22:00 MetaReprogramming With Christopher Stewart

22:00 MetaReprogramming With Christopher Stewart

Postby Chris MetaRep » 14 Sep 2013, 18:34

The venue -
Was renamed the 'Bar Bados' - a pop up bar made just for the event. I walked past it many times trying to find it. There was no indication that it had any affiliation with the Free Fringe at all. The only reason I found it was because an act was flyering outside the door. Bizarrely, the venue staff wouldn't let us advertise in the window - no posters, no flyers. As I say, how was the audience hunting for the PBH Free Fringe meant to know this was a venue?
The Bar Bados was a theme pub that was constructed for the festival. it had sand on the floor. I don't think this was a great first impression for people coming to see my spoken word show. However, the back room was great. I got to the venue in the last week to cover an absence - this meant a lot of problems the other performers reported to me had been cleared up. There was a sound desk and a mic and a makeshift spotlight (provided/made by the venue captain).

- The performance area
The performance area was a back room. Cut off from the rest of the venue. Had a carpeted floor (that I had to sweep because of the sand and because the prior comedy act flung pasta around. The comedy act who did this were helpful - I asked them to help me rearrange chairs to what I wanted. However, the ten minute turnaround meant that sweeping the floor of pasta and sand wasn't feasible. That meant at the end of my set - being the last act - that chore went to me to make the room presentable for the next day. I'm OK with that.)

- The team of staff at the venue
The staff were friendly enough but clearly didn't care about the Free Fringe in any way. It was clear that the venue was there purely to get as much money as possible. It played loud music with booming bass and was there to appeal to Hen parties and night clubbers. That said, the venue head did turn down the music at my request before my show. It still seeped through a bit but didn't in all conscience interfere that much with my set. It wasn't ideal. Fireworks going off 15 mins into my set were another opportunity to get a laugh out of what was a pretty inappropriate venue for my show. But the audience went along with it.

- How you advertised your show -
I was in the Free Fringe Brochure. I was also advertised on The List. I had a promotional video which was linked to in the brochure and on The List. I linked to Kirsten at Apples and Snakes and PBH Free Fringe on Twitter, who retweeted me. I stuck flyers in other venues with spoken word - particualrly the Banshee Labyrinth. I arrived 4 days before my show and went to as many poetry and spoken word slots as possible to do open mic and flyer. This was the best strategy - people who saw me at the Banshee came to my show off of what they'd seen.
I stuck all my flyers on me and went up and down the Royal Mile shouting my name and the show and doing my audience participation act at willing volunteers. No one came to my show from this strategy.
I made up black and white flyers I could easily photocopy. I changed the details to include the Bar Bados when I scouted out the venue. I benefitted by not having the time or money to print flyers before coming to Edinburgh, so I didn't, as some performers, have a bunch of flyers with Free Fringe George on them.

- How your shows went in terms of audience numbers - solid numbers every show? Did it vary by day? Affected by weather?
I averaged 6 people a night. Max 12 people. One night I got 1 person.

- Your show itself - what worked, what didn't work, what needs to change
Meta-Reprogramming is a 20 minute set I've been working on for 18 months. I tried adding 30 minutes of other poetry and spoken word material to fill the time allotted. This made the show intially a bit tangental. I fixed this my creating a 15 minute comedic PowerPoint lecture to set up the main content of the spoken word show. As I've said, I was broguht in at a months notice to fill a cancellation (and am very appreciative of this opportuntiy.) This did mean that the show wasn't as good as it could have been. I got a 3.5 star review however, and one audeince member put £20 in the bucket. One night in particular to a room of academics my show went down blisteringly well. The audeince stayed behind for half an hour to discuss the show, and I ended up doing more poetry by request.
The single biggest improvement would be to attach a narrative arc to my show. I also need to decide whether I will play different characters or remain as the MetaReprogrammer throughout.
I experimented with handing my computer programme to an audience member, who donned the white coat and sat on the high stool and read the instructions as the MetaReprogrammer. I was free to ad lib my interactions with audience members. This worked well and was included in the rest of the show.
Being able to do my show 6 days in a row with a different audience every night really showed me what worked and what didn't. I could also get instant feedback and was able to tweak stuff and try it out the next day. This gave me invaluable insight onto what worked and what needs to change.

- Buckets - we don't need accounts, but how were the donations to the buckets - bad, good, generous
For such a small average audience each night I think I did well to average £25 from 6-8 people.

- Technical set-up at the venue - what worked, what didn't work, what needs to change
I do a lot of theatre so don't need mics. I was able to do my audience particpation without the mic. The music from the bar did intrude a bit, but I was able to get over it. The mic and lightning was fine for my requirements. I had no technical support with me so I knew I was going to be using the bare minimum anyway.

- Admin & Communication process (between Free Fringe, Captains, Venues and you) - what worked, what didn't work, what needs to change
As I say, 'd only had a month to prepare, so I was flyring and printing flyers and modifying my show most of the day so wasn't as present at the venue helping other performers as I might have been. I did help S. Orr Holland get the PA and equipment back to PBH central on the final day.
I felt the communication between me and PBH was excellent. Once I had been accepted as the replacement things went very quickly and smoothly.

- Any other learning points for anyone involved - what worked, what didn't work, what needs to change
I think the venue was unsuitable because of mood and atmosphere, clientele and the noise.
Especially for me, being spoken word, it was tough to be in a venue that was all comedy with the exception of a musical act during the day. I felt a bit out of the way, because the Banshee Labyrinth was the dedicated spot for spoken word. I feel my act would have pulled in more if I'd been at the Banshee. However, this really couldn't be helped under the circumstances of being a replacement for a comedy act.
I wouldn't do a one man show again without an absolutely watertight 50 minute set that I'd toured for at least two years constantly. I think it would be better if I collaborated with two other poets to do a three person show. That would be much better for the audience.

On the whole, my show went well. A common feedback from the audience was that: "This has made my fringe. The fringe is all about coming across a weird, out of the way place and seeing something totally off the wall."
Chris MetaRep
 
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