Putting the “prod” in self-producing
There is no part of the touring cycle that is pure bliss, in my experience; there is no time in self-produced theatre that does not have some hideous thing attached to it. Working up a show, there’s the brute-force memorizing, the frantic stuffing into your brain the shit you just finished and are kind of sure is shit. Out on tour, for me at least, the challenge is sleep deprivation, fueled by an intense FOMO, a constant sinking feeling that there is something else that I could be doing to promote. (This is actually true. There is always something else, but I only have 24 hours in the day, so at some point I just have to unplug and let it go.)
At the time of writing, I am in that weird moment where I’m not even done with the current tour—I mean, I’m still struggling with postcards for the New Orleans Smut Slam and maybe not having a venue in Atlanta, and nailing down exact dates for DC—but I have to be looking ahead at next year’s tour, and the year after. The question is not metaphorical right now: where do I go from here?
There is a lot to think about, and I have to be a hard-ass, seriously! I used to go wherever people said “please come here!” without regard for whether I had proper space and producer support on the ground. After one too many shows with four audience members in a badly lit room at a sex club, I started getting pickier. And pickier. Starting next year I’m instituting a strict minimum guarantee, like, everywhere that’s not a festival. I don’t care if people are already my friends, it’s too damn stressful.
And the festivals? I’m starting to develop a pretty good sense of whether a festival is going to pan out. I know for next year and the year after, which ones are getting me back and which ones can’t even cover my admission fee.
There are strictly geographical considerations as well. I’m driving around North America again next year, and there are ways to make that easy, and ways to make it hard. I can’t zig-zag, like I’m doing this year from Houston to Nashville to New Orleans; that’s a lot of wasted gas. Things need to go in a loop as much as possible, no backtracking, unless the performance fees justify it. If I am venturing off that loop, I have to try to clump, that is, arrange appearances relatively close together, make it really worth my while to venture out.
And then I have to consider WHY I want to go. Money is an easy call, usually, but there are non-monetary reasons sometimes, too, and those need to be weighed in the balance as well. Do I have a large enough fan base there that hasn’t seen me perform in a while? Is it a city or festival where more than one person, independently, has told me that I “need to go,” and what were their reasons for urging me there? Is it a place where I might be head-hunted (Edinburgh), or where I have my own professional reasons for wanting to break into?
I get out my maps and my spreadsheets and my long-term visioning notes, and I try to stay hard-headed, because damn it if my tender, heedless heart isn’t back there all the time, saying, “But people want to see you. But your shows are important. If you make an impact on one person’s life, that’s enough reason to go somewhere, isn’t it?”
NO. No, it’s not, stupid heart. That can only be an excuse after I make a mistake. That is not a forward-thinking, tour-planning reason at all. Sorry, heart. Sorry, ambitious soul. Sorry, person in Los Angeles or Nebraska who may really need what I have to offer. I have to survive, otherwise there are no more shows for anyone. I have to thrive. Everything else goes second to that.
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