Arts Marketing

Edmonton Fringe Struggles


Last year, producing a show at the Edmonton Fringe Festival was challenging. I'm not afraid of a challenge. I know if I work hard, I can make it happen. And I did. This year, on the other hand, has been downright difficult. Attendance for my show is low, some of the lowest I've had on the circuit, and I'm not sure I'm even going to break even in this town. It was probably naive to think that the high I was riding from Toronto and Winnipeg would continue in Edmonton, but I figure I would probably do as well as I did last year, if not better. All this has left me, and many others, feeling pretty Fringed and Confused. I know there may be a few reasons behind this. For instance, although I absolutely love my venue, it is located in the French Quarters, which is approximately a 25 minute walk from the main Fringe grounds. That may not seem like that much (and trust me, it isn't) but when you can choose a show located a few feet from where you are standing and one that involves a bit of walking... Well, I know which one I would choose. Also, though I don't have an official confirmation on this, I've heard that the festival has almost 30 extra shows this year as opposed to the last, which definitely could have an impact. Of course, this is also my second year in a row in town with what could be considered the "same" show. I'm thrilled some folks have decided to see the show twice, but with the number of shows to see, I completely understand if people want to see something new - even though I still consider this a fairly new version of the play. And finally, as much as I hate to admit it, the reviews stars do matter. Though the reviews for Roller Derby Saved My Soul have been amazing, for some reason the stars don't seem to match up. In fact, in some publications, the review is actually worse than the one from last year, even though my show is, arguably better than it was. But reviews are a post for another day.

Now, if you know me, you know that I have still been working my butt off to promote the show. I've been flyering a good 4 hours a day almost every day on roller skates no less, but I've noticed only a slight jump (approximately 10 new people) in ticket sales every time I do. This leads to many a frustrated feeling, including creeping doubts that maybe the show just isn't that good... Not true, I know, but it can be hard not to take it personally.

In the past few days, I've been actively working at changing my mentality about everything and looking for all the things that make me happy to be at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival. So, without further ado, I am grateful for the following:

  • My billet's incredible home, which she is letting us housesit until Saturday. I sleep in my own bed, have access to a great vinyl collection and there's a hot tub!
  • Skating everywhere I go - for the first time ever I have officially become and outdoor skater. My billet's place is approximately 10 minutes in either direction from both the main Fringe grounds and my venue. It's been a little scary thanks to the shoddy pavement in some areas, but such a thrill to be arriving at the festival on wheels.
  • The poutine at Cafe Bicyclette is to DIE for and worth the trip out there alone. I would have posted a picture but I wolfed it down too fast.
  • The French media has been incredible supportive of the show in the last few days with interviews for Le Franco and Le Cafe Show (Radio-Canada).
  • My incredible Fringe family for their constant love, support and commiseration. Special shout-outs to Christine Lesiak, Jeff Leard and Gemme Wilcox who are also in my venue.

There are still 3 performances of Roller Derby Saved My Soul left. Please help me make them the best ones yet!

Ready to Rumble

Perhaps this is a little known fact, but I used to be a huge WWFWWE fan back in the late 90s/early 00s. When I was in university, a close friend used to call it "a soap opera for guys... and Nancy." I saw Monday Night Raw live from 5th row. I've been to Smack Down and I was also at the sold out Wrestlamania X8 in Toronto. In fact, one of the things that attracted me to roller derby in the first place was the direct correlation I could make between it and wrestling - costumes, crazy names, athleticism & showmanship just to name a few. I have a very Abed-like mentality when it comes to knowledge of that particular period in wrestling history. Recently, I wowed a bunch of Centennial College students on a film shoot when I heard one of them call another "Scotty too Hotty." It kind of went something like this:

ME - Oh, that's funny. Like the wrestler.

*blank stares*

ME - You know, Scotty 2 Hotty? Former WWE Tag-Team Champion?

Seriously. Who could ever forget this face?

*more blank stares*

ME - You know, with his partner, Grandmaster Sexay? Together they were known as "Too Cool"? (Bonus points if you knew that Sexay's father is Jerry "The King" Lawler.)

Somehow, this powerful knowledge base suddenly made me very popular with young men in their early twenties while on set... but I digress.

The reason I'm bringing this up now is two-fold.


For one, this coming Friday at the Tranzac (292 Brunswick Ave in Toronto), my French improv team, Les Improbables, will be taking part in our first ever Royal Rumble! Now, I'm pretty sure this means we will beat the crap out of each other using improvised objects until only one person survives the night, but I may be wrong. My weapon of choice will, of course, be the chair. Anyway, whatever happens, it will definitely be a good night and you should come out and join us.

