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.

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.  

It's About Controlling Your Chances Through Marketing

 

 

Last week, I attended a workshop organised by Melbourne Fringe exclusively designed for participants of the 2016 Melbourne Fringe season.  The workshop was called ‘Tour Ready,’ inviting artists to consider and prepare for the possibility of touring their production/exhibition following their Fringe experience.  Guest speakers included Justin Murphy from Regional Arts Victoria, Marisa Cesario from Gasworks Arts Park and independent artists Emma Hall and Cameron Stewart from the award-winning production WE MAY HAVE TO CHOOSE. 

Each speaker gave heaps of useful information to artists who are interested in preparing themselves for touring opportunities.  Additionally, they offered their own support to artists throughout the preparation process. 

Most intriguing was a simple comment stated by Emma Hall from WE MAY HAVE TO CHOOSE.  Reflecting on her experience throughout the development and execution of WE MAY HAVE TO CHOOSE, Emma expressed her overwhelming elation over the fact that her show received so much media attention and award recognition.  Before her first production run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Hall began a simple marketing campaign that involved emails to people she knew through the network of knowing others.  ‘I sent emails to people I didn’t even know, told them a little about the show’s concept and crossed my fingers,’ she recalls.  From those simple emails, she booked one media personnel to attend a performance.  However, that one performance conveniently was to be an outstanding performance!  And then everyone started hearing about Emma and her show.

She continued her reflection by stating, ‘I couldn’t control the marketing machine that was happening because I was so focused on the creative machine but things were still happening.’ 

I approached Emma at the end of the workshop evening thanking her for an honest reflection of her experience, and particularly thanked her for mentioning the ‘marketing machine.’  I ensured her that from hearing her tale, she had done executed a great marketing campaign, and that’s why it worked.  She began her process by understanding her participation within the festival – that she had to build an audience from scratch.  So she set a simple goal: to attract people she knew to her show and invite them to invite others.  She also asked for help from those she knew, asking whom else might be interested to attend.  Additionally, she followed up by sending email invitations to the individuals suggested by people she knew.  All that simple but persistent effort paid off!

Sometimes, though not always, marketing can be that simple.

The point is: yes, marketing is a complex machine.  Certainly one that can either function smoothly OR seem like a fight to the very end.  Regardless, putting any kind of effort and energy into the machine is much better than putting no energy at all. 

My advise to any artist, participating in a festival like Melbourne Fringe or producing an individual production, is while you may not control the outcome of the marketing machine, you CAN control your chances by putting forth the energy into the machine.  Start by setting a goal by asking why are you producing this show through this platform?  Some possible answers could be to build an audience, to maintain an audience, to stretch my creativity or to gain experience/exposure.  However you answer, let the answer guide your marketing efforts.  Throughout any marketing efforts, be honest, be humble and most importantly keep things simple.  Remember: the more energy directed towards a goal, the better chance your efforts will see results.