Sunday, August 29, 2010

Free Fringe Finale

On Friday I went back to the flat for a quick nap after Human Nature, feeling like a zombie after doing three shows a day all week, and managed to sleep through my alarm. I woke up with a gasp at 8:43pm – can’t remember what I was dreaming about – and realized with a sense of panic that Rapconteur was scheduled to start at 8:45. Now, it is a free fringe show, which means I can abridge it with no “value-for-money” issues, and I’m the last one in my venue, so nobody’s schedule would be thrown off terribly, but it was a horrible feeling to know that a room full of people was waiting to see my show on the other side of town and I was nowhere nearby. This situation very closely resembled another recurrent Fringe nightmare I have, the “can’t-get-to-my-venue-and-the-show-is-late” dream.

First I called a cab, then I started calling everyone I knew who might be at or near the venue, no answer, no answer, no answer, not there, can’t help you, sorry (and good luck). The mobile reception in Cabaret Voltaire is crap, so there was nothing for it. I arrived at 8:57 to find a crowded room waiting patiently for me to start. What happened? I had arranged to meet my brother Erik at 8:20 to set up for the show, and at 8:45 he made an announcement, telling the crowd: “Don’t worry, I just talked to Baba and he’s on his way, so we’ll be starting in a few minutes. Refunds are available for anyone who wants one.” I can’t imagine a more admirable lie, and I even finished the show on time. Capital guy, my brother.

Yesterday was the final Rapconteur show and the venue was rammed. I was sad to see the end of that show, at least at the Cab Vol Speakeasy (an awesome venue), but I am now home from my two-show day, well fed, and after writing this blog I can take an hour nap with no fear of letting anyone down terribly, myself included. Tonight is the Free Fringe wrap party (right after my nap), but I know everyone reading this must be wondering: how did it go? I said at the beginning that the Free Fringe was an experiment, my first time at it anyway, and to quantify it I kept meticulous records. The feel-good answer to “how did it go?” would have something to do with the amazing time I had, the thrill of performing, the smashing reviews (five stars in Three Weeks!), the great venue staff, and the general positive audience response. Hooray! But why beat around the bush? You are all thinking “Yeah, but the show was free, so did you make any money?!?”

This is essentially a question about human altruism, which we are all inherently (and perhaps rightly) skeptical about, not because it doesn’t exist but because it is difficult to predict and therefore difficult to count on. At the same time, our daily social interactions are constantly governed by (conscious and unconscious) attempts to predict the trustworthiness, generosity, and integrity of other people, so any information about what makes us tick is a public benefit. Participating in the Free Fringe took a leap of faith, because like you I wondered beforehand: Is it a sucker’s game? Or is it a beacon in the darkness of cynical, acquisitive human nature? Judge for yourself.

Shows performed: 19
Production overhead: £600 (give or take a few quid)
Total audience donations: £1358
Daily donation average: £71.47
Total CD sales: £640
Daily average gross income: £104.16
Net income: £1398

* The missing data here is the daily average number of punters, which I would estimate at around 40-45, but we didn’t do a daily headcount. It was difficult because the venue is a bar and people were coming and going a lot.

Would I do it again? Hell yes.

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