… away from posting anything here.
The annual Rogue Festival closed a couple od Saturdays ago. Aye, it was a bit of a whirlwind but one that was a welcomed change for me.
Morning “salons” over here with performers – local and from out of town – was abuzz with easy sharing and fellowship which always lifts my creative spirit. There were many shows I got to experience that further lubricated my creative engine. As a friend shared, “I found out that there are so many ways to tell a story.” The Rogue and fringe festivals in general has always (for me) been an intensive reminder of that.
I can unabashedly say that I’m glad I was a part of creating this festival. On two separate occasions I overheard festival goers liken it to the village in “Brigadoon” – as a magic time that appears once a year. That’s not so bad, eh?
In my wanderings I made some observations that could stand some improvement. Two in particular stand out the most.
1. The lack of people waiting in line to enter a venue… at least compared to previous years.
In my opinion there were a couple of reasons for this. The first being there needs to be a more robust effort in publicity… especially (and at least) a month before the festival. As I scanned the audience members I observed that most of them were die-hard fans of the Rogue. This is a good thing… nothing wrong with a cadre of stalwart supporters. However, part of the mission of the Rogue is to grow an audience. Folk (of all stripes) need to be invited and reminded at least a month or so beforehand so they can sock money aside for it. If the average person is planning to catch 10 shows… at and average of $10 per show… that is at least $100 that needs to be put aside. Times being tougher than they used to be needs to be factored into the equation. With cutbacks among media outlets (especially in print) the organization needs to design and enact a more creative publicity campaign.
The next reason (once again, this is my opinion… based on observations) is the move to “rogue bucks” is just not consumer friendly. (There… I said it.) I understand the reasons for going to that system and it has been in effect for the last two years. I honestly think the festival lost audience members from last year because the system is clunky.
The thrust of the festival is to facilitate the performer and the audience. If a challenge is put between the latter to get to the former, it is a problem… and one that has the very real potential of diminshing the festival for both groups. Added to this, is the fact that the system kills (or at least discourages) the element of “spontaneous adventure” among audience members to catch shows that are not already on their “must-see” list.
It was a noble experiment but I’m adraid it is just not working. Do I have a solution to this? You bet your bippy. Organizers are welcomed to contact me and I will lay it all out for them.
2, The diminished number of local groups (especially in the realm of theatre) mounting shows in the festival.
I’ve heard grumblings from locals that the out of towners get “more love”. Whether true or not, that should never be an excuse or deterrent. The challenge here is to mount a kick-ass show of both critical and box-office merit. It can and has been done.
Here is some free advice.
a. If is an original… start developing it NOW! Don’t even dream that you can finish writing a show 3 weeks before the festival and hope to have a bang-up success.
b. Once in fixed format (i.e. in script form)… workshop it in enough time before the festival. This will give you time to improve the product. I suggest at least a month an a half before the festival.
c. Have the conviction to create an afterlife for the show… i.e. either locally or take it out on tour. Counting the Rogue there are 5 fringe festivals in California alone. San Francisco, Hollywood, Santa Cruz and San Diego. The more you do it the better you become at your craft.
d. Spend as much time and effort developing your marketing as you do your product.
For local companies… the Rogue is also a great opportunity to grow your audience for the rest of your performance year. I know of groups who have taken the opportunity to do this and they have grown their audiences.
Anyway… that’s my two cents worth.