This past August, I premiered a new show, "The Mystery", at the 2017 Minnesota Fringe Festival.
Happy Birthday to Conduit Theatre!
Another year has passed with Conduit Theatre. Year 2 marked a year of changes, growth, new experiences, and ended with a bang as we rang in 2017 the way we started 2016, with the Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals, this time at the Alerus Convention Center, with Midnight Masquerade, an interactive murder mystery, trying to solve a 15 year old murder. The guests included members of the mafia, government officials, corporate figureheads, and members of the entertainment industry, and everyone was a suspect as the night progressed and clues were given to solve the mystery.
The evening also was a charity event, with 5 nominated nonprofits competing for the proceeds from the night, which included charitable gaming, complimentary hor d'oeuvres, and music provided by Blu Light Productions.
It was a fun evening, and the attendants came wearing their best masks for the masquerade, because masks make murder more fun, right?
Top 5 Moments of 2016
5. Being hired to promote the Greater Grand Forks Symphony and Orchestra. I directed a number of couples in appearances across Grand Forks. They would freeze in poses until tango music played, which brought them to life to tango for anyone passing by. This brought creative attention to the final concert of the symphony's season, which featured Argentinian tango music.
4. Performing as a living statue at a number of events around Grand Forks, whether it was Grand Forks Pride, or at the Holiday sale for Muddy Waters Clay Center, it is always a bit fun adding a little bit of magic and entertainment to any event. Seeing some folks surprised to find out I'm a living person, or scaring someone, it always is a fun endeavor.
3. Beginning work on a new solo work. Tentatively called, "The Mystery", it is a ghost story, a haunting case told by a detective at the end of his career. I hope to premiere it in 2017, so look out for it!
2. Remounting "Origami Swans" at The Ember Coffee House, as well as premiering my 45 minute pitch, "The Healing Power of Telling Your Story", where I relate my own personal story with addiction, and how telling my story has been a major factor in my ability to connect and help other people. It was a powerful experience, which led to a number of audience members staying afterwards to share their own stories around addiction and abuse. It is always a powerful experience to be a receiver of these stories, and I am always grateful when people trust me enough to share deeply personal events.
1. Closing out the year with the Young Professionals, with another interactive murder mystery. In an immersive, interactive style that I'm beginning to label Social Theatre, it was more ambitious than the first year (more interactive, more difficult, with a larger audience to integrate into the evening), and definitely was filled with twists and turns of epic proportions. It was also a good way to close one chapter... which leads me to my next point....
What's Next in 2017?
As of January 2nd, I am now a resident of the Twin Cities! Specifically, St. Paul, Minnesota. In an effort to continue explore and expand the services of Conduit Theatre, I made the move to this lovely new city. 2017 may be more of a settling in year. I want to premiere my new solo show, but beyond that, I may be more focused on establishing myself in the city. I may try to jump in with some other companies, network, but most importantly, just settling myself in with a new day job, a new apartment, and making new friends, visiting with old friends who live in the city, and seeing where life takes me.
This doesn't mean I will say goodbye to Grand Forks, however. In fact, on January 21st, I'll be back with the Rent Poet, Brian Sonia-Wallace, at the University Park warming house for the Koselig Spoken Word night.
Stay tuned for all the projects as they come! And thank you for your support!
Growing a Theatre Company
Besides overseeing the entertainment portion of the Midnight Masquerade New Year's Eve Gala, and working on getting my solo show "Origami Swans" booked or entered into festivals, I've been inspired to create a new solo show, which has yet to receive even a working title. This past weekend I attended the Twin Cities Horror Festival, and after seeing The Coldhart's The Legend of White Woman Creek, as well as Paul Strickland's "The 13 Dead Dreams of Eugene", I wanted to make a horror show. So that's what the new show is going to be: a ghost story. This is just the second solo show I've ever devised, but I'm definitely in a different space from 2014 when I initially started working on "Origami Swans", by successfully raising starting funds from Kickstarter.
I started Conduit Theatre at the beginning of 2015, so I didn't even have a production company to file "Origami Swans" under, but eventually it happened as I pushed myself more to finish the creation process and brought the show into the world. Here are some of the factors that so far have helped in starting a new project.
Nearly the end of year 2 of Conduit Theatre's existence, I can say that I successfully applied what I learned from year 1 to year 2 to help generate profit in all my endeavors. It isn't to say that I wasted a bunch of money the first year. But I was self-producing a lot of events. I received some grants, and donations to do so, so I didn't lose money. But I didn't earn much either. It was essential though to put myself out there, show people what kind of events I was interested in producing, the flavor of what my work is like, and it led to eventual partnerships that have proven fruitful.
Because of this, in year 2, I was able to self-produce less. I was hired more often for my services. This allows me to reinvest my earnings towards getting my shows out there, and now, creating a new show as well. They say it can take a couple of years for any new business venture to produce profit, and I'm comfortably in the black for 2016. Not enough to quit other sources of income, but definitely heading in the right direction.
Learning from Experience
Having created a solo show, premiered it, gotten it booked, done rewrites, created marketing material, and all that business, I have learned quite a bit. Some aspects of "Origami Swans" I will not repeat in another solo show, whether it is complicated or prop heavy components, I have a list of logistical elements for my show that I will keep in mind in creating a simple, easy to carry show from venue to venue.
Also, in the process, I was able to get out to some festivals, see plenty of shows, meet lots of amazing artists. I picked their brains, learned from their successes and failures. I networked and learned how people got to where they're at. Most folks, even the most successful, are always willing to chat about their experience if you're willing to ask, and that's what I did. Even if it's a matter of hearing from a successful artist what they wish they DIDN'T do.
One thing I've noticed is that many folks' first show they create and tour is not necessarily the best they are capable of doing, but it is a start. Many times, the second show is far more successful. One, because you've done the work of getting seen the first time around and building relationships. Two, you've learned what works and doesn't work for a touring show, and you implement those into the next project.
In the end, risks are still needed. A person has to put themselves out into the world. They have to take their art and say, "come see me." It is an act of vulnerability. I have to say, my first performance of "Origami Swans" was totally scary and vulnerable. I was a type of nervousness that I haven't felt as an actor in a very long time. Because it was me. It was my sensibilities. It was my writing, my directing, my acting. But the second time I performed it, I was far more relaxed. And now I feel more comfortable and ready to really pursue putting the show out into the world.
I will do the same with this new show, except in an expedited process. I understand how my creative process works (non-linear, balancing pushing myself and also sitting back and waiting for the right choice to come to me). I understand what "works" for me as a solo performer and creator. I also have a network of folks I know I can trust to bounce ideas off. My confidence is higher than my first show because I know I can do it. I've done it. So what seemed really scary last time, is much less so this time.
So I'm going to keep on creating, because that's what I do. As the show continues to progress, keep updated here!
As most of you know, I performed my solo show, "Origami Swans" a few weeks ago as a fundraiser for Rally for Recovery, a yearly event in Grand Forks that takes place in September. I also followed it up with my presentation, "The Healing Power of Storytelling", where I discuss my own personal story, and how I've benefitted from telling my own story.
Recently, I was involved in a campaign to promote the Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra's final concert, which featured music from Argentina, specifically tango. There were two professional dancers who performed during a handful of numbers, and as a fun promotional tool, I was hired to supervise tango dancing living statues, who would appear in various locations around town,