Sam’s Post #8: Keep Moving, It’s the American Way

Sam's 1951 Spartan from atop a hill at Cal Arts.

Sam Breen presented The Trailer Trash Project at the 2011 Arts in the One World Conference, held 27-29 January at Cal Arts.  Here is an excerpt from his talk, describing what the project means to him:

My trailer, our trailer, which I inappropriately refer to as “The Mansion”, was acquired in August 2010, in Torrance CA. Shortly before, my mother– a one time filmmaker for the United Nations, once a Katrina refugee, currently a freelance journalist with a fervent passion for social justice and a newly developed interest in sustainable living – and I, a one-time private banker employed by philanthropist and all around jolly good guy, Mr. John Pierpont Morgan.

Well, my mom and I we’re on the phone..Truth is we’ve grown apart quite a bit over the last 10 years. More often than not we’ve been on opposite sides of the country, opposite sides of the Atlantic, sometimes unintentionally (and admittedly) sometimes with quite a bit of intention.

We’ve been through a lot, and it’s just the two of us. So, you know, tension ensues, occasionally, sometimes, often, whatever. So we’re on the phone, and the topic of this particular conversation is one that comes up every couple years.

It goes something like this:  “So, whaaaaaat’s next ?” You see, my mom’s been a nomad for a little while now. That tends to happen when a storm like Katrina hits an already fragile community like New Orleans.

But me? I’ve been in denial about my nomadic nature. I had a proper desk job for a couple years before coming here, a serious girlfriend. I had a PLAN, a checklist, which I adhered to methodically: a sequence of suit-and-tie jobs, then auditions, which eventually, allowed me to be here, right here, at this very moment.

The thing is, I’m about to graduate, as an Actor. (Did I mention that?) And my future is quite uncertain again. And so…

At the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 2010, Sam played Godzilla in Eric Ehn's adaption of the play. Here he hawks the production in the streets of Edinburgh.

My mom and I are on the phone, my grandmother has passed away and left her a little bit of money, and she wants to buy a trailer and live in it.  And I have been wanting to restore a trailer – I want to MAKE something, something living, and useful to someone, something longer lasting than a two-hour play.   And that’s as far as my thought process went ..

So a month later we buy the trailer. And I park it on campus, THIS campus, tucked away behind the basketball courts and I start BUILDING and my mom starts BLOGGIN’ and we call it “Trailer Trash” because it’s a GREEN restoration, and we’re using recycled materials.

So after having grown apart over the years, here we are collaborating, truly collaborating, in a way that’s completely new to me. We’re collaborating on a project that’s very personal to both of us. We are building, in fact we are RE-building from old fragments, a new home that is both unconventional and yet, in the most American way, as conventional as can be.

I don’t know about building houses, or little. I don’t know about trailer living. I don’t know about doing all this while going to school full-time and sometimes feeling like I’m losing my mind!

This project has been a true experiment, from the beginning. The most amazing thing about embracing the experimental nature of this project has been to watch it grow and evolve. What began as a guerrilla building project has become–because of this place [Cal Arts] this faculty, this student body– a PERFORMANCE PIECE.  (Why the hell not?)  And it’s about building a HOME for a family that’s been without one for a while. About learning to work the system of a higher education establishment [to get permission to put the trailer on campus.] It’s about learning to become an artist- and not just a performer. Learning to put my thoughts into words (believe it or not this is not something that comes naturally.) It’s about figuring out what this project is, what it means to me, to us, and so this thing is THERAPEUTIC, baby.

I’m starting to ask myself, with no real expectation of reaching any answers: Why is it that I still haven’t unpacked my stuff after Katrina? And why do I still refuse to settle down and put pictures up on the wall?

…maybe it’s not just me…[he stops to address conference participants] If I were to stop and ask: How many of you in this room consider yourself in TRANSIT? How many of you have ever lost a home?

I realize that most artists are nomadic by nature. We have to be, to survive, to pursue our dreams, to make, to MAKE .. We gotta’ keep on moving. And if possible, we ‘gotta do it in STYLE.

It’s the American Way.

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