Cold Calling To Pitch Your Show

First off, my apologies for not posting last month. I was working my tail off, not managing time very well, and thus neglected to write anything. I’m back with a hopefully helpful entry.

Do you call campuses and venues to ask them to book your show? If you do, great! In that case, you don’t need to read this post.

If, on the other hand, you email people because the thought of cold calling them fills you with dread, I hope this blog entry will help you to bust through your aversion and proceed with courage, which will develop your confidence, which will ultimately lead to bookings!

Many of us already know, per the experts: when it comes to sales, phone calls are more effective than written correspondence.

That doesn’t mean we ever want to follow the experts’s advice.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I booked my first solo show at most venues via email. The liaisons and I may have spoken on the phone as the performance dates neared, but my initial outreach was always via email for five-plus years.

This was because I was chicken.

Cuz cold calling sucks! Right?

Then, after the 2016 US presidential election, I did a lot of phone banking. This was frightening—both the calling and the result of that election…which was why I was calling people.

I was so scared of phoning total strangers that I began by calling only five people per day, and if no one picked up, so be it.

Predictably, it became easier over time. Most people were quite cordial if they picked up the phone.

You know how these things go: if it’s not life or death, we can usually get used to the discomfort around the scary thing and then make progress as the fear dissipates, even if it never disappears completely.

You’d think I would have applied this knowledge to the sales pitches for my show—if not when I first began touring it, then at least after all the phone banking. You’d think I would have started calling colleges and presenters by January 2017, right?


I hate sales.

If I have to do it, and I have to for the show, the film of the show, and my workshops, then I want it to be not scary or even awkward.

Hence: email.

When I finally garnered the courage to make calls, which was over five years (!) after the show started touring, I still timed it in a way that would make rejection less painful. I waited until right before I retired the show, when there were only a few months left for people to book it.

It was the ol’ Only Be Vulnerable Right Before You Leave Forever (OBVRBYLF) strategy.

Ah, I know it well. Maybe I’ll write a show based on it.

Anyway, this past spring I called 17 or so people on college campuses—people whom I’ve emailed individually and mass e-blasted for years. I followed up with an email message, and lo and behold: several people responded and two expressed real interest!

Those calls did not ultimately lead to bookings, mainly due to scheduling. Campuses usually book guest artists at least three months in advance, and normally six to nine months in advance.

I made the calls four months before the show’s retirement date and only two months before the semester ended.

OBVRBYLF, indeed.

I’m nevertheless glad I made those calls, because it boosted my confidence. Plus, one of the people I called said our schedules weren’t compatible but asked what I was planning to do after I retired the show. They wanted to know if I might be available as a keynote or guest speaker at a conference instead?

Of course I said yes.

Now I can follow up with all of those people about the film of the show. I’m segueing from performing it to doing talk-backs after screenings of it.

Meanwhile, I recently called around 30 conference organizers to pitch the film, and was invited to screen it at three conferences!

So the experts are right: calling works.

Perhaps ultimatums work, too. Maybe another reason the college folks responded to my follow-up emails in the spring was because of the looming deadline of retirement.

In any case, I hope this galvanizes you to start making calls if you haven’t yet. Some tips:

1. Before you make the first call:

  • pour yourself a favorite non-alcoholic beverage
  • have a snack if you’re hungry
  • do some tongue twisters
  • read the script aloud before calling
  • do a very short body-scan meditation
  • stretch any area that’s stiff
  • have a funny YouTube video or comforting image or inspiring quote at the ready on your computer screen for right after the call
  • sip some of that lovely beverage
  • remember that you’re offering something valuable: the transformative power of theatre

…and make the call.

2. As you make more calls, reward yourself after each one, and then reward yourself with something more meaningful after finishing your calls for the day!

3. Below these tips are two cold calling scripts you can use as templates and edit as you see fit. One is for people who pick up the phone, and one is for voicemail. You’ll see that the first one includes a request to schedule a second call.

Of course, when potential leads pick up the phone, they might not want to schedule a follow-up conversation with you. They might say they’ll respond to your follow-up email if they’re interested. That’s fine. It doesn’t hurt to ask about calling again, but don’t be devastated if they say they would rather correspond via email from now on.

4. The main thing is that you cold called a potential booker, and you must, must, must acknowledge yourself for doing the brave thing. (See tip #2.)

Remember: hearing your voice helps people to picture a real human being with feelings and courage and ambition, and this could help them to take your pitch more seriously.

If you get an awkward or brusque rejection, still pat yourself on the back, breathe deeply, and watch the funny video or look at the comforting image or inspiring quote on your computer screen. You’ve earned that reward or pick-me-up.

I think you’ll find, as I did in November 2016 when I was calling total strangers in Louisiana (I’m in California), that most people are cordial when they receive a phone call, no matter what their answer is.

This is especially true when you’re proposing something good and worthy: your art and craft and expertise and humanity…and a great story.

Good luck and may you book book book!


PHONE SCRIPT — when you get the person on the phone

Hello, may I speak with [contact’s first name]? Hi, I’m ______, creator of [title of show], my one-[man/woman/person] show that tells the story of [very brief description of show, perhaps including a logline].

I’m calling to propose the show for your [organization/campus/office/club] because it’s a great springboard for discussion about [topic(s)].

The show has received rave reviews and is the only solo show that addresses [topic] via [unusual perspective, theatrical genre, etc.].

[Mention if it won any awards and if it has been to festivals, conferences, college campuses, etc.]

I’d like to ask if you might be interested in hosting the show with a talk-back afterwards at [campus/theatre/etc.]?

[If they say yes or maybe:] Great! I’ll email you a link to the show’s website plus a pdf of the Press Kit. What’s the best email address to reach you? And to confirm, that’s [spell it out]?

Great. Can we put our next conversation on the calendar for a convenient time during the week of [date 2 weeks later], which is two weeks from now?

And what time is best for you?

My name again is ______. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions. You’ll receive an email from me shortly with my contact info.

Thanks! I look forward to speaking with you in a couple of weeks.


PHONE SCRIPT — when you get the person’s voicemail

Hello, [contact’s first name]. I’m ______, creator of [title of show], my one-[man/woman/person] show that tells the story of [very brief description of show, perhaps including a logline].

I’m calling to propose the show for your [organization/campus/office/club] because it’s a great springboard for discussion about [topic(s)].

The show aims to both entertain and educate. It has received rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. It’s the only solo show that addresses [topic] via [unusual perspective, theatrical genre, etc.]. [Mention if it won any awards.]

At your earliest convenience, I’d like to speak with you about how we can work together to bring [title of show] to [organization/campus/office/club].

You can reach me at [phone number]. That’s [phone number]. I’ll also be sending you an email with my contact information and links to the show’s website with the trailer and reviews.

Again, this is ______ with [title of show]. I look forward to hearing from you.

[Edited 9/3/19, LL.]

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Small Audiences and the Art of Surrender

Have you ever had a dispiritingly small audience well into a run of your show?

Even though it had already toured elsewhere and been very well received in many locales, and the previous week’s audience members were praising it to the skies on social media?

Yeah, I’ve been there.

I’ve written about the importance and even magic of surrendering to what is when attempting to:

There’s another instance when surrender is equally vital for you to practice as a performer and producer. Just as in other circumstances, it can be paradoxically effective:

Surrendering to your sadness, disappointment, and heartbreak over having a tiny audience…could catalyze one of the most inspired performances of your show.

For me, it happened toward the end of a run of Alien Citizen: An Earth Odyssey at a festival.

I was waiting in the wings at “Places” and could hear that there were maybe 10 people in the seats.

There had been many more audience members at the previous performance a week earlier, so I had foolishly assumed there would be no more small houses during that festival.

This was my second run in Los Angeles (USA), where I had premiered the show in 2013. Back then the audiences had grown steadily, with rare fluctuations.

Now it was four years later, and 95% of my peeps had seen the show already…in 2013. The remaining 5% had come earlier during this 2017 run.

Total strangers and more recent acquaintances had also attended, which was wonderful, but audiences had not grown steadily, to my dismay. The numbers were always up and down.

I saw that I would have to promote the show and beg and bother people to come see it to the very end.

I was exhausted at that point, and frankly devastated.

