Begin 2017 with YOUR Vision and Work Backwards

Happy New Year!  I do hope that everyone had a fantastic time spent with family, friends and loved ones.

I love the holidays because I take advantage of the break in order to read to relax.  And that’s not to say that my mind wasn’t hunting for ideas to share with you regarding marketing and audience development.  In fact, I found many inspirational articles, books and blog posts about ways to further the development of relationships with audience members and innovative strategies we can use to market our arts practice.

However, I did discover that many articles tended to encourage their readers to move quickly past what many had expressed to be a begrudging 2016 and count down their top suggestions for forging ahead into 2017.  These included ideas about goal setting, the use of new technology in order to improve personal productivity and organisation, and noting daily rituals of top successful individuals that help make the most of their productivity.  As I do my best to avoid doing the same, I’d rather share my favourite advice read: work backwards.

Wait, what?  Work backwards?  Yes!  Almost every article or blog post seemed to agree that the best way to work forward throughout 2017 is to work backwards.

What does this mean?  How do we work backwards?  As I am sure you have already done, been doing, or plan on doing, to help kick-start your year take some time to set some goals.  What do YOU want to achieve in 2017?   It’s important to set both personal and creative practice goals.  And I suggest that the perfect place to start is by using your most valuable tool: your imagination.  Creative individuals have a lucrative gift of imagination.  Put it to good use by closing your eyes and imagining…it’s December 31st 2017.  Answer for yourself the following questions: what will you have accomplished by December 31st?  Be specific: where are you?  What are you wearing?  Who is around you?  What have you earned financially (and emotionally)?  Remember, there are no right or wrong answers so dream as big and as detailed as possible.

Next, work backwards: what will you have accomplished 6 months from today (by June 30st 2017)?  Where are you?  Who do you associate with?  What have you earned financially and emotionally by this time?

Continue asking yourself these questions for 3 months (or March 31st), 1 month (or February 9th) and 2 weeks (or January 23rd) from now.

Lastly, read out loud what you’ve written, reading backwards of course!  Start with your achievements in 2 weeks, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and 1 year.  Might I also advise to read these goals backwards (AND forwards for extra points) everyday to keep yourself focused, motivated and persistent. I hope these goals showcase a productive and successful 2017!

Review: Oh What a Night! – The Melbourne Monologues Brilliantly Showcases Melbourne Writers and Performers

All great writers emerge from somewhere.  Here in Melbourne, we are lucky to have groups like Melbourne Writer’s Theatre to support the emergence of some amazing new and established talents.

Since 1982, Melbourne Writer’s Theatre has been supporting emerging and established writers by providing them a platform to showcase their works.  In the company’s latest production at the La Mama Courthouse Theatre, The Melbourne Monologues showcases the beautiful writings of Louise Baxter, Christine Croyden, Alison Knight, Mazz Ryan and Bruce Shearer.  Though each piece delivers a unique perspective and individual qualities, together, under the direction of Elizabeth Walley, these six monologues showcased how brilliantly, cleverly and compelling new writers challenge our everyday perceptions.

Even more so, The Melbourne Monologues also elegantly showcases the incredible talent of some of Melbourne’s emerging and veteran actors.  Standout performances included Isabella Gilbert, who embodied an individual pursuing a career change as a rapper wholeheartedly, convincing the audience in the power of self-belief.  Performer, Stephanie King also gives a standout performance portraying a mild-mannered woman delighting over the development of a love affair with gardening and the man behind the garden tools. 

Catching a glimpse of some of the emerging and established talent within Melbourne Writer’s Theatre by attending The Melbourne Monologues excites for a bright and fulfilling future in theatre.

The Melbourne Monologues performs at The La Mama Courthouse Theatre until November 13th.  To purchase tickets, CLICK HERE.

Facing a Bad Day Sucks!

I am experiencing a bad week.  Not just a bad day but a Funked. Out. Week.  For the past few days I have been stuck inside my own head swarmed by negative thoughts that have sparked extreme emotions.  Quite frankly, I’m exhausted.  Yet, I have come to realise that I am not alone.

I think that as artists we are so connected to our feelings and emotions that sometimes they get the better of us.  We easily become overwhelmed by thoughts and emotions that are often triggered by the world around us. For example, on a daily basis we strive for acceptance from others, everyday we are constantly reminded that our bank accounts remain at low levels yet we work rigorous hours on our creativity.  When we already work and live for an industry that is often times deemed as abnormal, we strive to rein in our feelings to be as ‘normal’ as possible.

But after awhile that build up ends up exploding, and in comes a bad day.

I am writing to remind you, and really myself, that everyone faces bad days.  Bad days do not discriminate against age, race, gender, occupation, religious beliefs, etc.  They just exist.  Bad days are those times when nothing seems to go right: it’s a chore to get out of bed in the morning, or creativity is a struggle and ultimately the weight of the world is pounding down on the soul.

In the hopes to help others who are seeking ways to overcome their own bad days, I would like to share some steps that I turn to that help me bounce back.  Please note, I am by no means an expert in any of these tips nor do I claim to know or understand the science behind these steps:

1.)  Acknowledging the bad day.  As many counselors have reminded me during my experiences, bad days are healthy.  They keep us balanced, and bad days give me an excuse to be more grateful for the good days when they come up.  When I acknowledge that I am having a bad day I am actually taking a step toward a solution.  As Dory from Finding Nemo says, ‘just keep swimming!’

