New York – broken dreams and setting suns

It a perhaps with a sense of regret that I write this. Yesterday, sharing a cab with a new friend called Tania, I asked if there were many New York artistes who aspired to wealth and success at all cost (Tania happens to be a talent recruitment agent). I asked this because I felt that some of the shows I had encountered so far seemed to be friendly only because they wanted to push tickets, and there is so much aggressive self promotion going on. My message about the plight of Southeast Asian transgender women seems to have been lost in a sea of “happy valley” productions. Tania said that of the artistes who contact her, she only works with those who are truly devoted to their craft. And a true artist does not do what he/she does solely for fame or money. A true artist will find some way to express himself/herself regardless of the circumstances.

I believe there’s always a mixture of sincere artistic expression and self interest in any artistic endeavor. A brilliant artist who paints without a thought for tomorrow may either be discovered serendipitously by a talent scout or be consigned to a life of poverty should his/her talents go unrecognized. It is a matter of balancing one’s artistic endeavors with sound financial management.

This is, of course, the argument of a late bloomer like me whose urge for artistic expression could only be indulged at the critical age of 35 because I could not afford to do so previously. Even so, I am beginning to feel the pangs of financial loss. I still cannot afford the downpayment on a government flat in Singapore because of my costly experimental theatre projects.

Am I a deluded artist? Most definitely!

Do I even qualify to be called an artist? Maybe not.

Am I envious of the closeted gay men and women, beautiful straight men and women who rule the “artistic scene” in Singapore because they come from well-to-do families, and because (those who are gay anyway) they refuse to come out for fear of reprisals? What do you think???

The question that has plagued me over the past few days is this: what am I doing here in New York, a city that’s less receptive to my show than Singapore?

And the next question is: Why do broken dreams hurt so much?

P.S. When you are 35 and the age of Angelina Jolie, you stop wanting to be a successful actress. You just want to crawl into a corner and die or get laid. I can’t even audition for Sunset Boulevard because my sun never rose.

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3 Responses to “New York – broken dreams and setting suns”

  1. K.J. Lee Says:

    Leona, do not despair.

    Drawing from Max Weber, the great German sociologist, there are two types of artists, namely those for who live for art and those who live off art. But as Weber points out, one of the requisites of living for art is plutocratic considerations.

    It is true that marketing is central in order to ensure commercial viability, as you must demonstrate to the American upper middle classes why your play will be of interest to them.

    Earlier, we mentioned about Candy Darling. Andy Warhol could barely afford to pay his superstars. Indeed, Candy Darling spent her days living from hand to mouth even as she did her utmost to keep alive her dreams of Hollywood stardom.

    While it is still early days, I hope that you will wear your scars lightly, learn your lessons, and persevere.

    • ahkuashow Says:

      Hey I love plutocratic considerations – but that sucks too. Imagine playing to the imagination of America’s upper middle classes…hmm…better to be the patron than the patronised. I went to Christopher Street yesterday. They should remove the plaque on stonewall and start acknowledging the trans women pioneers. Keep commenting!

  2. K.J. Lee Says:

    Certainly, the circumstances are not exactly palatable. But the problems are the following. The foundation system is central to funding regarding the arts and humanities in the United States. Who donates to these foundations? They are the newly rich who endeavor to legitimize their recently generated wealth. Who are the mainstream audiences of the arts? They are the upper middle classes.

    What about the new middle classes? The less said, the better, other than they are very similar, once you scratch beneath the façade of respectability, to our new middle classes in Singapore.

    Indeed, as I was going through the various websites, I realized that the contributions of the transgender population were missing from the chronicles about Stonewall. As I noted earlier, this may be attributed to the strategies that gays and lesbians have adopted, in contrast to those of the transgender population. Whereas the former assumes a policy of creating parallel institutions, the latter is aiming at a strategy of assimilation. While the American middle classes may accept sexual minorities as ‘separate but equal’, they are finding it much harder to tolerate assimilation. Hence, the transgender population winds up with neither assimilation, which it yearns for, nor acceptance, which the gays and lesbians receive.

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