I spoke on the phone to Glesni Price-Jones who is an Assistant Producer at the WMC.
The WMC have an 'Open Office' scheme in which artists can book in a 20-30 minute slot for a conversation with a producer at the WMC to discuss their ideas and gain feedback.
I wanted to find out how I can get my show from my head and onto the stage. Here are some of the key points that Glesni raised.
The WMC host at least two scratch nights per year and told me to keep my eyes peeled and to apply as soon as it comes up. The WMC scratch night gains a large audience and there's plenty of opportunity for feedback - plus its a 'pay what you feel' with the money going to the artists.
They have a small stage area in the cafe where they tend to put on smaller productions. This is the space that I would most realistically be able to get into first.
They do offer production support (similar to the Riverfront) however they wouldn't look into my project as they start with projects that are already drawing crowds of 200-300 people. So that kinda sucks, but I guess it's something to aim for!
I recently had the pleasure of having a good chat with the Liv Harris the Creative producer at The Riverfront Theatre in Newport. I wanted to pick her brain about the audiences that visit her theatre and how they go about attracting more people.
They key points from this conversation were the following
1 - The 'main' theatre must be commercially viable (big name shows, popular tributes etc) so that they can be more experimental and take bigger risks in the studio theatre.
This is important because, knowing that they take risks means they are more likely to put on an original and unheard of show (me).
2 - They are trying to produce and co-produce more in house productions.
This was potentially very positive for me - if I could put myself in the position for them to want to produce this show then that would be fantastic! I just need to figure out how to get from where I am (just ideas and the odd video) to where I want to be (being produced by them).
3 - 'I will always have coffee with someone and listen to their pitch'
Liv said that she will always have a meeting with a performer no matter who they are, just to listen to their idea(s) and see how she can help. She said that the riverfront might not be able to help, but she will more often than not find a more suitable venue or company that would be able to.
I have already booked myself in for a coffee meeting with her in regards to my show.
There was a lot more that we discussed but these are the main points.
I have been emailing theatres across the land for information on any 'scratch' nights they may have. A scratch night is pretty much an open mic night but for theatre. It's a way of showing your latest work ad getting instant feedback.
Most of them these days seem to have themes for their nights, meaning my stories don't tend to fit, but I'll keep looking. I' not limiting myself to Cardiff either. I have friends that will put me up for a night in a few cities in the UK so I'm trying to find anywhere that will take me.
I've decided that for fieldwork I want to put on an early version of my show. This is because it means I get to perform the show and get some feedback. Plus get a vibe for how it will all go down.
Here are some of the locations in which I have been looking into.
1 - Riverfront theatre, Newport.
Obvious choice for me as I have been working there for years and have a good relationship with everyone there. Its got a brilliant little studio space that has had similar scale shows to mine. They've also got good links with other theatres around the UK.
2 - Phyllis Maude, Newport
Gorgeous old toilet block that ha been converted into a theatre style performance space. They seem very keen for new acts to use the space so I on't imagine it would be hard to arrange something.
3 - Chapter, Cardiff
Creative building just down the road from my house. It has small studio spaces and is in known for putting on good shows. Despite having been there many times, I still haven't familiarised myself with the staff there.
4 - Tobacco Factory, Bristol
I stumbled across this place when meeting someone for a coffee, it has a very 'chapter' style vibe. I don't know much other than what the website says, but it seems cool.
5 - Sherman Theatre, Cardiff
This theatre has a similar studio space to that at the Riverfront, the only pro for this theatre over the riverfront is that it is in Cardiff which is just easier for me to get to.
6 - The Other Room, Cardiff
A small theatre next to a pub. The Other Room is a great little space that would be a really nice environment for my show. It has a good live music scene as well so linking the two could be nice.
After reading through the 001 feedback, the sentence that pokes out to me first is the one saying how the project is still in it's 'potential' place, meaning it's not actually happened yet. So basically I just need to be more active and get shit done. Do more gigs, release some material, reach out with my content to get people involved.
And in response to the feedback (and a discussion with Tom), I have realised that despite not producing or releasing anything that is how I would hope it to be - professional, polished, high quality etc I have still been creating a persona and aesthetic around Araby that delivers a DIY bodge job kinda vibe. I have mentioned before about the 'loner in his bedroom making music' aesthetic and creating un polished and scrappy tracks would fit into that mis en scene. This makes me question if I really need to wait to get someone to master my tracks properly before they are released, because if I release them now in their original and 'genuine' state, then that fits the aesthetic to a tee.
Because I am not very good (terrible, actually) at mastering tracks, they run the risk of going too far past the 'badly done mix' vibe and into the 'ew, what's this in my ears?' vibe. So I need to find a way to create low fi mixes that sound 'clean' enough to make radio play normal, but 'dirty' enough to keep with the 'oh I threw this together in my bedroom' aesthetic.
You still with me?