2.)  Remember that I am not alone.  Everyone has bad days.  I am not abnormal for feeling down and overwhelmed by doubt, fear, hurt or anger.  I am normal and I am human. 

3.)  Accept a change in my routine.  If getting out of bed in the morning feels like a chore to me, then work with it.  Maybe this is the universe’s way of saying I need some rest.  If I take some time to figure out how I can get through the day by staying in bed then do it!  Similarly, if my daily go-to creative activity isn’t working smoothly, try a different creative outlet.  Because I do a lot of my writing straight on my computer, I find that when I write in a journal with a pen in hand and simply write my thoughts, no matter how illogical they may be, it clears my head.  I feel so much better after 10 minutes dumping a pure unconscious streaming of writing.

4.)  Talk about the day with someone.  I have a tendency to bottle up my thoughts and emotions and not share them with others.  This trait frustrates my partner immensely!  He simply wants to help but can’t do anything until I take action by talking to him about the issues.  I constantly fight against bottling up my emotions and thoughts.  I find then once I let it out by talking, I feel 85% better than I did before.  Likewise, I call my best friend from the US.  I know that she is there for me through thick and thin just as much as I am for her.  I am confident that she and my partner do not judge, they do not criticise and they do not turn me away.  Additionally, I’ve discovered that more times than not either my partner or my bestie is also having a bad day and we end up facing the day together J

While these are just a few tricks that I use, there are plenty more to help conquer those bad days.  I thought that if I open up to my readers by sharing my experiences it might help spark an important conversation.  It is important for us to be honest with ourselves and with each other because it’s the first step in building long-term relationships with our audiences.  Please feel free and safe to share your story by answering what helps you get out of a funk?  I believe that by sharing we can continue our creative contributions to society together.

 

Review: THE WORLD WITHOUT BIRDS Finds Honour in the Classics

Fables are often forgotten in today’s adult modern world.  But the lessons they offer in their storytelling are invaluable to everyday life.  Writer, Christine Croyden has embraced the classic form of fable and musical theatre in her latest brilliant production THE WORLD WITHOUT BIRDS: A Musical Fable gently reminding its audience how relevant classics remain in our daily lives. 

So as not to give away the cathartic message this particular fable tells, I would rather tell you more about the highlights you can expect from this delightful performance.  Under the direction of Elizabeth Walley a small ensemble of four actors delight the La Mama Courthouse stage playing multiple stock characters in the form of bird species.  Each bird portrays stereotypes like young and naive, old and wise, cunning and territorial or ignorant and cruel.  The audience can relate to these characters either because we see ourselves in them or have encountered such traits throughout our journey.

Playing the “Queen of the Birds,” Margot Knight eloquently captures the paralleling traits of a delicate bird and the delicate inner life of an older woman.  She dances with such emotional delicacy throughout the story finding balance between protecting her own vulnerabilities and standing up defending her personal value.

As a musical, while vocal abilities from cast members vary, it is smart to feature the supporting talent of Charlotte Fox who plays the young princess bird.  Her voice radiates and envelops the courthouse space.  Original music writer, Ella Filar has cleverly given Fox the ability to crescendo into an operatic tonality heightening the plays climax.

What’s truly appealing about this production is Croyden’s writing.  It has a sophisticated ability to honour classic fable storytelling full of poetic imagery that concludes with a cathartic lesson with that of contemporary events.  It is equally delightful to hear the multiple play-of-words throughout the production to birds: ‘birds of a feather,’ ‘bird brain,’ ‘fluff my feathers.’ 

Also appealing is the accompaniment from the 3-piece live band.  The music glues the production together as it plays music that refers to the fluttering lifestyle of birds.  The baseline reminds me of baroque style classical music, which I believe sheds light on the classical and sophisticated style found in Croyden’s writing.

THE WORLD WITHOUT BIRDS: A Musical Fable is playing now at La Mama Courthouse Theatre until November 6th.  To purchase tickets, CLICK HERE

What Creates a Stronger Impact: Marketing or Audience Development?

Recently, many of my artist clients have asked me what’s the difference between marketing and audience development?  And which one is more important to focus on for the arts?  In an attempt to help as many artists as possible, I thought I would share with you my thoughts.

Marketing is about informing.  It is announcing events, releasing thoughts and establishing yourself as an artist or arts organisation.

Audience development is a collection of strategies and manoeuvres taken to establish long-term relationships with audience members.  These strategies and manoeuvres include programming, branding and marketing. 

While marketing is an important element within the larger scheme of audience development, I believe a stronger emphasis on audience development is a smarter move for an artist or arts organisation.

Here is why: the arts heavily rely on word of mouth marketing to attract bums on seats.  But how do we accomplish building word of mouth marketing?  We can start by providing care.

Last week I attended an inspiring talk at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre featuring Robert LaPage with Richard Watts.  LaPage repeatedly expressed the idea of the arts being an event for its audiences – meaning that from the moment the audience walks through the theatre doors to await for the main event in the foyer they are surrounded by the event, or experience.  I couldn’t agree more.  By creating an event inside AND outside the arts space, we are showing our audience how much we value their support.  We care that they have chosen to spend their time with the arts. 

What is care?  Care comes across through customer service.  It’s placing yourself ahead of the needs of others.  It’s thinking ahead of needs and wants, emphasising deeper listening and taking more detailed action.

Customer service doesn’t occur solely within the arts space.  It occurs through over the telephone during a ticketing transaction, on the streets amongst the community, on our websites, social media pages or other online sources where information can be shared with our audience.  Care and customer service occurs in everyday life.  Have you emphasised much care toward your audience lately?

