The other day I went to see the show of my friend Billy Hipkins, For the Benefit of Miss Jennie Gourlay. Billy like many theatre professionals has had almost nine lives in the profession. Basically, we have one dream and the universe has another. He has been an actor, dresser for Phantom of the Opera, playwright, back to performer and now solo performer. For as hard as he is on himself, I feel from time to time that he has more of a career than many of the people who are so called stars. Man has done everything.
When you see a friend’s work it is either really good or really bad. There is no in between on the gamut. When it is good you are blown away. When it is bad you congratulate them for “taking a risk.” You tell them it “needs polished.” You want to be honest but not brutally so. After all, they are friends, right? You might need a favor someday-remember?
Billy put so much of himself into the piece. It was funny, poignant, and personal. Billy’s ability to soldier on and wear many hats in the theatre left me feeling inspired. It made me feel as if I could. In the words of Barack Obama, “Yes we can. Yes we can.”
As of late I have been wandering in the land of career uncertainty. While I feel on one hand I should be a part of the New York Comedy Festival, I am still banished from a world I was once a part of. It was a mixture of things that made me become the bastard child. For one, I am a woman which is already a strike. I was told his once by a potential manager. Second, I had a puppet. Third, I was ambitious. That seemed to be a deadly combo for some. Especially the women who think I just simply sleep around and the sexist male headliners who view me as an open pair of legs and luscious pair of lips to give them fallacio when they have little to show as far as instrument and career.
Yes I was banished. I put my home club on TV. They fired me. I was bitter and I still am. Actually bitter is the wrong word. It’s more like I have been fucked hard. Fucked out of what is mine and fucked out of what I believed to be my dreams. Jennie would have had her big night but Lincoln was assassinated. Maybe she knows how I feel. Maybe she doesn’t.
Since being banished from the community I once believed I was a part of, I have done a lot with my life. I wrote a damn book and published it. I also recorded a song that was number one on the internet for five weeks. Not to mention my career as a talking head for younow.com, my series on Koldcast that almost got picked up, and my short that made the Manhattan International Film Festival. In there were my other videos and a musical I collaborated on. I also did some poster girl work, and became number one at my telegram company.
But the question is, where does a former reality tv star go next? Where does a self-published almost star do after she is published and is doing signings? How does she get to the next step? What if she doesn’t get what she wants when she wants it?
I have said this before. I don’t know where to go. Should I start doing standup again, the depressing open mics where I know I don’t belong. Aside from having TV credits and have worked with the best I should not be paying for stage time. Not to mention I am more talented and qualified than the regulars at those second tier clubs where I am seemingly banished from. Sure, I still do alt rooms and stuff, but for the most part don’t step on the stage unless it is a venue that I like, unless it is a show produced by a fan, or if I am getting paid. The club dates aren’t coming in like they once were. Part of me misses not performing as much as I once did and remembers why I loved performing when I hit the stage. Then I remember as I continually get cheated and bumped aside, in part because I am a woman, an independent, ambitious woman, why I don’t do it anymore. But the gift strangles me and sucks the life out of me. I am funny damnit. I am outgoing. They said be me. Well being me got me banished.
One manager I worked under at my old home club, a bottom feeder, told me that we all had dreams in this business and we had to settle. No, you settled, you gave up on yourself. I expected a flagship club to scoop me up. I was funny and on TV. No such luck. Should have been a man. Am I destined to perform again like I once did? I don’t know. Depends on what God wants for me. Sometimes it seems like yes, sometimes it seems like no. The signals are so confusing. Can you be banished and have a home somewhere at the same time? Maybe.
