Confessions of a street-promo geek
I stayed up late last night prepping for my Street Promo 101 workshop here in Calgary, basically just re-reading my e-booklet by the same name and making notes for what I want to get the participants to do. (Dance, fringe monkeys, dance, MWAHAHAHAHAHHHHH. Ahem.)
I hadn’t forgotten what was in the booklet; I just haven’t had a chance to geek out about it in a while, mostly because some of the strategies that work for street promo at North American fringes do not apply to UK fringes in general and Edinburgh Fringe in particular. But when strategies don't work, it's because physical layouts and other logistical elements vary between fringes, not potential audience members themselves are inherently different. The basic psychology works.
Yeah, see? I geek out about it. In re-reading my simple little treatise, I was forcefully reminded of one simple fact:
I FUCKING LOVE STREET PROMO.
All of it. Coming up with hooks and pitches, deciding one’s strategic approach to a particular festival—stationary tactics can make sense in Edinburgh, not so much in Edmonton, unless you’re really killing it and don’t need to flyer anymore—drilling down to the one-on-one interactions and how best to pitch a show to straight couples.
(Pro tip: if you’re a woman, talk to the other woman first and primarily, otherwise she might thinking you’re hitting on “her man.” I know, it’s seriously retrogressive.)
I love it all. I am only limited by my physical stamina, which isn’t the greatest, but I do all right, if I keep my passages between venues to a stroll, and also make sure to sit down and rest my feet when I can. I’m also limited a bit by my vocal strength and schedule on that day. I can't let my voice get worn out, and so I will sometimes stop “carnival barking” my pitch, or stop flyering altogether, if I can feel it doing terrible things to my vocal cords on the day of a show.
However. If I didn’t have to think about all that shit, flyering is all I would do. Well, shows. I have to perform the actual shows. But OTHER THAN THAT, I seriously could flyer and street promo all fucking day.
What draws me to something that so many artists loathe or fear? It’s complicated. Sometimes I think it is the same stuff that draws me to performing in the theatre, or on a comedy or storytelling stage: I like making people smile, or at least giving them something to think about for a little while. My experience of flyering is akin to something in phone sex (I’m not trying to be creepy here): I thrill to the challenge of engaging the (potential) patron quickly and effectively.
What else? Well, I’m always looking for love and approval and external validation. Yay! They wanted my card! That is totally a thing, and just because I know it doesn’t mean I’m immune to it. Or maybe it’s the more detached motivation of wanting to test the different ways that people tick. Occasionally it feels like hunting or fishing—okay, that is a little creepy, sorry—seeing if I can reel ‘em in.
And then, well… I’m a stubborn social monkey-wrencher at heart. I know damn well that women aren’t supposed to be confident in their work, that fat people aren’t supposed to be going out there and drawing that much attention to themselves. I love getting up into people’s faces anyway, in spite of my own nerves, and saying, yes, I’ve got a show, yes I’m wearing a tutu, yes, that is my naked torso on the card. And yes, you want to see me, lumps, bumps, and all. Yes you do.
A little of this, a little of that, I suspect. The “why” doesn’t matter as much as the “is”. Today, after the workshop, I grab my postering bag and a handful of my own postcards and I step out on the street and the games begin anew.
Out there, you can help the hustle by taking one of my flyers and smiling and then coming to one of my shows. On the Internet, it's even easier: become a patron of mine on Patreon!