Around the World in 720 Days: Full (Tiny) Circles

I am back on the same bech in the Bangkok Airport.  It is much calmer now, morning instead of late-night.  No grinning guards armed with firearms – in fact, I am sitting across from an unattended bag right now.

I have been en route to Taipei for 57 1/2 hours now.  My first flight out of Amsterdam was plagued by flight attendents running up and down the aisles about 30 minutes after takeoff trying to take care of a door that had not closed properly, was causing a lot of noise, and could open at any moment.  It was flight control that told the pilot about this, evidently.

I express my thanks!

We were redirected to a NW heading until we reached the North Sea where we banked 90 degrees and flew SW while dumping fuel so that we would not be too heavy upon landing and smash open like a watermelon on the runway.

We landed in Amsterdam again at about midnight.  By one-thirty (a half hour before we were supposed to have arrived in Bankok) they told us that the flight was cancelled.  We reboarded the plane to get our carry-on, went through customs, and then I stood in like for two hours to get my amenities pack, a five-minute phone card, and a hotel voucher (breakfast included!)

It was now 4:00AM and I waited 30 minutes in the cold for a hotel shuttle, and then another 30 minutes at the hotel to check in.  My key card didn’t work, so I had to return to the front desk, where I was informed that I had to catch the 10:30AM shuttle to the airport to get my new boarding pass for the China Airlines flight that I had been transferred to.  It was now 7:30 AM.

I slept really hard and got up in time (skipping the free breakfast), and made the flight.

This was one of the worst flying experiences I can remeber since the mid-eighties when I used to jet-set around the world with my parents on IBM’s bill.  That was back when airlines were expanding at a pace beyond their control and delays and missed connections were the norm.

Anyways, I made it here, at least, and the owner of the bag has returned, so I am not as worried about being interrupted by a shigh-velocity shrapnel cloud tearing me to ribbons.

What I realized while in Vilnius (among other things) was that when I arrived in Amsterdam, I had completed my second full circumnavigation of the globe.  The first was maybe 15 years ago and involved Denmark and London somehow.  It was the first time I had ever seen those video screens that show your progress on a Mercator projection and interesting statistics like your airspeed, the temerature outside that door that might swing open at any moment, and the time at your destination.

This one started in January of 2004 and went like this: Amsterdam – Boston – Rochester – Boston – Honolulu – Tokyo – Nagoya – Aukland – Nagoya – Tokyo – Honolulu – Boston – Montreal – Rochester – Boston – Honolulu – Tokyo – Seoul – Tokyo – Taipei – Bangkok – Amsterdam.

Two years in the making.  Magellan 2006.

And a Kalaripayattu To You To!

Flight cancelled.  Stuck in Amsterdam.

The Indian festival had an unexpected cancellation and wants to know if we can put up a 40-60 minute dance/acrobatics performance for a fee on the 4th or 5th.  They want to know immediately if this is possible and, if so, for us to send the program note and our technical requirements.

The style of dance that was cancelled was a Taiwanese Zen artist which is a great coincidence since The Rocker has composed in this traditional style for Taiwanese dance companies and my handstand number is in a similar style.  The Rocker explained that my solo is a 10-minute part of a 1 hour show and that at the last minute, it might be hard to make a 40-minute show with only the two of us, but that we could bring our music and acrobatic equipment to create a show with some local and excellent dancers, martial artists or acrobats.  The producers liked the idea, so they will pay overweight baggage fees for us to bring our equipment and set up a workshop with a Mr. Dhananjayan, or Jay, who is a practitioner of Kalaripayattu, an Indian martial art.  He and his senior students will be available for our collaborative work on the 4th or 5th and the festival representative “shall strain every nerve to arrange rehearsal space for us every day after your arrival, at the venue and elsewhere.”  We suggested the 5th to allow maximum rehearsal time.

The Rocker says that these kinds of last-minute requests can have exciting results, but we need to know how much time we would have in the theatre for rehearsal and set up, have a photo and the technical information about the theatre (lights, sound, video projectors, seating arrangement and size etc.), and, ideally, a video camera and operator.  He really wants to help, but if the rehearsal time and theatre set up too short, we just would have to say no, rather than present something that does not look good.

They proposed a performance fee of is Rs. 25,000 which is 500 US for the both of us together (which The Rocker says is still better by the hour than Taiwan Productions paid).  The Rocker says that this amount is acceptable for him alone, but he requested a similar fee for me, as he wants me to co-direct as well as perform.  Finally, they increased the fee to Rs. 40,000, or US 800, for us to share.  They Rocker was worried that I would not be happy with the fee but his point of view is that if we consider this a humanitarian project and consider the daily wage of people in India then that should make my choice easy.

This project is not impossible, but it will be difficult. The fee is fine, and since they are willing to cover the $250 for my handstand canes and blocks, I’ll try to manage 10 minutes of material, but to be honest, I didn’t even bring my handstand canes with me to Lithuania, so I cannot guarantee that I will be able to perform the whole version of my handstand number.  I think the bricks will be ok, but I may need to fudge the beginning a little bit.  That’s what this ‘vacation’ did to me!

