Friday, August 3, 2007

July 24: Shortly before leaving for Scotland

We have one week left to put this show together; we will be rehearsing every night. We have a new Romeo, who gives the show a slightly different aura. And we have a new Lady Capulet, which will be played by a woman, rather than a man as was the case in the campus production. I am very confident that we are putting together a unique and provocative show.

We are selling tickets: We have more than $8,000 in advance sale tickets, which means more than 500 tickets. But considering the size of the venue and the number of performances, this averages 25 people a show. For a 250-seat theatre, this is just making a dent.

We will have to drum up business to compete with the more than 1,500 shows that will be performing at the largest arts festival in the world. And we have to sell tickets to try and make back some of the over $80,000 it is costing us for this trip — all of which has been raised by the theatre arts department. We have received some anonymous help, which has gone into five student scholarships that help defer some of the cost for the students. Another three students have been helped with small grants from the university. Our dean, Carol Hawkes, has given us some financial support with a grant.

It’s expensive going over to the United Kingdom this trip. The pound is two-to-one against the dollar. The last time we went over, the pound was $1.65. Now the pound is worth $2.00. The effect of that increase on the amount of money we are spending is huge. And people in Edinburgh realize that they can make a killing renting their flats during Festival. This has made this trip very costly. It also will cost us more to eat, take cabs and buy any supplies we will need while we are over there.

Part of my work as producer includes booking seven flats for student and faculty housing. We will mostly be in a lovely residential neighborhood called Marchmont, which is close to our venue and just adjacent to a lovely park called the Meadows.

As producer, I also have to arrange the airfare (through our State travel agency) and transportation once we arrive in Edinburgh. I have to find the theatre, and arrange to have posters and leaflets designed and printed. We hire a distribution service that puts up our posters and puts our leaflets in displays throughout the city. We have to place ads in the Fringe program and we have an ad on the Fringe Web site. I have to deal with the Fringe office, the venue office and the press. This year we also have some video promos of our show on You Tube. It’s amazing and quite convenient for overseas companies to have most of the advance work done on the computer. There is very little snail mail that goes back and forth. Even the press and promotional work can be done via email.

The minute we hit the ground in Scotland, we will be selling and promoting our show. Each day I get reports from the Fringe office on ticket sales. Competition is fierce and all the groups competing for an audience will be on the street “busking.” This is when you get out on the street and talk up your show. We will also be performing on the stages that dot High Street or the Royal Mile, which is the main thoroughfare of the old part of the city. It is closed to traffic and clogged with tourists and performers in a giant free-for-all of performances and promotion. It’s quite energizing and can be overwhelming at first.

It is a tough schedule. Our students have to be prepared for the rigors of this kind of trip. We will fly all night and wake up in Edinburgh. There is a smaller advance group going over a few days earlier to set up the technical aspects of the show and build a few platforms that we will use for the show. The second group will be the bulk of the performers and musicians. They will arrive after the all-night flight and go straight to the theatre for tech rehearsals. We will have some food for them when they arrive. After this rehearsal, the students and faculty will get to relax in their flats.

We try to make it clear to students that this is not a vacation. They must think of this trip more as a professional tour. Most of all, it is important for students to enjoy the creativity around them. They will have great opportunities to meet people and come into contact with diverse cultures. They will get an education in world theatre and world culture. They are encouraged to see as many shows as they can and meet as many theatre people as they can.

We get to see many shows for free. At our venue, the University of Edinburgh student center, there are seven theatres, a number of cafes, bars and a restaurant. We get to see any of the shows there for free. There is also a special performers’ cafĂ© where all of the performers congregate to chat and socialize. It really is a wonderful experience for any artist and is especially important for student artists who are contemplating a life in the arts. The arts have a slightly more exalted place in Europe. There is a much greater appreciation and respect for all of the arts there. And it rubs off on our students. They will be appreciated and respected much more so than in the States. This is thrilling for them: to get the respect they deserve for all of their dedication and hard work.

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