If we put forth as much passion into caring for our audiences through customer service as we do in creating and practicing our art, our audience members would grow, mature and spread from followers to fans to advocates to funders.  What a bright future that paints!

Show some more care towards your audience through small steps starting today.  I guarantee: an impression will be made, and I am pretty sure the impression will be positive. 

Add 'Advocacy' to Your Creative Practice

Lately I’ve find myself growing obsessed with discovering connections between audience development and word of mouth marketing.  I concluded on one word that sets a powerful tone: advocacy.

Last night, I had the wonderful privilege to see Back to Back Theatre Company’s latest production, LADY EATS APPLE as part of the Melbourne Festival.  Back to Back Theatre is all about empowering people with disabilities to be apart of the arts as performers.  LADY EATS APPLE certainly reminded the audience how amazingly able these individuals are! 

As always, as we left the Arts Centre, my partner and I immediately engaged in conversation expressing our personal experiences.   We both agreed: the experience was powerful and definitely a conversation starter – event the director’s note inside the program encourages the audience to interpret the experience as they wish, talk about it with one another, but don’t share with the performers ;)

And our Uber picked us up.  As we journeyed home, my partner and I continued our conversation, which now included the driver.  It started off casually – how was our night was and where we were coming from - and I began to recall the wonderful theatre experience.

Our conversation continued nonstop with passion and intrigue for a full 20 minutes, the length of our drive home.  And this unique conversation got me thinking about how important it is to advocate for the arts. 

Engaging in conversation with community individuals establishes an educational platform that stresses value of the arts.  Arts events rely heavily on word of mouth to sell tickets and place more bums on seats.  But it’s the creativity and natural ability structured in conversations that can really convince more individuals to experience the arts.

As artists, we know the impact of the arts to the community.  After all, why else would we be so involved and willing to give our gifts to the public for free?  But there’s always the question: why does the community not value the arts like artists do?  I believe it’s because there is a lack of conversation reminding the community how much the arts surround their lives.

Art is everywhere: it is found in architecture, technology, billboard advertisements, newspapers, etc.  Do we as artists refuse to acknowledge the creativity involved in those everyday activities too? 

I don’t believe so.  I believe that in order to make a social impact we just need to acknowledge art around us and talk more about it.  I encourage you to not only continue your arts practice daily, but also add ‘arts advocate’ to your routine. Advocating is what will change the current social perception of the arts.

Rethinking Discount Ticket Sales: Make it a Part of Your Audience Development Strategy

Lately, I’ve been pondering the following interesting question: have our audience members grown dependent on discount tickets?  And do these discount ticket offers devalue the arts?

In a early marketing director position, I remember utilising discount offer codes and working with companies like LivingSocial and Groupon to setup ticket deals for performance events.  I thought that making any money from ticket sales was much better than making none, and it is better to get more bums in seats during every performance.  But by the end of the production run, when it was time to collect and report final numbers, I realized that though we had increased our audience numbers and ticket sales the company lost money overall. 

You can imagine how upset I was to report these figures to the company’s executive and artistic directors.  Totally embarrassed!

I am currently reading Tao of Audience Development for the Arts by Shoshana Danoff Fanizza, a collection of blogs written by the author over a five-year period.  Fanizza has over 20 years experience in audience development for numerous arts organisations in the US – mostly in classical music organisations.  One of Fanizza’s articles in this book reflects her experience with offering audiences discount tickets to artistic events.  She challenges the idea that while these discount codes and offers may bring more bums into seats, do these discounts 1.) place value to the arts; and 2.) build community for the artist or arts organisation? 

I think Fanizza makes a great point.  If we, as artists and arts organisations, are desperate to earn a decent living and the respect from the community around us as a viable industry, we have to honour the value of ourselves.  I agree: offering discount tickets to the public gives leverage to the arts to be more accessible to a wider range of audience members; however, offering these discount tickets has now set in place an unfair habit.

What we, as artists, can focus on is initiating change: after all, be the change you want to see, right?   Below offer some options to consider for this change:

1.)  Offering subscriber early-bird discount tickets during a limited period of time: by offering subscribers an early bird discount generates urgency and a benefit to being a member of your community (which is what audience development is all about – building community).

2.)  Collecting contact details from those who purchase discount tickets: though this can seem difficult to accomplish, it never hurts to negotiate with the discount offer company to collect email addresses from purchases.  If the company is not willing to negotiate, place these discount tickets in seats within a specific section and pass around a mailing list clipboard.

3.)  Limiting the time period of offering discount tickets and increase the discount further: for example, an early bird discount might offer 50% off a limited number of tickets during one week.  Then, offer discounted tickets at 30% off during week two.  It’s an apparent habit in Melbourne that audiences wait until the last minute to make their ticket purchases.  This method reverses the last-minute ticket discount and adds value to the arts.

While these ideas seem risky and are solely dependent on goals and strategies of an arts organisation or artist, I believe these are worth considering.  Remember: audience development takes time because is about building long-term relationships, or growing a community for your artistic practice.

Shoshana Danoff Fanizzi’s book, The Tao of Audience Development for the Arts, is available for purchase on Amazon.

Street Art Performance Sparkles to Engage Melbourne Community

“This counts as my exercise for today.”
“What is that creature?”
“Where is that sound coming from?”
“How did the city manage to close the streets?
“Where will this show take us throughout the city?”