The same goes for my animation and video content. I showed my animation test run video to the animation lecturers at uni (I forget their names... Ian? Maybe.) and asked their opinion. They said that if I were to submit it into their grading criteria then I would fail, but they believe that if it were submitted for a fine art piece, then it would be suitable because it is all about the context of the piece.
No, my animation skills do not exist past that of any idiot with an adobe Character Animate download and half an hour to kill. BUT who really cares? (other than the artistic perfectionist deep inside me that screams every time I see Pablo's mouth not move in the right way). Correct, no one cares because it fits the context that it sits in.
But bringing the animation into the SBTIB argument - there is still a line in which people will make as to whether they accept it as a genuine product. For example South Park is very basic in its animation - but it plays on that and it becomes funny because of it's limitations.
The animation lecture said something along the lines of 'don't create animations just because you can, do it because you can't do it with a real camera and real people (or pigeons)'.
He said that despite Pablo being a pigeon and 100% living in the pigeon world, we (the audience) do know that it's not really an actual trained pigeon that has befriended a dove - that's what gives you the fourth wall breaking environment to work in.
SBTIB or SBTIG.
A fine line, but I think that I'm going to go for it and make bad things happen to good people.
And I'm gonna own it.
Who tf is Araby anyways?
The main aim was to find the best outlets for my work in regards for follower interaction. I think the research was pretty good overall, I explored ways to get the most interaction with a tweet and even launched myself on a new platform called TikTok. But there was one glaring point that it was all missing - actual content.
Of all the tweets I tweeted, not one had a link to a song or video of me performing. The main reason for this is because there aren't any new/current videos of me. This has been a recurring theme over the past few months - the fact that I have no content! So I feel that the next thing for me to do is to finish up the tracks, release them and then make some video content for them, and record some videos of my actual live gigs to upload as well.
Apart from the lack of content, the plan to create content is going well. 001 discusses the podcast and animation attempts which I will utilise over the coming months to create visual and audio content. Plus the creation of Pablo has been an interesting development that will be another platform to release other content through.
Everything is working well, I need just start physically doing things now.
This is what I am doing now as a result of the past three months, this is when the project is and this is how I got here.
I fell like the last few months have enabled my project to get out of the starting blocks, but there is still a long way to go. As a result of the last few months, I now have more followers on social media that actually interact with me. This is a great foundation for when I release my new music content and new visuals over the next month.
At the beginning of the project I was talking about it as a hypothetical, but after the Salon even it was good to bring some physical being to it. I feel that was a main turning point for me and it made me hungry to hurry the process up and get on with everything!
I have developed the stories and songs so that now they are ready to be performed orally, I just need to think of the visual aspects of the performance now and how I can create the best show for the intended audience.
One of the biggest developments was the new electric aspect to the tracks, I think it helps with the aesthetic and makes the songs feel a little bit more rounded. I am still undecided whether to keep the drum beats yet though.
The past few months have been great for developing the project, but I feel I need to be much more pro-active with it. I am booking plenty of gigs to go out and test my stories and I am booking in the photo shoot today. I need to keep the momentum going all of the time and stop saying 'I will do this' and start saying 'I am doing this'.
My first tweet simply explained my thoughts at the time and two whole people liked it.
The next day I fully committed to my efforts and to great affect. One comment and 7 whole likes!
After the adrenaline rush of the tweet before, I went big the next day with a GIF. But only three likes? WTF?
The next few days were nothing special, just general tweets with little to no interaction.
But then I used 'hashtags'. It got me 6 whole likes!
I felt the pressure of the success of the previous tweet so needed time to prepare. 5 people liked this tweet which just added even more pressure.
I was panicking.
There was a lot of political things going on in the world so I went political with my tweet. Clearly my fans are the wrong audience for politics. only one like. I was on a real low.
But things changed. I wrote a tweet dedicated to my followers and the liked hit the double digits! And TWO comments. that's twice as many as I'd ever had ever before.
I needed something new to keep the interaction levels high. 6 votes, but only one like.
I was getting desperate for likes.
I was trying to be current and relevant. This was on the day there was a big sporting event.
This was right before it all went wrong.
On the 20th of December 2019, I forgot to tweet. It was only one day that I didn't tweet but I know that isn't an excuse. I received the most comments ever but it wasn't pretty.
Why does my lowest twitter moment have to be my most successful in terms of interaction? Does my bad actions make other people feel better about themselves? Perhaps seeing someone (me) fail makes them feel superior and therefore more inclined to interact with me? Or do they just feel sorry for me? Who knows.
I opened up to my followers and let them all know that I was getting married in the new year. A very personal tweet and it seemed to get a good reaction.
On New Years day I go sentimental. 5 likes is pretty good.
This was a big day. My biggest tweet reaction so far - and I think I have cracked it. I tweeted about other people and they loved it. double digits in the likes and a photo. The photo isn't even of me. I think the people of twitter only want to be praised or thanked. So maybe I should just tweet about other people instead of myself - but then what is the point?
End of thread (so far)