1) THE QUICK UPDATE:
Since September, The Clown and I have been involved in numerous creation projects, most notably, perhaps, the first full-length self-produced Barcode Productions show, called “‘Til Tomorrow,” in Arnhem, Holland. We wrote and rehearsed the show with his girlfriend from school over a two-month period, rehearsing between 3 to 15 hours a week for the most part. All told, it was an incredibly stressful time, with the image of the show changing almost daily.
The Clown was in rehearsal with another project until the 19th of December (the premiere was the 21st!), so his girlfriend and I flew to Holland in mid-December. There, we met with the theater to write up all of the sound and lighting designs and adapt the show’s rigging needs to the theater’s technical specifications. Certain costumes and props needed to be bought/constructed on-site as well.
We also took advantage of the time to perform at a small gala, which doubled as a publicity event for the show itself.
Once The Clown arrived in Arnhem, we had one day to use as a dress rehearsal in the living-room of his parents house. The next day, we had a build-up time of 8 hours between when the theater space became available to us to showtime. Thanks to the remarkable skill and professionalism of the technical crew at the venue and our good friend and technical guru Joris, this impossible task was accomplished. We finished build-up, light setting, sound check, lightboard programmation, warm-up, getting into costume and make-up, and then learning all the technical cues of the show with five-minutes to spare.
Since we had had no time for a technical run and also served as their own technicians, the first show was a bit of a roll of the dice, but it went off with only one or two minor problems. The second day was twelve hours of intense rehearsal of both tech and acting and slight rewrites followed by a slightly revamped version of the show.
Although the response from both audiences was immensely positive, it was the second show that we felt best represented the themes that we set out to address. Namely, the fact that a lot of art today is either irrelevant to the outside world or no fun to experience as a public. In this show, we tried our hardest to be both relevant and fun, while at the same time, playing with an audience’s preconceptions of a theater show, a circus show, and a circus-theater show.
The bottom line for the artists involved was that this project provided room, board, transportation and a salary that is competitive to any other circus or theater group out there. Given, we had a lot of subsidization and help from family and friends, but we are encouraged that the dream of becoming our own autonomous company is not such a far-fetched one!
The future of this particular show is uncertain, but it accomplished exactly what it is that we wanted it to. We proved that recent graduates of art schools are able to produce interesting and popular works, and in doing so, earn a respectable living from it! The notion of ‘starving artists’ is hopefully not the only way to do theater and circus.
2) BARCODE PRODUCTIONS TODAY
The Clown and I, the “artistic directors” of Barcode Productions have been fortunately or unfortunately called away to do contract work with other companies. This gives us both the chance to save up to support future Barcode Productions as well as broadening out experiences as artists and giving us a little bit of breathing space to take care of the planning and business end of things.
As the lack of writing over the last four months suggests, producing, creating, rehearsing, and performing leaves little time for other work like writing this post, budgeting, grant-writing, etc.
3) BARCODE PRODUCTIONS IS LOOKING FOR A HOME
One of the major developments in the desert project, “62 Days,” over the last four months is the realization that we need to choose where to plant the seeds of this project. We have the choice of several countries. France (possibly,) which would provide salary, rehearsal space, artistic counseling, and an initial tour, for the artists. Holland, which is the country where The Clown and I have the most experience and support in circus, theater, and festivals, but where government grants are an unknown quantity. Quebec, quite possibly provide the best opportunity for grants and the ability to set up as a legitimate company, a friendly audience, and strong producer pool.
However, any long-term touring would most likely have to happen in Europe, and Quebec is not in Europe. Similarly, Minnesota not in Europe either, though it seems to offer a fair amount of grant money and the grants can be written in English.
4) A PROJECT CUT IN TWO!
So to move forward with the logistical and financial nightmare that is, “62 Days in the Desert,” I’m trying to cut the project into two self-sufficient parts, economically isolated from each other. The first part is a three-person project culminating in a “tour” of performances which, if successful, will use its momentum to build support for the second part, which is essentially a revision of the themes of the first part, but this time with a creative team of 4-7 performing artists.
The result of the first part will be a film with an integrated live performance that can hopefully be performed on stage for a theater public as well as screened at film festivals for a film public. The idea of using The Clown as an “outsider” would still be integrated and should maybe be shot before we go into the desert so that it is available to us during the creation process.
The result of the second part will be much more of a live affair with some film components. That is, that we look at what we have accomplished with the first phase, and look at how we can humanize the piece and address the themes in a theatrical/circus way with the first show as a common resource/inspiration.
The reason that this project has been cut in two is a simple one. If we work on a piece for two months in the desert, it had better be performable shortly after we get out of the desert. Additional rehearsal space and time is both redundant and expensive. After all, what else do we have to work on in the desert other than this project? How can we really need more time than sixty-two 24-hour days?
This also simplifies the project economically in the sense that the first phase will be a fully-functional, self-contained, mixed-media show with three people. We will be able to play it cheaply and flexibly in any number of venues, both small and large, to see how we like it before risking the big budget of bringing in additional performers.
Artistically, it makes sense as well. We can build on the common experience of this desert trek in the creation of this show without having to introduce a lot of other artists halfway through the process.
From a publicity standpoint, the story is simpler and therefore stronger. “These three artists went into the desert for two months and then went to a studio and rehearsal space where they met their friends, edited a film, and wrote a show,” versus “These three artists went into the desert and came out with this show.”
Basically, it significantly lowers the risk and raises the potential yield per artist, and if it is a success, it will pave the way for the second part of the project. If we hate it, at least we have earned our money back, and had a great time in the desert.
5) GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT “62 DAYS IN THE DESERT”
For the first part of the project, the three independent artists will probably try to leverage individual grants. Three separate artists each trying to find local funding will probably have more success than a relatively untested and unknown company applying for first time funding as a non-profit organization.
The budget of this project has to cover everyone’s food, lodging, and transportation as well as the costs that directly relate to the project, ie, camping gear, park fees, and recording/editing equipment. We also need to determine what we have as assets, for example, would one of us lend the car to the project and under what conditions? Would one of us be able to secure use of a good camera for the two months, and under what conditions?
Furthermore, I have already done a bit of legwork in terms of the grants available to me as a circus artist in Montreal and as a supposed legal resident of Minnesota. I know that the other two artists have been doing the same on their side. If we pool this information over the next two weeks we might be able to estimate our theoretical monetary yield. We should brainstorm if there are other fundraising tactics outside of grants.
This is the next phase of the project: definition of the goals, and determination of a realistic total budget.
Once we have a reasonable idea of what it is we want to accomplish, we need to see when we might be able to fit such a project into our lives.