So in that moment in the wing, I followed the sages’ advice and just let myself feel my profound disappointment and sadness. And I wept.

That’s not something I normally do right before a performance.

But I did it then. I cried as I waited for David Bowie to sing “Space Oddity,” which is the audio cue that plays as the house lights go down.

What do you know: the sages’ counsel turned out to be good! Any strong emotion will peak for 90 seconds, like the longest childbirth contraction, because that’s what our bodies and psyches can handle and no more.

Of course, the pain—physical and/or emotional—doesn’t magically end, but the times when it spikes at its absolute worst last for 90 seconds.

Thus, on that night backstage, my most intense, heartbroken weeping only lasted for 90 seconds.

Naturally, the sorrow didn’t disappear and the crying didn’t end abruptly, but I was amazed at how the release helped them to dissipate. Suddenly I felt more space inside my chest, and the tightness around my head relaxed.

I was sad but not tense, accepting the disappointment almost as if it were an old friend who was grieving and I was grieving with them.

The next part is probably predictable: I breathed more fully and easily, felt glad to be in the moment, and whispered my thanks to the 10 or so marvelous people out there who were joining me that night.

By the time Bowie began counting down, I was ready to give that small audience everything I had.

So I went out and did my job.

The audience was fantastic, of course, because I gave them a damn good show.

I did have larger audiences after that but the numbers still fluctuated tremendously for those last few performances.

It was what it was, and I always quietly thanked people for being there as I stood at “Places.”

The show renewed its tour in 2018 and 2019. Audiences were larger everywhere.

Now when I’m disappointed or stressed backstage before a performance of my show, there are steps I take, which I humbly recommend to you here:

  1. Accept reality. The audience is that small, or the booth op is that unskilled, or the liaison is that unhelpful, or the costume is that tight because you’ve been working out less, etc.
  2. Let any emotional labor pains flow. Allow the worst 90 seconds to move and even blow through your body. Notice how the intensity peaks and then ebbs when you don’t fight it.
  3. Give thanks. You get to perform your show for an audience that’s sitting out there just for you and your story! What a life.

I hope this is helpful. If you have more tips on how to deal with the discouragement of small audience numbers, please share them.

Also, please know that you’re in good company. I went to a revival of one of the most lauded solo shows in the US a few months ago. It was not only not sold out—they were selling heavily discounted tickets to fill seats.

The show was magnificent.

BONUS: Martha Beck’s compassionate and funny essay on the 90-second intervals of pain that allow us to feel better in the long run.

Experiencing Pain Is the Only Way to Achieve Happiness by Martha Beck

For monthly updates on the goings-on of my solo shows, film, workshops, acting gigs, and more, subscribe to my newsletter. (It’s different from this blog, which is exclusively about creating and touring a solo show.)

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Touring It: More Lessons Learned

Sometimes you have to be reminded of—or relearn—the realities of touring your show.

In my case, I relearned several things during my first booking of 2019 a few months ago:

1. Bringing your technical operator (the person who runs the screen projections and audio cues) with you makes an enormous difference.

  • They already know the show, so you only have to teach the venue’s lighting operator the minimal light cues. (Do make them minimal for the touring production. Save yourself some headache.)
  • The tech op acts as a buffer between you and any other techies. If something goes wrong, the tech op will handle it while you concentrate on your performance.

My husband was my tech op in February and I don’t know what I would have done without him. The tech rehearsal should only have taken 90 minutes, but the light board kept failing to save the cues that the lighting operator programmed into it. In the end I think we teched for four hours, which is normally how long it takes to

  • teach booth operators all the cues (not just lights)
  • do a Q2Q
  • do a speed-thru of the entire show.

Guess what? The four hours did not make a difference…but my tech op did. Here’s what happened:

At the top of my show, I enter in darkness as a projection plays above or to the side of me, depending on where the screen is. Once I’m “set” at center stage, a shaft of light illuminates me directly from above. I’m spotlit.

Imagine my surprise when, as the house lights went down and the music for “places” played and then the screen projection played…the stage lights remained on. The other cues kept going. Since my husband was running the music and projections, I knew that by playing those cues he was telling me to get on stage even with the lights on, because something was wrong that couldn’t be fixed. So I made my entrance and began the performance.

Imagine my further surprise when many different light cues started illuminating the stage, one after the other. This lasted for several minutes.

Finally, that stopped, and I could focus on the show without having to grin and bear the technical glitches.

As it turned out, the light board had once again failed to save any of the lighting cues, so the operator panicked and started trying to work out the glitches during the show by manually playing every cue back to back and then over again.

Thank goodness my husband was in the booth and let the op know that there was a performance happening and all the lighting changes were distracting to the audience and performer.

I honestly don’t know if the lighting op would have realized this if it hadn’t been pointed out to him. I might have had to perform for 20 minutes as bizarre, nonsensical light changes were played.

From then on, the light op followed the performance while reading the script, skipping ahead to manually set up each cue in advance, then playing it on time. He did a good job, I’m relieved to say.

2. The self-proclaimed most experienced techies will screw up, especially if they’re the type that brags a lot.

The lighting op I mentioned above did not brag, but I had a feeling there still might be some issues based on the following:

The more the venue’s technical director talks about his and/or his crew’s experience (on Broadway, on national tours, etc.),
the more he says things like “we’ll take good care of you” (so far the person who says that has always been a He in my experience),
the more you perceive you’re being condescended to in subtle and not-so-subtle ways,
the more the techies interrupt you to say “We know what we’re doing” when you ask them to run a certain cue again…
the more likely it is that the tech rehearsal will last a ridiculously long time because of issues that are somehow always blamed on the equipment—the same equipment that they’ve been working with for years without a problem…
and the more likely it is that there will be technical errors during the performance.

The best techies I’ve ever worked with were the ones who never bragged and whose bosses never bragged. One booth op was a fellow actor who also happened to be a terrific techie in New York. Sometimes they were young college students. Sometimes they were formidable pros, like the ones at Williams College who work in the booth during the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

My favorite is my husband, who is not a theatre person, who had to learn how to run my show on the fly at my first college booking in 2014. We learned that the techie at rehearsal was not going to be the techie at the performance (!?!). That booking was at a hugely prestigious university.

The love of my life stepped in and saved the day, having never worked as a booth operator in his life.

3. Your show will find its audience somehow. 

At the February show, a woman whose upbringing was very different from mine still thanked me afterward. (My show is largely about my upbringing.) We had a nice conversation and then suddenly she burst into tears and came around to hug me as she said “It has different meanings” regarding the show. I hugged her back and assumed she meant the show had emotional resonance despite being an unusual tale with unique details.

Any story that illuminates underlying “universal” (human) truths, which any good story does, will have emotional resonance for vastly different people.

That same night, various adults and students from the region and from other states and countries praised the show and spoke of how relatable it was. They were my ideal audience and they found the show somehow, despite there having been less outreach and PR due to extreme weather that had closed the campus more than once in the previous weeks.

4. Even if you trip over your lines a few times, the quality of the show will shine through. You’re a pro, you’ve got this, remain present and keep going.

5. You are giving people permission to tell their own stories when you tell yours. Even if they hate your show, it could still galvanize them into telling theirs “better.” You’re providing a service.

I take it as a given that you’ve worked hard to make the script and performance as strong as you can, because you want them to be good more than you want attention, so I have a feeling your audiences have been and will continue to be inspired after seeing your show.

6. It really is hard to resist the sugar or salt or alcohol temptation—whichever one you need to be mindful about the most—but try. Of course, the reason to eat healthy is that you’ll feel better during the tour. Adrenaline will drive the performance, but the rest of the time, it’s awfully nice to feel well.

7. Tell your contacts and networks who live in nearby cities of the upcoming performance. You’ll be amazed at who makes the two-to-four-hour drive to see a show they think they’ll relate to—it might not even be someone you know well.

8. Don’t assume that a negative experience in a particular region will be repeated. Bluntly put: not all politically similar regions are alike.

I had such a stressful time touring my show in a conservative state in the US in 2014 that I was tense about taking it to two more red states within the past year.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. People were lovely to me all over the campuses and towns, and I was ashamed to have formed a bias based on a single experience. As someone who moved a lot as a kid, my life had taught me to never pre-judge, so it’s especially embarrassing that I did so as an adult.