These were just a few interesting remarks I overheard last night while attending Les Tambour De Feu, presented as part of the Melbourne Festival.  This free street art event takes its audience on a musical and spectacle performance around a small parameter of Melbourne’s CBD.  The ensemble of 7 performers (six drummers and a ram mascot) leads the crowd (last night, I would guess there were 500 in attendance) through Melbourne’s streets performing stret art inspired by a Spanish folklore about a devil character visiting the earth for a day.  Their greatest niche is their use of pyrotechnic instruments illuminating the night and guiding the prcession. 

I found most valuable about the performance was the gift this troupe provided the community.

Many times, people present the benefits of the arts to argue why the arts should continue being funded by the community, either by the government or by private donors.  Most of the arguments list the following benefits:

  • The arts enhance a child’s scores in government regulated tests
  • The arts affect other industries, i.e. the food & beverage industry
  • The arts provide health benefits by offering a relief from stress.

However, why don’t we focus by simplifying the more relevant benefits from the arts?  For example, performances like Les Tambour De Feu, street art, offer the following benefits to their audiences:

  • Makes life fun! – How many of us go home from an 8-hour work-day to stay hibernated in our homes glued to the TV?  Performances like Les Tambour De Feu offer its audience an opportunity to change their routine.  Additionally, Les Tambour evoked a smile on many audience members’ face because it was visually appealing.  There was fire pyrotechnics, a large iron-clad creature leading the performance, who also chased audience members as it changed its walking path.  Best moment occurred when the performance began to walk down Flinders Street and people noticed a tram coming towards the procession. I began to wonder: will the tram stop for us?  What?!  It was undeniable that the audience had FUN experiencing art!
  • Brings community together – One of the main purposes for street art is to be accessible to all.  By not confining the audience behind four walls of a building, street art utilizes open spaces to encourage dedicated watchers and those passing by to watch with curiosity.  Suddenly, people find common ground, common interest.  I’d also like to note that, in my observation, I would guarantee that 90% of those who attended last night’s performance didn’t realize they were actually witnessing art. 
  • Peaks our curiosity – What I found REALLY exciting to observe as I followed Les Tambours around the Melbourne streets was seeing the reactions from individuals who were inside bars and restaurants along the performance route.  Many people stopped eating or drinking to investigate the source of the sound and why a crowd was parading behind this musical troupe.  It was exhilarating to see how art, in this format, allowed people to be curious and then investigate their curiosty.

I absolutely loved Les Tambours at the Melbourne Festival.  I am so grateful to have witnessed the power art has on the community, and being reassured that the arts is valued by the community.  I now challenge myself with the question: Does the arts reciprocate by valuing its community?  Or are we so focused on increasing ‘bums on seats” we’ve isolated ourselves from who really matters?  Stay tuned for my answer…

For more information on the Melbourne Festival, please visit www.festival.melbourne

Starting Your Audience Development Process After a Festival Season

Congratulations to all those participants of the 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival.  It was a wonderful 17 days of wonderful magic, compelling storytelling, engaging interactive experiences and laugh-out-loud exchanges.

Like any festival ending, I suspect many participants are asking themselves, ‘what next?’  Now is a perfect time to switch your focus from marketing to audience development.  Grab a notebook and following these three simple and achievable actions to or maintain your audience development process

CELEBRATE

Congratulate yourself!  Pat yourself on the back, or give yourself a big bear hug recognising all you have achieved throughout your festival experience!  Most importantly, it is important to give yourself credit for committing to sharing your gift with the world.  It is a brave step towards a successful career in the arts!  Remember that you have worked long hours throughout the creative development phase perfecting the narrative of your event, spent countless hours adjusting your project within a new space provided by festival organisers, spent another set of countless hours watching and analysing the audiences’ experiences.  No matter what the numbers show (financially or tickets sold) your hard work should certainly be acknowledged.

SUSTAIN YOUR FESTIVAL FRIENDSHIPS

All festival participants are feeling and experiencing the same emotions and thoughts: exhausted, elated and buzzing with ideas for their future.  It is important to keep in touch with these individuals because you share a strong bond.  Organise a group coffee catch-up within three days after your last performance or event with participants of other shows within your venue space.  Share and ask the following questions within the group: how was your festival experience?  What is your creative next step?  What other festivals might you be participating in this year?  Sharing these answers will keep your dreams buzzing close in your mind and excite the flow of your artistic ideas.  Don’t forget to exchange numbers and email addresses to keep in touch for long-term relationship growth.

 READ THE REVIEWS

Some artists restrain themselves from reading reviews until after the conclusion of their event run.  I believe this superstitious act protects the artist from affecting their performance or event flow to cater to a few subjective opinions.  However, reading reviews now is a great next step in the creative development process.  Reviews from any source (either from online sites or print publications) provide context clues to the audience experience.  As you read, ask yourself if your creative goals were clear and understood.  Did any technical elements (sound or lighting) enhance the experience?  Were there any specific moments throughout the narrative mentioned by the reviewer?  Record any specific phrases or adjectives used in the reviews that say something about your event.  The positive words or phrases can be stored and used in future marketing materials; record the negative remarks in your project notebook to revisit in the rehearsal room in the near future.  And always remember: reviews are subjective and NEVER personal.

 

REVIEW: Honouring a Family Veteran Who Is BURIED AT SEA

Perfecting a character, especially one who once existed, is no easy feat for a writer.  The life of a playwright is about dedication (bordering obsession) to the research, persistence to the pursuit of truth and taking the courage to create.  Mark Salvestro’s BURIED AT SEA is a quaint performance capturing these detailed specifics of playwrighting.

