Back in 2004, during final year university, I produced a one-man show in the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Quality-wise, it was… well, exactly what you’d expect from a first timer with no experienced director to help him.
It was pretty mediocre. Not horrible though, which for a first time production I’ll count as a win. Far more importantly though, I learned SO much from it. Specifically, I learned about all the things involved in putting on a live production that you couldn’t possibly know about until you’ve actually tried putting on a live production.
Here is on example of such a thing: check whether your venue has chairs. This is not something I ever imagined I would need to do. Hence I didn’t do it.
On the day of the first performance I found that, long story short, the room I was doing the show in would only have ten chairs available. I needed twenty seven. Essentially I was in the smallest room of a larger venue (given to me for free by Maria, the generous proprietor of Dante’s cabaret restaurant), and hence had minimal claim to chairs needed by other rooms in the place.
So on opening night, with six hours before curtain call, my friend YC and I drove to Ikea and purchased seventeen “Nick” brand folding chairs. After an epic struggle with a car barely large enough to transport that much seating infrastructure, we managed to get them to the venue. The show was saved. And I now owned a lot of chairs.
To this day “The Nicks”, as they came to be known, still get brought out at parties when extra seating is required. Ten of them live at my parents’ place. I have a couple in my apartment, as does my sister. The remaining three are unaccounted for, all these years after their moment in the spotlight. I’m pretty sure that one ended up lost in a field after a drunken vineyard party. Another may have been left behind the last time I moved apartments. I like to think that the remaining one is enjoying itself on a carribean island somewhere, far from the cares of first-time one man fringe festival shows.
So the moral of this story? If you haven’t yet produced a live ticketed show in a venue, go for it. You will learn some unexpected lessons, many of which may cause you a lot of stress and cost you a lot of money. But you will come out of it far wiser, and far more capable of making your second show a thoroughly decent one.
You will also gain some great stories, and possibly a vast quantity of Ikea folding chairs.
(Image by Flickr user timlewisnm, licensed under Creative Commons)