“Wow! Do you have an agent?” HAHAHAHAHAHAH
People ask me sometimes, when they see all the shows I do, the vast sprawling itineraries and the multiple cities and the boom-boom-boom schedule, they say, “Wow! Do you have an agent?” it’s inconceivable to them that I could get all of those dates without one.
And then I say, no, I’m almost entirely self-produced. I set those up myself. I can tell from the awkward pause and blink that they were really thinking that I must have had an agent, and it would confirm all the glamorous notions that they have about touring performers, I dunno, hotels all the time and no green M&Ms in the dressing room.
Whereas when you take a good look at my tour stops, at the venues where I go and the gigs, it should be obvious that agents just wouldn’t bother. It wouldn’t be worth their time. Smut Slams in the back rooms of bohemian vegetarian cafes or the upstairs of a pub. A solo play in a dungeon in the Midwest where I can run the address, but can’t mention the name of the place, because they can’t risk being outed. A house show with 15 people in attendance and a spaghetti dinner beforehand that I cooked. Fringe festivals where I am solely responsible for my expenses and income, and spend 12 days flyering for my own show like a hyperdrive flyering beast.
These are not winning propositions for an agent. But they are winning for me. I’ve come to terms with the idea that I am not ever going to create a blockbuster show; it’s not in me to write the comedy that sells, nor am I a young, conventionally attractive person. But I also believe, more strongly than ever, in my own mandate: to make space for awkward but essential conversations about sex and sexuality and relationships. I believe in that … zealously, might be the right word.
In that mandate, there must be room for smaller audiences in unconventional and intimate spaces. So then, the challenge for me becomes finding the audiences. This too is not something that most agents would truck with. I hunt around for my people like a trained pig in a vast orchard that has truffles in there somewhere, but scattered about and only under every sixth or seventh tree.
I follow countless leads on the strength of “please, can you come to my town?” (I’ve stopped doing that recently, because most people don’t have experience producing performance, or the connections for doing so.) I look to see where other alternative performers go. I sign up for emails from countless festivals, waiting for application forms and deadlines, knowing that, most of the time, my stuff will be considered “too edgy” for their existing audiences. I talk with other performers and talk and talk: where have they been, what have they done, what have they heard?
I look for leaders in storytelling groups and Fringe theatre groups. I approach feminist organizations and kink organizations and student sexuality organizations, waiting weeks and weeks to get the right contact to pitch that yes, my stuff would fit into their mission. Sometimes the right contact is going on maternity leave or they’ve graduated, and I have to wait some more.
I won’t even bother going into the minutiae of production logistics, the reams and wads of administrivia that go into making the performance go, once we’ve agreed that the performance should go. Just making things fit into a calendar to make sense from a travel point of view, that is its own post. Ditto for promotions (I’ve already written at length about that), and billeting and driving and grocery shopping. Yes. This is a book. (Yes, I’m thinking about writing it.)
Here I am only talking about finding my audience, the one that really wants what I have to offer and that has the ability to make space for it and pay something reasonable for it. (I suspect that my reasonable and an agent’s reasonable are miles apart as well.) It’s not glamorous, this part of the work. This is pounding the virtual pavement and sweating virtual sweat that sometimes trickles out into real sweat, and frankly I get tired of it, All the Fucking Time.
But if this is the only way that my work, the work that I want to do, will get out there, then this is what I’ll do. I will pick the green M&Ms out of the bowl myself. I will beg for pictures of the performance space, and if there is actually a green room, I will consider myself even luckier than normal.
If you have a bit of money and you think this is important, getting my work out into the small and intimate spaces, “going where no (agent) has gone before,” then consider putting some of that money where it counts: become a patron of mine over on Patreon!