Salvestro touchingly honours his great-great uncle who courageously fought and died defending his country’s freedom at Gallipoli during World War I.  Salvestro is cheeky and adamant to make clear that he is writing a play with music about the life of his great-great uncle George – but it is NOT a cabaret.  Using song and lyrical storytelling, Salvestro highlights the life of not only a brave soldier, but a true family-man who fought in war battles focused to return home to his one true love.  Most intriguing about the performance is Salvestro’s ability to draw parallels between his own life and that of his great-great uncle: Salvestro weighs the pros and cons of things like finding true love and overcoming sacrifices.  For example, Salvestro compares the simple life of early 1900s when meeting a true love happened by catching the eye of a beautiful lady from across the room to that of his 21st century tools that force him to swipe right or left to meet a pretty face. 

The story moves along nicely through the weaving in and out of original and covered songs sung by Salvestro and accompanied on key board by Daniele Buatti.  These songs are smartly used throughout this performance to illuminate Salvestro's beautiful tenor voice. 

Making his debut at Melbourne Fringe Festival, BURIED AT SEA is a telling performance of a passionate and romantic performer in Mark Salvestro.  I am eager to watch this young talent grow as a performer, writer and ultimately a theatre maker because he is unique to honour real lives of real people in actual historical events.

BURIED AT SEA performs as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival through October 1st at 6PM.  For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit the Melbourne Fringe Festival website.

 

REVIEW: Campy Fun In TERROR AUSTRALIS

Oh the horror!  Oh the screams!  Oh the pole dancing!  TERROR AUSTRALIS, created and performed by Leah Shelton, is a cabaret that reveals the darker side of Australia with a delightful humour.

Set to classic rock tunes of the late 80s – think of tunes like Def Leopard – Shelton showcases her graceful talent while moving across the stage and onto a stage pole – an upright clothes line garnished with white linens and clothes.  Cleverly hidden amongst the linens are props and costume accessories which Shelton uses during song transitions and storyline changes.  Another clever tool presented on stage is film footage projected on the hanging linens displaying sometimes-gruesome images influenced by classic 19050s horror movies that show Australia’s ‘dangerous’ side in bushlands. 

Shelton is a witty and inhibited performer that delights her audiences with graceful pole dancing.  My favourite trait about TERROR AUSTRALIS is that it is a show that makes art accessible for all and proves that late night performances can be deliciously camp and entertaining.

TERROR AUSTRALIS is a part of Melbourne Fringe Festival and performs until October 1st at 9:15PM.  For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit the Melbourne Fringe Festival website.

REVIEW: While Hiding Our Secrets We Find Ourselves in THE THICK OF IT

Trying to hide your darkest secrets - your bad habits, your quirky passions, your family heritage – is not always easy to maintain.  What does it look like through the eyes of another as we try our best to hide these secrets?  Award-winning performer, Emily Taylor, explores the comedic behaviours of humans trying to maintain good impressions as their world crumbles underneath.

Taylor seamlessly weaves in and out of the lives four characters: an overconfident single career woman, the lonely rough-life sea captain, a life-empowering yogi and a chronic alcoholic giving life advice.  Amongst their individual circumstances, each character tries their best to maintain good graces in front of others – they are strong, confident and sure about themselves.  But as time progresses, circumstances change causing these characters to reveal their deepest, most sour secrets.  The end leaves the audience to either sympathise or laugh in hysterics over unique behaviour.

It is no wonder Taylor has earned multiple awards throughout her artistic career.  Her impeccable character development and performance is wonderful to witness.  What’s most impressive is her ability she jumps instantaneously from one character and set of circumstances into another instantaneously.  Taylor distinguishes the differences of each character through vocal, facial and gestural variations. 

With a performance this intricate, it is hard to imagine that by the end Taylor still has energy remaining to invite audience members for conversation and a drink at the bar.  However, her endurance is a pleasant validation that Taylor controls the stage environment. In fact, she literally makes it her home.

As a Melbourne Fringe performance, Taylor provides audiences the opportunity to witness the hard work and intricate talent of independent artists.  THE THICK OF IT is a brilliant observational style satire that peels back the layers of human existence to reveal some of our darkest secrets, fears and dreams underneath.

THE THICK OF IT performs at The Butterfly Club through September 25th at 8:30PM.  For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Melbourne Fringe Festival website.

REVIEW: A Crafted Mysterious Exploration of Deja Vu

Enter into a world of mystery and wonder.  Déjà vu, performing as part of Melbourne Fringe Festival, is a theatre movement piece that weaves in and out of the worlds of death, life and dreams leaving the door to interpretation wide open for each individual audience member.

As the show opens, a streaming fog, expelled from a machine hiding downstage left, settles inside the room.  Music from an aria begins, aiding to a cresendoing effect from the fog.  And a black blob from upstage right begins to move.  These three elements together set the tone for a mystifying and dream-like performance by the incomparable Andi Snelling.

As a follow up to her successful 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival debut, Snelling’s latest show, Déjà vu is inspired by a harrowing bicycle incident from last year.  As described in the show’s program, an hour before her terrible fate, Snelling imagined herself experiencing a bicycle crash. Moved by this odd coincidence, Snelling decided to use the stage to explore the mysteries behind repeated events.

Gracefully, Snelling uses her dance and movement training to create a show without saying a single word.  While there doesn’t appear to be a clear narrative throughout the performance, it is the sequence of small vignettes that provide the audience the liberty to interpret Snelling’s exploration.  In fact, I found it most interesting to discuss with my partner what I took away from the performance and his interpretation was quite different.