Now, while this blog and website often revolves around my acting/performance career, it also includes a lot of information about my other passion, arts marketing. Which brings me to reason number two to talk about wrestling: this awesome post on audience development for the brilliant mind over at the Mission Paradox blog. The subject? Well the title really says it all - A case study in audience building and steel cages. Click on the link for a really great read.

I leave you now with Mr 2 Hotty's finishing move for your viewing pleasure.



Well, now that I have your attention, read on.

Cash Money

Nathan Gibbs via Compfight

As an independent theatre producer, I constantly find myself paying for my projects out of pocket. Yes, I have received grant money in the past and I do believe they still offer much needed help to artists. However the process to get them can be lengthy, the competition just keeps getting tougher, the pool money available often seems to be shrinking, and at the end of the day, after jumping through all the necessary hoops, you're still not guaranteed a dime. (That said, for more information and tips on grant writing, please see some of my previous posts here and here, as well as my podcast series with the Ontario Arts Council.)

What's a poor artist/producer to do?

Well, if you've been anywhere near the Internet in the last year or so, chances are good that you've heard about Crowdfunding.

According to the knower of all knowledge (i.e. Wikipedia):

Crowd funding or crowdfunding describes the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. Crowd funding is used in support of a wide variety of activities, including disaster relief, citizen journalism, support of artists by fans, political campaigns, startup company funding, movie or free software development, inventions development and scientific research.

Now, you might not have been aware of the term "crowdfunding," but you've probably heard of the multiple platforms out there that perform this very service. I'm talking about the Kickstarters, the Indiegogos and the GoFundMes, among others.

So, you just pick a crowdfunding site, put in your brilliant project, send out a tweet and BLAMMO! Now you can just kick back and watch all that glorious moulah roll in, right?

Well, not quite. While I personally find crowdfunding to be easier than writing one grant application after another, it still involves quite a bit of work.

From choosing the platform that's right for you, having a financial goal in mind, creating perks, leveraging your network and fans, making campaign updates that don't annoy the heck out of everyone you know & following through on your promises, developing a successful crowdfunding campaign requires a lot of careful planning and considerations.

Please feel free to join me on March 25th at 6:30 p.m. for Theatre Ontario's So You Need Money For Your Project: Crowdfunding for Artists and Arts Organizations to find out how you can create a campaign that best suits your individual or organizational needs.

Speaking of Theatre Marketing...

You know that little event I talked about in my last blog post? Well, I can now add one more reason why being in attendance was so great for me. One of the people I met is on the Board of Directors for the Professional Arts Organizations Network for Education (PAONE) and he has asked me to appear on a pannel discussing social media and how I use it around my artistic practice and/or audience engagement. I am incredibly excited about this opportunity to talk about social media and the arts some more and thrilled that people are now starting to think about me for events happening in Toronto.

Besides, I just got these and I'm really itching to hand some out.

Joking aside, those cards are actually part of a bigger branding scheme that I have been rolling out over the past six months to get to where I am right now. And it all started with this website.

My friend Jeremy at Critty Design was an absolute dream to work with. I knew what I wanted in terms of function, but had no clue when it came to design. The very first time I saw the purple colour scheme, I was in love. He designed my business cards to match the layout of the site and I've taken it one step further by matching up my Twitter page and fiddling around with my other various social media profiles.

The fantastic Rebecca Coleman shared a great story on the importance of a personal brand and I couldn't agree with her more. You really should be following her.

Social media keeps developing at a rapid pace and you need to claim your space, your name, your brand before someone else those. Otherwise, you might end up as thenancykenny on Instagram and will take you to piano lessons in Nebraska.

Theatre Marketing Done Right

I've been trying all week to jot my thoughts down about an event I attended earlier in the week, but it's been hard. Honestly, it was just such an amazing, balls-out, forward-thinking kind of thing that I've been worried I wouldn't be able to do it justice. Well, here goes nothing: Last Monday evening, I had the privilege of being invited to a pseudo-theatre launch for World Stage, Harbourfront Centre's contemporary performance series in Toronto. Now, the invitation in and of itself is not unusual for me, but this was a pretty special one.

Here, read for yourself:

As a social media influencer we’d like to invite YOU to a private party!

WHAT: A twitter-kegger-party!

Come out from the web-world and schmooze in person with fellow social media’lites and meet the artistic director of World Stage, @tinarasmussen.  Get behind the scenes details and information about the programming of this year's season, which starts in February and runs until May, and raise a pint to cheers the 2013 season!

WHEN: Monday, January 28th 7pm, beer and pulled pork (veg option too) 8pm, season presentation

WHERE: Tina's place

This was a special party for a veritable who's who of Toronto Theatre Twitterati (say that 3 times fast). There was food and drink, but as you can see, this didn't take place at the Harbourfront Centre. Nope, we were invited to artistic director Tina Rasmussen's home for an informal get-together to eat, drink and talk theatre.  The personal touch did not go unnoticed by everyone in attendance.


Getting to know Tina on this personal  level made her passion and enthusiasm for her season that much more engaging. This event let me know about a very wicked upcoming season (and if I was the type of person who could plan ahead, I would buy tickets for every show right now), gave me a wonderful opportunity to catch up with some old pals, meet some online theatre media from Mooney on Theatre, Torontoist and Charlebois Post, and of course, make new like-minded social media friends.

Artistic Directors take note! From my perspective, this was a massive PR success for World Stage Toronto. Not only did it get an 'influencer' like myself who knew nothing about the company to see it (and talk about constantly) in a very positive light, we also managed to get both @WorldStageTO and the event hashtag #theatrekegger trending on Twitter in Toronto.

Since some  marketing team from the Canadian Stage where in attendance and saw what a success this type of event can be, I look forward to being invited to a season launch BBQ at Matthew Jocelyn's house in the very near future #fingerscrossed #agirlcandream

Some of my favorite Tweets from the evening - follow the whole discussion at #theatrekegger:




JFL42 or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Laugh

A few months ago, a Facebook friend was looking for someone to join her for the Louis CK show. I clicked on the link and bought a ticket, not because I'm a huge Louis fan, but rather because the concert performance show (what do you call it?) was part of a festival that revolved almost entirely around social media (go, go, work-related tax deduction!) JFL42 marked what I would like to call the triumphant return of the Just For Laughs (Ooooh! That's what JFL stand for!) in Toronto. Basically, by buying a ticket to Louis CK, you got credits that you could use to get tickets to any one of the other 40-something acts included in the festival.

And here's where the social media comes in: in the beginning, none of the other acts were confirmed. You first had to "show an interest" in the performer and, once a certain number of people applied, the festival would confirm the performer and his or her venue. You'd then get an email telling you to go reserve your spot. If lots of people reserved, a performer might get bumped to a bigger venue or get additional shows based on demand.

Most people would then link their pass to their Facebook account, letting others know what they were attending and giving JFL42 some free advertising to boot.

Once the festival was up and running, you could then "check in" to an event on your smartphone and get your credits back, which could then be used for more performances.

You were also encouraged to take photos and tag them on Twitter & Instagram using #JFL42.

Todd Barry's wonderfully funny jokes about the credit system aside, I thought the whole thing was awesome and worked out pretty darn brilliantly for a first time out of the gate. It's like they created a whole festival just for me and my social media geekery!

I won't get into the individual performances (though you can check out my pal Sharilyn's Third Beat Magazine for some great coverage), but I will say that I had an absolute blast, especially since I didn't even know most of the performers to begin with.

I saw Patton Oswalt, Amy Schumer, the incredibly hilarious Fringe hit Pomme is French for Apple, Todd Barry, Todd Glass, Mark Little, Andy Kindler, K Trevor Wilson, the Nerdist Podcast, and, of course, Louis CK (whom I had the pleasure of seeing twice, once from the fourth row of the Comedy Bar when he showed up for a surprise set during Andy Kindler's Alternative Show!)

All that said, my point in going to this festival was to observe how social media could be used not only in the promotion, but in the creation of an event. I'd love to be a fly on the wall during the JFL42 debrief and I am curious to see what they are going to come up with next year. After all, this year's festival rested solely on Louis CK's shoulders. Can they fins someone else who would be as much of a draw, selling out a 3000 seat theatre 4 times over? Whatever they decide to do, I hope that a full schedule grid is part of the plan, because figuring out what you could see, when and at what time was a huge pain.

My head is also buzzing with opportunities right now for all the little indie productions out there. I think there is a lot to be learned from JFL42. Could getting people to "show an interest" ahead of time lead to better venue selections? Or will it just become another Facebook "maybe"?

I don't have an answer yet, but I am excited for the possibilities.


In exactly one week, I will be done my work at the Ontario Arts Council. Though I'd be lying if I said I wasn't counting down the days, I have to say it still has been a pretty worthwhile experience. I learned a lot of new web-based and social media skills, managed to save up some money and pay down some debt, and, of course, met some pretty amazing people. A few months ago, when I had just started in my position, I had the opportunity to sit in on a theatre panel in order to observe the process. One of the members of this panel was, and still is, a pretty prominent Toronto playwright and actor who is originally from Ottawa so we had lots to talk about.  Fast-forward to April and opening night of Mary Magdalene and Adventures in Sobriety. Turns out that he was in town and good friends with my director so he came to see the show. Afterwards, he let me know, in his own words, that I was "fucking brilliant". Upon my return to Toronto, we had lunch and he asked if I would be interested in working together in the future.

Gee, let me think about that for a minute.

Which brings me to today, where I am one of half a dozen performers who will be getting together this afternoon to workshop a new screenplay he wrote.


And to think, none of this would have happened if I hadn't had my day job.

Big Changes and Events Coming Soon!

A friend messaged me on Facebook recently to ask if I was still alive. When I answered that I had been taking a break from social media, she quickly wondered how that was possible since "you ARE social media." I just got tired, you know? I spend approximately 15 hours a day at two joe jobs that revolve entirely around social media. The vast majority of my life is spent in front of a screen and I just don't have anything witty to say about it anymore.  I wonder if people who work as cooks or cleaners for a living then go home and realize that the last thing they want to do is cook or clean?  These days, I just want to sit in the sun with my new e-reader (ok, still a screen, but at least it's got me reading fiction again) and hang out with the people I love.

Plus, I'm getting my shit together and re-branding this site. By mid-June, expect a brand spanking new website from yours truly.  There will be a few blog posts before then, mostly about the London Fringe Festival, which I plan on attending, but until then I leave you with this tidbit of juicy news:

Les Prix Rideau Award-winning, critically acclaimed Roller Derby Saved My Soul RETURNS!

I've been invited to participate in the Summer Chautauqua Theatre Festival in Swift Current, SK.  The festival organizer was looking up successful Fringe shows that she would like to produce, read good things about RDSMS online and contacted me directly through Facebook (contrary to what I've been saying above: gogo social media!) asking if I was touring this year and would I like to bring the show to her festival.  Though the official line-up hasn't been released, I can tell you that I will be performing on Thursday, July 5th at 9 p.m. and Friday, July 6th at 6 p.m.

That said, since I haven't performed the show in almost a year, I will be heading up to Ottawa to rehearse with my director, Tania Levy.  Which means:


Roller Derby Saved My Soul - PWYC - July 2nd, 2012 (Holiday Monday) at the Ottawa School of Speech and Drama - See it again or for the very first time.

Time TBD - If there is enough interest, I may do two runs of the show that day. If you'd like to see the show, please let me know in the comment section if you would like attend a matinee or an evening performance.

Online Tools for Artists

Along with my semi-regular Cool People Doing Cool Things column, I'm now going to be adding one called Online Tools for Artists. Today's Tool: Pinterest

I'm a little embarrassed that as a social media practitioner, I hadn't heard of Pinterest until a few weeks ago.  And to be fair, even when I did find out about it, I didn't know how it could possibly be of interest to me. Pinterest is a "virtual pinboard" that lets you share any images you find on the Web.  A neat concept that can be used to help decorate your home, plan a wedding, put together fashion & beauty tips, or collect recipes to share with your friends.  This is all fine and good, but like I said I couldn't figure out how it could be of any real use to me in my everyday life.  Then I remembered a conversation I had with my director for my upcoming appearance in Mary Magdalene and Adventures in Sobriety (tickets currently available by phone).  He told me how when he worked with Peter Hinton as a director, the man would have an entire wall filled with images that inspired him in regards to the production he would be working on at the time.   That's when it hit me. I'm not much of one for using wall space or creating vision boards or things like that (being #hobokenny and not having walls for a while will do that to you), but virtual walls? Sign me up!

Recently, I've created two Boards on Pinterest: one for Mary M and one for Roller Derby Saved My Soul. I was even able to add the show info in the Board description. So far so good.  I've added some photos I've taken on my phone, as well as stuff I've found online by adding the Pin It button to my browser toolbar. I've also done a search for things like "roller derby" in Pinterest and found a few people with awesome photos that I've started following.

I'm not quite clear on the whole following aspect just yet. Following someone seems to mean that their Pins show up in your Home window when you log on. I had left a question for myself in one photo to find out who was it in and some strangers actually answered less than 5 minutes later which weirded me out a little bit.   However it doesn't give them access to any of my personal information so, so far, I'm cool with that.

Right now, I think I have found myself a great tool that let's me work through my own personal actor/writer creation process while letting in folks on my own personal practice.  As someone who readily advocates that theatre is about process and not product, I think Pinterest could be a very good step in that direction.

