NICK LINDSAY - American
My grandfather, Vachel Lindsay, is a poet who is occasionally considered great. More frequently he is considered irrelevant and obscure. He is known for “Higher Vaudeville”, performance poetry that he made his living with, and also for his utopian “gospel of beauty”, his vision for a transformative democratic art in America. The Wall Street Journal described my father, Nick Lindsay Sr., as “Truly the son of Vachel Lindsay, a voice from the cutting edge of the counter culture from before the term was coined." Papa would go back and forth between being an associate professor of English at a Mennonite college and a boat carpenter on the island I mostly grew up on, one of the sea islands between Savannah and Charleston, Edisto. From the age of 7 or 8 I grew up doing whatever work was to my father. Sometimes a lecture tour, sometimes boat building and repair, occasionally restoring old houses and often less glamorous stuff like ditch digging and honey dumping.
My parents are both extroverts. They indulged themselves in huge Chekhovian house parties (Giant grown up sleep overs in rural houses where brainiac transnational hipsters entertain each other for weeks on end) both here and abroad. Sometimes they were hosts and sometimes they were guests. The mix would include artists working in all the mediums imminent and obscure, naval architects, political refugees, accidental millionaires, psychotics, inventors, holocaust survivors, trust funders, political activists, industrialists, manic depressives, meteorologists, European “Americanists”, Calvinist theologians, union organizers, premature antifascists, early movement conservatives, Anglican bishops, professional criminals and even some people with jobs. One Americanist described Papa in print as “the last American”. It seemed clear to me growing up that we were more American than everyone else. Now I know that the vision of America I have inherited is much different from most popular notions of America.
Because of the important socializing my parents always did, my raising in early childhood was left to my older sisters. They were adolescents and quite reasonably resented having a baby/ toddler/ preschooler/ gradeschooler in tow. One of them also babysat for Grace Slick. As a result, my early memories are of love-ins and other '60's events that teenage hippie chicks would have an interest in. During this period some of my sisters embraced the idea that I was lazy, spoiled and stupid. If you ask them about me now that is what you will hear. Whether or not this is true, I've enjoyed ridiculous levels of opportunity from an early age. And like my father and grandfather I seem to get whatever I want. The degree to which this diverges from objective standards of success really only comes down to character. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclites said “character is fate”. I believe this. One of these ambiguous, character revealing, gifts of providence has been Tribeca Lab. T-lab's strengths and weaknesses should reflect information to me about myself. It may. But I can't tell what it is. My fault is not in my stars but in myself.
Sort of like the Mormon church, my family expected some kind of enlightened bumming around to occur during one’s teens. I dutifully did it. This amounted to transnational hitchhiking and sofa surfing. While I was still a teenager, my mother dispatched me to New York City. She told me to go to art school in New York. I did what I was told. I would live in New York for 20 years.
I've worked in various ways making a living most of the time. Here is a partial list of job titles: Shrimp boat striker, movie producer, agricultural laborer, movie director, bar tender, carpenter, actor, janitor, set ombudsman, building manager, screenwriter, short order cook, play write, camera operator, plumbers assistant, entrepreneur, house painter, founder and general managing partner of an LLC, waiter, sound recordist, segment producer, dish washer, film editor, store clerk, truck driver, radio commentator, set builder, boat carpenter, file clerk, electricians helper, movie extra, roofer, handyman, bus boy, project manager, lecturer, building super, theater producer & state park aide. I've worked in construction, farming, film, TV, fashion, design, commercial fishing, eduction, building maintenance and management, entertainment, hospitality, restaurants and retail.
My first play, “ Gettin' a 'li'l Somethin'” was produced at the Lee Strasberg creative center in New York by Anna Strasberg when I was 21. It was supposed to run for one weekend. Charlie Laughton, Penny Allen and Al Pacino saw it. They liked it and it wound up running for 2 months. I live with a great painter for two years. She was hot. My next play was produced when I was 25. “Dry Dock” went up at Al Ramos's Broome Street Theater in SoHo (near Penny and Charlie's house) with Stuart Rudin's Group of Actors. Basementwerks cranks up. I direct Nathaniel Hunt's “Made to be Broken ”, I paid off my student loan early. I was 29. My next play “Hollow Aluminum” was produced when I was 30 at T- lab. I did a bunch of VH1, and MTV docs, music videos and some fiction features. I directed my first 35mm feature film when I was 34. “ Life in Bed.” In another curious, character revealing gift from divine providence - I marry a beauty. I return to the island with my wife and kids. Here, in addition to enjoying domestic felicity, I have been a carpenter and edited feature films both doc and fiction. I've also produced some shows with T-lab in NYC in recent years.
I'm not much of a risk taker. The life I've lived has been pretty much along the lines of what my family has expected of me. My grandmother was the daughter of a frontier, Scotch Presbyterian preacher. She would say things like “The cowards never started and the weaklings died along the way” and-- “There is one thing a man can always do. And that is his duty.” My guess is, in her mind, even a weakling and a coward can do his duty. Whatever my duty may be, I hope to figure it out and get it done before dying.
After death, I fear the Valkyrie hippie chicks and suffragettes of my childhood will come for my soul. And that these valkyrie will judge me in ways relating to duty, strength, masculine virility and bravery. I would prefer other criterion.