9. Doing the show itself increases your stamina, so if your workout routine is a bit iffy, rehearsals will help. Every time I run the whole show in my living room for the first time in months, it takes forever because I have to take breaks and am just slower. By the time of the performance, I’ve increased my stamina and become more facile and swift, so the show clocks in at its usual running time, which is much shorter than it was in my living room at that first rehearsal in ages.

Of course, ideally, you’re working out regularly—but full run-thrus will build your stamina, too.

10. Take time off after traveling with your show. You’ll need it. Tell people, including your agents if you’re also pursuing an acting career, that you’ll be gone for longer than you’ll be gone. Don’t worry, your agent will contact you with an audition that conflicts ANYWAY, but at least you’ll have set a psychological boundary that you can move as you see fit, and everyone ELSE will think you’re not available, so you’ll have a day or two (or more) to move slow and recuperate.

I hope this is helpful. For my original (and most popular) post on touring, click here.

Also, thank you for your patience between posts over the last year! I’ve been remiss and am determined to get back to making this a monthly blog. If you have questions/ideas for future posts, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

[EDITED 5/20/19 at 1:40pm, LL]

For monthly updates on the goings-on of my solo shows, workshops, acting gigs, and moresubscribe to my newsletter. (It’s different from this blog, which is exclusively about creating and touring a solo show.)

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How to Reward Yourself

I’ve written in the past about rewarding ourselves for any progress made, however small.

I hope you’ve been doing so, but if not, you’re not alone. I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t been following my own advice for a while now.

I do engage in activities I enjoy on most evenings at home: watching a show or movie with my husband, drinking herbal tea, and reading. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to relax at the end of every workday. (Or workday-into-night—I tend to work late. Do you do this, too?)

Nonetheless, have you, like me, found yourself not doing anything special or out of the ordinary—large or small—to reward yourself for completing a particular task or achieving something new?

The difference between the reward of unwinding after a long day, and the reward for a specific accomplishment, is that the latter is meant to be a deliberate acknowledgement of that accomplishment.

Relaxing is lovely and necessary after slogging away at the To Do List, whether you’re self employed or also working a day job, but we need to do something different when we’ve completed any of the tasks on that list—particularly if a task required courage or learning a new skill or doing something we disliked but that we felt must be done. An example of the latter for me is spending an entire day scheduling social-media posts on all of my platforms for the following month. I tend to work on this very late into the night and sometimes do some more the next day, so I usually feel there’s no time to reward myself because I have to go to bed or I have so much else to do.

And then I wonder why I’m feeling burned out and resentful.

The completed task could even be a tiny one that takes 10 minutes or less, but for whatever reason, perhaps we had put it off for…er, let’s not think about how long (cough cough)…so the relief from completing it might be accompanied by some self recrimination—or just plain old regret—for not having done it sooner.

It doesn’t matter if the task was time consuming or not, or if we think we ought to have finished it aeons ago. The point is that it was on the list because we felt it was necessary for the maintenance or growth of our creative careers. So if we’ve done that work, I believe we’ve earned the right to our own recognition.

This can apply to tasks that are not connected to creative pursuits, as well.

In any case, there’s a difference between taking it easy after work and purposely rewarding ourselves. I’ve finally figured out what has been stopping me from doing the latter:

I’ve been thinking it had to be Highly Ritualized, or Quite Unusual, or Involving Money I Don’t Regularly Spend That Way, etc. Even though I’ve stated in the past that the reward doesn’t have to be a big thing—it could be easy—I’ve still harbored an unconscious belief that it had to be A Thing That Required Some Effort, however pleasant the result.

In fact, the reward just needs to be a conscious, heartfelt acknowledgment. Something as simple as lying down, murmuring “This is my reward for completing [such-and-such]. Yay me,” and staying there, doing nothing, for five minutes.

Lying down just for the pleasure of it feels like a luxury to me, but if it’s not for you, then what is? What innocuous, easy, short activity that might seem like nothing to someone else—but would feel self indulgent to you—could you do when you don’t feel you have the time or energy to do more?

By the way, it’s not self indulgent when it’s a kind way to reward yourself for doing the work.

The reward could also be something you haven’t engaged in in a while that you enjoy. When’s the last time you added cinnamon or chocolate sprinkles to your coffee at home? Or read that comforting blog by so-and-so? If neither of those examples sparks you, take a moment to think of something that does—something easy that warms your insides even a little bit and perhaps has a “playing hooky” vibe when you think of it.

Part of the problem for me has been that I’ve confused a reward with A Pleasant Activity Done Concurrently With An Unpleasant Task. For instance, I listen to favorite podcasts while bookkeeping. Since a lot of the work we do for our shows or other creative pursuits is the opposite of creative: promotion, sales, administration, bookkeeping, etc., we may try to make it as pleasant as possible. This is understandable, correct, and the only way to do it, in my opinion.

However, my tendency in the past was to think: well, I’m already doing something pleasant while doing something tedious, so isn’t that the reward?


No, it is not.


The concurrently pleasant task (CPT?) is the thing we do to make the unpleasant task bearable. It’s good to have a CPT but it is not the reward. The reward cannot be done simultaneously with anything on your To Do List.

It has to stand on its own.

Allow the reward its own moment. It is the moment.

In fact, a synonym for “reward” is “honor.” So honor it.

When I publish this blog post I will reward myself in some way that feels luxurious, even if it’s small. Maybe I’ll look at a website I haven’t been to in ages that makes me laugh or smile or daydream pleasantly.

Or maybe I’ll lie down for five minutes. That option is feeling like the winner to me. Somebody needs a vacation.

Since the holidays are upon us in many parts of the world, the above can also be applied to surviving stressful holiday gatherings. Anything stressful is hard work in its own way.  It might have its good qualities but it’s also hard work.

Of course, we need to have wonderful rewards in mind for our larger goals, rewards that electrify us into taking steps towards those goals, but we also need exponentially smaller, easy-to-manifest rewards for the individual (sometimes baby) steps.

I really believe this. I’ve been remiss of late but that’s changing because I’m about to publish this post, you’re going to read it, and that will make me more accountable. (Accountability buddies can be very helpful for goals and rewards!)

What will you do to reward yourself for completing the next thing on your To Do List? (Was reading this blog post a “task”? Then reward yourself for it!)

If you find yourself stumped—which may be a sign of overexertion/exhaustion, which I’ll write about in a future post—may I offer you this:

If you’d like to share some of your favorite ways to reward yourself for a job well done (better yet: a job done), or you’d like to make yourself accountable toward rewarding yourself, please comment below. Happy Holidays!

Announcement: The film of my first solo show, Alien Citizen: an earth odyssey, is now streamable online! Huzzah!!!

For monthly updates on the goings-on of my solo shows, workshops, acting gigs, and moresubscribe to my newsletter. (It’s different from this blog, which is exclusively about creating and touring a solo show.)

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You Never Can Tell, So Don’t Give Up

I was starting to despair.  Universities and international schools would respond to my messages with interest and then back out or disappear.

I‘ve been pitching and promoting my show, Alien Citizen: An Earth Odyssey, all year long. I’ve emailed people at colleges, universities, and international schools individually and I’ve mass-emailed even more of them via MailChimp.

I’ve done this since January without fail while also working on a gajillion other tasks for this small business.

By June I was seriously contemplating the possibility that I would never perform the show again, because no one seemed to want to pay for it. This was especially disappointing because I only intended to perform it for one more academic year and I thought pitching it as the “final tour” would help with bookings.

It was looking like I had made a mistake.

Then: I booked the show at a community college in Florida! I was flabbergasted because I never thought a community college would have the budget for a guest artist. My ignorance is really something.

I ended up performing the show in Tampa in September. Now I have two more college bookings set up for 2019!

Meanwhile, I almost had an international school booking for January in Singapore. It seemed like a sure thing…but it fell through.

Then it looked like a university was going to screen the film of my show this month. At last, a non-conference, non-classroom screening for a wider audience!

That fell through as well. You win some, you lose some.

I’ve learned some valuable lessons this year about booking the show. I wrote extensively about touring in the past, but we learn more as we go. Here are some new tips:

1. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: don’t give up and do follow up.

