Can goodness & business live together?
Soon I'll be taking a group of students to see Bertolt Brecht's The Good Person of Szechwan. In its most simple form, the play is about a woman, Shen Te, who can't be good to herself and to others at the same time, so to deal with it she creates a male alter ego, Shui Ta. In order to exist in the world she had to SPLIT HERSELF IN TWO, because there wasn't room for her successful business side and the side of her that was overly kind and unendingly giving. I don't claim to be altruistic or traditionally good in any way, but I do resonate with her character very much, when I think about the state of the entertainment industry, "...for no one can be good for long if goodness is not in demand," (Good Person)
I routinely go through intermittent periods of despair in terms of my acting career. This happens all the time, it seems my neurosis and anxiety patterns are clear to everyone but me. I'm always surprised, like, "Really, I've said that before?" But it never fails, one of my friends books a spot on TV or posts a picture on Instagram with a ton of likes and I begin to look at myself and say,
So what now, Shelah? What have you got going on?
And in these dark periods of disillusionment, I secretly start to judge. Judge these high achieving (in my mind) friends to see what about them is somehow unworthy of said accomplishment to make myself feel better. "Well, they put out racist content. OF COURSE they're successful." And something terrible begins to happen. I start to associate success with badness and the oh-so-seductive-artist-struggle with goodness. Which is mostly bullshit and something people do to make themselves feel good about not being where they want to be, including me.
With all of this said, I have been facing a lot of these personal demons with my current project of pitching The Flight to almost 200 colleges and universities across the U.S. It’s scary. Our collective (Samora Suber, LaChrisha Brown, and I) get on the phone and call people and say, "we have a great show. I know you don’t know who we are, but book us for Black History Month and we will provide you with some phenomenal BHM programming."
That takes a lot of cajones. And this is our first time ever doing something like this (the college we booked last year came to us), so we are literally figuring everything out as we go along.
Here's a few pages from our Media Kit.
What I am coming to realize is the whole goodness and business paradox is a personal struggle that we all individually make the rules for. So for me it was about entitling myself to charge money for my product, and to reach out to strangers about it, and to create an amazing show. You actually have to give yourself permission to be really, really good. So – I’m working on it. Join me?