Friday, June 7, 2019
Hi-Vis: NRTF Conference Showcasing
Have you ever performed in a showcase? What did you learn from it? Did you feel it showed your production in the best light?
really important to remember that the primary purpose of these events, as far
as a showcasing artist is concerned, is not just about showing how brilliant your work is
(although obviously, you want to show your work off in a good light) — it’s
about demonstrating to your audience that you know what rural touring
audiences, promoters, and schemes want and need, and that you’re capable of
delivering it for them.
In the short, medium and long term, that is what will help you establish or extend good working relationships with the sector — inspiring confidence among the people who need to feel they can trust you — who need to feel that you really get how rural touring works. Your audience at an NRTF Conference is roughly made up of 70% rural touring scheme staff, 20% sector stakeholders (largely Arts Council England, with some other organisations represented as well, depending on the overall emphasis and strategic priorities of the event) and 10% actual venue and village hall promoters. So on the whole, you’re performing to a room mostly full of people who will be looking to book work for their venue or scheme: and they don’t have the time, money or patience to take a risk on artists who don’t convince them that they know what they’re doing.
The worst thing an artist can do is to simply come on stage, present a 20-minute
extract of their show and then go off stage again. It’s almost impossible for
anyone to really get a sense of the quality or experience of the whole show
that way — but more importantly, it doesn’t give anyone a chance to get a sense
of you as an artist/company, of your values, or of whether you really
understand how rural touring works. It’s your job to make sure they do. So look on the showcase as more of a performed pitch than a
straightforward performance. Being yourself, talking directly to the audience
(or getting someone else to do that for/with you, such as your producer,
director or another company member), framing or contextualizing the extract
you’re showing in some way — they’re all good ways to help with that relationship
You also want to make sure that the audience knows some basic common sense stuff: what stage the show is at in development; when the show is available for touring; if you’re already touring with or have previously toured with any rural schemes (because if one scheme has worked with you and trusts you, others are more likely to do so themselves); show your understanding of the creative challenges which rural venues may pose by making it clear that you’re already technically self-sufficient, or flexible in your stage dimensions or staging format, or whatever else you can do to make your show work in as many different shapes and sizes of venue as possible.
If your production has an interval, you MUST make sure the audience knows that. And if you’re doing a one-hour-straight-through kind of show, you need to start thinking RIGHT NOW about what else you can do to make it into a full evening out for the audience. The rural circuit is more focused on the social aspect of arts attendance than on the art alone, and your job is to provide your audience with a great night out. A post-show Q&A is one option but the likelihood is you’ll need to be more creative than that…!