The reality is, this open-ended interpretation is what I find most brilliant about Déjà vu – a piece that allows the audience to take away different perspectives.  As Snelling stated at the end of her performance, she believes that theatre is created to provoke discussion.  If this is telling of her goals for this performance, then she nailed it through and through.

Déjà vu is performing at Arts House through Friday, September 23rd at 6:45PM.  For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Melbourne Fringe Festival website.

REVIEW: For a Good Time, Call the Cosmonaut

What would it be like to create, perform and sell multiple events in a single festival?  For some creatives, detailing multiple projects can seem near impossible to perfect.  But for Ryan Good, a US performer and writer, Melbourne Fringe is celebrating his multiple artistic capabilities.

Using the stage as a platform to address socially taboo topics – like sex, sexism, gender inequality and absurdities in all of these – Good is creator and performer of COSMONAUT, which relives Cosmopolitan Magazine’s worst sex tips ever written. 

After a long exposition that seems to warm up the audience to all of Good’s expected quirky performance antics, Goode finally counts down the top 10 sex tips, making sure to demonstrate the ridiculousness of each tip.   I found myself hysterically laughing and making the most cringe-forming facial expressions all at once. 

What I appreciated the most was the informative section of the performance.   Did you know that Cosmopolitan Magazine was once a socially sophisticated reference to worldly news and social events?  Neither did I!  But the magazine rebranded itself in the 1960s to become a magazine for women: providing how-to articles on pleasing a man, keeping up the womanly image while looking after the family, cooking tips for quality meals at home and advertising house cleaning products.

Around this brief moment in history lesson, Good has total fun on stage!  Everything from his costume, which is vibrantly silly and provoking for laughter, to his original poor musical segments on the ukulele and his weaving random interactions with an audience member who is invited to sit on stage throughout the entire performance.

Good closes his hysterical performance by bringing out his sensitive side: he admits he addresses this ridiculousness as an educational lesson for the most important woman in his life, his 1-year-old daughter.  He hopes to not mess up her life as much as he might have ruined his by trying some this awful sex tips.

I lift a glass…er, my beer can…to toast Ryan Good for a romping good performance in COSMONAUT.

COSMONAUT continues to perform at Arts House in North Melbourne at 8PM until October 1st.  For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Melbourne Fringe Festival website.

REVIEW: BOMB COLLAR Sets Off a Crowd Pleasing Performance

If I could take liberty to imagine the Hunger Games spread all over the world, and not just selected individuals represented tribes everywhere but tribes recruited individuals to form military regimes, this might be our future in about 50 years time.  Now, like many military perks between battles, entertainers come to give relief to military men and women after battle.  But in this case, this entertainer has to choose whether to live or die from his performance.

This extreme scenario is the background of BOMB COLLAR – a futuristic story about a treasured electro-pop performer fighting for his life through performance. 

Now, stretch your imagination because these circumstances seems far fetched, but giving into the temporary reality allows audience members to enjoy this wonderfully simple and unique performance by singer/musician Nick Delatovic..

Delatovic does push to please the audience; after all his life depends on it because there is a unique device around his neck representing a bomb.  As a peace offering, he distributes ‘happy medicine’ that allegedly soothes away the stress from the day’s battle.  Not to worry, it’s really just a jellybean J

Delatovic has genuinely quality vocal chops!  His catchy back-beats, amplified from a small speaker strapped to his chest, compliment these vocal abilities and add to the great performance.  It can be easy to compare his music to that of 80s pop sounds and Morrisey.

The small space within the Parlous Room of Arts House (or North Melbourne Townhall) works well to create a pleasant and intimate Fringe experience.

It's great to see a music performance like BOMB COLLAR within a theatre space.  For it reminds audiences that no matter what art form is expressed, they are willing to please the crowd through life or death.

BOMB COLLAR performs are at 6:30PM at Arts House in North Melbourne until September 23rd. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Melbourne Fringe Festival website.

REVIEW: Menage Triggers Intimacy For the Sake of Empathy

Have you ever wanted to personal with a sex worker?  Let me elaborate on that question: would you be interested in the rescue or cultural learning experience of sex work?  Like many, I have my stereotypical thoughts and opinions of sex workers and their vocation, but after seeing MENAGE my opinions have changed.

Some stereotypical opinions or thoughts of sex workers who participate in the occupation are: she comes from a broken childhood filled with memories of a father-figure type inappropriately touching her at a very young age; she can’t feel intimacy with any of her partners because she herself is stunted by her actions; or a sex worker can never be raped because her occupation calls on sexual acts all the time, therefore she is asking to be forced into sexual acts .  Well, MENAGE invites its small audience (allowing only 2 participants per experience) into an engaging discussion-based performance that addresses these stereotypes the with the intent to evoke empathy.

The experience begins in front of North Melbourne’s Townhall and quickly sets a tone of mystery and suspense as instructions lead participants to the actual performance venue (down the street from the townhall).  Greeted by a beautiful young woman at the door, we enter a world of personal care and interaction as the woman offers drinks and makes light conversation asking questions about her ‘clients.’  However, some time half way through the experience I found myself in a hypnotic trans as the young woman seamlessly details her life in the occupation: the clients she regularly meets, the son she works hard to protect and provide for, the emotions that float in and out that surprise her from certain encounters.  And suddenly, a the room swelters with radio personalities proclaiming both viewpoints for protecting or denigrating sex workers.   And, following the interruption, the young woman asks me where our conversation was last.  I am lost for thought.

