Tag Archives: crowd

How to finance a show at bottomless money pits like the Edinburgh Fringe

My elfin stand-up comedy chum Laura Lexx (she really did once work as an elf in Lapland) is going to the Edinburgh Fringe with multiple shows again this year and the problem as always is that playing the Fringe is (in the words of a comedian whom I have embarrassingly forgotten) like standing in a cold shower tearing up £20 notes.

As well as being a stand-up, Laura has her elfin toe dipped in ‘legit’ theatre. Her company is called Spun Glass Theatre. Last year, they played the Edinburgh Fringe for a second time and played the Brighton Fringe and branched out into school entertainments and – I love reading a bit of good creative PR speak – “completed development on a truly original piece of theatre”.

You Left Me in the Dark is, according to the blurb, “a piece of new writing inspired by Chekhov’s The Seagull which explores the themes of abandonment and devotion… The music of Florence + the Machine reflects the passionate nature of the characters’ love affair with each other and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.”

Frankly, I see few openings for knob gags in that – I am a simple man with simple tastes – but Chekovian drama has its followers.

The brain-stumper, though, is how do you finance a trip which you have to assume may result in a 100% financial loss – which is how any trip to the Edinburgh Fringe may end however good the project is – although, with luck, you may break even and fame and fortune may follow?

One route is ‘crowd funding’ which Spun Glass Theatre enterprisingly and successfully tried last year. There are websites like WeDidThis.org.uk which allow members of the public to donate money to artistic endeavours. If the company reaches their target for donations within a specified short period, they get to keep the money and give rewards to those who donated. If they fail to reach their target, they do not get the money and the people who have pledged pay nothing.

This year, Spun Glass Theatre is trying to raise £1,000 and the deal is that, if you cough up anything from £5 to £20, you get a variety of rewards from free tickets to free workshops to original artwork. And the money goes to funding the planned show.

“We regularly apply for funding via other routes,” Laura tells me, “but the numbers applying mean it is almost impossibly competitive. Crowd funding gives you the chance to be more proactive than just continually spending all your time writing applications and poetry.

“And I think crowd funding is a good test of whether you’re making something which has some appeal. If people won’t fund it being made (for rewards) how are you going make the project seem attractive enough to sell tickets?”

Of course, any project is in competition with all the other projects on a crowd funding site to get money. But, Laura says:

“We’re already half way to our target on our WeDidThis page and kicking the ass of everybody else that’s in the running this month, so we stand a good chance of getting there! We’ve only got a fortnight to go, though..”

Well, I’ve coughed-up.

I admire enterprising elfin chutzpah.

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The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd… and the terrified comedian

The stage. The spotlights. And the fear.

Three major things performers get off on.

And, when comedians are inexperienced, the third is so strong, they often forget the first two.

You can spot inexperienced comedians because they step forward, out of the stage lights, so they can see the audience’s faces and the audience becomes more human, less of a faceless beast in the dark.

But the result is that the performer’s face becomes dimmer and less distinct.

So you have a dimly-lit performer standing in front of a well-lit background and the human eye is overwhelmed by the bright background, which makes the performer’s face even dimmer.

The audience can’t see the performer’s eyes and facial expressions clearly. The effect and impact of what the performer says is lessened.

What the performer has done through fear in an attempt to have more impact has had the opposite effect.

Even worse – and I saw it happen twice recently – some performers without careful pre-planning and with their head filled with professionally suicidal fog actually come down off the stage to directly interact with the audience. They think it’s ‘bonding’. In fact, it’s wanking.

You can get away with it after a lot of careful thought, detailed pre-planning and a lot of live performance experience. But not “cos I feel like it”.

It makes the performer feel better – real live interaction with real live people – but it means, off the stage and in semi-darkness, most of the audience can see fuck all of what the performer is doing. The audience might as well be listening to a radio programme in the dark. If the performer has actual genuine eye contact with one punter, it means all other members of the audience are being excluded.

Eyes, Facial expressions. Brightly lit. Details seen clearly. That’s why audiences go to live shows. To see the performer clearly. That’s what communication is about.

Rule One of stand-up comedy… even in a small room…

If you can see the audience’s eyes in the middle of the room, you are standing in the wrong place. Get back into the light.

Rule Two of stand-up comedy… even in a small room…

If you cannot feel the warmth of the light(s) on the front and sides of your face, you are standing in the wrong place. Get back into the light.

Rule Three of stand-up comedy… even in a small room…

If there is a stage and you have come off it to ‘bond’ with the audience, get your mind off your insecurities and think about the audience’s viewpoint not your own. Get back on the fucking stage. Get back into the light.

Don’t think of the audience as a faceless beast in the dark, about to rip your soul asunder at any moment.

Think of your light as a warm womb protecting you. The faceless beast out there in the dark is just a bad dream and you will be backstage drinking lukewarm tea in less than an hour – perhaps less than ten minutes…

Stay in the light.

It’s why you wanted to perform in the first place. To communicate with people. Clearly.

(This blog was also published by the comedy industry website Chortle.)

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Filed under Comedy, Psychology, Theatre