The day after I posted Sue’s Views “The Award Season Ends”, I got a private message from a friend who recently won a few awards and is having what I like to call “their year”. They told me that they too related to the aftermath of the awards season (and they won!) and then we had a brief discussion on how hard it is to work on a show, run it and then put it to rest. A different kind of blues! I thought that this might be a good topic to discuss this week. How do you feel when you finally decide to let one show go and how do you motivate to put together a new one?
I keep a journal of show ideas and a brief blurb of what I think that show may be so that, if I forget or when I hit a wall and decided it’s time to get working again, I just go to that journal and see what idea is exciting me the most. I keep this journal as I’m currently working on or when I’m still running a show. This way, when you do get the blues from closing a show that you love, hopefully, these ideas will give you that kick in the pants to get going on a new idea.
I guess it’s important to discuss and understand why a show is so had to put to rest. Well, we work a good 6 months to a year on it. We fine tune our numbers in class and take them out to test drive at Open Mics to see how they hit (or not). We run them weekly with our Musical Directors. We write our scripts. We edit our scripts. We run our scripts past our Director who usually then edits it again. We finally agree that THIS is the show and we start to prep it for stage while trying to get a date and do all the PR, make the postcards and do all the postings on social media. Phew, I’m tired already…why would I want to start this process all over again? Herein lies one of the reasons we mourn putting down a show and starting a new one…it’s HARD WORK and time consuming. The old show is also now SO familiar that there is also a little fear of the unknown…
Will a new show be as good as this last one? Will a new show be as well received as this last one? If you won any kind of award or recognition on the old show, it may become a question of how can I offer a better show than the one I’m putting down? These are all very valid concerns.
Once a show opens, we usually do a 3 show run to get the show some “legs” before we ask the press to review us but, having the press in early, if you are ready, is key to getting the quotes you need to sell a further run of the show. If you have thought out your postcards carefully, you have them designed so that you can cover up the date section with a sticker of a new date(s) calling the new run an “Encore” performance. This fore-thought on card layout can save you a lot of money in printing costs. You also want to keep the same picture/logo or artwork so that you are starting to “brand” your show.
So now you’ve run the show 3-4 times to qualify for an award and you’re now thinking that, if you get the nomination, you should have a date on the books in February or March (prior to Awards Season in March). This means you have to ask for that date as early as July or August for the following year! You decided to do the show again “for your consideration” and you once again take your cards/fliers and songs out to Open Mics to try to sell the new run. Hopefully, by this time, you have a great reviewer quote on the card! It’s still busy “to do” stuff but, at this point, all this additional work seems less hectic because your show is in your bones and you’ve been running it so now, basically, you just need to freshen up the show and focus on the “to do”. However, if you are starting a new show, guess what…you have to go back to Square One. Why put a show down that you love that’s now so easy to perform and so much less work and start a new one? For me, it's usually boredom with the old and a desire for a new adventure but what is YOUR incentive at this point? What do you do next?
If after 6 months to a year and a half of running this show and submitting it for award consideration and getting reviews, you don’t start to see “strangers” in your house and not just other singers and your friends and family coming back to see it again, it is time to start thinking about a new project. Like me, if you are bored, it's REALLY time to do a new project as you cannot bring that energy to the stage! Like I said earlier, if you already have ideas for a new concept, you can be running your current show while simultaneously working on the new concept. This helps you emotionally transition and makes it much less depressing when you finally say, “I’m not going to book this show again. I’m moving on.”
How do you lovingly put a show down? I have 3-ring binders with the name of each show on the spine with all the music, script, tech sheet, music list and Press Release all inside ready to go if I ever want to run the show again, but here’s the thing…you don’t have to really emotionally put this show down…it’s always there, right in the binder should you ever want to run it again. This visible and tangible book somehow helps me move on. Look at all my shows? Look at how much I’ve done? I’ve been here before and did get to the next project so let’s get cracking! Ideas to do this:
•A few years after you close a few shows, you could do a “best of” running 3-4 of your old shows weekly or monthly like I did in my “Coming Back to Mama’s” Series in 2017. My Musical Director and I had been together for 23 years at that point, so we had a lot of shows and music already done. We just plucked down one of the books, freshened it up and did a new show once a month. It is also very cost effective…no new charts, less rehearsal, PR done, card/concept done…AND you get to re-visit an old friend.
•You can most definitely “pitch” this show that you love so much to out-of-town venues because, guess what, that audience has never seen your show…it’s all brand new! Variations of my “Ella & Me” show has been running for about 18 years and it just got booked in Connecticut and Nyack. Boom, book there, show ready to go! Hey old friend!
•You can research libraries and other places that pay to bring shows in to see if any of your shows would be a show that would play to their audience. Note: With libraries usually “educational” shows or theme shows do better here. When is Irving Berlin’s birthday…pitch your Irving Berlin Show. When is Women’s Month…pitch your Female Composer Show…you get the idea. Ask them who you are playing to? Is it an audience of children, 30-40 year olds or older folks? Tailor your show and your pitch accordingly.
If you are from a more “Zen” energy you can emotional “bless” the project and thank it for giving you the joy that it gave you. Then, put it in a book so that it is not “dead” and then attack your next project with the same respect, trust and love that you have just given to this long running show that was so good to you. Respect how you are feeling, honor your sadness. It is valid to be sad and a little overwhelmed at what you will have to do to start up all over again but here’s what I want to leave you with…
Enjoy the process of creating art as much as performing. I do! All new shows start with an idea, get excited about that idea. Let it form and develop and celebrate each time you bump it up and move the show forward. Rather than look back and mourn a show that you just did, put it down with love and literally turn away from it (the book on the shelf perhaps) and take your first step toward a brand, new adventure!