The Art Of Asking
“Those who can ask without shame are viewing themselves in collaboration with—rather than in competition with—the world.”
The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer
I just got back from a much-needed weeklong vacation with my boyfriend. The
weather was perfect, the location was perfect, the time we spent relaxing and having
our phones in the “off” position was also absolutely perfect. This past year was
extremely exciting for a lot of reasons, but to be truly transparent, it was also very
stressful and very, very difficult at times. There was a lot of change happening in my
personal and professional life, so at the start of 2015, I needed a little bit of a break
before I – well – broke.
I got a lot of reading done while I was soaking up some sun on the beach during my
vacation. I worked on my lines for The Whale which I’m doing with HATTheatre next
month, I finished Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl which I highly suggest for
anyone who is, or has ever been, a twentysomething with something to prove. Then
I started Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking, a book that I had been excited to read
for quite some time after seeing her TED Talk of the same name a few years ago…
Most of my time reading that book was spent with my mouth slightly ajar and
breathing a bit too heavily; “whoa,” a light bulb went off in my head, “this is the exact
message I need to hear at this exact moment.” It was as if Amanda knew what I was
going through and walked right up to me and hit me in the forehead with her book.
“American culture in particular has instilled in us the bizarre notion that to
ask for help amounts to an admission of failure.
But some of the most powerful, successful, admired people in the world
seem, to me, to have something in common:
they ask constantly, creatively, compassionately, and gracefully.”
In The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer talks about her early days as a street performer
before her band The Dresden Dolls really took off, her now-famous Kickstarter that
raised more money than any other crowdfunded music project in history, and her
TED Talk that went viral about relying on the kindness of strangers, friends, family,
and everyone in-between. She speaks about the differences between asking and
begging, the voices inside every artist’s head that says “you are not good enough to
ask for support” and ways to appease (read: kill) those voices. This is necessary
reading material for anyone who needs to “stop worrying and let people help.”
This was that light bulb moment I was talking about earlier.
As a lot of you know, TheatreLAB is busy with renovations in our first dedicated
theatre space, called “The Basement,” in the Arts District in Downtown Richmond.
It’s been an electrifying project, but anyone who has experience with these kinds of
things knows that renovations take a lot of time and a lot of money. Building a non-
profit theatre from the ground up is hard, but it gives you the opportunity to work
alongside some of your favorite artistic collaborators while watching your dreams
come true. That feeling is unlike any other feeling in the world. But asking people for
their financial support, asking donors to help the organization survive and grow
along the way? Not the best feeling in the world. In fact, sometimes it sucks.
Truth be told, I sometimes find myself crippled by the anxiety of asking for help.
“What’s the worst that can happen? They could just say no,” everyone says. “Right,
but that feeling of rejection isn’t a great color on me,” I would reply.
We just launched the second leg of our Capital Campaign in an effort to truly turn
The Basement into our theatrical home. The first leg proved to be very successful
and we found out that we had more of a fan base than we had expected. People
really wanted to help us reach our goals, and they wanted to see us succeed just as
badly as we did. They weren’t being forced to be supportive, they did it because they
believed in us and they believed in our mission. A lot of them had seen our work and
thought it was worth the investment, and that feeling was a great feeling, too. I was
actually getting pretty good at speaking about our plans and building excitement in
others for the future of TheatreLAB. It wasn’t as scary anymore, but it didn’t make
the asking any easier.
“Crossing the Threshold” is the name of our current fundraising endeavor, a name
that kind of came out of nowhere during a meeting with our new seven-person staff.
The house is here, but now it’s time to make it a home. We’re looking to raise almost
twice as much as we did last time, which is daunting, but it’s doable if we work hard
enough and rely on the kindness of strangers, friends, family, and everyone in-between.
“It's hard enough to give fearlessly,
and it's even harder to receive fearlessly. But within that exchange lies the hardest thing of all:
To ask. Without shame. And to accept the help that people offer.
Not to force them. Just to let them.”
This is me asking for help.
Here is a link to our Indiegogo page -- https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/theatrelab-crossing-the-threshold
No donation is too small and every penny counts. Think of it this way: if each of my
Facebook friends made a $10 donation, we would meet our goal. That is the power
of community at work.
So, this is me asking – without shame – for your help to make our dreams come true.
We need your support now more than ever. The past three years have been an
amazing building block for a future of unlimited possibilities; a future that will allow
us to make our house a home; a home where we will continue to provide
opportunities for emerging artists to create, collaborate, and cultivate. This is our
light bulb moment.
TheatreLAB is Richmond’s home for unexpected and evocative performance and our
future begins now… but we can’t do it without asking for a little bit of help.
Thank you and I can’t wait to see you at the theatre --
Deejay Gray Artistic Director, TheatreLAB
Amanda’s TED Talk: