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Theatre Production 101 – Don’t Do It Alone. Don’t. Seriously.

May 16, 2013 3 comments

This post is featured in The Charlebois Post, as can be seen here.

 

Theatre Production 101 – Don’t Do It Alone. Don’t. Seriously.

The Hatter - 900x1350 300dpiThat’s all I wish someone had told me. Though I admit that if someone had, I would have sunnily ignored their wise words and continued on my merry way, because I, the eternal optimist, know I am a very capable individual. After all, I’ve pulled a couple of Fringe shows out of my hat before! How hard can this next one be?

And with that thought, I entirely overlooked the fact that putting on a local Fringe show and putting together a solo tour across several provinces are two VERY different beasts. The Hatter is driving me Mad.

(The name of my show is ‘The Hatter’. In case that wasn’t apparent.)

We are t-minus three weeks until I head to Ontario for the very first time (aside from once as a child being locked in a small room at the Toronto Airport for five hours). T-minus three weeks until I begin a tour of London, Ottawa, Toronto, and Saskatoon over the course of two and a half months – the longest amount of time I will have ever been away from where I live. And for the life of me I have not been able to work on the show for more than an hour or two.

Oh, I’ve worked long and hard on the PRODUCTION, squeezing time between my minimum wage day-jobs and evening performances of other shows (eight shows a week of Beggar’s Opera, most recently) to fit in promotional photoshoots, to fill out of endless tech forms, to construct press releases I haven’t yet sent out, to conduct desperate searches for stage managers for each city (still looking for London, Ottawa, and Toronto, if you’re in one of those cities and interested!), to schedule performances, to make travel plans, to design posters and handbills, to figure out what to do with my worldly belongings while I’m away, to get costume pieces fitted and created, to figure out props…

But do I have a script? Nope. Do I have lines to learn? Not yet! No time. Just. No. Time.

I only have myself to blame, really. Sure, I could have turned down a workshift here or there, but my rent this month won’t get paid on future possible-maybe-hopefully-ticket-sales.

And there are the timeframe issues. The play doesn’t need to be performed until June 5th. But the production aspects need to get done long before then. I need to figure out how I’m getting out there. I need to print promotional materials, and I need to have stage managers in each city. Everything else seems to need to happen first.

Hattersquare600x600

Care for a cup?

I am still ever the optimist. This show is, after all, based on a show called The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party which I essentially improvised at the 2011 Vancouver Fringe. (The one review I received seemed to like it: http://tiny.cc/194sww .) To be honest, that show mostly came together in the four days between Victoria Fringe and Vancouver Fringe, as I ran out of time there as well, when Victoria Fringe proved all consuming what with my directing one show (BFA: The Musical!), stage managing another (Sonnets For An Old Century), and writing/performing a third (William vs The World).

I was also MOVING from Victoria to Vancouver in those four days. Half an hour before the first performance, a friend and I finally finished making the final set piece. It was that close. But this time was supposed to be different.

This time, I was supposed to swoop across the country with a well-built, well-tested, emotionally and intellectually deep show about The Hatter remembering who he once was, with all the grief and desperation which comes with a man trying to forget his past and be gleefully, cheerfully Mad again.

It can still be that. But right now it is a play about a man desperately trying to find stage managers and wade through technical forms. About a man who somewhere along the line has gotten far too distracted away from the real goal – to create a strong, highly entertaining piece of theatre that has the potential to move people and change lives.

I still have plenty of time. Three weeks to find time to stop being such a producer and to remember how to be an award-winning playwright and actor again. Time to grab some post-its, a sharpie, a pen and a laptop, and remember how to have fun again. How to create again. How to play again.

I miss playtime.

Cheers,
Andrew Wade

An Emerging Artist’s Finances – passive income project part 1

August 4, 2012 1 comment

I am striving to be a financially literate artist.

I want to be able to devote as much of my time and energy as I can toward creating great theatre and penning strong writing. Pesky things like groceries and rent, however, do tend to get in the way. And while I am able to keep my expenses low, and I am currently on my first paying theatre contract, I will still be returning to my part-time Joe job in Vancouver as I search for more performing work. (I admit, I do have an awesome, flexible, Joe job, but it’s still not my end career desire.)

