Saturday, December 15, 2007

Performance Review, December 15th, 1987

I found this letter a few months ago and thought I would post it today, it's 20th anniversary. I received it from Buzz Podewell, my professor at Tulane University. I was in grad school, going after my master's in directing for the theatre.

"Dear Peter,

As we mentioned in our review, I believe you have made some progress this last term in leaning to believe in and trust the beat and tactic process as the only valid way to work with actors. And your skills in turning out shows and entertainments (the Improv Troupe) that are popular and very well-like remains impressive. I remain concerned, however, that your interest in theatre doesn't go beyond this. I keep wondering what Peter is concerned about; what Peter deeply believes in. I don't know the answer. It could, of course, be nothing more than the generation differences between us. But I can't help feeling that until you discover another burning desire to do theatre, other than producing plays that everyone will like and laugh at, you are going to remain only a very gifted craftsman.

In light of this, I think I want you to spend the vacation reading through plays that touch on something you feel strongly about. This doesn't mean that they have to be tragic or even serious. But I want you to have a personal stake in whatever you pick for the Spring slot. I know you can do a commedia (so do you); I don't know about the other.



Boy, did he nail it. I really wasn't interested in theatre, I was interested in being creative and having fun, but theatre was just where I ended up. I finished the program up 2 years later and got my degree, but as soon as I graduated I dived right into the musicians's life (the House Levelers had just formed) and never looked back. I haven't done any theatre in 20 years. It's weird how you can just abandon something you spent such a long time focusing on (for me 7 years of school). I guess that's true for a lot of people. It seems like it's more rare to go in the field you studied in college than not.

The line about remaining just a gifted craftsman really rings true for me, too. I don't know what I deeply believe in. That's a weird thing to realize about your self. I mean I'm concerned with the usual progressive stuff, politics, enviornment and stuff like that, but I think what I'm most concerned about is not having to put too much effort into stuff, being able to do my thing and just be comfortable. Which is kinda lame.

I've been playing music for the last 20 years, and while I have been committed to it and been in the moment when recording and performing, I never felt I lived it like a real artist. I think of people like Corrina Repp or Grayson Capps that I played in bands with, and they just seem to live and breath music so much more than I. They've followed their muse to wherever it led. I just like to make catchy songs and rock out.

I remember being so frustrated with the both of them in similar ways - for making bad and arbitrary decisions and choices that seemed to go against common sense. I realize now that they were just following their own weird sense of what was right and wrong for their art. I don't think I ever made a decision that would have made my art unlikable or unpopular, I always just wanted it to be liked. And the both of them are still going strong, while my songwriting well dried up about 7 years ago.

I guess in the long run, I should have gone into advertising or television, fields that seem to be more about craft than art.

1 comment:

Pete Best said...

By the way, Crustodio, that's not a knock against advertising. Are you guys hiring?