What do you think? Have you tried Pinterest? How has it been working for you?

The Wig

For those of you who might not be aware, The Wig is a great little online arts and culture magazine for the Ottawa community. Originally published by The Hill Times, yesterday I found out that this great, for lack of a better word, publication, will no longer be supported by its publishers and is going on hiatus. I do not know the reasons behind this decision (though my best guess is that it is probably financial), but it makes me very angry.

When I first discovered The Wig, I was thrilled. Whereas arts coverage in the print media has declined over the last couple of years, online it seemed to be growing. And The Wig was was an absolute gem: a nice template, an interesting read and comprehensive coverage of almost every single arts event in town. I looked forward to receiving an email every morning with the day's "Sure Thing". On the theatre side, Holly Gordon quickly became one of my favourite reviewers in town for her intelligent, incredibly well-researched and often bang-on reviews.

Now, barely six months after it first came into existence, The Wig's future is uncertain.

I don't believe six months is not enough time to build up a proper audience base. Do we cut off the babies legs because he hasn't learned to walk yet? No, we give it time to grow and discover how to stand.

I know there's nothing I can do about it, but I just wanted to voice my concern here and wish the former staff all the best in their future endeavours.

I Can Be Bought

In the past, when I wasn't working I was usually on employment insurance. All that ended in early January, coincidentally right around the time I started rehearsals for Little Martyrs. You could say that I've been a contract worker ever since. This is definitely a new situation for me, having absolutely no guaranteed income coming in, but it's not a bad thing. My focus is shifting to projects that really interest me and, somehow, the work is coming my way. Thanks to the work I did as an intern last year at the Great Canadian Theatre Company, I was offered a small audience development project (a topic that many of you regular readers to this blog know absolutely fascinates me). And a two week marketing job last summer with Odyssey Theatre has led to a full-time contract that starts tomorrow until the end of July.

The beauty of it all is that these contracts still offer me an incredible amount of flexibility. If I had to choose between more money and the flexibility to work from home, flexibility will win every time. I'm not an office girl. I'm a mover, a shaker... a bit of a cliche too apparently. It's 6:30 pm on a Sunday and I am all alone inside the GCTC because that's when I have the drive and the time to work.

I've always been an odd one.

The Publicist's Dilemma (Part Who Knows Now)

I've noticed a marked improvement in my marketing skills throughout the last year. The more I keep doing it, the better I get. I'm sure I can hear a collective "duh" from all of you reading this and, somewhere, Malcom Gladwell's ears are burning. I know it sounds silly, but it always catches me by surprise when I feel like I've actually gotten good at something. This weird little "Huh. When did that happen?" kind of thing.

This week, I finished up my final publicity report for Little Martyrs and I was incredibly pleased with the results:

  • Our Media Call was the highest attended for any Evolution Theatre production;
  • We had two television appearances, one of which was an interview;
  • We had two radio spots - one an interview and one a review;
  • We had FIVE print preview articles, including the cover of the Ottawa Citizen's Arts & Life section with two large photos and online video (and the Citizen never seems to do theatre previews anymore);
  • There were a total of 7 reviews of the production, which ranged from good to great for the production.
  • And this does not include such things as at least 3 weeks on PosterLoop, various community listings, posters and flyers, ect. All in all, I am incredibly proud of the work I did and consider this campaign to be a success!

    That said, if you build it, they... might not always come.

    Though I don't have any final numbers yet, attendance for the production was not what I would consider to be particularly good. It was, ok at best.

    So that makes me wonder, what more could I have done? What kept people away? Was it the themes of the play? The venue? The cost of tickets? The time of year? The fact that is was new work in a town that is always seeking a "sure thing" (and don't tell me that new work does well in town because of Fringe of Undercurrents - both of those festivals come with a certain pedigree)?


    Please feel free to discuss in the comment section below.

    The Publicist's Dilemma (Part 4)

    Remember how back in Part 2 I briefly touched on the difficulties with being both an actor and a publicist for a show? (No? Well then go click on that link!) Well, recently, with Little Martyrs, I've discovered another issue: even though I am a performer in the show, I don't want to be interviewed about it. It's kind of weird, since I love talking about the show, but I feel that when I have my actor hat on, it takes away from my publicist abilities (and vice-versa) because, you know, I only have one head on which to rest my chapeau. So at the well-attended media call for Martyrs, I wanted to take care of the media folk - introduce them to cast and crew, set them up with interviews, make sure they have everything they need, stuff them with cookies, ect - but I had to do all this in an elaborate costume since I was involved in the scene we were presenting (an unavoidable fact as I am in almost every scene). I found it hard to then turn that switch off and be a good actor when what I really wanted to do at the time was make sure the lights were alright and that the cameras were getting all the good angles.