Since graduating last April, I have been able to perform in/stage-manage/direct/write at least 21 different plays or short films, working with brilliant companies ranging from Fighting Chance to the Metro Theatre, and with Festivals ranging from Victoria and Vancouver Fringe festivals to the UFV’s Director’s Festival, to (currently) the Kelowna Summer Theatre Festival. Almost all of these were unpaid opportunities (or break-even ones) that I’ve used to grow as a performer and introduce myself to the Vancouver theatre community. I’ve been able to use my time in this way because I currently live off less than a thousand dollars a month through a mix of careful budgeting and control of expenses. Here’s a sample month’s expenses for me:

  • 200$ : Groceries
  • 300$ : Rent (to live in officespace at the most southern tip of Richmond)
  • 70$ : Professional development (theatre tickets, headshots, etc.)
  • 80$ : Spending money
  • 60$ : Transit
  • ~20$ : Cellphones (pay-as-you-go plans in Vancouver and Victoria)
  • + a portion of yearly budgeted costs for things like bike repair, clothing, dentistry, medical
  • + 10% of earnings to Tithing

Adding it all together, I come up with something called my ‘freedom wage’, which is to say, the amount I need to earn per month, after which I can spend the rest of my time that month doing what I wish (which could include more active-work-for-pay, but doesn’t need to). Let’s somewhat pessimistically put it at 900$. At my current part-time minimum wage job, that amounts to about 12 full-day shifts, or three work days per week.

Cover of "Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Ri...Earlier this week I picked up and read a copy of Rich Dad, Poor Dad. While the latter part of the book seems out of date, what with its insistence on the stable nature of the American real estate market (yeah, that worked out well…), but most of the book focuses on the differences between income, expenses, assets and liabilities. As a quick rundown, income is the money you take in, expenses are what you spend each month, assets are things you own that earn you money (i.e. money that makes you more money, such as stocks, bonds, possibly real estate), and liabilities are things you own that cost you money (mortgage, car and boat payments, credit card debt). In the book, Kiyosaki suggests rather simplistically that there are money habits that separate individuals stuck in poverty vs. middle class vs. the rich. Essentially, the poor only have income and expenses – they buy food and shelter and whatnot and that’s all they can do. The middle class, he says, take their income, pay their expenses, and then purchase liabilities with what’s left over, such as a larger house, or a car, or that big screen TV. By contrast, he says the rich pay themselves first, BEFORE even paying expenses (to the point of creditors calling), and put that money in assets – in items that earn them more money.

Polls show distrust of public opinion

(Photo credit: jukebox909)

That then creates a positive feedback loop as the passive or portfolio income from those assets provides more income, which allows for more money to be devoted to purchasing assets, until true wealth (not needing to work anymore based on income from assets) is attained. Which isn’t so radical, really, considering how many advisors suggest putting money into savings FIRST, before paying your bills.

Before I get angry comments, yes, I think he’s being rather arrogant about how easy he thinks it is to reach out of poverty. But I’m still earning more than much of the world, so I’ll consider myself rich enough. Besides, for Kiyosaki, rich is a mindset, not a current financial statement.

At the same time as I opened up this book, I started reading through Steve Pavlina‘s passive income series (which began here), where he’s coaching his readers on how to create a passive income stream. To Pavlina, passive income is NOT about being lazy and not needing to work… it’s about being generous. In ordinary employee work-for-hire situations, you create value once for your employer and/or customer, and that’s it. When earning passive income (income that continues to accrue even when you’re not actively working), you are instead sharing value with many people (say, from royalties from something written or recorded), or with the same person many times (say, with real estate rent).

Okay, long-winded but hopefully informative intro, over. What I’m saying is, I want to try to build that asset column and earn some passive income so I can devote more of my time to creating what excites me.

So I am accepting Pavlina’s challenge, and will be slowly reading through his series, following along, and sharing my journey with you.

I also have a side-goal with this series of blog posts, which is to encourage more conversation about finances and money. For whatever reason, while we live in one of the most affluent countries in the world, there is often a stigma against discussing such things in our society. I’m not sure why. Are we afraid of looking weak when poor? Of bragging when doing well? Are we insecure when compared to the Joneses? Worried about looking like we care too much about money?

Money is a tool to help us achieve our goals and to grant us freedom to pursue what excites us. Let’s talk about what we’re doing to make that happen.

Here is my goal:

I will successfully build a new stream of passive income by December 1st, 2012, that generates at least 80$ per month on average, and endures for a minimum of five years, and I will do this in a way that inspires hope and gives value to people anywhere in the world.

What is 80$? Almost 10% of what I earn each month. One day less I need to work my Joe job each month. Feels doable, but difficult. What’s your goal? Let’s make it happen.

Cheers,
Andrew Wade

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My Kelowna Summer Theatre Festival Experience

August 2, 2012 Leave a comment

I was asked to answer a few questions on my experience with the Kelowna Summer Theatre Festival, and thought I’d share my responses here.

