Saturday was a good day for me.
It began with the first performance ever of “Caught in the Middle,” the tween musical written by writing partner, Andy Mayo, and myself. It was produced at a performing arts camp in Bloomfield, Connecticut, and like our previous musical, The Clowns, I fell in love with the show while watching it performed on stage.
Then Elysha and I left for New York so I could perform in The Liar Show in the West Village. I told a story about my unfortunate participation in a bachelorette party in a McDonald’s crew room when I was 19 years-old.
A friend was kind enough to comment on how much I had going on that day. “It must be exciting to have so many creative things going on in your life,” she said.
It’s true. Days like Saturday are exciting, but they come with a cost. When I talk to fledging writers, storytellers, and other people involved in the arts, I’m always quick to remind them that days like Saturday are few and far between.
They account for about 1% of the job.
The other 99% of the job is a lot of hard, tedious, and lonely work.
“Caught in the Middle” was more than a year in the making. It involved writing, collaborating, rewriting, revising, and more rewriting. It was hundred of hours spent crafting scenes, integrating music, developing characters, and agonizing over plot. My writing partner, Andy, had to poke, prod, and cajole me to continue working.
It wasn’t easy.
My invitation to perform in The Liar Show was the result of almost three years of storytelling, including more than 40 appearances at The Moth and other storytelling shows and the launch of our own storytelling organization, Speak Up. Thousands of hours of work have made me the storyteller I am today and gave me the opportunity to perform on Saturday night.
I didn’t happen overnight.
I was reading Billy Crystal’s memoir, Still Foolin’ ‘Em, and learned that in order to pursue his career in comedy, he became a stay-at-home father in a time when that was exceptionally rare. When his wife arrived home from work in the evening, he would join her for dinner and prepare his set for later that night, sometimes writing and sometimes rehearsing.
Then at 10:00, he would embark on an hour long commute to New York City, hoping for a spot on the stage at Catch a Rising Star before 1:00 AM so that he could perform his ten minute routine.
Then he would return home by 2:00 or 3:00 and begin the routine again at 7:00 when his daughter awoke and his wife left for work.
Billy Crystal did not become the entertainer and star that he is today because he was talented. He worked exceptionally hard, made enormous sacrifices, dedicated his life to his dream, and was smart enough to marry a woman who supported that dream.
By the way, he sacrificed to find the right woman, too. He transferred colleges as a sophomore, leaving Marshall University, a baseball scholarship, and a chance to play the game he loved at the college level for Nassau Community College and later New York University after meeting his wife and knowing that a long distance relationship would probably not last.
Rather than risk losing the woman of his dreams, he gave up baseball to chase her down.
The man understood how to make sacrifices.
So yes, Saturday was a great day for me. I loved watching something that I had written performed onstage. Hearing my words in other people’s mouths is always thrilling and makes me want to write for the stage again.
And yes, performing alongside the likes of Ophira Eisenberg, Tracy Rowland, and Matthew Mercier at The Liar Show was thrilling, too. Simply being asked to perform in this popular and well-reviewed show was an honor.
But it was a long, long road to Saturday’s payoff. Many, many miles.
Too often, I think that writers, performers, and other people striving for a career in the arts see those 1% Saturdays and dream the dream, forgetting about the 99% (or worse, glamorizing the 99%) that is required to make those Saturdays a reality.
The best moment on Saturday for me was a simple one. Standing off to the side, watching these teens and tweens perform the show, I caught sight of my daughter, sitting in the audience, watching my show with rapt attention. Bopping her head to the music. Smiling. Leaning forward in anticipation. Laughing at my jokes.
This was better than all the applause I received that day.