For the Florida booking, a friend recommended the show to that campus and I gamely followed up. I was pleasantly surprised to receive an immediate, positive response. I replied again but didn’t hear back.

Out of sheer stubbornness I contacted them months later…and now I’ve performed my show in Tampa to a warm and engaged audience in a lovely community college theatre!

2.  Community colleges with performing arts buildings are absolutely worth a pitch.

To my surprise, many community colleges do have a budget for visiting artists and it’s not miniscule. We negotiated and I lowered my rate for Tampa, but I still made more than I was paid by Ivy League campuses back in 2014, my first year of touring.

3. Personal email messages and mass e-blasts can both work.

The Florida booking was instigated by email messages I sent individually. The two upcoming US college bookings were instigated by MailChimp e-blasts.

Of course, it’s more efficient to draft a chain of messages that you can schedule to go out regularly to hundreds or thousands of people via MailChimp.

Still, I send individual messages when the recipient and I know someone in common, or when I’m following up after a long delay and don’t want them to receive a mass e-blast yet.

Of course, if you’re just starting to pitch your show, you probably don’t have a database of contacts to e-blast. As you send individual messages, you can add each person’s info to a marketing automation platform like MailChimp or Constant Contact, etc. Follow-up messages can be scheduled to everyone via the platform, which will save you time.

I make my MailChimp e-blasts look like regular email messages. No layout, no images, nothing but words. The design is called Plain Text and it looks exactly the way it sounds. Email servers might still recognize that the message is coming from a marketing automation platform, so those messages may still end up in Promotions or Spam. However, I think enough messages get through…because they’ve lead to bookings.

4. If you can afford a paid intern for even one or two months, it’s worth it.

One of my upcoming college bookings is at a campus that my intern entered into the CRM (Customer Relations Management program). The college would never have received my regular e-blasts if my intern hadn’t entered the campus into the CRM, which is synced with my MailChimp account.

Quick side note: a CRM keeps track of your contacts and all of your correspondence with them—both the individual emails and the e-blasts. You can prioritize contacts as “Leads” and do other cool stuff. If you sync the CRM with the marketing automation platform, you only have to enter new contacts into one program in order for them to pop up in the other.

Back to the intern: you may wonder how I could afford to pay anyone. I had set money aside for taxes that were not owed in the end (oh glory!), so I used that money to hire a senior at my alma mater. She was highly intelligent with a good work ethic. We met via Skype and I taught her how to use the CRM. She immediately  began researching international schools and US colleges/universities to enter into the system. She only added contact info for people who might truly be interested in the show: directors of international student centers at universities, drama teachers at international schools, etc.

I could only afford to hire her for five hours per week for two months. In that time she entered almost 500 contacts. One of them has led to a booking that will pay much more than it cost to hire the intern. The booking will be a strong source of income that month, so: yay for interns!

5. Raising your rate won’t kill your chances of getting your show booked.

I doubled my rate a couple of years ago and subsequently feared it might be the reason I didn’t tour for two years. Then I remembered that I hadn’t been pitching my show to anyone with any regularity during that time because I was:

  • in post-production for the movie version of the show
  • working on a business plan and other time-consuming small business stuff
  • leading workshops
  • rehearsing, promoting, and performing the show in a festival in L.A.
  • pursuing my acting career
  • overexerting myself in general.

Of course I didn’t book the show out of town for two years.

Once I put my nose to the grindstone and started pitching the show regularly, it took six months for a booking to finally came through, followed by two more—and they’re all paying the new rate or close to it.

As you know if you’ve toured your show at all: touring is hard work. My 80-minute show is a tremendous workout. Performing it with jet lag adds to the challenge. Just traveling to the location can be exhausting: there’s luggage (even though I try to pack light); the carry-on with all the props is very heavy; I fly economy/coach and sometimes have to switch planes midway; and there’s sometimes at least a nine-hour time difference between L.A. and the booking location.

We have to keep our shows “in shape,” which means we have to run lines and rehearse the performance until it’s up to snuff in the weeks leading up to the booking date. This is time consuming and we’re not paid for our efforts during that period.

So: charge a decent rate. Ask around. Newbies might charge as little as $500 while celebrities might charge $10,000+ for a single performance. A good rule of thumb that a solo-show veteran recommended to me: when you start pitching your show for paid bookings, if you have to travel, make sure you’ll walk away with at least $1000 after expenses. It’s not worth the investment of time and energy otherwise.

As your list of bookings grows, you can raise your rate.

Of course, if you’re on the fringe festival circuit and are not booking paid performances at this point, the above is for you to consider if/when you want to turn your show into a source of greater income. I followed the veteran’s advice and learned quickly that she was absolutely right. Touring a show takes a lot of work beyond the actual performance, and we deserve to be recompensed for that.

Have you found other, better ways to get paid bookings without a booking agent? Please share if so! If not, I hope the above is helpful.

BONUS: Whether or not you’ve read or liked her books, this is a great TED Talk for when you’re feeling discouraged:

The fringe benefits of failure by JK Rowling

For monthly updates on the goings-on of my solo shows, workshops, acting gigs, and moresubscribe to my newsletter. (It’s different from this blog, which is exclusively about creating and touring a solo show.)

Thank you for reading my twenty-ninth post, especially after the long gap between this and the last one! I love your comments! Please feel free to leave one below.

Making It into a Movie

So I made my one-woman show into a movie.

This was a risk because who knew if anyone would want to see it in that form? I knew my mom would buy copies of the DVD (thanks, Mom!), but what if no one else did?

I took the risk because ever since the show opened in Hollywood in 2013, people have asked me if it was available on DVD or streamable online.  They had heard about it on social media and were curious, or they had seen the stage play and wanted to share it with friends and family.

Now, the truth is, when I say “people”: I mean a few. A few people asked about the show being made available to the public as a movie. There wasn’t an overwhelming number of individuals ceaselessly requesting the DVD.

The thing is, if just a few people request or suggest something and it’s something I think I might like to do, it tends to take shape in my head as Something To Which I Should Pay Serious Attention. Do you do this, too?

At first I put it off. Getting music rights would be a headache, the whole thing would cost money I didn’t have, yaddayadda.

A couple of years passed as I toured the show around the US and world, and I realized I couldn’t tour it forever. I had begun working on my next show and I knew the day would come when I no longer wanted to perform the first one. At the same time, I knew that the first one was helping people, especially Cross-Cultural Kids (CCKs: children who grow up among many cultural environments for any reason) and Adult Cross-Cultural Kids (ACCKs). This makes sense since ALIEN CITIZEN: An Earth Odyssey is about growing up as a dual citizen of mixed heritage in Central America, North Africa, the Middle East, and Connecticut. It’s a memory play that has helped many people to process their feelings about their own upbringings and identities.

There are countless CCKs and ACCKs on our planet, not to mention 8,000 English-medium international schools with 4.26 million students who have passports from virtually every nation on the globe. (That’s just the English-medium schools—I can’t even guess how many other international schools there are. Google hasn’t helped.) When I decided to make the movie, I surmised that we CCKs would like to see our stories told much more often, since we rarely saw them told realistically or at all. It can be extraordinarily cathartic and even healing to finally see one’s own struggles and humorous quirks and emotional life depicted in a story. I’ve learned this from my audiences every single time I’ve performed ALIEN CITIZEN: AEO on stage.

The good news is that the story seems to touch CCKs and non-CCKs. So I forged ahead and made the movie because I saw how the play spoke to people of vastly different backgrounds, from local citizens in Spain and Iceland to international theatre-makers in South Africa to Third Culture Kids in Panama and Singapore to multiracial scholars at US colleges, and more. I’ve learned more about the invisible connective tissue of humanity than I ever dreamed just by doing the show. I had no idea that it would have that kind of impact when I was creating it, but I’m gratified it does. That’s what gave me the incentive to make it into a movie.

Filmmaking is hard work as a rule, and in my case there was no studio nor any production assistants. The movie was one year and 11 months in the making, not including time spent on pre-production. The budget was so minuscule that my intrepid directora, Sofie Calderon, had to do her own slating (“Alien Citizen, Scene 2, Take 3”). She did this in practically freezing temperatures, because I overheat when I perform my show, so I needed the room to be Very Very Cold.

On the two-day shoot there was just a small, magnificent team: the indefatigable Sofie, and my scrappy crew on cameras and sound and in the booth running the technical stage cues. We had very high-end equipment rented for a song from a friend, and very kind people (friends and strangers) filling the theatre the night we shot before an audience.

It was exponentially more enjoyable to perform for them in one take—stopping only for sirens outside, the bane of filming in a city—than to empty seats in starts and stops while the crew watched silently the day before. Performing the 80-minute show nonstop is like doing a sprint triathlon while emoting—and I would know because I’ve done a sprint tri. Now imagine doing it for five hours straight, repeating scenes over and over to make technical and performance adjustments. Unsurprisingly, the performance without audience had a more sober, serious quality, whereas it was lighter and brighter when I had an audience listening, laughing, and breathing with me.

Then it was time to edit all the footage. My wonderful husband did some sort of exhaustingly technical wizardry to label each take and order everything in Adobe Premiere so that I would be able to edit easily as an amateur/hobbyist. Sofie and I wanted something more dynamic and cinematic than a traditional screen recording of a stage performance, and I tried to manifest that, on and off, for months. I edited the first two cuts of the movie as smoothly as possible with my favorite takes…and then watched it…and…

It lay there. Like a dead thing.

I’ll never forget Sofie’s face as she turned to me and quietly said that it might be something academics would consider using for research. Maybe.

So I searched for a loan, which came from a completely unexpected source (thank you, guardian angel!), and was able to hire a pro editor. He turned it into a dynamic, fun, eminently watchable movie. He gave every country its own “look” on top of the theatre lighting. He added numerous special effects, like me playing Clark Gable in flickering black-and-white, and he even smoothed my skin slightly. (It’s just me for the whole movie, folks, so we’re gonna allow me some vanity.) Per Sofie’s direction, he added audio effects, like the piercing-yet-melancholy sound accompanying the removal of glass shards from…well I don’t want to spoil it if you haven’t seen it.

He fixed it, in other words.

Meanwhile, I gained new skills: I learned how to make the DVD “case wrap” (cover), the DVD “face art” (on the actual discs), the digital design of the DVD playback (links, images, etc.). My husband set me up with DVD Studio Pro, taught me the basics, and off I went. I’m quite pleased with the results considering I’m not a professional DVD author. The outcome is not wildly sophisticated, but a viewer can easily make their way around the DVD’s menu and sub-menus with their remote control, which was my main goal.

Have I mentioned that the DVD includes Special Features? I wanted to give my parents and brother the opportunity to share their own perspectives on being a nomadic family and on the show. I wanted Sofie to have a chance to express what it was like to direct the show and then tweak it between bookings and for the movie shoot. I wanted viewers to get a glimpse of the show’s evolution by giving them scenes from the original run that we recorded in 2013, which were removed once the show began to tour. So I included interviews and deleted scenes as special features on the main disc.

I also knew that the show provoked powerful emotions. Rather than leaving audience members to cope with the ways in which the story moved or perhaps even triggered them, I wanted to offer a tool that would help them to process their emotions and unleash their creativity. So when I began planning the movie, I came up with the Tool Kit, a study guide that would be on a second disc for the Institutional (K-12/University/Library) version of the DVD. It would contain clips of the movie followed by discussion/writing prompts, definitions of terms, recommended reading/viewing lists, and more.

The Tool Kit took weeks and weeks to create. I’m very proud of it.

Marketing the movie has been challenging but not impossible. While a theatrical solo show is its own genre no matter the subject, the movie of ALIEN CITIZEN: An Earth Odyssey is hard to define. Can it be called a documentary—or perhaps a biopic—if one person reenacts moments with over 30 separate characters, most of whose names or identifiable characteristics have been changed? Probably not. It’s also not a traditional screen recording of a stage performance, à la the UK’s National Theatre Live, because my editor added special effects and audio effects that are utterly filmic and could not be recreated on stage. Like the theatre production, the movie goes out of its way to be entertaining but it’s also educational but it’s also just one individual’s unusual story but it’s also relatable to people of different backgrounds, or so I’ve been told. It exists in a liminal* space, which is fitting, since that’s my identity in a nutshell.

I am more than proud to share my movie now. So far, critics’ and audience’s responses have been great. The movie of ALIEN CITIZEN: An Earth Odyssey had its US West Coast and East Coast and European/International premieres at intercultural conferences. (Of course.) In the academic world, I’m delighted that a professor of Anthropology at Santa Clara University is already “teaching” the movie, which has also made it onto the syllabi of theatre classes at universities in New York, Illinois, and Canada.

My alma mater’s library has a copy and it has already been checked out!

Customers who have bought the DVD have gone out of their way to thank me for it afterward via email or social media.

Between you and me, I didn’t know if I could sell more than 25 copies…total. I hoped for 50 and was prepared to get a survival job to pay back the loan. I ordered 1,000 copies—as the producer/distributor you have to order in bulk for the expense to make any financial sense—and wondered if the boxes of inventory would sit in our garage in perpetuity.

Sales have made me realize that I need to think bigger. I’m going to try to sell out the first printing within 18 months of the first sale. I also hope to get it distributed on airlines and on TV (PBS? cable?) and accepted into film festivals. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

I’m writing this because making the movie was hard work and I’m proud of having finished it. I also want to show you how the timeline for a creative project can be long but worth it. In this case:

  • the idea popped up
  • I delayed taking action
  • I eventually took action
  • production was short (two-day shoot) and lengthy (pre-production and post-production)
  • I finally launched the product…in the middle of performing the “live” show for the first time in 18 months.

Timing: not ideal by any stretch.

Sales: much better than I feared—enough to inspire me to think bigger!

Audiences have told me that the movie has special worth in our terrible, wondrous, frightening, fragile world today. Because of that, I hope that it will have the widest reach possible.

Have you been sitting on an idea for so long that you think you should let it go? If it still excites and scares you, then I hope you’ll give it some attention. You never know where it will take you, and you’ll likely have something to be very proud of in the end.

*in-between, transitional

BONUS: A helpful reminder of how important it is to take creative risks:

Keys to Creativity: Taking Risks by Diana C. Pitaru, M.S., L.P.C., of “Unleash Your Creativity” on

Thank you for reading my twenty-eighth post! I love your comments! Please feel free to leave one below.

Bringing It Back

Have you ever brought your solo show back to your city of residence where the show had its world premiere? So you’ve had to rally a whole new audience because everyone who was bound to support you…already did?

I have, and I’ve got some observations and tips for you along with my own tale of the highs and lows of this experience.

1. Bringing your show back for another run can be rewarding. I performed Alien Citizen: an earth odyssey in Los Angeles again as part of the Solo Queens Festival, which closed a few weeks ago. There were numerous benefits to that experience, but the most valuable were:

  • sharing it with my two brilliant sister solo queens, Kristina Wong and Valerie Hager, whose solidarity and camaraderie were encouraging and steadying.
  • sharing the play itself with new audience, especially adult Third Culture Kids, for whom the show tends to be cathartic and healing. I was warmed through and through to learn that it continues to have that effect on ATCKs and other people who grew up in the intersections of identity like I did, as well as on audience members whose upbringing was very different from mine.
  • giving myself permission to perform the show in new ways that made it fresh and fun and vital for me as the performer, which made it unpredictable and dynamic for the audience. In some ways it felt like a new show…and for me that was priceless.

2. The lines and blocking will come back to you even after a long, long break. It had been 18 months since I last performed my show and I was worried. What if my memory, which of late has been extra special (that’s a euphemism) failed me? What if my back problem forced me to change the blocking so completely that the show lost its spine?

Turns out that if you’ve performed your show regularly over a few years, an 18-month break won’t break your ability to do it again. You just have to ease back into it. Over a month before opening night, I started running lines in chunks. When I got to the point at which I could run the entire script without blanking out, I started putting the show back on its feet, again in chunks.

By opening night I was ready to open.

3. You must practice kind yet strict self-care during the run no matter what…or things could get wonky. I had a few moments of flubbing lines slightly, of getting the timing wrong, of almost doing the wrong blocking (moving my body to get into a certain character’s pose when I was about to play a different character entirely, and having to adjust quickly when I realized my mistake).