*********************

Rockin' out to Tiger Woods1. What do you think of the opportunity to perform here?
This has been an amazing opportunity and a fantastic experience – it really does feel like a ‘next step’ opportunity for me, to have a chance to step out from the community theatre world / Fringe theatre world and be paid to hone my craft not only as an actor, but as an assistant stage manager as well. I have invested a lot of time and money into this career (including a degree at UVic, and recently, some time with The National Voice Intensive), and to be chosen for this festival was honestly a relief – to know that I had the ability to be paid to do what I love.
Another reason this has felt like a ‘next step’ opportunity is the amount of support we actors have received, through billeting, introductions to the city, and other means. Working here has given me the confidence to, say, try to take another show on the road (such as perhaps aiming for a tour of Fringe Festivals).
I like the idea of outdoor venues, and I think we’ve got a great set up here. That said we did cancel two shows due to rain, and as an almost-Vancouverite, I’d be tempted to let the show go on, even when conditions are even a bit dicey. We had a great show that one performance where we went ‘unplugged’ because the audio equipment was too wet! Or shows can take a ten minute hiatus until weather improves. Or we can offer umbrellas or something. Take a risk. Make it an experience. Half of the joy of performing outside is that… well… it’s outside! Weather exists! We can work with that and create something unique.
Building the Theatre
2. What sort of impact does this opportunity/experience had on you? Your career? Finances?
I am hesitant to keep coming back to the financial angle, but I am approaching performing as a professional career, and part of that equation requires earning at least a decent chunk of one’s income within that profession. Prior to the Kelowna Summer Theatre Festival, I had broken even on a couple of Fringe shows, made a small amount of money in a playwriting competition, and earned 300$ performing at the UFV Director’s Festival, but other than these small successes, I had not yet found that elusive ‘paid theatre contract’. So this opportunity was like blessed manna from the heavens. And while the company may consider the rates to be humble, any paycheque I can earn doing theatre means I have more time in the future to devote to creating and pursuing more theatre, rather than needing to find my rent through a Joe job.
That ‘first opportunity’ is so important for an artist’s confidence. After I won a playwriting competition, I knew I had the ability in that field to create something worthwhile. But acting? Stage management? While I’ve earned a degree in the former and taken on a handful of jobs in the latter, I couldn’t until now point to them and say ‘yes, I have the chops to earn a living here.’
And to be honest? Perhaps the greatest benefit of the whole situation is now I have an amazing experience that I can point to whenever my mother says, ’I know this is something you enjoy, but how are you going to support yourself?’
 
3. How do feel about the whole experience?
I am over-the-moon grateful for this experience. I’ve now been in Kelowna for over a month – the longest I’ve ever traveled away from my homebases of Richmond and Victoria – and it has been a grand adventure, with two more weeks to go! A terrific growth experience to be sure, and one that I will always cherish.
 

Cheers,
Andrew Wade

Cast: Simon Mizera, Katey Hoffman, Alen Dominguez, Andrew Wade, and Jaclyn Nestman

The Road To Kelowna (or, Merritt Musings)

June 28, 2012 2 comments

The Road To Kelowna (or, Merritt Musings)

(Note: this was written while en route to Kelowna, where I’ll be performing and assistant stage-managing for the next six weeks on my first paid-weekly theatre opportunity.)

Greyhound racing Français : Lévrier durant une...

Greyhound racing (Wikipedia)

I am currently traveling by Greyhound to the Kelowna Summer Theatre Festival. That’s traveling by Greyhound, not be greyhound, though if you attached enough of them to a sled with wheels, I suppose that would work, though perhaps not safe for highway sledding. Or maybe they’d all run in a big loop and I’d never make it out of the first city block.

Merritt qualifies as the furthest into BC I’ve ever been. (Which means that a lot of the award-winning short story I wrote here was based entirely off google and wiki searches). About half an hour before we pulled into this place, I noticed a shift in the landscape, with the earth looking more and more parched, littered with shrubgrass rather than with, well, grass, and the mountains looking less of a uniform wash of pine-green trees and more of a patchy, motley mix, like old socks thinning to the point where holes might break out at any moment. I dub thee, The Lintless Mountain Range. It’s odd to think of such waves of grass having their length kept in check by nature, and not by an over-funded university, city, or townhouse maintenance crew.

English: Dryer screen containing accumulated lint.

Dryer screen containing accumulated lint. (Wikipedia)

On the bus ride there, I was peached to receive possibly the greatest accomplishment a person can ever receive: a young woman asked if she could sit next to me. Now, granted, this was partly because an older woman had stolen her seat while the young woman stepped out to stretch her legs, and I happened to be sitting just one row back of her former seat, but still, she chose to travel alongside me and not next to the twitchy fellows who were searched over twice by security.

