Originally posted from Knox Harter's Facebook:
Since Christmas, I have been doing at least two stage shows a week (some of them out of town, never mind a handful of corporate bookings), plus regular rehearsals, my teaching schedule, a workshop weekend, and a bunch of costume/media projects. Needless to say, I'm due for a bit of a break before the next wave of insanity. Times like this when I'm feeling exhausted and overwhelmed I try to remind myself that my job and my life is good, that there are many that wish they had my problems, and that this is the payoff for years of hustle.
Reward comes with hard work, and it is a never ending process. Sometimes I'm told that I'm lucky. Luck would mean all I have simply fell upon me. "Luck" is such a small part of the equation. Your "luck" can't happen if you don't earn your place, if you don't do your homework, if you are unable to take the criticism and the hardship that can and will befall you with grace, if you don't know who you are and what you want, if you can't humble yourself enough to seek help and improvement. You must suffer the artist's divine dissatisfaction. It is imperative that you stay hungry and restless, that you don't rest on past accolades because they are fleeting and only represent who you once were and not who you are now. Make mistakes, but then learn from them. Be critical, but be tactful. Be confident, but be humble. Let gossip-mungers and antagonists fuel your desire for the better. They do what they do because you're doing something right. And most importantly, know why you're doing all this. Don't do this to prove something, or find yourself, or for political reasons (in whatever context you choose to take that). Do it because you want to give to others. Do it because it fills and satisfies you. Do it because despite all things there is something inside you that says this is what you were meant to do.
Posted on Knox Harter's Facebook:
Ok, I'm about to go on a bit of a dangerous rant. Feel free to debate, but you've been warned.
Recently on the Book of Faces I've being seeing lamenting, sighing, even down right whining from performers, especially new or unseasoned performers. The posts go along the lines of this:
"Feeling blue because I didn't get into "X" festival/expo/miscellaneous theme-specific show. I must not be good/"X" festival/expo/miscellaneous theme-specific show must be big meanie poo-heads!"
"God, everyone is so talented! I'm not talented! I can't dance/sing/breathe fire/perform heart surgery like those other performers can. I suck! Why do I suck?"
"Oh I wish I was talented but I don't think I am. I am now going threaten to quit burlesque to passive-agressively fish for compliments on the internet in search of validation and boost my self-esteem"
I would like to cover a few points in response to these terrible, car-wreck Facebook sentiments:
1) You are fully entitled to feel like shit. In fact, you should occasionally feel like shit. The key to creating any great art is that you never like it. You're never satisfied with your own work. This dissatisfaction is one of the forces that will drive you to continue to make art, and create better art! Even the most experienced, alluring, talented, outstanding performers will feel this way. Myself (DEFINITELY) included. If you doubt me, just ask them.
2) All is see you do is WHINE! It makes you absolutely abysmal online and no one wants to talk to you. It's a masterbation status. The only person it satisfies is yourself. And what a sick way to find satisfaction! (no really, think about it! That's a new form of masochism). If these feelings are really affecting you, I highly suggest finding someone to talk to: best friend, mother, confession... I actually highly recommend having a professional therapist. It's done wonders for me over the past 4 years, especially in a career that can be very taxing and high stress and where you give so much of yourself to other people. If you want more info, please shoot me a message.
Which leads me to my next point - if you're so dissatisfied with your current state...
3) DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
If this makes you unhappy and you actually want to quit, then quit. No one thinks less of you. Honestly! Go find your bliss.
If you actually love burlesque and being a performer (which you should always do it for love because this life is hard, and it's fucking hell to turn it into a sustainable career...trust me. You gotta be fully dedicated to the cause if that's your goal), here's a list I recently posted on a new performer's post as she lamented quitting burlesque. I feel it is universal:
1) Get yourself to class. Any class. ALL the classes. I still take classes, and I've been doing dance and theatre for a loooong time.
2) Stop comparing yourself to those who have more experience. They have the years on you that you don't, and so what? It's not a fair comparison. It's like comparing yourself to an Olympic gymnast when you can't even do a cartwheel. Actually... Generally don't compare yourself to anyone, as it's pretty detrimental. Instead appreciate and find inspiration.
