A brief overview of hustling for too-weird artists

I’m in the middle of doing and booking and prepping for shows right now, looking ahead for a few months, six months, next summer, okay, what do I have for Edinburgh Fringe 2019 (yes, of course I am thinking about that, I’ve been thinking about that since before the last Fringe was over, it’s part of the reasons why I’ve been away from here for so long).

I’ve been whirling around like a dervish for weeks and weeks, doing shows and traveling and doing more shows, and that pattern will continue for some time, it looks like, which is hilarious because one of the feelings I carried with me from EdFringe 2018 was that no one was ever going to book me in any normal way because I am Too Damn Weird.

“Too Weird” is a hell of a load as an artist. On the one hand, I think most artists with any background in fringe would feel a little proud of that, or at least pretend to be proud, like, yeah, motherfuckers, I’m punk rock, I’m so fucking edgy, bookers don’t know what to do with me.

From a practical point of view, though, “Too Weird” does make it a lot harder to make a living. I mean, you can’t live off radio silence from venues, and you sure can’t make a pull quote out of it for your marketing materials.

In terms of emotion, too, it is hard and confusing as hell, because here’s the thing: I feel totally reasonable and normal in my performances. Of course I do. This is my world. The audiences respond well, and in the case of Smut Slams, we are creating a good and exciting experience together. How is this weird?! I think. This is the way the world should be! But righteous indignation is not a sustainable state of being.

So I’ve been wrestling my way through all of that—processing, some people call it, I just call it bulldozing—and in the meantime, SHOWBIZ. I send emails and meet up with potential collaborators and make Smut Slams happen and book spaces for this next thing, and things just tick on ahead. A couple of months ago I looked at my calendar and realized, hey, it sucks that no one else is willing to produce me yet, but I think I’m doing okay, kinda, hanging in there and producing my own damn self. I have to. If I want to keep doing it, I have to DIY it.

Take Smut Slam, for example, because that is a lot of what I’m doing these days and making it happen is hard work, especially when I’m going someplace new. Gotta find the right co-producer for a new city, someone who is not doing it as a favor to me or because they’ve got a blank spot on the calendar, but because they see the radical potential of the event and they want to be a part of it.

Judges, can that co-producer find the right judges? What about prizes? What communities do they know there? What communities do I know there? What about a venue, can we find the right one, the right size with the matching vibe? Is it private enough for the vulnerable intimacy of sex stories? Do they have booze? Do they have good chairs?

Some things I can only really assess once I’m in the performance space, but in the meantime, the show must go on and it takes at least 4-6 weeks to get a show up and running. So I squint at bad photos of the event space, and ask my performer friends for recommendations, and listen at length to these co-producing partners. I send the thank-you notes, and schedule in follow-up dates and set up skype calls. I listen to my gut, and then back it up with spreadsheets.

This is just Smut Slam, mind. It’s a different set of considerations for every other show that I do, if I’m traveling with it or not, if I’m doing it solo or working with other performers, if I’m working with a university or with a scrappy feminist festival run on a shoestring and chili cooked by the co-op. Every single performance possibility, I’m checking through the logistics, running the numbers, and ultimately seeing how well the event answers two questions:

  • Does it help me make a living?
  • Is it an event or experience that shapes the world for the better?

Producers and bookers would help me with the first question. But they wouldn’t have anything to say about the second, and they certainly can’t help me figure out where the balance must be struck between the two.

So yeah, as much as I wish someone else would produce me, as much as I know my work is worth picking up, I know it’s a long shot. The great part is, though: I don’t have to wait. I can keep doing it for myself.


If you would like to support this “Too Weird” work that I do, around sex and relationships and bodies, now is a great time to become a patron of mine over on Patreon!

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