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!