3) Do your homework. Go see shows, talk to performers, learn to network and be social. Learn to create a persona. If you're lost on how to do that, talk to Dottie Dangerfield, she's done well.
4) Get feedback from those who know, trust and have the right intentions. And don't go to friends. They'll only tell you you're great, which doesn't help you in your creation process. As you're cultivating your work you need to hear from people who are going to be honest and stern, but kind as they do it.
5) Practice. Practice. Practice. Those people who have the training you talk about... you think they got it overnight? You think it was handed to them? Everytime I come across new burlesque dancers like youself who lament that I'm great and a great dancer or performer and how they'll never be able to do that and they wish they could move like me and blah blah blah... I am personally insulted because you belittle the work I have put into my craft. You have belittled the hundreds of thousands of dollars and the millions of hours I have put into my work. You belittle the blood, sweat and tears I have literally lost, the valuable mistakes I have made, the struggle and abuse I have endured to create everything I have now. This shit is fucking hard. You have to fucking earn it. So you have to ask yourself, what have you done to deserve greatness? Just showing up in glitter isn't enough. In the words of the impeccable RuPaul: YOU BETTA WORK!!!!
There you are darlings! Feel free to debate, but this is where I stand. Happy Monday!
Originally posted on Knox Harter's Facebook:
Ok... I wasn't going to say anything, but after seeing some rather disheartening posts and hearing some disappointing stories from members of the burlesque community, I feel obliged to say what's been sitting on my mind for a LONG time.
1) Shows that happen on the same date.
Get over it. I don't care if you do a monthly, weekly, yearly, one-off, theme, whatever. It's going to cross with other equally important events in this city, it may even cross on the same time as another burlesque or cabaret show. DO NOT, under any circumstances and regardless of your relation or like/dislike of the show happening on the same night as yours, tell people not to support your peers and the "rival" show that share an equal spot in this community and are fighting the same fight you are. We're all trying to become legitimate, showcase our art, trying to make a buck. Naturally, do your best not to cross, but shit happens sometimes. When you become petty about when and where shows are booked, you create a needless competition in this community that is toxic to all involved. The SMART thing to do would be to cross promote with your rival show to build BOTH audiences and connect the community. Moreover, you must not have a good show to begin with if you feel the need to slander the other show.
2) How you talk about people in the community (and other business relations)
Showgirls are excellent gossips. I am equally guilty sometimes. However, be careful who and how you spread "news". Make sure you're talking to people who either share your views, or are trustworthy enough not to mishandle the information. Do your due diligence and get your facts straight before coming to judgements, decision or actions, and if you really feel the need to satisfy your curiosity, try nicely asking the person who is the subject of the item. Conversely, take everything you hear with a grain of salt. Most gossip is personal because of the teller's personal feelings and recounts of a situation. And for the love of God (I can't believe I'm saying this because I feel like it goes without saying) DON'T FABRICATE INFORMATION TO MANIPULATE A SITUATION TO YOUR FAVOUR. Tricks like that make you a childish, immature cunt. That leads me to....
3) Respect each other.
Not all of us are going to get along. And that's a-ok! No one is expecting that. However there is a line of respect you must adhere to, and it is summed up in the Golden Rule:
"Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you."
Here's where it gets tricky though, because by that logic, if someone is a dick to you, you get to be a dick back right?
The bigger, mature person takes a wrongful action in stride, and finds empathy with that who has wronged them; because the one who has wronged them is doing so out of hurt, insecurity or fear. You all understand those feelings. You all have made poor decisions because of those feelings. You need to remember what that feels like and find your empathy to your assailant. That doesn't mean you have to actually DO anything to or for them (in fact I highly recommend you really do nothing at all) but a little understanding goes a long way.
Long story short: we have one thing in common and we need to remember that commonality that binds us - we all have a calling to the stage. Our reason are different, but our goals are very much the same.
Harter out. *drops mic*