Poker, Fringe Festivals and Life

One of the themes in Drawn Dead was my confronting the reality that poker is not nearly as fun or do-able when you do it for a living and/or any substantial portion of your livelihood is on the line when you play.

I have had a lot of fun at the Elgin Fringe Festival, not just participating and performing Drawn Dead for great audiences, but also meeting other great artists and learning through many of them even more about performing on the road. Several of the artists have performed their shows at several festivals, and are heading to several more afterward.

The possibility of touring as a practice was on my table in late 2013, after Drawn Dead debuted at Seattle Fringe. But, never minding the “needs improvement” status of my show, I balked mostly for the same reasons I balked at seriously playing poker.

As an occasional endeavor, these festivals are fun. I might make money doing it, I might not, and that doesn’t matter to me nearly as much as enjoying the experience, producing a show others enjoy, and meeting great artists and other people.

But when it becomes a source of your livelihood, suddenly making money becomes paramount. Finishing a festival at a net loss is little more than a bummer as long as it’s not your primary income. Once it is a primary source, a net loss becomes an anxiety-inducing disaster. I didn’t worry or care at all about making money at Elgin Fringe, and that made it so much easier to enjoy it.

I’m not saying full-time festival performers don’t enjoy meeting people, entertaining audiences and performing… but it becomes much more challenging to enjoy the experience when a) the number of people paying matters a lot and b) you do it frequently, which removes the novelty and freshness of the experience.

I have great respect for those who do fringe festivals as part of their living touring their shows, especially when despite it all they hold onto a positive attitude and curiosity for new experiences, for new people, for art and everything else.

I won’t go as far as to slam the door with, “Well, it’s just not for me.” Down the road, it could be something I want to do and get to do. And maybe I don’t do it again. And most likely something in-between. Maybe I just do the festivals around my region. Maybe I go on a tour. Etc etc.

But the threshold at which I’d consider fringe-performing for a living is fairly high. My shows would have to sell very well wherever I go. I’d pretty much have to become the dreaded “brand”. I’d have to add up the projected numbers and expect a surplus suitably high to make a living from. That’s a high threshold, and I’m fine with setting such a high threshold to do it, as well as with the reality that I may not reach that point.

After all, I do it because I enjoy it. And if I won’t enjoy it, then why do it?

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