We have pictures of the Museum theatre in a round heritage building with our audience arranged around us in a semi-circle, with the lowest seats being the ones directly in front, and sloping upwards to the outer edges of the circle.  Since we arrive on December 1st we asked for someone take us to the theatre so that we can see exactly what we can use for our “environmental theatre performance” in which we occupy the entire theatre space.

The requirements we sent are for The Rocker to perform live on one side of the stage (back if possible) with the sound mixer: Sound Board: Electric Guitar & Stereo DI: 2 Channels 2 CD players: 4 channels (separate fade in/out) 3 monitors (1 for him, 2 on stage for dancers), normal sound speakers & sub woofers Lights: As many as possible, in all areas of the theatre. Floor stands (as many as possible).  Evidently everything we requested is available and they want us to come to the venue one day ahead of the show to sort out everything.

Our only concern is that it looks like we need to perform on the 4th (another show is already planned for the 5th) and we have still have not heard directly from Mr. Dhananjayan himself or his students.  The Rocker’s is comfortable taking risks, but he’s also very careful to presenting quality work out of respect for both the performers and public, so we have proposed a “Plan B” – a video presentation of the festival and some major Canadian new circus companies and the training process used by the National Circus School of Canada followed by my performance with The Rocker’s live music. This option would involve very minimum set up time, and the only extra equipment would be a video projector and screen (plus the same basic lighting and sound requirements as stated earlier).

The festival agrees with us but still suggests that we meet with the artists on the 1st to see if any collaboration can occur.

After all this, the festival shared what seemed to me to be a funny concern: they did not book us rooms at the festival’s hospitality partner, the Park Hotel because we made our own low-cost arrangements to improve our fee and because we were not part of the original programming. Now that we are actually performing, they hope that we do not feel that we are being treated with less respect than any of the other artists.  To that end, they offer whatever they can do to enhance our Chennai experience including finding us a better room if we find our Pandian hotel rooms not to our liking.

Nonsense!  We are show creating machines!

Budget Building

At Cinars, the Rocker met with Korea Productions and Tohu in a busy, short, and productive week.  Looks like we’re brining our show to Tohu in 2008, and the National Theatre confirmed that we will show a final version at the National Theatre of Taiwan in November ‘07.  Hopefully we’ll be able to add Korea in Spring ‘07.

I wrote to the former special events producer for Cirque Theatrical because he’ been very open with me about his desire to change companies and gave me great marketing and budgeting advice.  Since his advice has helped me sell small events, I wanted to get his advice on how to produce and sell a huge show like the one we have now.  I hope he can give me some guidance about the best way to move forward with all of these projects.

Budgeting strategy

I’m assuming that producers will cover transport, shipping, lodging, and per diem for our 22 performers (including musicians) and two very experienced technicians, so based on that, I’ve calculated technicians fee, performance rehearsal fee (since we cannot offer a full-scale tour yet, we must make a one-shot deal comparable to a small corpo), and a show performance fee to arrive at a bare minimum, added a 15% buffer for overruns, to arrive at a cost for the first show and also for each show after that one.

The operating and administrative costs of our company and the production costs that we are trying to recoup are quite high at this moment because we are just starting out and because it is a new show, but I want to ensure that we have enough net cash flow in 2007 to keep our heads above water by recouping past production costs, covering our ongoing production costs (onsite rehearsal space rentals and fees for replacing performers, administration), and all possible overruns in those budgets.

I’ve also included a fee for The Rocker and myself, and this has allowed me to come up with my first ever touring show budget for an actual show.

Using this approach, I’ve come to one fee for setting up the show at a site, one fee for the first show, and one fee for every show after that.  The numbers look a little high, but it is what the figures are telling me.  Until we are sure about what fees we want to offer our artists, technicians, etc., I think we had better be safe than sorry… and broke.

What this means is that we can tell producers that the first three shows cost a certain amount (1/3 the total of set up, first show, and the two next shows).  By this calculation we are very close to the Cirque Human benchmark, and we know that they are already being booked in Japan and Korea.  I think we are already in their range from just after they started in 2003 but their fees may have gone up, so I suggested that he check with them if possible when he is in Montreal.  There’s a lot that can be adjusted, but I wanted to make sure that the performer’s fee is attractive regardless of if it is one show, a weekend, or a week.

The trick now is to get better numbers by finding out:

1) fee for setting up and running lights now that the lighting design is fixed.
2) fee for setting up and running rig now that the rigging design is fixed.
3) adjustments for artist fees if needed
4) revalidate Cirque Human’s fee per show

I imagine that we should ask higher fees of big presenters than we would of small festivals, so we shouldn’t commit ourselves to a price that is too high or too low just yet until we have a better idea of how to proceed.

