Using Kickstarter to Fund Your Theater Project

Dear friend,

If you are producing a show and using Kickstarter to fund that show, please have at least one funding option that is a deal. If your show tickets are going to be $20, offer a $15 gift level where I get a ticket. Better yet, offer a $25 level where I get 2 tickets. Give me a bargain and I’ll jump on it.

Instead what I’m seeing is a lot of Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects that look more like plain fundraisers where you are soliciting donations and giving token gifts in return. This is ok, I’m sure some of them will get funded, especially in cases where the company has a track record and lots of loyal fans (or friends and family). You can still have gift levels which are essentially donations: $5 for a thank you or $300 for opening night tickets and an afterparty. $1000 to get a producing credit. But if you really want to exceed your expectations, offer a deal too.

Thank you,
Someone who wants to give you money

P.S. This is not about your project in particular.

The Oxford Roof Climber’s Rebellion

I’m going to be in another play. It’s The Oxford Roof Climber’s Rebellion by Stephen Massicotte produced by Caffeine Theatre in Chicago. Our preview is tomorrow night and we open on Saturday, March 10th. I have a small part, but it’s a doozy. Let’s just say that I’m involved in gunplay.

“What life to lead and where to go, After the war, after the war?” In the aftermath of World War I, the poet Robert Graves and T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) languish at Oxford facing disillusionment with the war that still haunts them. Playing mischievous pranks on university administrators passes the time but soon escalates into a climactic confrontation that brings the Arab Revolt dangerously close to home. A Chicago Premiere!

The Oxford Roof Climber's Rebellion

I made a map on how to get there. There’s free parking just around the corner. That’s right! Free parking in Chicago. You can thank the Social Security Administration who owns the lot. Click the image to see the map full screen.

One of the main characters is Lawrence of Arabia, and it’s just off Lawrence Avenue on Leavitt. There is no one named Leavitt in the play. That would an awesome coincidence.

There will be an industry night on Wednesday April 11th (more details on that when I get them). Otherwise it will run at Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 pm and Saturday afternoons at 3 pm until April 14th. There will be no shows on Easter weekend, because the theatre is in the basement of a church. And churches are busy on Easter weekend.

You can get tickets on Brown Paper Tickets. That rocks because they are a non profit which charge really tiny service fees compared to evil companies like Ticketmaster.

Black Box Acting Studio – Review

Yesterday I finished B4 at the Black Box Acting Studio in Chicago. It’s the fourth and final level in what is a terrific program. It’s only been around for a few years, but the curriculum is solid and the teachers are passionate and smart. I feel like I’ve learned some new tools and sharpened some old ones, but most importantly I’ve now got a process for auditions and rehearsals. I also feel like I have a new home base, so that when I do get cast in a show and I’m running into roadblocks, I have a community of people I can call on to help.

What is the program?

Like a lot of programs in Chicago and elsewhere, they start with exercises used in Meisner classes. You learn to observe your partners behavior. You do repetition. Repetition is something that I’ve done for years. I thought this part of the curriculum would be old hat for me. But I certainly did learn new things.

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10 things improvisors should do besides improvise

Improvisors often go through a stage where they do nothing but improvise. Every night of the week they are going to classes or rehearsals, they are seeing improv shows or performing in ones themselves. This focus on improvisation can lead to great strides in their skill and knowledge of improvisational theater, but it can also insulate them. If our job as artists is to bring the truth of our lives on stage and all we know is the truth we see in other improv shows, we do not have much to offer an audience. To be great we must be seeking out experiences so we have something interesting to share.

Here is a list of things I think improvisors should spend their time doing besides improvising:

  1. Learn to act – some people are actors before they come to improv. Many are not. These days many improvisors start by going to see an improv show and signing up for a class with no prior experience performing. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you don’t have training as an actor and you want to be great, get some. And take opportunities to act, especially in plays, but also in video projects, sketch shows, etc.
  2. Go to the theater – don’t just watch improv shows, get out to the regular theater and watch some plays. You might not think of yourself as a fan of theater. Get out there and see a variety of plays, contemporary plays, classic plays, Shakespeare, original plays and one person shows. You will get some great ideas for characters, situations and techniques to use in your shows. Continue reading “10 things improvisors should do besides improvise”

How to excel at scenework and influence improvisors – part 2

My intent with this series of posts was to go through all the principles from Dale Carnegie‘s book and discuss how each one might apply to the improv world. But as I have been thinking about this topic, I have been tempted to wander down a different path. I may still return to the original plan, but I don’t think I’ll be able to until I’ve written about this.

I’ve been thinking of my own interactions with people over the years, where I did well and where I came up short. I feel like there are some situations and stories I’d like to share that might help me in my future interactions in the theatre and comedy worlds. One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about is status.