I also happened to be on a bus with not one, but four beautiful women, which has made me immediately reconsider my utility approach of wearing comfortable but scrubby clothes on a bus: in this case, my Phoenix Theatre t-shirt publically misquoting our theatre manager with the line “Please do not remove this shirt” on the back. The lack of gel in my thin hair, doesn’t help. I look like I’m balding or suffering from some form of mange.

Next time I travel by bus, I’m wearing a three piece suit.

When we stopped in Merritt for a fifteen minute sketch, I found myself taken aback by the sheer viewing distance from the bus depot. I’ve lived in coastal cities all my life, so the farthest vistas I’ve ever seen are from hiking up a mountain on an island somewhere, or from staring out at the ocean (other than the odd plane ride). Either way, to stand on firm ground and see nothing but land for such a distance is somehow shocking to my senses, like when you’re looking at an optical illusion of an elephant with an impossible number of legs and your eyes tell you one thing but your brain is going ‘”Hold on, woah there eyes, now I know you’re doing your best, and I appreciate all your hard work, but maybe you aught to let ol’ wrinkle-ridges here take over from now on”, followed by giving the eyes a patronizing pat on their retinas.

I think if I ever visit the prairies, I might go insane: an endless vista that will either induce a seizure or turn me into a timelord.

Staring into the Untempered Schism.

Bus depot rest points are odd locations in and of themselves. I know how my fellow greyhounders (sorry, Greyhounders) arrived, finally dragging themselves into this cigarette oasis in the desert of long distance public transportation, or unnecessarily forcing themselves into using the washrooms as part of a clever stratagem to avoid the potential rollercoaster waterpark fun that is using a toilet in the rear of a moving bus as it navigates its way over great potholes and around screeching traffic.

But the others… There is a man cradling a backpack a little too close to his chest. He sits alone in a field of empty chairs and stares blankly out the window, the window that stares out toward the side of our bus, and not, were he to turn, at the vista of rolling mountains and hills. It feels like a sort of purgatory for those not awaiting heaven, but perhaps sitting around in lack of anticipation for another place just like this one. Bleak.

The foodstuffs they sell here are as stale and processed as the motor oil and carparts they are shelved with. The prices on everything have been hiked up because, hey, people pay more for antiques, right?

No fruit, no vegetables, and the only meats are those kinds that last so long they make you wonder why there aren’t any 200-year-old pigs waddling about the world.

On the doors to the few refrigerated, pre-made items is a sign reading, “Pay for food at the counter BEFORE heating.” Reasonable enough. But the sign reading “Pay for magazines at the counter BEFORE reading” is just being snarky.

When I think about it, though, maybe that’s what these places need. Purgatory is purgatory because it is formless, shapeless, endless, full and empty of nothing. Maybe some personality would a good first step to reviving that man with his backpack, the man who has given up on waiting and entered a state of dejected mere existence.

Though I’m sure Merritt is a lovely town.

Thanks for reading.

Cheers,
Andrew Wade

How to be A Really Useful Engine

March 23, 2012 Leave a comment

A Really Useful Engine



To Thomas the Tank Engine, the greatest compliment in the world is to be declared a ‘really useful engine’, which is to say, an engine that not only performs their job efficiently and effectively, but employs problem solving skills and smarts to seek out difficulties and resolve them.

And while I do love the creative spark of acting and writing, there is a very different, and very real, satisfaction in being a really useful engine. Which is what draws me to stage management.
Stage managing, particularly when there aren’t any ASMs, is all about supporting the production in any way. Primarily, stage managers provide a concrete, stable foundation for a production to stand on, through scheduling, through open communication between all the various departments, and through discipline. Spreadsheets of props, set pieces, and costume items. Entrances and exits, movement patterns written down. Lighting and sound cues noted. In a world full of creative actors, directors, artists, and designers, someone needs to be there with a calm, steady hand and a mindset that looks immediately to finding solutions, to helping foster everyone else’s visions (while being mindful of the budget). Essentially, stage management do everything they can to get these great lumbering beasts on their feet.

And all that can be so very, very satisfying.

Tonight is opening night for The Great American Trailerpark Musical, which I was brought in to stage manage midway through the rehearsal process. The last project I stage managed, Sonnets For An Old Century, also brought me in midway through their process. Hopefully, one of these days, I’ll be able to enter a project right from the first design meetings. Because if there is anything I have learned from this process, it is how key and crucial pre-planning and prep work is for this position. I did a lot of things right (such as having a conversation with the director on how he wanted me to act within the rehearsal process, particularly when it came to giving line notes and the like), but I also have a lot to build on, including building a proper stage management kit. Perhaps not as grandiose as Lois’s kit, but then, I’m not the professional she is. Yet.

Right, almost time for the opening curtain. The audience is pouring in. The adventure awaits.

Wish us broken legs!

Cheers,
Andrew Wade