Putting it Together – Big Fun Radio Funtime
Big Fun Radio Funtime is just over a year old and just performed our sixth show. I’m at a bit of a crossroads right now because I think that we are getting a lot better artistically, but I can’t figure out how to get people to come watch the show. While I know I want to keep it running through the end of the 2014, I’m not certain of our fate beyond that.
The major problem I face is the amount of work compared to the level of attention that work receives. We are averaging 20- 30 audience members per performance. Can we get more? I just don’t know. So I’ve been doing a sort of cost/benefit analysis on the whole effort.
Here’s how the schedule for each performance works out:
3 Months out – Line up writers. Typically I need three writers plus myself because I want the show to be represented by many different voices rather than just mine.
2.5 months out – Nail down voice actors for the show. Start to write music with Geoffrey (we typically need two new songs and that means about 1-3 hours of work per song).
2 months out – this is typically when I’ll start working on my script for the show. I usually need a little while to think about what I’d like to write about and let the idea percolate in my head a little bit.
1.5 months out – remind writers that they need to get their work in so Salsa can start working on sound effects.
1 month out – All scripts are due. Get the scripts to Salsa and assign roles to the actors. Start the process of publicizing the show.
1-2 weeks out – read through with all the actors. Make sure everything works together. Figure out the best order for the four main scripts.
Day of the show – print out full scripts for the entire cast and add any last minute transitional dialogue that is needed. Pack up scripts and microphones to bring to the theatre. Performance.
Two weeks later (or so) – Post the recording of the performance on Bandcamp.
I’m skipping a lot of steps in the process but there is a lot to do for the show. That’s why it is only being performed once every three months. I’d love to do it every month but there is just too much work that goes into each show.
The cost is also problematic because I need to print scripts for every show and I go through about a ream of paper and a full ink cartridge every time we perform.
So that is the cost. The benefits are another matter.
I can say that for myself, I’ve become a much better writer because I’ve been producing new scripts all the time. As I’ve always said, you need to keep using the writing muscle if you expect it to remain strong.
I think I’ve had a great opportunity to learn from other writers as well. When you see what other people are doing and how the audience is responding, you learn how to make your work better.
The show also gives me a great avenue to give young writers involved with Fearless a venue for their work to be performed.
And I’ve had a great opportunity to write a lot of terrific new music with Geoffrey. Many of those songs have been performed by The Dregs and have become quite popular.
So the thing is, is the artistic benefit of the show enough that I shouldn’t worry about the fact a lot of people are doing good work that nobody is coming to see?
The answer, I think, is in how much time is taken from other projects. If I’m not getting other more beneficial work done, then why am I spending time on a show that isn’t finding an audience?
On the other hand, if the work I’m doing on this show is making the work I do on other projects better, isn’t it worth it to keep doing the show?
And is the show just a vanity project? Am I producing stuff that is entertaining to someone other than me?
I think the real question is how to reach an audience that I believe exists for this kind of production. It is one thing to produce well written scripts and perform them well. Somehow we have to reach people in the cities who are interested in seeing a live radio play.
The Twin Cities theatre community is rich and diverse and there is a very large and, I believe, hungry audience out there. It is not a question of whether or note there are fifty people who would enjoy Big Fun Radio Funtime. I think the question is how to find them.
As an artist, it is sometimes difficult to decide when the time comes to cut something on which you have been spending considerable time. I’m not sure it is time to do that with Big Fun Radio Funtime yet. But I’m concerned that I’ve been doing a lot of work without really reaching anyone. I’m not sure the effort is worth the benefit.
Then again, this last weekend a sold-out Dregs performance was preceded by a show that drew 5 people. I’m doing a lot better than that.
Maybe the answer is not to give up but rather to redefine what I view as a benefit.