And…I made most of these mistakes during the closing matinee. My eighth performance in four weekends. What was going on? I had slept the night before, I had eaten breakfast, I had done my vocal and physical warmups and tongue twisters. So I had no excuse.

Or did I?

I had injured my calf during a performance midway through the run and it hadn’t fully healed by that last show. I had a cough/cold that I had been nursing for 10 days. And I had been working 10-14 hours per day plugging the show via the internet, snail mail, and in person. Not to mention doing run-thrus at home once per week mid-week so I would be warmed up for each weekend of shows.

But…my two performances before the final one were still sharper and fuller, injury and illness and constant self-promotion notwithstanding, than in the last matinee. So I don’t know what happened. Maybe the accumulation of stressors finally got to me?

My point is, we can never become complacent about performing our shows. At least I can’t. It always requires all of me, and if all of me is starting to wear out, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. And the only way to avoid the bumpy ride is to be ruthlessly self nurturing, as I detailed in an earlier post

..which can feel impossible when you’re trying to fill the seats.

4. Just as you suspected, filling seats for a second run is entirely different from filling them for the first run (the world premiere!) in the same city, even if your show has toured internationally in between those two gigs. In 2013, my show premiered in a 32-seat black-box theatre in L.A. for a five-weekend run. I didn’t know if anyone would care enough to come to the show. I didn’t know if anyone would care even if they did come to the show. I didn’t know if I would have to cancel performances and perhaps the run itself due to lack of audience.

To my relief, people came and audiences grew. Then the show toured on three or five (depending on where you were educated) continents*, in six countries, and in 11 states in the USA, plus Washington, DC. So it’s safe to say that it has had a strong trajectory.

However, I couldn’t surf on that trajectory when I brought the show back to L.A. I’m not a celebrity and the majority of my performances have been on college campuses and international schools. The show has garnered wonderful responses and thus more bookings on those circuits, but L.A. theatre-goers tend to attend shows based on reviews, local word of mouth, or knowing someone involved with the production. My show got great word of mouth in 2013 and I’m lucky to know a lot of people in L.A., so everyone who really wanted to see it, saw it. In 2013.

I did get new audience and even some repeat audience from 2013 this time around! But it was hard, hard work to pull them in.

5. Pulling in new audience is exhaustingly difficult and you need to begin far in advance of opening. I spent 10-14 hours per day promoting the show for seven weeks, but that included the four weeks of performance. It wasn’t enough because I didn’t start early enough. My two festival colleagues began promoting their shows a month sooner than I did, and their audiences were much larger. All three of our shows are a Very Worthwhile Time At The Theatre, and each one is unique, so audiences who saw all three shows tended to rave about the entire festival. But I had already had a five-week run in this city, and I started promoting my show weeks later than I should have. (I explain why further down in #7.)

I also chose not to send out my own press release. The theater sent one for all three shows and the festival at large. I was wary of critics because, while I’ve gotten mostly positive reviews and great pull quotes, only one critic has ever actually understood the show. Meanwhile, most audiences have understood it quite well! So this time around, I merely emailed a personal invitation with no PR to a few respected critics, and I wasn’t surprised when they didn’t show since, again, I’m not a celebrity.

Perhaps I should have been more optimistic.

Regardless, I needed audience. So I begged.

I begged on this blog, on my monthly e-newsletter, and all over social media. Check out these stats! In October and November I plugged the show 300 times on Facebook (Pages and Groups), 152 times on Twitter, 46 times on LinkedIn, and 38 times on Instagram. I hawked it in 199 Direct Messages on Facebook; 106 private email messages (to professors and student groups at nearby universities, consuls from the countries I grew up in, the above-mentioned critics, and more); 75 private messages to LinkedIn connections; 16 direct tweets to casting directors (three-four people per tweet); and five e-newsletters to all of my email contacts (starting in August). I plugged it to 174 people who donated to my past online crowdfunding campaigns. I snail-mailed carefully worded professional letters with attached postcards for the show to 49 casting directors (the same ones I tweeted). I sent lovingly crafted personal letters to 28 celebrities who grew up the way I did (globally). I posted invitations on at least seven YahooGroups (remember those?) three times each. I attended two networking events at which I knew no one; I listened to people intently before mentioning my show and handing out postcards.

I invited the Obamas via their website. Same with Anna Deavere Smith, Lin Manuel Miranda, and Yaël Farber. Because why not dream big?

I created and promoted discount codes for five of the eight performances.

I spent $80 on Facebook ads.

It was exhausting.

6. Certain audience-enticing strategies are more effective than others. Would you like to know which ones worked?

  • The 199 Direct Messages on Facebook. Many people actually came because of those, which put 25% of my audience’s butts into seats.
  • The two in-person networking events. I followed up with people I met there via email. A few bought tickets and brought more audience. You may think a few is nothing to crow about, but they were all strangers who praised the show after seeing it. For me, those people were a big deal, because I’m an introvert and it was hard to “sell” my show in person. But I did and it worked.
  • The discount codes. Except for opening night (a Friday), the Sunday matinees were consistently better attended than the evening shows. The last three matinees all had discount codes that I mentioned in my promos.

We know people love to save money. So why did the other two strategies also work?

We know why: we’re all so inundated by social media that it takes a personal touch to actually reach people. You have to communicate privately or in person to get past the noise.

We all know this. I just finally learned it for real.

Also, word to the wise re: Facebook Direct Messages: you have to be willing to hit up every single “Facebook friend” in your city who hasn’t seen the show, including people you’ve not met in real life and people you’ve met but with whom you’ve not had a real conversation and people you haven’t laid eyes on in a decade or longer. Quite a few may come to your show and they are gold.

Other than those three strategies, I don’t know to what extent any of my other promotional efforts worked. At least 50% of the audience were people I didn’t DM who are friends, theatre colleagues, extended family, or workshop participants who were excited to see the show again or for the first time because they somehow missed it in 2013 or we didn’t know one another back then. I’m not sure if they needed to see my numerous social-media posts to be convinced to attend.

You know what they say: 20% of your effort brings results. The other 80% is usually unnecessary.

I’m nonetheless curious about the 25% of audience I didn’t know. How did they hear about the show? Was it through my constant promotional efforts or something else? For instance, did they know someone who worked at the theater or had they heard about the show directly from a friend? I’ll never know.

Regardless, when I open my next show I’ll stick to Facebook DMs and tone the rest way down, because it’s too much work.

I should clarify: despite never selling out the show, people loved it. Overall I got loads of fantastic responses both in person and on the internet. Of course there were folks who didn’t love it—that’s part and parcel of putting one’s work out there—but for the most part the show received powerful, validating praise.

Plus, this theater had 99 seats…so of course it felt emptier even when the larger 2017 audiences were the same size as any of my larger 2013 audiences.

By the last matinee, I was a wreck, as I mentioned in #3. Perhaps if I had spent at least one quarter of my promotional time just resting, journaling, reading for pleasure, strolling outside, and daydreaming, I might have saved myself the injury and onset of illness in the second-to-last weekend of shows, and those peculiar errors in the final performance.

7. If something else is happening for you at the same time as your show, do not be surprised when the former gets neglected and affects the size of your audience for the latter. An enormous thing happened right before my show re-opened. I released the movie of Alien Citizen: an earth odyssey on DVD! It had its world premiere at an intercultural conference in San Diego just one week before my opening night!

The movie was nearly two years in the making. That’s going to be its own blog post, but my point is: I was so overwhelmed by my promotional efforts for the “live” show that I gave short shrift to the huge accomplishment of making, premiering, and distributing a movie. Conversely, I had worked so hard on getting the DVD ready that that cut into the time I ought to have been promoting the “live” show, which is why I started plugging the show a month late.

Oh my, it was such hard work. You can apply “it” to the remounting of the live show in L.A. or to the movie. Either way it’s true…but I want to focus this blog entry on the show.

On the bright side: more people came than I had feared in my lowest moment. A couple of weeks before opening night, I was desperate to bring in 80 audience members total. That would be an average of 10 people per show, which would be 900% more people in the house than on the stage. I could live with that.

I’m happy to report that the average number of people in my audience per performance was markedly higher than 10. Nonetheless, it couldn’t hold a candle to my solo queen colleagues’ audience numbers, which were jaw-droppingly impressive.

