I love old movie musicals. Particular favorites of mine are the show within a show variety where teens would gather together to solve some financial problem by putting on a show. Within a few days these enterprising young people produced a show with amazing singing, dancing, and costumes that not only saved the theater, school, or whatever the needy cause but also resolved all of the romantic entanglements of the young stars. Everybody would come together in the last scene holding hands and belting out the final number with shining, happy faces.
Of course, in real life, many of those young stars went on to lead tragic lives complicated by alcohol and drugs, multiple love affairs and marriages. Putting on a show in public to cover up their very real problems only exacerbated them and the money they made didn’t solve anything in the end. Their personal show within the show too often closed early without the happy last scene.
I recently had the pleasure of putting on a show of my art quilts at the Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg. It was my first solo show and I spent the better part of the year preparing for it. I was surprised and honored by the number of people who came to see my quilts but I also experienced a form of stage fright. As gratifying as it was to see my work displayed in such a beautiful setting, it was terrifying as well. It was difficult to listen and watch as people looked and discussed my work. But I also had my own part to play in the show. I had to answer all the questions and pretend to be unfazed when someone made a remark about the price that I had put on a particularly large, complicated piece. Nobody knows the real worth of a piece of art more than the artist themselves and having to translate that worth into a dollar value is a daunting task.
Does putting on a show solve our financial problems? Sometimes, perhaps. I didn’t make a sale at my show, but I did have someone call several days later about doing a commission piece. Selling is a validation of the worth of our work. But most of us don’t create only for the money. I can think of many easier ways to make money than by making art. The show is only part of the process and the show within the show is the actual time spent in creative activity. That’s where the drama, the comedy, the tears and the laughter are found. And if we’re very lucky and work hard, that’s where our happy ending lies.