    Two days ago, another media outlet asked to "talk to one of the actors" - of course I could have done it myself, but I also had to think bigger - and so I submitted our most popular cast member, who recently sold out a run of her very own less than two weeks ago at the GCTC Undercurrents Festival and whose name would carry more weight than mine - as difficult as that might be to imagine ;)

    I'm very lucky this time around that I have four other actors, as well as a director whom I can send out in my place. I just wonder what it will be like when I'm the actor, producer & publicist for my own one woman show...

    Little Martyrs runs from Feb 9 to 19 in the Ottawa Dance Directive - Studio A

    The Publicist's Dilemma (Part 3)

    For Parts 1 and 2 - go here and here respectively. I've spent the last 5 years now creating a media list for the Ottawa Theatre community. This list was built up through various contracts and networking opportunities. This list is extensive and thorough.

    I've had friends ask me for this list in the past and I haven't said no. After all, isn't the end goal the growth and education about theatre arts in our community? Don't more events mean more awareness? The great Simon Ogden once mentioned the following in my blog comments (and I hope you also click on that link because it was a pretty good blog post filled with very insightful comments from a slew of people):

    ...when we market our shows we’re not marketing our shows, we’re marketing our industry. And when enough of us tell enough of them how awesome a thing it is that they’re missing, they’ll come. Eventually, they’ll come. You just need to keep showing all that wonderful excitement that you have for it...

    I agree completely (and P.S. Simon, I miss your blog), so imagine my surprise when, in Toronto, after being asked to do publicity for a show some classmates were putting up, that no one in town wanted to just hand over their media list.

    I was incredibly confused. Aren't we all in this together? Apparently not.

    Don't get me wrong, I get it. My friends tried to hire a publicist in TO and the cheapest they could find was $1000. People are paying for the years it took to put together such a detailed media list. It goes way beyond simple internet research. It's years of connections and meetings and hand shaking. I have the cellphone number of many a theatre critic and reporter. When I call, they answer because they know that I have a good story for them. (Or they just want tickets to Vimy...)

    As a publicist, your media list and you contacts are a big chunk of your livelihood. I don't want to work for free as an actor, so why should the publicist? Because that's what I'm doing when I give away that list. And as someone who has spent the better part of the last four months living out of a suitcase because she can't afford to live in her own home, that seems like a pretty stupid thing to do.

    And that brings me back to the whole dilemma part of this blog post. Because most theatre company's in town cannot afford to pay $1000* for a publicist and I want to ensure the survival of our local industry, I try and help anyway.

    Is this what it means to be a schmuck? Am I the George Bailey of the Ottawa Theatre scene?

    You decide.

    *My rates are negotiable.

    The Publicist's Dilemma (Part 2)

    Ask the majority of actors and they will tell you how they try not to read reviews during the run of a show. I get it. The outcomes are never good. You might get a bad review that, after weeks of hard work & baring your soul, just breaks your fucking heart on the scale of "little kid crying about how people are just MEAN" all the way to "Oh my God, I suck! I am the suckiest actor that ever sucked!" All of this making you doubt yourself and your performer choices and wish that you didn't have a whole other week of performances to go through, because frankly, why should you be subjecting people to THAT? Of course, your friends, your colleagues, even your director will tell you to pay it no mind, that it's just one person's opinion, and really, nobody ever reads the *insert publication here* Or maybe the reverse happens. You get an amazing review! They loved you! They really loved you! And just like that you find yourself with a sense of bloated false self-esteem, which you know isn't true because what your friends said about bad reviews also applies to good ones, but it still ruins all the beautiful nuances you had found in the script because now you're just hamming it up. "Do you get it? THIS is that funny part he/she mentioned in the review. Do you get it? This is funny, right? Do you see how FUNNY I am?"


    Heck, even worse is if you get a good review and your colleague gets a bad one, or vice versa. Awkward stares in the dressing room as you both pretend you don't know what was said. And no one can really say anything without opening up a can of worms. If you got the good review, you can't say all the regular platitudes, because the response will always be, "well that's easy for you to say". If you get the bad review, well, what can you say?

    So as an actor, you just avoid this messy mess altogether.

    But what if the actor also happens to be the publicist for the show? If you're producing your own work, chances are the bulk of the administrative work, including marketing and publicity ends up in your plate.

    Which means that in my case, for the reasons I explained in Part 1, I have to read the reviews about myself during the run of a show. And let me tell you, it's not always fun.