MENAGE is a beautifully intimate and touching experience into a world that I would most likely never dive into without the safety net of knowing it’s theatrical intent. 

Tickets have been selling like fast since the Fringe program release, and understandably so!  I highly recommend that audiences over the age of 18 make strong attempts to see this performance.  It is well worth the uncontrollable capabilities.

REVIEW: ZOOM Your Way To Enjoy Improv

I was delighted to start my 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival a couple of nights ago by catching a show at Melbourne’s infamous Butterfly Club.  Inside one of my favourite Melbourne performance venues, I was excited to see some good quality improv.  In fact, this style of improv, as described in the Fringe program, sounded like nothing I had ever experienced – it required an open mind and engaged listening as the performers would describe the environments and props within each scene.  ZOOM kept its promise and delivered a quality performance.

Performers Jason Geary and special guest, Rama Nicholas improvised their way through time and space guiding the audience to ride along for a spontaneous journey. In the beginning, Jason warned the audience that their open-minds and senses were a key to enjoying the performance as he and special guest, Rama, would take them to places outside of the theatre space through imagination.  After a brief ‘guided meditation’ to warm our minds up, we ‘zoomed’ to a tropical island somewhere near the equator where we met interesting characters like a French man sipping his dripping pina colada while hunting for a new friend, and the middle-aged, darkly-tanned woman sunbathing in a barely-there bikini who was striving for a compliment from anyone willing to offer.  Just before the tensions got too carried away, the performers ‘zoomed” us up into the sky, away from the sand to travel not too far away to meet another interesting set of characters involved in particular circumstances.

This performance is enhanced by music, which is supplied by drummer, Conrad Tracey that is also improvised but adds texture and tension to the scenes.  Made me feel like I was enjoying some old-schools beatnik performance of the 1950s.

While many people might expect improv to always play for laughs, ZOOM showcased the form as the tool it actually is intended to be – a means to tell a story, regardless if the circumstances are funny or not.  As a fan of improv, I truly appreciated these performers as their skills did nothing more than was necessary; they didn’t play to delight the audience but instead they kept everything simple and real. 

With a very limited run of performances at The Butterfly Club during the Melbourne Fringe Festival, ZOOM is a great show that will break stereotypes about improv.  Feel very comfortable taking your family and friends to this show because everyone will enjoy it!

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit the Melbourne Fringe Festival website!

 

Get Ready for Melbourne Fringe Festival!

I am sooo excited!  This week one of my favourite Melbourne annual festivals begins: Melbourne Fringe Festival!  With events showcasing visual, performing and conceptual art forms, Melbourne Fringe celebrates its 34th year in recognising that art is for everyone!

This year’s program covers an array of events over three weeks (September 15th through October 2nd).  And to help patrons overcome any anxiety when trying to decide what to see at the festival , Fringe has created a Fortune Teller: a devise that, using algorithms, helps narrow down options based on keyword searches.  For example, if interested in seeing something with drama, clowning and singing, the Fortune Teller can recommend three or more events.

But if you are looking for some personal suggestions by a true professional (I don’t mean to boast, but I DO know good events…HA!) here are my top 10 picks for what I’m looking forward to seeing at Melbourne Fringe:

1.)  Menage – designed for an audience of two, patrons are given an opportunity to look inside the life of a sex worker.  I expect this show to be confronting, full of taboo but will also draw empathy for an industry I know very little about, minus stereotypical assumptions.  Menage sounds like it’s going to be personal, intriguing and a GREAT conversation starter!  Tickets have been selling fast already with many time slots already sold out.  That tells me that if interested, you better get your tickets FAST!

2.)  Echoes – I was honoured to have seen this show at the 2015 Adelaide Fringe Festival, and this story has stuck in my mind since.  Two women from different walks of life share the stage to tell their personal experiences in following their faith or choosing their own path.  The best part was discovering similarities between two very different religions and their time periods.  Heartbreaking, poetic and definitely a conversation worth presenting, I look forward to seeing ECHOES again because every audience brings something new to the experience!

3.)  Buried at Sea – When a writer digs deep into telling the story of Gallipoli, a personal one at best through his Great-Great Uncle, the line between reality and fiction starts to blur.  I believe any performance involving remembering the brave men who sacrificed for our freedoms in Gallipoli, and honouring our relatives, is well deserving of sold out performances.  As a fan of the television series, Who Do You Think You Are, I hope this show reveals how strong our ancestry ties are.

4.)  Déjà vu – Ever catch yourself reliving moments from a recent dream? Whoa! This sounds like a show that explores just that.  Best part is the performer herself, Andi Snelling.  I am confident that Snelling will draw from her own silly experiences leaving you charmed and sore in the stomach from laughter.  I was honoured to catch Snelling’s 2015 Melbourne Fringe show #DearDiary which highlighted personal entries throughout her childhood.  It was hilarious, touching and engaging, and I am really not expecting anything less this year.  As a Fringe veteran, Snelling knows how to please her audiences.

5.)  World War T – Oh the dreaded possibility!  Word War T will explore a potential future where the greatest president to ever have graced our world is President Donald Trump!  Personally, I have been glued to American politics all year, as I am sure many have been too, praying for family and friends to make the best decision for their future.  And I am NOT convinced Trump would be their best hope.  I like to think I am an open-minded individual, so I am hoping the show may reveal something I am missing about Trump; I mean, is he really as bad a guy as I think he is?  Actually, I really hope this show makes Trump look like the idiot he truly is!