Every Monday or Tuesday the theater would send us our ticket sales for the upcoming weekend, and every time I saw my numbers I would go numb. They were invariably abysmal, so there was no question of reducing my promotional efforts, or so I believed.

Fortunately, people came. No shows were canceled. The smallest audience consisted of nine people, which was rough, but they were terribly kind. That was my worst performance—you know how your body and face and voice will do the show, and you’ll channel all your energy into it, but your brain will be over to the side thinking I’m Not In It I’m Not In It It’s On Automatic Help Help Help?


Nonetheless, one of the people who came that night bought the DVD of the show, and two others posted high praise on Facebook. This was early in the run, and I finally accepted something very important for a solo show creator and performer:

8. If the show is good, you don’t have to be at your best for it to work for audience members. If the writing, direction, and design elements are good, and you commit your energy to the performance even if your brain feels disconnected from your body, the show will still work.

Granted, there may be theatre pros in the audience who will recognize that you’re not “on fire.” But if your words, face, and body language tell the story clearly, the show’s merits will come through. Of course it’s a shame that it won’t have that spark, that emotional immediacy that an “in tune” performance would give it, but it will still be a solid 80 minutes of theatre. You will not have wasted anyone’s time or money. They’ve never heard your story before, after all.

Meanwhile, I learned a ton from watching my sister solo queens promote their shows.

9. Make your marketing count by making it reflect who you are in your show. Valerie’s posts were often vulnerable and raw. She would tell her followers outright how it felt to do her show in L.A. and that she needed her peeps in the seats. Meanwhile, Kristina’s posts tended to be smart, funny, and non-stop. Their marketing reflected aspects of their stage personas that attract audience.

My marketing…well. I intended to be vulnerable…and a few of my posts were (kind of)…but mostly I just quoted lines from the show and attached production stills or video and mentioned discounts. It took forever to create and schedule those posts on Hootsuite, and post them directly on Facebook Groups, not to mention all the other ways in which I plugged the show, so I believed I was accomplishing a lot with that as I was doing it.

In hindsight, I should have made every post personal. And I should have posted more praise from audience and positive reviews from critics from previous bookings—of course, because people do what other people have done. If I had posted praise every single day, more people might have thought “Well if they liked it maybe I will, too,” and I might have had larger audiences.

10. As long as your show connects with the people who need it the most, you’ve done something good. I’m happy and relieved to say that people who needed to see Alien Citizen: an earth odyssey this time around did so and it helped them. One person came a second time and bought the DVD. Others now want to take my workshop. The people who found validation and understanding in the show are the people for whom I created it in the first place.

I don’t need to do this show for me. I processed and purged every lingering emotion that the stories evoked by the fourth performance in 2013. Since then I’ve done the show for people who need to see themselves reflected on stage. I never know who that will be, but they always show up. It happened again for numerous audience members this time around, and I’m very gladdened by this.

I’m also very glad to have made a movie of my show that is now on DVD and will soon be streamable online, so that people worldwide can see it in their own homes and at their convenience…without my having to rehearse beforehand or beg them to fill seats. (Wink.) Stay tuned for my next blog post about my filmmaking journey!

In the end, I’m pleased to have performed my very first solo show again in the city where it was crafted and where it had its world premiere. I hope you feel the same way about having brought your show back to its “city of origin.” Also, through my mistakes I learned how to market the show for future runs, which is valuable. I hope you were smarter about it than I was, but if not, I hope you’ll apply what you learned to future runs. If you’re still in the planning stage of bringing a show back to a city, I hope this blog entry will be of use.  (Perhaps we should consider sticking to shorter runs (two to three performances) if we want to bring a show to a city where it has already played…)

Whatever the cost, for me the rewards were worthwhile. Plus, we never know where our performances might lead us. A stranger in the audience could become a client, an advocate for our work, and/or a dear friend.

The possibilities are endless.

*If you were taught that North and South America are two different continents and Central America is part of South America,
you were also taught that Europe and Asia are two different continents,
then in your mind my show has toured on five continents: North America, Central (which to you means South) America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Plus the island of Iceland.

If you were taught that America (or The Americas) is one continent because it’s one land mass with sections called North, Central, and South,
you were also taught that Eurasia is one continent because it’s one land mass with sections called Europe, the Middle East, and Asia,
then in your mind my show has toured on three continents: America (or The Americas), Eurasia, and Africa. Plus the island of Iceland.

I split the difference and say that the show has toured on four continents.

BONUS: A terrific blog post/rant by a well respected award-winning UK-based performer who ekes out a living via grants and bookings and is very, very tired of being asked to tour and perform for free.

You show me yours… by Bryony Kimmings

Announcement: I’ve got new workshops coming up in the new year. Take a look! Click on “click for more” under “Group Solo Show & Memoir Workshops.”

Thank you for reading my twenty-seventh post! I love your comments! Please feel free to leave one below.

Everything Happens at Once

As I type this, a hurricane from the Pacific and a tropical storm from the Atlantic are wreaking havoc in Costa Rica, where my parents live. The government has declared a state of national emergency. My folks are fortunate: they live on high ground, 5,000 feet above sea level, so they only lost power and internet. Their water might get cut off but they’re ready. Meanwhile, thousands of Costa Ricans have lost their homes to unprecedented flooding from rivers that have risen and raged in a shockingly short amount of time.

There have been deaths.

This is only one of several natural disasters that have befallen the globe recently, on top of national tragedies in the USA and other parts of the world.

One could become numb to it all.

Nevertheless: I assume you know where to donate or volunteer, but if not, the Red Cross and UNICEF are usually good choices.

And now I’m going to talk about my first solo show. This feels grossly uncomfortable since we all know that humans have been through hell this year and a show is just a show.

But solo shows and creativity in general are what this blog is about. So here’s how I justify talking about my show in this month of October 2017:

Alien Citizen: an earth odyssey is the only touring solo show that highlights issues of culture, language, gender, race, religion, and nomadic upbringing in a single performance. It’s funny and poignant and takes the audience through six countries on two continents. The show depicts people in Latin America, North Africa, and the Middle East in prismatic, relatable ways that we rarely see on the American stage. It serves as a bridge between cultures. It also shows what being a girl is like on this planet.

I think the show has worth even (or especially?) in the current state of our terrible, frightening, wondrous, fragile world. I’ve been told it does.

So I’m excited to be performing Alien Citizen: an earth odyssey in the first annual Solo Queens Festival at the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles, California, USA. Bootleg has a fierce belief in the power of women in Art to create change in the world and this festival will celebrate women and their life experiences.

That’s the plug. But it’s not the only reason that I’m writing this. The main reason is in the title of this post: everything happens at once.

Remember how I was creating the movie of my show? Well, it’s this close to ready. I’m about to drop the data off at the DVD printers to get copies replicated for customers. Copies have already been sold but the thing can’t be shipped until it’s printed!

I had hoped to have the DVD ready by June 2016, but I quickly learned that that was crazy talk. I was the first editor to work on it…while touring the show and leading workshops and pursuing my acting career and learning all I could about growing a small business. So of course the editing took an especially long time. And I’m not a pro editor.

Fortunately, I was able to hire a real editor and he made magic of the final cut, thank goodness.

However, now the movie will be launched right before my show opens…and I can’t worry about the timing anymore. Whether it’s good or bad, the point is: I now have two big products, with one deadline looming and the other already missed.

If you’re wondering why I don’t just wait to deal with the movie until after the show opens:  I’ve been promoting the DVD for months because I predicted that it would be out by September. I put that date on my website. People have bought copies that I need to print and ship. 

Meanwhile, I booked my first TV gig in years back in September, and my first role in a big movie with movie stars shoots next week.

I’m leading workshops because I love to do that work but I also need the income.

All of this is great! I am profoundly lucky to have each one of these opportunities, and to have them all at once is an embarrassment of riches.

And I need an assistant.

Don’t we all.

Three different small-business experts have told me flat out to hire an assistant. I’d love to, but the expense is a large obstacle at the moment and training someone will take time…and I kinda don’t have any left. Not for the “live” show, at least.

So I don’t have an assistant who can contact tons of people and organizations via email and social media, and follow up with them, and help me to fill the house for each performance. I’ve been doing a lot of this myself and will continue to do it, of course, but I will not be able to do everything that could really help to put butts in seats, as they say.

