Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Too Busy

I ran into an old friend earlier this week who asked me how I was doing. "Busy," I told her, "Busier than I've ever been in my life." She replied, standing underneath a sign in her cubicle that read It's 4:00. Why aren't you at the gym, "Well, that's good. That's great!" I shrugged and mumbled something noncommittal, but what I wanted to do was shout ludicrous and shameful obscenities for an hour or two.

What I'd give to have time to go to the gym at 4:00.

Let's take a look at it all, shall we? I'm acting in Measure for Measure for one final weekend. We've had overlapping rehearsals for As You Like It for the past three weeks; that show opens March 27 and runs through April 20, and I am, of course, playing live music for each performance because canned just won't cut it. I'm scoring another production of As You Like It for Georgia State University's theatre department. I'm working to try to get AYLI down to Eureka Springs, Arkansas some time in the summer, and that's a long story. We have auditions on March 16, workshops the next three second Tuesdays, and I'm teaching a class that begins in late March. I'll be directing a summer re-staging of As You Like It, and likely assuming a lot of production duties for the other Festival shows. I'm spearheading a redesign of the RAPT website and preparing a national survey of Shakespeare theatres and university training programs to see where the teaching isn't fitting the companies' needs. I'm helping with the Easter Vigil drama at Christ Church, leading weekly worship at Redeemer, and trying to put together a staged reading with David Sennett. I'm having a hell of a time with DVD burning software on my computer, for crying out loud; I just can't get anything to work!!! And I'm desperately trying to figure out how the heck to grow Richmond Shakespeare, a company that is producing some real quality work in the last few years, but performing for criminally small audiences.

Meanwhile, last Monday, I played four meager songs at the RAPT meeting, three of them with Lizabella, and it was the most perfectly happy and at peace I have felt in recent memory.

Jill Bari said to me last month, "You must absolutely love your job." Truth be told, I almost laughed in her face, bless her.

I do love my job. Jobs. What I'd really love is a little less of them. My creative juices are flowing; I've never in my life experienced a real "dry spell" or writer's block. I just have no TIME. Here's a very brief and incomplete list of artistic projects I've begun which are simmering (or cooling) on the back burner:

A re-staging of my wildly successful 2004 graduate thesis, a concert-theatre performance of Joe Jackson's Night and Day. Finishing my musical, A Week in the Suburbs (an adaptation of Turgenev's A Month in the Country), which I've been working on for literally a decade. Producing my second play, Awake in Pennsylvania, re-writing my first full-length play The Blizzard of '93, writing my latest play idea Gift of Light, also a five-year-old idea. Mastering the live album I recorded in December. Recording a new piano album. Finding a market for my Christmas CD from two years ago. Writing (of all things) a science-fiction novel about astronauts exploring a planet without original sin. Writing a book about acting called The Five-Tool Player. Taking piano lessons so I can stop playing the 88 keys like a rhythm guitarist.

But what I really want to do is load a guitar and a computer into my truck (this dream keeps coming back) and drive across the country creating art in small communities and blog about the experience. Writing songs, doing concerts, writing plays and stories, recording on the old church piano, staging one-acts in the community center, filming the whole thing like Les Stroud and blogging the entire shebang. That would be great. I could even throw Bella in a guitar case (she is small and seldom complains) and take her on the road with me; we could do the songs we sang at RAPT.

But I can't do any of that stuff. I'm really down here, guys. I'm torn between the fact that I know I have so much more to offer as an artist than I'm able to give and the fact that I'm giving a heck of a lot right now. I'm torn between a sense of mission and civic responsibility and a desire to just work a job that gives me my evenings free to watch TV with my wife and maybe a computer on my lap. Some days I think I want to be 23, strap that guitar on my back and just start walking westward, trusting the inherent goodness of humanity to provide for me as I make music out of the miles.

I'm really miserable this week, friends and readers, and I don't know what to do about it.

The good news is, I've lost three or four inches around my waist from the diet change I made last month. The bad news is, I need a bunch of new pants and really can't afford to buy any.


  • At 2/29/2008 11:11 AM , Blogger Wayne Conners said...

    All I can say is that I feel for you, and I understand what you're dealing with.

    I recently made the painful decision to drop out of the Christ Church choir, resign from the RS Board, and cut way back on all non-family and non-work activities. Things were too crazy with the new job and all the stuff that life with teenagers throws you.

    Of course, since I made this decision I've been called and offered *two* projects I'd really like to do, but I'm saying no to both.

    On the good side, I'm spending a lot more time hanging with my wife and kids, and fortunately, I enjoy all three of them.

    Now, in a little over two years, BOTH kids will be out...hopefully. What happens then?


  • At 2/29/2008 8:24 PM , Anonymous Phil Hamm said...

    Wow, I've had a virtual glut of time since I graduated last May. I could relate a little bit before when I was taking classes, but now I find myself with too much time on my hands as Styx says. I need a hobby.

    Rose and I will probably pass on "As You Like It" till the Summer, sorry to say.

  • At 3/02/2008 2:43 PM , Blogger terry said...

    Well, Hammster, if your performance in M4M is any indication, I would say you are in an incredibly rich time of your life. I know it is a wild ride, but hang on and see where it takes you. I was absolutely blown away by your performance--so complex and deeply felt that it was transformational for everyone in the room.
    I often dream of running off and living a free and creative life, though. I know a husband-wife duo who go every summer to Ireland and live in a town and do exactly as you describe--they help the people there write and perform a play! Someday...


  • At 3/03/2008 8:44 AM , Blogger Andrew Hamm said...

    Thanks, Terry. I didn't even mention the dream of doing a TV show where I bring a company of a handful of theatre artists to a small town and produce a Shakespeare play with the locals as cast and crew...


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