I freely admit to joining in with the tutting on social media about the government suddenly declaring that outdoor shows were fine at such short notice that it left venues scrambling to get them up and running.
Away from the keyboard, I was already thinking of ways to get some outdoor gigs for my solo show. It is one I have regularly been taking around the country for the last two years but, until now, always at indoor venues such as pubs, community centres and smaller local theatres.
As an autobiographical show with comedy elements, it has worked across a wide range of audiences and helped me a lot with the rent. To keep that going, can you advise me on adapting and marketing it as a good outdoor show to the venues now looking for them.
I’m not sure “good outdoor shows” or “good indoor shows” are as different as you think. I have certainly seen that staple of the outdoor summer schedule A Midsummer Night’s Dream work equally well indoors and in winter.
In my script-doctor days on touring shows, I discovered that the ‘making it work’ process can look very different from location to location. Many venues have their own internal quirks and variations in stage layout and backstage space, which may require a lot of last-minute rejigging in terms of blocking, choreography and occasionally even rewriting.
It makes sense to start your rejigging process by looking at the new safety guidelines for outdoor performances. However, many other peculiarities of outdoor work existed long before the lockdown and are also worth planning for – though British weather can never be planned for, so expect to get soaked at least once during any run and you won’t be disappointed.
As you have been taking your show to more intimate indoor venues, look first at sections that rely on more subtle gestures or asides that might be missed when the audience is not up close. There is a strong possibility seating may be spaced further apart too, which means it may be necessary to make liberal use of movement from stage left to right and back to keep everyone engaged, as well as employing other techniques to restore the sense of communality that is key to the theatrical experience.
In normal circumstances, outdoor shows are the closest thing to panto in terms of testing vocal stamina. If mics need to be used to reduce projection of air particles, adjust your delivery accordingly, particularly with comedy lines. Obscuring punchlines with a burst of feedback is never the best approach.
Once you are confident the show can be adapted, compile previous reviews, video and other testimonials and start marketing. I always advise actors to have at least one solo show in their bag as it useful to have a means of performing and earning that is more within one’s own control than castings.
I’m glad having such a show has worked well for you so far. No matter how successful any long-running show, it makes sense to refresh and update it from time to time. I wish you every success with taking your show outdoors. Even if you don’t get many bookings from your marketing campaign, considering your show in a fresh light will give your future performances indoors or outdoors a whole new energy, so it is an exercise well worth doing.
o in it for the long haul. The more generously we support each other, the better chance of positive outcomes for us all.