sbearbergman: a photo of my head and shoulders, dressed in a navy suit and bright blue shirt, face turned partly away (Default)
S Bear Bergman ([personal profile] sbearbergman) wrote2013-01-31 10:38 am

making something out of nothing

 Sometimes, I do storytelling events called Speakeasies. They're the story equivalent of a house concert - intimate venue, informal vibe, small group all scattered around someone's living room; I named it a Speakeasy because I wanted to preserve the slightly in-the-know feeling while moving away from the formality of a salon, which is the other thing it sometimes gets compared to. People very kindly host me and twenty or so guests in their home (for which you don't need nearly as much space as you might think) and I give a full show - three stories, a little break, and then three more, making for a show that lasts about two hours, all told.

Typically, they're Pay What You Can. I have a fairly strong bias toward the idea that arts and culture should be accessible for everyone, but of course, "accessible" means so many different things in so many different circumstances and I'm not always in control of the event or the space. In this moment in my work, I am taking on accessibility in a variety of ways. One of them is by trying to move some events off of campuses and into community spaces. Economically this is harder on me, because campuses have Student Activities money and can use it to fairly compensate a working artist (like me) for their work. Community spaces are usually not rolling in dough, as they say. But if I can get a university gig I can often stay an extra day and do a community event, thanks to the good offices of my beloved [ profile] ishai_wallace who is willing to hold down the homefront while I'm away a lot. Anyhow, people pay what they can and for the price of whatever that is they can come sit in someone's living room and have a snack and a thing to drink and dig a little show.

I love these events. It's difficult to tease out exactly why, in some ways - they are definitely not the event at which I make the most money, not the one at which I have the largest audience. I don't tend to sell tons of books or make new converts to my fan base even since most of the people who attend were fans to begin with. I think the love comes from feeling like, in such a small space, I can really be with each person in the room, rather than a monolithic Audience. In a living room, there's really no division between the Talent and the Audience: no stage lights to illuminate me and shade you, no moat to separate us, no mic to amplify me and silence you (or the cat, or your grumbling belly, or my phone vibrating in my bag). The authenticity kind of gets turned up to eleven by default, and ultimately that's great for me as a storyteller. It means that if you're in it I can tell, and if you're not I can know it and work to bring you in.

It also feels, in a somewhat woo way, like the home-space both add something to the show and gets something from it. This past weekend I was honored to be hosted by a lovely person I met at Gay Spirit Visions, a gay men's spiritual gathering at which I was the featured speaker a few years ago. There are some ways that the gathering does things I don't really enjoy (mostly leftover 1970's-era cultural appropriation from First Nations like whoa), but I adored (and bonded and stayed in touch with) a lot of the people I met there, especially the Faerie-folk. The house from last weekend, in Atlanta, was true and unmistakable Faerie-space, lovely in all ways, with bits of magic tucked everywhere and ornamentation on All The Things, in the way that transcends the tacky or the overdone and lifts the entire place into another realm of fabulous. 

Because the space was so lovely and the energy of the house so warm and peaceful, the Speakeasy took on the flavor of it. I could feel how settled and relaxed everyone was as they arrived and had a chat with other folks and helped themselves to some of the snacks our host had set out. The best Speakeasies are like this - you don't need a grand space, just a kind space. 

But also, in my experience, an event like a Speakeasy leaves something behind in a house. The stories linger, the audience's feeling of warm contentment, their laughter and their sad sighs of recognition and the shivers of their loins and the moments of reaching back and catching their partner's hand when something strikes them right. It feels good to leave behind the aftereffect of good words well spoken, of enjoyment; to leave the space better than I found it. A few Speakeasy hosts have reported just sitting in the room after everyone's gone, drinking the last half-glass of something, replaying their favorite moments from my stories and the guests conversations. 

In the days after this sort of an event, I always feel privileged in my work. It feels like the frankest magic - being able to make a living and a life and a whole pile of feelings out of absolutely nothing. When I'm feeling crunched for cash or frustrated by being away from my family, sometimes I consider getting a proper job and giving it up, I'll be honest. But this week, these weeks, I honestly feel like I must be G-d's very favorite, to be able to do this work as my work, to bring what feel like such marvels into being. Out of nothing. 

kore: (Default)

[personal profile] kore 2013-01-31 05:46 pm (UTC)(link), that sounds amazing. Sort of like the "living room concerts" Kristin Hersh does (which also sound amazing).
themagdalen: (Default)

[personal profile] themagdalen 2013-01-31 11:46 pm (UTC)(link)
<3. Trying to figure out how to get some of that. Hmmmmm.