The 2009 Tour Conclusion

Yes, the tour blog never really had an ending. I have been back for a while and I have been putting it off, but here it is!

The 5:30pm Friday show I had went pretty well, except for another tech problem. I tripped over some of the cords, which yanked the plug out of the machines, thus ending the DVD that plays throughout the show. I quickly fixed it while audience waited patiently and continued on. It adds to my disinterest in shows that rely on tech.

I had hoped that my Saturday night 8:30pm show would be a big success, being that it was prime time. It was not. Only a few people attended, and they were not into it. I had gotten a good review in the local Boulder newspaper The Daily Camera, but it didn’t matter. I was frustrated leaving and making my way through the hordes of people showing up to see the next show, the local hit, “Good Girls Don’t But I Do.” A show with women in pretty dresses who complain about men. I suppose that is more accessible in content than a weird multimedia show with a deconstructionist narrative.

It wasn’t until I got home and took a close look at the festival schedule that I realized I had been totally hosed with the schedule I had gotten in Boulder. Three of my six performances were at 5:30pm on weekdays. I didn’t see any other show in the program that had a schedule like that. In general, when you do a festival you get all kinds of time slots, and you will inevitable get at least one poor slot. But even in the venue I was in, it was not balanced well. I was really given the short end of the stick, and I was also not local and didn’t have a following in Boulder. So how was I going to build up an audience with time slots that lend themselves to small audiences?

There were a lot of elements to the Boulder Fringe that I was unhappy with. I give them credit for asking for frank and honest feedback, and I did send them a long email with all my comments. I also realize that they had lost venues that they previously had, and that their financial situation may be dicey. Boulder is a beautiful city, but I don’t think I will be revisiting the Fringe there.

Another thing that surprised me was an online audience comment that criticized me for “trolling for audience” in front of other people’s shows. They were referring to me handing out flyers and talking up the show in the line-ups for shows that had large audiences coming in. Or I sometimes hand out flyers when audiences come out of shows. The fact is that I don’t have any other way to sell my show. Yes, there is word-of-mouth, but I need to get people in the door in order for there to be word-of-mouth. I had never been to Boulder before and didn’t have a local audience. In the Canadian Fringes, flyering and promoting are a way of life. So I don’t know how to take a comment like that, except to say that person has no idea what a performer has to do to make a living or to sell their show.

Was the run of “The Last Straight Man In Theatre” a success? Well, I am very proud of the show, and the director Alison Williams is also proud of the work, and we would very much like to work together at some point. It was a case of putting a show out there, as I had not done a new show that I had written since 2006, and seeing what happens.

Critics were divided. There is no way for me to judge the show from a critical standpoint, because it’s 50/50. In Winnipeg, the Free Press gave it four-and-a-half stars while the CBC gave it one. The alternative weekly the Uptown dug the show, while Planet S panned it. The Star Phoenix in Saskatoon ripped it apart, but the 25th Street Mystery Theatre Critic in Saskatoon named it the top production of the festival, “Outstanding Solo Show,” and “Outstanding Multimedia,” and named me the “Outstanding Male Performer” of the festival. The Daily Camera in Boulder liked me. Online Boulder Fringe audience reviews ranged from saying how talented I was, to one person who simply wrote that I am a “tool.”

So I don’t know how future critics will take it. It is a complete crapshoot. I don’t know why that is. My friend Jayson McDonald told me, “It’s because you’re weird.” I asked him, “The show is weird or I am weird?” He answered, “Yes.”

I have reached the point where I don’t read the bad reviews, for the most part. I used to save reviews until I got home from the tour, but now I don’t even bother with that. Why should I? I don’t want to sit around and think about it. And while I’m on the subject, that is one of the things that I truly dislike about touring the Fringe – I am so tired of hearing performers constantly obsess over their reviews. I know performers who cry a river when they get a three-and-a-half star review after getting praises since the Earth cooled. Am I supposed to be sympathetic to them? God help me.

I enjoyed meeting new people and seeing old friends this year, and seeing shows that inspired me. I enjoyed having Palikitten come to Boulder, where we hiked and swam and had a great road trip back to New York. Great times!

I plan to tour next year, as much as I can. I plan to do the festivals and cities where I have had an audience in the past. It’s time I start making some money in addition to doing my art. “The Last Straight Man In Theatre” did not make back it’s production costs yet, as it had only a three city run this year. “Hooray for Speech Therapy” made a small profit, and I am going to take people’s advice and look into booking that show in colleges and possibly conventions. I am procrastinating on that, but it is an idea that has been suggested to me several times, including during this past year’s tour.

I find it difficult returning home after a tour, with no clear plans for the future. Sure, I have ideas. But this past year it was long haul of hard work and devotion into crafting this show and touring with it. In my touring, I drove approximately 8,411 miles (13,536 kilometers). I stayed in 18 different cities, and performed in 10 cities. I had radio interviews, TV interviews, and print interviews. In Ottawa I would rehearse, edit the video, run out to perform “Hooray for Speech Therapy,” run back, rehearse, and edit the video.

Then, after all is done, I come home to New York and all the work is over. So what’s next? Well, I wouldn’t mind having a piece of cake. With icing. I also wish to have continued success in my career, but I am not sure what approach to take. “The Last Straight Man In Theatre” did have an audience. There were people who loved the show, but I don’t know what the demographic is for my audience. Maybe I should figure that out.

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