This week I'm going to the International Performing Arts for Youth Showcase, where I'll do a 10-minute Spotlight Showcase. This is my first time showcasing at IPAY. Showcasing? Doing my absolute best storytelling work in 10 minutes, so the folks watching will say, "Hey, let's hire HER for our festival/school district/arts residency program/library system/performing arts series." This year the showcase is in Cleveland, at Playhouse Square. One of the fun parts of the experience is getting to see what the other artists do. Last year in Philadelphia I saw some wonderful performances. It's also nice to hang out with the other folks after hours.
The other part of this booking conference is the exhibit hall. Fortunately, there is nothing scheduled at the same time as the exhibits, so the presenters (that's the arts world word for the people who hire artists) will come and visit artists and agents in the booths. There are specific rules: all AV equipment must have headphones, no performing in the booths, artists and agents must stay within their booths. The first time I went to one of these, I didn't really understand the rules. Now I'm thankful for them. It would be awful to have a gamut of artists all vying for attention--tuba players, mimes, children's actors, drummers, storytellers all trying to show their work (live) in the same place at the same time. Staying in the booth means that other artists and agents can't poach presenters from your space.
Exhibit booths can be tricky. What to give away? Demo CDs, program lists, brochures, business cards, of course. The first booking conference I went to was Arts Midwest in KC (2004). I spent hours visiting websites that sell conference give-away crap. Did I want to order expandable sponges, pens, sticky-note pads, mugs, kazoos, all emblazoned with my logo? Should I give away candy? Chocolates or hard candies? My search led me to think about buttons (badges). After comparing prices at approximately 549 companies, I decided to buy my own button machine. It would pay for itself in the end, I reasoned.
And it has. I've used buttons with storytelling-related slogans at two Arts Midwest conferences and one IPAY, and in November I made buttons to sell at the Bizarre Bazaar, with other kinds of slogans on them. Here are some of the story buttons:
All my stories start with a seed of truth
Truth is immutable, facts are flexible
And then what happened?
Once upon a time...
Quick, tell another one before that one gets cold!
What's your story, morning glory?
And they lived happily ever after...or did they?
Standing in an exhibit booth for hours can be a little, umm, tedious. Watching people dig through the variety of buttons to find just the right one makes it just a bit more interesting. I've learned that I'm no judge of what people will choose. Sometimes the presenters slow down just enough to wonder what my work is like, as they're selecting the perfect button.
The buttons are ready for this year. Now I'm trying to decide if I'll take candy. Yesterday I had the idea of giving out atomic fireballs (hot cinnamon jawbreakers). Would people like that or would they curse me? How would it be subliminally? I'm reminded of the year we were camping in Canada--1967? 1968? Cold War nuclear fear times, anyway--and my sister offered a fireball to the customs agent at the border.
Back to IPAY. If you're awake at 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Friday, Jan. 12, beam some good thoughts in the direction of Cleveland.