6.)  Bomb Collar – Could it be?  An Actual bomb strapped on a collar?  The urgency seems real.  Will this performer beat the clock to give his audience a rocking show?  Time to find out.  Plus, I think this show will bring together sci-fi fans and electro-pop music followers to a kick-ass show.  I’m looking forward to this rocking performance!

7.)  ZOOM – Improv?  I’m in!  I love improv, and this show promises to deliver an original form filled with imagery created through narration.  According to its program description, this form of improv, best described as Birdman for the stage, has been performed in Amsterdam, Hamburg, Paris, Berlin and Wellington – so let’s see what makes this form of improv so different and compelling.  Go!

8.)  Stupid and Contagious – Think of the best concert event you’ve ever experienced.  Now, help these performers recreate it!  Inviting audiences to help create the most epic rock concert experience, I expect Stupid and Contagious to blow the roof off the house every performance!  Sure, these standards sound high, but if I’m going to get involved in the show, I refuse to lower the bar.  My best rock concert experience?  The Killers in New York City – GO!

9.)  Cosmonaut – As a former reader of Cosmopolitan magazine (admit it, you were once a reader too!), I am dying to see someone select and reveal the worst sex tips.  Performer, Ryan Good has performed this show at both Adelaide and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals to stellar reviews.  To me, this sounds like the ultimate hen’s night out!  I only wish I knew someone who was about to get hitched.

10.)  Blank Tiles – As its program description reveals, Austin is a former SCRABBLE world champion with memory loss.  Sounds quirky, touching and heartbreaking!  I gather from the hero image that this performer will showcase amazing character work; and if the reviews from Adelaide Fringe reveal anything, the writing is supposedly very good.  I’m looking forward to seeing this sweet, feel-good story and hope that it becomes a performance that draws newbies to theatre to the Fringe! 

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit The Melbourne Fringe website.

Four Tips to Promoting Your Festival or Curated Event

To many artists (visual or performing), perfecting every element for a showpiece as part of participation in a curated event or festival can seem overwhelming.  Often times, artists strictly rely on the curator or festival team to handle the execution of a marketing campaign – at least your event is in the program brochure, right?  WRONG!  I can assure you, it is NOT enough to rely on a curator or a festival team to drawl a crowd to your show.  The reality is, with hundreds of events and participants involved in creating a successful festival or curated event, there is just not enough time or energy to dedicate to the promotion of every participant. 

So, what can participants do to increase their chances in attracting an audience to their curated or festival event?  While, like life itself, marketing strategies have no guarantees, here are four strong suggestions artists should to consider in order to secure more bums on seats:

1.)  Set goals

Goal setting is another way of making a commitment to yourself and your team.  Start goal setting by asking why your show is a participant in the specific event.  Every festival or curated opportunity carries its own benefits to its participants.  For example, as massive and widely popular as Edinburgh Fringe Festival is, it offers artists a chance to expand their brand into international audience members.  Understanding the reason for your involvement will help set a clear goal for your experience, and thus specify your marketing strategy.

Once you know the ‘why,’ then list at least three specific goals you wish to achieve during your participation.  Remember to be specific and KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) your goals J

2.)  Identify your audience

Believing that everyone will want to come see your show makes you quite naïve and counterproductive to a successful experience.  After all, every person has specific likes and dislikes to everything.  But knowing who and how to target a unique audience can help filter good audience members from bad ones.  After asking yourself, ‘who would ideally come to the show?’ imagine an ideal audience member (or several).  Describe as much about he/she/both as possible about them: their age, gender (if identified by one), occupation, income earning, everyday interests and likes, informed reading sources, places frequently visited, etc.  The more specific you can be about your ideal audience member, the more clues you will have to guide you towards where and how to send marketing materials. 

3.)  Develop and practice your pitch

Do you what to say to convince people to attend your show?  Creating and practicing several styles to pitching can help you promote your show tremendously. The art to pitching is seamlessly applying it into every conversation.

A good way to start developing your pitch is identify and using ‘tag’ words or labels to describe your show.  Identify what kind of event yours is: is your show a comedy, drama, musical, cabaret, visual arts exhibition, art installation, or other?  Then identify what element(s) makes your show unique – maybe it’s the ensemble cast, a character, a known performer’s participation, other art forms being used, etc.  Next, incorporate a brief synopsis and the unique element(s) about the show into your pitch.  Finally, knowing how to describe your event to both an artist patron (someone who frequently attends the arts) and a non-artist patron (someone who has never attended an arts event EVER) is key! 

4.)  Develop relationships/partnerships

Friends and family are a great start to recruiting others who can advocate for your show.  Make sure to inform them with as many tools to use in their advocacy as possible: posters, postcards, social media posts (including hashtags, pictures or video), a clear pitch to use in conversations, etc.  The more info you supply, the more comfortable they will feel to help out.

Another partnership you can potentially rely on are your fellow venue participants.  Approach creators of the show(s) before and after yours offering them an alliance to promote one another throughout the festival.  If you can incorporate into your show run, a friendly announcement at the end of your giving thanks to those who attended and them recommending other shows is always helpful to your audience members.  Promote your fellow venue participants then!

While these are only a few suggestions to consider when designing a marketing strategy for your festival or curated event, it is important to remember that there are no right or wrong answers to marketing.  What’s most important is that effort is being made in order to increase your chances of securing bums on seats.