn’t get any of that and ended up asking why we had to bring the cans in just after they had gone through that whole explanation in French.  Oops. 

We had a presentation about psychoactive drugs and The Clown and I had to do a sketch about stimulants, depressants, and psychoactive drugs.  W e imitated the nervous system before and after alcohol and then acted out what our classmates were reading in a monotone about stimulants which culminating in us running out of the room and stripping to our underwear in the hallway and then running back in.  Then, I read about hallucinogens as The Clown acted it out with me eventually joining in doing contact improvisation in our underwear.  The class next door told us we had to be quiet a few times. 

I’ll be playing Aladdin for our acting class’ final presentation and it’s hard getting people to have realistic characters – they always want to play cartoonish images like old people with bent-over backs and canes and things like that.  Its also a challenge getting them to be more perfectionistic.  Their point of view is that “everyone knows the story so why do we need to show everything?” 

Yesterday we had a good time doing our first workshop for the end of the year show and things went pretty well but it really comes down to who you work with.  If you work with the right people you know you’re ok.  I ended up working with a great group.  We’re working on things that we’re going to do in the outside part of the show.  We were in the car wash group, another group worked on VIP scenario, and another worked on a picnic animation that we’re doing with the public. 

The night before at a duo birthday party for The Tumbler/complaining session, The Gang were all worried that we were going to end up working with people we didn’t get along with. 

I think part of reason I’ve been feeling low energy the last couple of weeks or months believe it or not has been a lack of tuna.  I say that because after not much protein for a really long while I had a can of tuna today and found I had a lot of energy for the rest of the day, so I think there’s something about the protein in the tuna or something that really helps.

Circus acrobats doing a two-high column in the annual show of the National Circus School

The Russian Connections

Working with a handbalancing graduate while Byamba is away.  He’s teaching more about the Russian style and I’m getting a big planche workout from him.

Getting pointers from Larissa’s husband.

Wall work.

Seeing the national geographic special on the Russian circus and school.

ITA: being ported by The Clown and porting The Clown.

Talking with Alexander about the school and that his son will help me out.

Working with The Clown on the juggling number.  The idea of a moveable screen and playing with the impossibility illusions there.

Main a main and being annoyed by the flyers annoying uppityness.

Sylvain being much less friendly to me.

Having the review of fall session’s sante class and trying to make The Acrobat laugh without laughing myself.

The flyers’ annoying uppityness extending to that class too.

Pizza night almost all in French.

The Russians talking to some colon cleaner lady in Russian.

Flexibility and musculation crammed into an hour.

Seeing Larissas hoop and web act.  Spinny.  Interesting.

Group act in the animation before the National Circus School annual show

Grumpiness And Burnout At Circus School

Slept in again, missing my equilibre major class but with no Byamba, I am not too worried.

Started with ITA where I stayed at the cradle the whole time.  I ported for over half the class.  Alexander is giving me good advice.  He said that he would buy me a huge bag of peanuts at Costco when he goes next.  I almost finished the ones he said I could take from him yesterday right before I almost got a migraine before trampo.

I worked with The Clown in juggling on our number that we have to prepare for the end of the year.  It will be a hat number.  It is funny that it is the two of us and then the rest of the class, most of whom worked with us in the evaluation concept.

We presented to them and I think thought it looked pretty good.  Main a main was ok too, but I was sick of the girls, who would sit in a spot that they repeatedly were almost run into as others of them fell from the barre russe.  Dumb!  People really seem to be getting on my nerves lately.

In movement I got to do my first contact impro class with The Contortionist.  Have to admit it was a little more fun that my second time with one of the first year guys.  Anyways, the technique is making more sense, now.

Then I did a little Byamba equilibre.  I also talked with The Trapezist about Russian teachers and things like that.  We obviously have differing opinions on the matter.  Now I’m tired and not looking forward to dance.