Two weeks ago I learned that the marketing department of the National Theatre will held a news conference on the 29th of August and they’ve assumed that I will perform 5 minutes of my number for journalists at the headquarters of the bank that is the main sponsor of the festival. Sounds simple, but The Rocker says that doing this conference gets more complicated by the day, and that he regrets every agreeing to a performance at all. In frustration, he sent an email with a list of conditions for the event which upset a number of people, partly due to cultural differences. He says that 90% of the people we will be working with are very helpful and generous, but there is a small group who are a very backward, but that if we want to keep the hopes of doing this festival again in Taipei we have to swallow our egos and go along with this conference and try to avoid any similar situations in the future. He wants to keep a smile on our faces and make sure things go smoothly.
Swallowing ego is fine; I’m cool with that. But I also think that in our own professional interests we should try to find a way to save face in this situation despite the following complications.
Their fee is far too low.
They have offered 60 dollars for my performance. Fuck. I’ve worked with this number at 1500 USD so I do not think that I can realistically consider performing my full number for 60 dollars. My blocks are out of the question, so I could propose perhaps a minute of easy shit. The Rocker supports me being strict about my participation and suggested instead a photo shoot with some handstand poses. He thinks we need to show how important it is to respect artists and that I “not be paraded like a clown for their amusement.” They are going to have to suggest a price that is more respectful of the work that we do as artists or they are going to have to find another concept for a press conference. 500 would be my absolute minimum.
Their argument is that the conference will be good publicity for me, but publicity works both ways; it is great if people see my number, but if word gets out in Taiwan that acrobats can be bought cheap, we’re not doing ourselves any favors. This is what happened with a circus company that was offering $500 corporate fees to ENC students and when other artists heard about it they were furious because they then realized why their own fees had been declining in recent years. That created a lot of bad blood between the professionals and the students which resulted in a ban on current students accepting offers from that company.
I really don’t want to give the impression that I am greedy but accepting this fee would devalue my number for future work, promotional or artistic, in Taiwan. One of my main goals in Asia is to change producers’ perception of circus artists, and accepting a price that low is contrary to that goal. I’d rather volunteer my services than perform my number for 60 bucks. All of us would like to put money matters away and get down to work.
Complicated technical requirements
The Rocker knows that it’s a good opportunity for front-page material so he is willing to care of the lighting, sound, and video requirements. We agree that if we are going to do it, we should do it right with full lighting (side lighting and back lighting) and a marley floor. Lighting is a crucial aspect of this piece and we’ll want to be able to have a complete blackout and a dedicated lightboard operator, but we can do it with a simplified lighting design with no more than 10 instruments. At the gym yesterday I double-checked the dimensions of the performance space as 4mx4m.
They were not anticipating time for technical set up, warm-up, and rehearsal either. They’ve offered 1-1.5 hours to rehearse for this conference on the day of. My ideal schedule would be 4 hours for the lighting installation, an hour of warm-up time a well-lit place with a tall ceiling before the performance, and 10 minutes of make-up time immediately before the performance as well as a place to shower or at least wash off the clay with a sponge and warm water after my performance.
It will also be a busy couple of days of building my handstand cane props. We’ll visit the scene shop on the day of my arrival and if I need to buy anything extra, I can try to buy it that evening. I imagine that it will take 2 hours of time on that day and 1 hour on the next day to build everything. I hope this will not be too much of a problem because everyone seems to think that this is very complicated – in fact I think that once we all meet in person it will be much clearer. All we need is:
1) A means of weighting down my handstand platform (e.g. scrap pieces of 5mm steel or iron plating)
2) Creating the artificial stack of wooden blocks to cover the steel poles. (e.g. cut lengths of 2×4 wood into roughly 15cm lengths and drill a 2 or 3 centimeter hole in the middle of all of them. We need to cut about 24 lengths. Two of the blocks are a little more complicated; we will need to cut a larger diameter hole).
3) Creating eight (8) 11.5 cm X 10.0 cm X 5.7 cm wooden blocks with perfectly square edges. We need to use dense wood. Plywood can work, but it is better if we cut the blocks out of a single piece. We need a good-quality radial or table saw that can cut straight to an accuracy of 1mm. I would suggest that we have very good wood glue, a drill with screwdriver attachments, and screws (2.5 cm) in case we need to make the blocks out of ¾ inch plywood.
It’s too bad that we agreed to the performance before we understood the conditions, but the best thing to do is to do a really great job and afterwards make it absolutely clear that it will not happen again under these conditions.