    So what do you do? You learn to compartmentalize, be objective and take everything with a grain of salt - three things that I am not very good at.

    I don't have an answer for this one. If someone else does, please, share your secret!

    The Publicist's Dilemma (Part 1)

    There's been some great discussions online lately (and I recommend you go through the comments section too!) about the place of criticism and critics in the arts. As a publicist and producer, I have to say that critics are very important to me. Word of mouth is the best way to sell anything, including a show, and so I need reviews in order to pull quotes. The "Hey look at what people are saying about the show!" approach. As a producer, I do the same thing for grant applications and sponsor/donor drives, though it's more of a "Hey look at what these people are saying about us!" approach.

    Critics are by no means the be all and end all to my publicity campaign, but they are one more tool in my belt. And the more "legitimacy" society gives to the media outlet that reviews my shows, the more importance I will place on the critic and the quote.

    Do I necessarily agree with this way of thinking? That people need to be told by someone else whether they should see a piece of theatre or not? No. As a person who loves the theatre, I like to see everything and make up my own mind. I might read reviews before I see a performance of something, but it won't affect whether I go or not because I will always go.

    But my job is to sell a show to people who aren't like me. People whose entire lives do not revolve around the theatre. People who need to know that if they are going to be spending $20-$25 on a performance that they will be entertained. You know, sane people.

    And so, I go back to the people they can hopefully trust, either because of the critic or the medium they are involved with.

    Reflections on 2010

    2010 has come and gone and here I am alone in my condo reflecting on the time that has gone by with the Simpsons/Family Guy marathon that seems to be continuously  on Global on Saturday afternoons playing in the background. January 2010 was a pretty dark time for me. After months of no work, I was starting a new job at the Great Canadian Theatre Company and feeling completely overwhelmed by it all. My finances were a mess, my heart was broken, I was experiencing panic attacks... I was feeling utterly and completely lost.

    And then someone very special walked into my life. Our time together was brief, but also incredibly illuminating. His lust for life was contagious and, as he disappeared back into whatever magic vortex he came from, he left me with a very simple: "Hey, life is awesome."

    I'm very grateful to this person because my entire attitude changed after our encounter and every risk, every move, every dream I've dared to pursue to its fullest this past year can be directly traced back to the impact he had on me.

    After that, things began to change almost immediately and 2010 was a very good year.

    I had more professional acting gigs than ever before. It started out with this fun little number: [youtube=]

    There was not one, but two jobs as a stand-in where I got to work alongside people like Adam Beach, Elisabeth Shue and Jennifer Lawrence; a school tour with A Company of Fools (which I may very well be reprising in 2011) that lead to a one-off in Montreal and at the Lumiere Festival; a seven or eight week contract in Morrisburg at the Upper Canada Playhouse and a Fringe Festival run in Ottawa and Calgary; a workshop for Evolution Theatre's Little Martyrs as well as a reading of We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay! for our five year anniversary party; a voice-over contract in French for a birth control website; and a bilingual gig at the Upper Canada Village.

    All of this led to accomplishing two of my goals for the year: I became a full union member of ACTRA and CAEA (and got a few more credits towards my full UdA status) and found an agent to represent me in the Toronto market.

    And if you're looking at that pseudo goal list I created at this time last year, my laptop died and I moved myself into the wonderful world of the MacBook Pro. I didn't schedule time to write, but I did finish a first draft of my Roller Derby script. I completed a 5K Race and I'm now working towards being able to run a 10K. I took a bunch of incredible acting classes in order to keep training with more consistency and, as many of you know, I traveled a whole heck of a lot.

    As for my marketing work, I was at the GCTC where, among other things, I implemented a social media marketing policy and gave my first workshop on the subject to the staff. Since they're still going strong in this area now that I'm gone, I'd like to think I did pretty alright there. After giving a presentation under the banner Art as Business, Business as Art - my chosen topic being Branding the Artist - during the Ottawa Fringe Festival's brilliant Lunchtime Artist Series Ignite the Fringe event, I was approached by Odyssey Theatre to help them with their marketing and promotions for They All Do It. (Oh and I learned that I probably influenced at least one new blogger in town.) And I also ran a pretty successful publicity campaign for 'I', which took place at The Gladstone in November.

    As I briefly mentioned above, my theatre company, Evolution Theatre, after a year of workshopping new shows, celebrated its five year anniversary, became a resident company of Arts Court and announced the two shows we will be producing in February and May of 2011 (which will be a whole other post in the ver near future).

