Watching Glen Hansard's concert (best known for being half of The Swell Season and the film Once, but a longtime member of his own band The Frames), I got to thinking about the fine line that seems to divide all creatives: "unknowns" and "well-knowns". We see "unknowns" all the time, heck most of us are and always will be "unknowns" in the larger world of theatre, music, dance, writing, or whatever our particular poison may be. We see "well-knowns" all the time too, and it is easy to set our sights on this goal: to be seen to be heard, to be known. When I see "well-knowns", I also tend to cut them more slack than I do myself. "So what if she's imperfect? It' makes her real." or "So he has struggled with depression and addiction, it has helped shaped who he is today." Well-known artists seem to have this power to transform the imperfections and flaws we find in ourselves and make them beautiful. Like the great Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says, “As an organic gardener, you are not afraid of the garbage. It can always be transformed to make a beautiful flower.”
Back to "unknowns". I live in Boston, and I ride public transportation every day, so I get to see and hear my share of musicians busking in the subway stations, break dancers that set up outside Quincy Market, painters that sell their canvases in Harvard Square, the list goes on and on. And when we look at these "unknowns", it is easy to sell them short. They aren't dressed in tuxedos playing at Symphony Hall, their creations aren't on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, and they aren't part of the Boston Ballet. What a disservice we do not only to them but to ourselves when we think in black and white like this. I have witnessed the most beautiful displays of vulnerability and creation from lone guitar players on a subway platform. The only difference between that musician and Glen Hansard? Both have talent, passion, heart, and determination. One just has a record deal and we know his name. That's all.
I am going to challenge myself to look at all us artists in the same light and recognize all of us for what they share: souls who are dredging up the courage day after to show up and show ourselves through the work we make. There's such a fine line between the "unknown" and the "well-known". Kind of a silly reason to tune out, then suddenly recognize someone's genius. All because of a crossed line. All "well-knowns" were once "unknowns", and it is our job to support all of them, regardless of where they are on the creative journey. Go see a local photographer's first gallery showing, check out a high school or college production, throw a buck to the musician who's playing their heart out as the trains roar by. Let's create a collective web of support and not be conditional with our support and enthusiasm. I've had so many amazing people in my life come out to be one of the ten people in the audience at one of my performances, or truly listen to me when I share ideas for my next play. And it means the world in terms of keeping me motivated. Every one of us should be so lucky, and I want to give that gift back to as many people as I can.
Check out the opening of the film Once below. It's cool to see Glen Hansard as an amazing street busker singing his heart out in Dublin. It's a little crazy to see how many people walk on by, not concerned with his song. Then watch the Tiny Desk concert that follows. He's the same passionate soul, just "well-known" now, with a roomful of folks enjoying his gifts. Let's bridge the gap.