Mark Wade Writes


One of the biggest mistakes school show vents (or any kind of ventriloquist for that matter!) can make is to arrive at the venue just minutes before show time. Although the vent may only need 10 - 15 minutes to set up the act (and still have time in advance), it's much more than that. It's the "comfort level" of the principal or buyer of your show that matters at this point. Every principal I have dealt with over the years has a horror story about the act that didn't show up - or showed up very late. The principal had all the kids in the auditorium, they were getting noisy and restless, the teachers were upset for taking valuable time out of the classroom, and no performer! I have found that arriving 45 minutes ahead is just perfect for these types of shows. It gives you, the performer, time to look over the show area, decide where to set up, and the principal is relaxed knowing YOU are on the job. The same holds true for other types of shows as well. Even agent-driven bookings require you to be there early so you can make their client feel good about booking you. Remember - it's not always about us or about the act - it's often about the "comfort level" of the people that are booking us.

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I often hear performers banter over the importance of contracts, especially if they are in the kidshow field. Somehow some of these well intentioned folks feel that since it's "just a kidshow" that paperwork in the form of a contract isn't necessary. Not true! I say, "ALWAYS have some sort of a paper trail, especially a contract, to be sure you get things right and get paid in a timely fashion." If you are doing school shows and libraries, it is very important to get contracts into the hands of the customers. If there is a descrepency on what time the show is to begin, the contract that both you and the customer signed is the determining factor. Also in the contract, you can spell out how long the show will be, once again avoiding any problems. And the BEST thing about the contract, it will help you get paid on time. If the customer signs the contract and it says that you will be paid the day of the show, there is no misunderstanding, no waiting for a check to be sent weeks after the performance. Contracts don't need to be elaborate, in fact, they can be in a letter form, as long as there is a place for both you and your customer to sign, and each of you gets a copy of the document. Once you have everything in "black and white" there are no hidden surprises, and it DOES make you more professional. Remember, kidshows are as important as any other type of performing. Please don't treat it as "second rate". You are as professional as the paperwork you choose to send out.

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Many performers do not realize the importance of keeping audience members seated closely together during a performance. It's true! This one thing can often determine the difference between a great show and a mediocre performance (or even a bad show). I've learned over the years that laughter is contagious and when you get part of the audience laughing it soon spreads to others quickly. Especially when doing school shows I have to remind the principal that I do not need an aisle that is a half a gym floor wide. The teachers want to make short rows (to get to their kids) but also want to leave a huge center opening that they feel is the appropriate aisle that is needed. Not true! The kids and I only need an aisle about 24-28 inches wide. This still allows the kids to exit the show in case of an emergency but is also close enough to make the audience feel they are one group. As I told a principal the other day "When you have an aisle so wide that you can land a Boeing 747 between the two sections of kids, it's not good for me or anyone." (I said this with a smile on my face and did it kiddingly.) "When there is a large amount of dividing space," I continued, "I have two audiences instead of one! I'll have to constantly turn from side to side because I have no audience directly in front of me!" The principal got what I was saying, shifted the kids so that I had a much smaller aisle, and the show was a huge success. This fact is also true when you have the first row of kids too far away from you. Set them up so the first row is only about 6-10 feet away from the performance area. Once again the fact remains that comedy, especially kidshow comedy, works well with the audience being close.

Newsy Vents 11/05

1 comment:

  1. Everything that Mark says in true. Take it from someone who has been there and done that.