TOHU

Now that Tohu is confirmed, their main concern is how to cover air tickets and hotel, so The Rocker has asked me to calculate the budget for between 8 and 12 Taiwanese artists.  If Tohu brings us to North America we could start thinking about a few more cities we can go to in order to make it worth our while. Vancouver, Toronto, Boston, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco… lots of possibilities if we get the right contacts.  Tohu themselves are trying to link us with the Kennedy Centre and any other US contacts I can provide them

I’ve also assembled a draft technical rider by contacting all of our technical directors from the festival to collect:

Final Stage Design
Final Lighting Design
Final Video Design
Final Sound Design
Final Special Effects Design (fireworks, smoke machines, etc)
Final Numbers of Techs and Stagehands

I’ve already sent this draft technical rider for the outdoor version of the show to Tohu, including the details on the metal structure for the backstage musicians set up.  The Rocker clarified that if we do the show indoors, we can adapt the metal structure and video screens to the decor of the theatre to integrate the existing scenography. (most important is the backstage structure that the musicians perform on).

I also checked with the Taiwanese producers about the final production budget to help me assemble a rough budget estimation.

Korea

Since the Korean festival also requested a technical rider and budget for our show as soon as possible, I sent them our draft technical rider.

Since that gave them a good idea of the technical needs of the project, they now want a rough budget and a list of possible funding sources.  The Rocker says I should feel free to discuss these options with him openly because Korea Productions knows prices and likes me, so I am in the process of revising a tentative budget for a Korean/Asian tour (we are looking at trying to add two other sites between China, Macau and Japan).

I wanted to assume seven days of rehearsal in Taipei for the local acrobats (no foreign acrobats or musicians) and seven days of rehearsal on the stage in Korea to integrate all the other acrobats, musicians, rigging, lights, video, stage crew, etc, but The Rocker asked me not to charge for rehearsals and preproduction separately since Korea Productions will be looking for a package deal.

Since my budget includes transport and lodging, so if the festival covers that my budget will be about half the amount I have calculated, so I’ve sent “bottom-line” costs for one show, three shows, etc, without travel, lodging, food, transport, visa, insurance, and shipping (which would be extra) because with a guarantee of 6 shows in three different cities (and even better, countries) transport funding can be sought for performers and equipment to the first city on the tour and the Canadian embassy may be able to help out as well.  Of course if we can secure these extra shows, we would be able to also lower the performing fee accordingly.

Show Award Show

Good news from the director of the Toyota Pavilion:

“It has just been announced at the IAAPA in Atlanta, USA, that the Toyota Pavilion Show at the Aichi Expo ’05, Japan, has won the THEA Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Live Special Event Show category.  It is one of 13 Thea Awards to be presented each year by the Themed Entertainment Association in the Creation of Compelling Places and Experiences. The prize will be officially handed over during the Thea Awards Gala in Los Angeles in March 2007.  It is the fourth time that one of our shows has received the profession’s highest international distinction.”

Just Because You’re Paranoid…

Evidentially, Cirque Human is now family – they suggested that The Rocker work with The Lawyer, a very nice lady who does grant applications and administration who also used to work for Cirque Du Soleil.  At this point The Rocker’s needs are simple, but the head of Cirque Human warned The Rocker that with a big show (and great one, he added) we have to be careful of our strategy of touring and selling and that we should continue to talk as the project continues.

That’s great, but I hope that we will not lose the ability to communicate directly with a presenter about budget and technical needs.  This gives us control of the process that ultimately guarantees us the most profit.  If Cirque Human is able to put us in contact with presenters and if they want to act as consultants and agents, that is great, but I would be nervous allowing anyone to manage all negotiations on our behalf. My experience with Taiwan Productions is that whoever controls the budget negotiations controls the profit.

The Rocker agrees, but says that once someone buys the show, and offers to make contacts for a tour for that involves the same expenses, he wants hand that part of the project over.  This makes sense, and even if we are to stay the face of The Rocker’s company when dealing with producers and presenters, consulting with these new administrators before signing anything is a good idea because we need their expertise, no question.  For example, if they know that we can sell the show for more in NYC, for example, I’d still like that information to pass through us.  Otherwise, they could easily sell the show for more than we budgeted without telling us. This is why I am always nervous when talking about administrators who have the power to make budgetary decisions.

Maybe I seem paranoid; my only concern is that we stay involved enough in the business aspect of this company enough so that we are the ones who make the budget and pay our staff a percentage – not the other way around.  I see my function as being able to coordinate this flow of information so that The Rocker would not need to be too involved with the day-to-day business shit.

3AM Spanish Lesson

My partner from the street show in the festival wrote me at 2h45 Montréal time just after a little corpo because he had the idea of using the Spanish song from our show for his Cirque Theatrical audition on Sunday.  He needs the words to the first verse “like, NOW.”

o amor
quiero amor
porque amor
amor es bellio (?)
como tu.

tu es mi amor
mi amor tu es
o o o es….

o amor.
no te gusto
siente soledad
soledad en el mundo.

o ai
ai yi yi yi
ai yi yi yi
ai yi yi yi i

x2

I wrote that shit with The Clown in the first year in circus school and it is still getting used to this day. that’s a hard-working song.

Found some bad video of our silly street show from the Taiwanese festival which was a great stress reliever from being assistant director of the Festival.  It was written for a public of 100 but was played for a public of about 2000… changed the energy a lot.