    And though I can't beat this guy, I saw over 75 stage productions - give or take a couple that I'm sure I'm forgetting.

    Oh and I became an auntie and a godmother to the most adorable little boy in the world.

    It wasn't all sunshine and lollipops though: my grandparents passed away; I kissed a lot of frogs, but didn't find any real princes; I got sick, tired and depressed more often than I cared for; I never knew where I would be sleeping next or how I might be able to pay for my next meal; and, sadly, until I've figured out a more permanent home for myself, I've had to leave my cat, Winston, with someone else.

    But Winston is being well taken cared of, my life feels like an incredible adventure, I've discovered that I have wonderful and generous friends, and there was making out. All in all, 2010 was pretty gosh-darn amazing!

    I can't wait to see what's going to happen in 2011.

    Back in O-Town

    Work was pretty awesome.  Late Thursday night, I arrive in Morrisburg.  I was booked into a room at a cozy little motel in the middle of nowhere that, in the middle of the night, would serve as a beautiful setting for some kind of slasher flick.  I mean that in a positive way.  I was pretty stoked to be put up somewhere for work. The day turned out to be pretty gorgeous.  I got wardrobe/hair/makeup done, which is always fun, chatted with some fellow actors, worked on my lines, and basically waited around until they needed me.

    At some point next summer, you'll be able to see the fruits of my labour at the Upper Canada Village when they open a new discovery centre for the visitors.

    I got a ride back to Ottawa, settled in and got to work on an audition piece for the next day.  It was for a feature film. I think it went well, but who knows, really, with those things?

    I got to see some friends, checked out the sweet Rachel McAdams movie, and even did some work for both 'I' (which opens at The Gladstone this week - I saw a rehearsal today and, folks, I'm telling you, this is going to be a good show! You need to check it out!) and for Evolution Theatre (big announcements coming real soon!)

    Now, it's the middle of the night.  I'm sitting in a living room that is not my own and grateful for the generosity of my friends.  I'd be lying if I said that in these quiet moments the doubts don't come flowing in, but I try and breathe and let it all go.  I thought I might have had a shot at some additional work while I was here in Ottawa, but it doesn't look like it's going to work out.  I'll be back in Toronto soon enough.  That city just isn't done with me yet.

    Calgary - Day 1

    At my billet's house, waiting for the shower (who knew boys took so long?) after a really great morning run.

    So far so good.  We're a stone's throw away from the Calgary Fringe Festival area, though I don't know if this festival has a beer gardens or a festival plaza of sorts where people gather.  We have our technical rehearsal this afternoon, though the Fringe doesn't start until Friday.

    My first show is this Saturday at 7 pm - here are the details if you happen to be in town.

    There's four of us living together with one billet who works lots and won't be around much.  The place comes with free WiFi courtesy of the nice landlady upstairs, which is great.  I don't need much, but I do need my interweb.

    Though I haven't met anyone from the Fringe yet, I've been very impressed with their web presence.  They've got a good looking website, they are all up to date on their social media stuff and, best of all, they've got their own iPhone app!

    My one minor complaint (and since the festival is really small, it is fairly minor) is that there is no venue map anywhere.  Not online, not in the printed program, and not even on the app.  If anyone from the Fringe reads this and would like to have a chat about additional functions, please feel free to get in touch with me. I love talking web!

    Coming soon: my 2010 Calgary Fringe Festival MUST SEE List!

    Ignite the Fringe!

    I'mnervous. So nervous my space bar is s h a k i n g. Tomorrow, at lunchtime, I get to give a presentation in the Ignite the Fringe event.

    An Ignite event is actually a very specific thing. According to my Wikipedia bible, it can be summed up as: a style of presentation where participants are given five minutes to speak on a subject accompanied by 20 slides. Each slide is displayed for 15 seconds, and slides are automatically advanced.

    Basically, I'm giving a Power Point presentation (or Keynote - thank you new Mac!) and I'm nervous about that.  I know, I know, I'm a professional performer type who gets up in front of people all the time.  Would you believe I get ridiculously nervous every single time then too?

    Though I've seen the event in Ottawa in the past, I've never done it before.  Here's a few things I've learned from the process so far:

    • Creating slides is A LOT of work - not only do you need to know what you are going to be talking about, but you need some good visual to go with it as well.  Google Images has been my new best friend.
    • 15 seconds is not a lot of time to say something and yet when I practiced my presentation at home it seemed to take forever.
    • Keynote is a really great program.
    • I've now know how to take screenshots.

    I hope people think it's funny and entertaining and don't throw things... unless it happens to be money.   You can throw money.

    See you at lunch!