Friday, August 19, 2005

Ancient Secrets of the Arts - UNVEILED! Part 2

I'm really very excited about this whole Ancient Secrets of the Arts thing and have been for the entire four or five hours since I came up with the concept. By my reckoning, I will remain excited for about another hour and then will not be excited, but will be disappointed that I lost that initial enthusiasm and will be disappointed in myself for not following through with it, instead putting it on the pile of things which I had hoped would continue to bring me delight but now, alas, are just glaring reminders of all my failings. In this, like all things, I respond like any other would: I try to find a better track than the one now playing.

The better track is: there is no better track.


Many people hold illusory beliefs about The Theatre: this is made even more mind-boggling by the fact that the theatre is all about illusion anyway. Can you be wrong about something which is itself inherently untruthful? Philosophers call a logical contradiction like this a "paradox" or a "paycheck".

It's all too much!

Another philosophical mental utensil is the law of inverse relations, which may or may not exist. But in the World of the Theatre, said law goes thusly:

Your DESIRE to foist badly acted, ill-conceived and poorly rendered theatre on the innocent public will exist in inverse proportions to your ABILITY.

This should never stop someone from wanting to put on shows. But it should stop them from actually doing so.

If you do still want to mount your silly show, here's how to do it. I will use as an example an infamous theatre production I co-wrote/directed many, many, many years ago. Ten years ago.

It had forty actors/crew and went for about three hours I think, and was held in the derelict basement of a building on Swanston Street. We had costumes from the ABC and Opera Australia, and also some homeless men tried to urinate on the audience from above. And about fifty drunken guys from the pub up the road tried to storm the place with bottles and rocks and seething scorn.

It cost $10,000 and we came in $500 short. While this sounds successful, here's the key: We never had more than a handful of audience members, because we didn't know anything about advertising, publicity, promotion, etc. We truly were - LIVIN' ON A PRAYER (and no money).

How was that accomplished? I'm glad you asked at this specific moment in time, because it leads neatly into what I was about to write anyway.

Firstly - I mentioned the 40 or so cast & crew, right? Yes, I did. Go back and read it if you don't believe me.

Forty people means lots of friends and family. Now, if pressed, a lot of those friends and family would like to go support their loved one's stupid uni student theatre endeavour, but more than that - they'd like to SHOW their support. Especially if that doesn't actually mean having to see the show. The answer?

PRE-SALES. If you make all of the cast/crew sell ten tickets each for a show that won't be on for over a month, you reap the moulah and don't actually make the friends/family have to see the show. A lot of them "forgot" that they'd bought tickets. It's WIN-WIN.

Step two is Sponsorship. The myth is that it's difficult to get sponsorship for a crappy little show. The reality is that if you find someone who knows lots of accountants/lawyers/doctors, these people can write off their entire sponsorship donation as a tax break, and they're hungry for it. They love it. They don't even care what the show is, as long as it can be entered on the books.

Step three is selling drinks before the show. This should be obvious anyway, as your poor audience will be grabbing the nearest alcoholic beverage as soon as they see your crummy set and the half-rate spruiker you've positioned outside.

That's actually about it.
It should now be clear that the theatre is a chump's game, fit only for the desperate and mad, those clutching at straws and fraying at the edges. It's a dizzy whirlpool of misfits who think they're trying to create art, but are more often just trying to find a mate. And when you see that loneliness in the eyes of said mate, you will know the hollowness that is the World of the Theatre.

And you will see why the theatre is, in this regard, both a reflection of life and its opposite.


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