Thus I am reduced to begging on my blog.

Please come to my show if you’re in L.A County or SoCal. My director, Sofie Calderon, did a truly great job with it. Her impeccable guidance has helped me to tell the story so that it has resonated for thousands of audience members around the world. Come see why it made them think and laugh and cry.

If you’re not in L.A., please send your L.A. peeps to it.

I’ll be playing in rep with Kristina Wong’s The Wong Street Journal and Valerie Hager’s Naked in Alaska, October 26 – November 19. Their shows are kickass pieces of theatre.

There will be FREE CHILDCARE during Sunday matinees!

There will also be signature cocktails for every show in the fest! Mine is called An Earth Odyssey. We’re still deciding whether it’ll be a riff on a cosmo, a Singapore Sling, or something else.

Groups of eight get 20% off. If you’d like to get in on that, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with Bootleg’s queen bee Jessica Hanna.

If you’d like to sponsor a low-income person who couldn’t otherwise afford a ticket, give me a holler.

If none of the above applies, and you’d like to see the movie instead, please click here.

So…I’m obviously not giving tips or help in this post. I’m not “adding value” as they say…although I think the show and movie do do that, but this post isn’t doing it in any immediate way that I can see.

I hope you’ll forgive me for that and come see my show or send someone to it. It would mean the world to me.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And be safe out there.


BONUS: I’ve been practicing some good habits like meditation, gratitude lists, and exercising regularly most of this year. But I can’t seem to kick overworking—been putting in 12-14 hours/day for months. So I’m sharing this link about how to successfully form a new habit, to remind myself and hopefully help my readers (added value! yay!):

The 3 R’s of Habit Change: How To Start New Habits That Actually Stick by James Clear

Thank you for reading my twenty-sixth post! I love your comments! Please feel free to leave one below.

There’s More To You Than You Know

Feeling some lack of confidence lately? A little low on self esteem? Thinking maybe you don’t have what it takes? (To create a good show, attract an audience, do the hard work towards a big goal, withstand rejection, make even a partial living doing what you love, etc.)

I feel ya.

So I recommend the following, which may sound a little scary, but it’s worth it. (Well, it might not scare you, but I confess that I dreaded it and only went through with it because it was a homework assignment for a workshop I was taking.)

  • Ask three to five people in your network to identify the things they believe you are good at and to provide evidence for those things that they identified as your strengths.

“Network” just means People You Know, preferably as More Than Acquaintances.

If this assignment brings up the following fears:

  • Everyone will be too busy
  • No one will want to reply even if they’re not busy
  • Everyone will automatically think of your flaws and this will prevent people from being able to think of a single strength that you have

…consider the possibility that these fears are due to anxiety and not reality. They’re understandable because you’re making yourself vulnerable. But if you make the request of people you care about who you can reasonably suspect care about you, too…then it is not such a presumptuous request and there may be no reason to fear the response.

If you have no fears about making the request, I still think this is a worthy exercise for you.

Give the list makers a deadline of three days, tops. This helps them and you. Your message won’t sit in their In Box or voicemail forever, and you won’t wait and wonder for a long time if they’ll reply.

Also, while you’re waiting for their response, take 10 minutes to write down what you think your strengths are, and provide evidence. This can be helpful toward building or maintaining confidence and healthy self acknowledgment. Always good when you’re working on something new and risky.

When folks start responding, you may be unsurprised by some of the strengths they list—after all, you’ve met you. Nonetheless, be prepared for a strength or two (or more) that you didn’t predict. Or perhaps you didn’t expect a strength to be described in the way that it’s described. Or for the evidence to be something you had completely forgotten. Yet it’s nonetheless true.

Yes, you did do that. Yes, it was admirable and worthy of respect.

I think we need a lot of encouragement as we forge ahead on this loopy, unpredictable path of solo show creation and touring and other creative endeavors. Often there’s no way to know what will happen next, so we keep on submitting the show, or creating a new one, and working on other stuff that fills us, or taking breaks from it all, and we need incentive to believe we’re worthy of our dreams.

A Strengths List can help with this. It’s like the list of compliments from audience members that I mentioned a while back. In your most vulnerable moments, sometimes other people’s words can make all the difference. There’s no shame in that. We’re a social species and we need one another’s validation. We just do. It helps if it comes from people we trust.

Also, when compiling your Strengths List, you may learn that you are more powerful—not just strong but powerful—than you realized. Look at what you’ve accomplished! That took more than determination.

No harm in it, since you’ve been harnessing this power to connect with people and remind them that they, too, are not alone. That’s what storytellers and artists do. Even if a work of art is about unwanted solitude or loneliness (or sadness or rage or jealousy or some other unpleasant emotion), it still acts as an outstretched hand toward anyone who has felt the same. Acknowledgment and recognition are powerful things. The feeling that an artist “gets” us is incomparable.

Honor your power. You’ve probably got more than you know and I’m betting that you’re using it to do good. When you receive your Strengths Lists, remember to thank the people who remind you of your power, for they are gold.

BONUS: This hugely popular TED Talk reminds us that we do this because it’s what we do. (You don’t have to have read or liked her work to enjoy the benefit of this talk.)

Your elusive creative genius by author Elizabeth Gilbert

Announcement: I’ve got new workshops coming up next week. Take a look! Click on “click for more” under “Group Solo Show & Memoir Workshops.”

Thank you for reading my twenty-fifth post! I love your comments! Please feel free to leave one below.

You Never Know What Will Spark You (or: In Which I Humiliate Myself for the Greater Good)

Wondering if any of your creative efforts have been wasted?

Or if your creative impulses are too weird to take seriously?

Fie upon the thoughts, I say!

This is going to be a short entry, but it requires courage to post. I’m resigning myself to embracing the fact that one of my weird compulsions missions in life is to make myself vulnerable in order to help others.

I tend to take one for the team, so to speak.

In January 2012, I had a terrible first full-length draft of my first solo show. I was about to take a six-month-long master class on solo-show creation, during which I would completely dismember and destroy revise that draft into something a paying audience might actually want to watch. I was freaking out a bit since I would be workshopping scenes for classmates who might…you know…hate everything I presented.

Meanwhile, I needed a creative outlet that I kept private and thus safe in order to follow my weirdest impulses, to keep the juices flowing with no connection to the solo show.

Except that they did ultimately connect to the show.

Here’s the first thing I created. I titled it “monster.” Note its abysmal amateur quality.


Feeling better about yourself now? You’re welcome.

Here’s the next thing I created, and I can only hope that this will not come back to haunt me somehow, because its dorkiness is…well, I’ll let you determine that for yourself.

I made two more videos that I shall spare you, and then the workshop and other projects took over my life, and I no longer had time for these ridonkulous spontaneous creative-impulse pursuits.

When I made them I had no idea that they would help my show, but they did. On a lark, I sent the drawing to a couple of friends, and they were amused and kind. That helped me to breathe a bit easier about putting original work out there. I sent the video to a few more friends and one said she laughed until she cried. She may have been the only one who liked it, but one person not hating it or ignoring it or pitying me for it was all I needed.

Plus, the composition/framing ended up being what I used for my show’s poster.


My director hates the poster, but what can I say, it was my vision at the time. She’s very classy, so I kinda see her point now…but I still love the head peeking in…and I just have an abiding fondness for the whole thing.

You know how it is with certain things. You see the flaws but you feel affection for them nonetheless.

Anyhoo. As random and weird and amateur and dorky and embarrassing as those two works of “art” may be, they were meant just for me and a few friends, and they boosted my courage, which did the trick: I created the show, which is now a movie (almost ready for audiences!). The show’s success also led to my ongoing workshops.

So I feel like a deer in headlights mostly okay about sharing these pieces here because…well, what the heck. I sincerely hope that they assist you with your creative pursuits somehow.

Follow your kooky creative impulses. Keep them all private if you like, but have faith that they’re helping you in ways you may not be able to articulate until five years from now. They’re worth it.

BONUS: Here’s an encouraging article about how walking/strolling can spark creativity:

Want to Be More Creative? Take a Walk by Gretchen Reynolds

Thank you for reading my twenty-fourth post! I love your comments! Please feel free to leave one below.