Of course then there is the talking head/personality route which made me realize immediately I wasted a lot of years slaving in the clubs. I was bumped aside for youtube celebrities and people who had nothing to offer but personality. But it also gave me a second breath at life. I had been so angry when my home was the dingy, dark basements. When I was a talking head I was happy and inspiring. Gone was the bleeding angst and in it’s place was a care for young people. The selfishness was replaced with a concern for them, their feelings, their words and their issues. Armed with my puppets I became an activist. I had dreamed of it but never felt the pull. I wasn’t afraid to say that there was something wrong. I was a popular talking head too. But things happened and I took a pay cut because well, they wanted to spread out funding. It was too much of a cut for all the work I did so I said, “Buh bye.”
Part of me wants to go that route again, but I don’t know what to do next. It showed me I could do a syndicated, weekly show and get paid for it. Where to go next with that dream and goal, I don’t know. Despite my chasing no other offers popped up. Maybe if God wants it for me he will throw it in my lap.
Then there is the acting route. I went to college for it, and while some people continue to study I got burnt out on classes. BFA means that either you can act or you cant. How many more classes do you need? I did a lot of acting in college of course, studied with the best teachers, and did a bit of stage out of college as well. My pilot on Koldcast almost got picked up. I did some commercials too. Even had a commercial agent a few years ago. There is a part of me that misses the stage and misses being taken seriously as a performer.
But everyone in NYC is an actor. Everyone does the method. Get me more napkins. Which way to Broadway? I can act quite well but so can everyone else in this city. If God wants that for me he will tell me. He goes in and out with that dream.
Then there is the writing route. I won writing awards in school and initially took to standup because it was a chance to create my own work. I blog all the blessed time and wrote a book. Actually, I wouldn’t mind having a career as a screenwriter and novelist. I am good at it. While my writing is not for everyone, an artist’s paintings aren’t for everyone as well. It would be cool to write for Letterman or Conan or even weekly on a sit com. Would love a weekly column somewhere as well. I could do gigs if I wanted to, or if I didn’t want to that would be cool as well. People respect you more as a writer. They believe you are smart.
Drawback, there is a part of me that loves being onstage and I could never give that up. End of story. Who says I have to? Still, in a way it feels like you do. Plus again, it’s another field where there are a million people going for the same spot.
Lastly, there is music, the venture I got into this past year. Where my song was number one on the internet for five weeks. Where I surprised myself. While it should have been obvious because of my job as a telegram person, I never knew I had the voice I did. My songs sounded so good people wondered why I wasted my time with the comedy. I did too and did a lot of music. It was fun. It was great.
But the drawback is that I actually have no musical talent naturally. My cousin is a genius with the trumpet.I can barely read music. Not to mention competition of the people who are supremely talented is steep.
But seeing Billy made me realize one thing, everyone’s journey is their own. Billy trusted the process and had an idea. He wrote it, performed it, reworked it, performed it again and it has taken on a life of it’s own. Billy has his feelings about his career. His life. He has poured himself into this piece and it is paying off.
Billy is having his day and his recognition as a performer. He has taken the reigns and it is marvelous. As I see him ask if Jennie Gourlay is happy and examine her life and make an impromptu hoop skirt from the match box track, I feel inspired. Not just to create but to trust the journey. Billy trusted the journey as he had all his lives in theatre. All the different facets of being a theatre professional. He has embraced soldiering on,and therefore I embrace it.
I don’t ask where to go next. Now I know to trust my gut and follow the light. Billy trusted his gut and followed the light. Whether God wants me to be an actress, ventriloquist, comedian, singer or writer or all at once, I have to stop asking questions and trust. I can’t ask where to go but just ask to be guided and I will follow the spirit wherever it takes me. I cannot question the destination but rather embrace the journey. I can't keep shaking my finger when I don't get what I want but rather just be thankful for what I have, graciously accept what I need, and be open to all my nine lives whatever they are. Billy has been and the returns are marvelous.
His journey with this piece has been a rollercoaster,sometimes happy and sometimes frustrating, but it has been worth it had as a result he has a brilliant one man show. Props to him. He is an example to all young performers.
Much like Billy Hipkins I will walk with faith.
I Came,I Saw,I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl
Come to my signing tomorrow
510 Washington St