Pay less attention to status

I remember when I was in Chicago, I was intensely aware of status within the improv world. I was a part of many conversations that likened the ImprovOlympic subculture to a second high school. The new students were the freshman. Continue reading “How to excel at scenework and influence improvisors – part 2”

How to excel at scenework and influence improvisors – part 1

I recently read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie for the first time. It’s the kind of book that I’ve avoided most of my life. Self help books, especially ones with a strong slant towards the business world, usually don’t excite me. However, it had been recommended to me by a couple of people, and I realized that it might be of some use for me.

As I read the book, I wondered about how it might apply to the life of improvisation. On one level, it’s pretty straight forward. The way you build relationships in the worlds of theater and comedy are not that different from the business world. The advice translates pretty directly to how you should treat your fellow improvisors off stage. The advice seems especially well suited for sales, and while many of us in the theatre world loath selling ourselves, it is something that definitely helps us be successful.

Continue reading “How to excel at scenework and influence improvisors – part 1”

Where I used to live

When I was in college, I spent a year abroad in London. It was an amazing experience. It was there that I first fell in love with the theatre. In part, it was because I had access to some of the finest productions in the world. There were always great shows to go see somewhere in London. And the student discounts made it relatively cheap to see them too. My love affair was also stoked by some of the classes I had, one class specialized in Shakespeare and to this day I still remember some of the lectures, at least in broad strokes. But the main reason I fell in love was it was the first chance I got to do some theatre.

In that year, I acted in several plays, I directed one (a Pinter play no less), built sets, did lighting design and produced a play that went to the Edinburgh Fringe. It was such a great experience that, after I graduated from college, I returned for another six months, hooked up with many of the same people I had worked with before and helped produce a few more shows. When I left London, I wasn’t ready to go. I was sad, but I didn’t know at the time how to go about becoming a permanent resident there. I returned home and headed to Chicago, determined to make it in the theatre there.

About five years later, I had the opportunity to return to London. I was once again producing a show for the Edinburgh Fringe. This time it was an improv show. I arranged to stay in London a few days after the festival. I anticipated it being a great experience, but it was somehow hollow. It was great seeing some of my friends again, but walking the streets where I had once lived put me in a distinctly melancholy mood. It was like visiting a memory. It was a place I used to live and when I returned to the places I used to hang out, they were devoid of the people that made it special to me.

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Laugh Out Loud Theater

Last Saturday I got a chance to visit my friend Lillian Frances. Lillie and I were on a team called Frank Booth at ImprovOlympic in the 90s. I was on that team for about 4 years during which we probably performed over 200 Harolds together, mostly at iO, but we also performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and a few other places along the way. We created a show with our friend Tara Davis called the Frank Booth in the Blue Velvet Lounge where we combined torch songs and long form improv, setting scenes in the same lounge where Tara sang. Our swan song was a show called Therapy directed by Miles Stroth where we vented our real life foibles in front of an audience and then poked fun at ourselves through improv.

Lillian Frances and Kevin MullaneyIt’s been years since we’ve seen each other, but we still have a very strong connection. Lillie and I had similar sensibilities and even more similar ambitions. We both wanted to run our own theatres, we both loved improv and we were both frustrated by ImprovOlympic. Don’t get me wrong, it was a wonderful place to learn and grow as performers. It was the kind of frustration you feel when you love something and feel it could be even better if only you were in charge. A feeling that many, many performers have felt over the years as they passed through iO.

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Roads I’m Not Going to Take (an explanation)

I’m at a curious point in my life. Up until a couple of years ago, my life seemed to be on a particular path. I moved to Chicago to become an actor, discovered a passion for improvisational theatre and began a lifelong pursuit of teaching, directing and performing in the theatre. Then life started throwing me some curve balls.

I realized that I was unhappy in my administration job at the theatre where I worked, so I quit (although I kept teaching). I started winning at poker and began to think about pursuing it professionally. I found another new source of income when a hobby became a business. I left New York to spend some time with my father in Arizona, and finally I moved back to my hometown to take care of my mother. My old life has been completely interrupted.

This is not all bad. I’m very glad that I’ve been able to spend time with my family and being a caregiver for a parent does have many rewards. It’s hard not to feel a little lost at times though. Eventually, I will leave again, pick up my life and start over. And I’ll have many options in front of me.

Do I return to the theatre? If so, do I go back to Chicago, return to New York or join many of my friends in Los Angeles? Maybe I should go back to Arizona where the weather is amazing and theatre culture is still young, or perhaps I should reconnect with some of my oldest and best friends in Seattle. Do I teach for someone else like I have before or do I teach my own classes or even start my own theatre?

Continue reading “Roads I’m Not Going to Take (an explanation)”