w: ajleon

A Kinetic Art Project in Fargo: the First Misfit Conf

I’ve never felt more exposed in all of my life.

Henry V was the very last play I ever produced before the world convinced me that I had to grow up and get a real job. I remember that season well. I remember every line, every scene change. I remember the staging, the placement of every gel and lighting instrument, the castle walls, the slow motion battle scene with the industrial strobe. I remember my cast, my backstage crew. I remember every last drop of paint, every last drop of blood and every last minute spent in all night rehearsals and set construction jams fueled by cheap fast food and copious amounts of Red Bull.

But most of all, I remember opening night.

I remember thinking that no one would show up. And that if they did, they would fucking hate every solitary moment of it. And that they would know that I was a fraud. An impostor. A guy with limitless desire, but no game to back it up.

And if I was right, if they hated it and walked out at intermission, I knew that there would be no one else to blame. I directed it, produced it and was playing the lead character.

It was my art. Kinetic art. All of my ideas. Every last morsel of creativity I could muster. Every decision I had made in staging a play that changed my life a few years before, was on public display.

It’s a tricky thing with live theatre. There is no backspace. No edits or Take Two’s or encores.

All you have is that moment. And everything you invested into making it happen.

The lights went dim…

O, for a muse of fire, that would ascend the greatest heaven of invention….

As I exited Stage Right in the middle of the first act, Melissa, my girlfriend (and Stage Manager) at the time, grabbed my face with both hands, looked deep into my determined eyes and said, “We did it. The magic showed up.”

I peered out across a small hole through our rickety stage flats. I inspected the audience with excruciating resolve. They were captivated.

By Shakespeare. By MY Shakespeare.

There was magic in that room. It showed up. To this day, I cannot explain why it did, but I know it was there. And it was confirmed  throughout that evening and the week that followed by heartfelt responses and gracious adulation.

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Last Friday, I took the stage at Ecce Art Studio, where a group of misfits had sojourned from England, Puerto Rico, Ireland, Nicaragua, Canada, Australia and over fifteen different states – to partake in the Inaugural Misfit Conf, an experiential event handcrafted with love by me and my little band of Misfits.

In our audience, there were iOS developers and Blacksmiths, Photographers and Dog Trainers, Artists and Programmers, Nurses and Writers. All bound by an indivisible ethos to live a deliberate life and to do work that truly matters. Our spaces were so limited, they were provided exclusively by application.

We hosted the event in one of our favorite misfit cities in the world that 95% of attendees had never visited.

We flew in an amazing artisan chef duo to prepare every meal with the love we had seen them pour into their own restaurant years ago.

We used almost exclusively local and organic produce and ingredients.
We made a commitment to produce a Zero Environmental Impact conference.
We collaborated with local craftspeople to handcraft signs from wood and hang flowers from ceilings.
We flew in a brilliant artist I met a few weeks ago to produce a reactionary piece throughout the entirety of the weekend.
We personally chose every utensil, every vase, every chair.

I literally picked out each and every art piece and banana and coffee mug. Tasted each croissant and piece of chocolate. When I realized the coffee locally would be above average at best, I imported my favorite coffee from back home in the East Village. All this to ensure that every moment, that every solitary experience would be good enough for the misfits that had sacrificed so much to be in that room.

We incorporated film and art and music.

We treated it like live theatre and decided not to allow phones or laptops in the room.

We provided no live streaming of our speakers, and will permit only attendees to access speaker videos.

Last Friday. 

It was like the opening night of Henry V all over again.

My very own kinetic art project.

Me, Melissa, my crew and our ideas on display. With no certainty that any of it would resonate.

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I haven’t yet found the words to properly express just how prodigious the first Misfit Conf was, but of this I am certain.

The magic showed up.

If you’re curious and want to know more, here are an assortment of articles written and photos taken from the experience. Feel free to comment on their work, and ask them how they felt about it.

A Look Back at the Misfit Conference – And Why It Rocked
Proud to Be A Misfit
The People of Misfit Conf 
In the Presence of Remarkable Misfits
The Time in Now
Welcome to Fargo Misfits
Beautiful Notes by Caroline
First Ever Fargo Misfit Conference  
A Misfit for Life is Born
After an Amazing Weekend at Misfit Conf, I Feel Lost 
Read, Write, Share 

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I am so grateful to our amazing speakers. Pam, Colin, Srini, Clay, David, Justin, Victor, Joshua, Julia, Greg from Fargo, Rachel, Jason and Greg. Thank you for showing up and for pouring every last bit of yourselves into this. We will never forget it.

And I am so grateful to our sponsors, GoToMeeting and Podio. Some people I know are recalcitrant towards the idea of sponsorship, and that’s fine I guess. But to me, the logos are less important than the humans behind them, who believed in and backed Melissa and I back when we were just broke vagabonds trying to change the world. Lisa and David and Justin, the Misfits would be nothing without you. Thank you for always backing us and our wild eyed ideas.

So, what’s next? 

I’m going to take a breath, hang out with my new nephew, finish my book and plan the last route of the first leg of my journey around the world.

As for Misfit Conf, we are not planning on growing the size of this event next year. If we doubled the size, which we could easily do, it would completely change the dynamic of what we’ve created. Remaining deliberately small has it’s own advantages and requires it’s own set of discipline.

Those that attended this year will be receiving an email from me within a few days containing information about securing their tickets to next year’s Misfit Conf (or Confs). The spaces that are left will be provided based on application as they were this year.

If you want to receive a notification as soon as the application is live, sign up here.

And yes, we accept people on a rolling basis, so applying early is massively beneficial.

That’s it from me. See you on Thursday.

From somewhere under the glistening Florida sun
Your Fellow Misfit,

AJ

1205 words

6.10.13

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