This post is part of a series I’m writing to celebrate my 42nd birthday called 41 Years in 30 Days. If you find yourself stuck in an emergency room waiting room with only Highlights Magazine issues from 1988, click here to read the archives (and bonus if you know what Highlights Magazine IS).
It was everything I could do to not write this post last night, but I was completely exhausted. I have a show running three nights a week right now and after the Vomit-O-Rama I had on Wednesday, the show last night was a lot to get through. And on top of it, we had a small audience.
And small audiences are tough. For all of the speakers and workshop presenters out there, you know. It’s pretty fuckin’ hard to get psyched to do your thang when you hear that you’ve got a small audience going on.
And stage managers are pretty reluctant to tell a cast when there’s shrinkage going on in the audience department because they don’t want you to phone it it or to bring you down. So we hear small but mighty from the lips of our director as he says the pre-show announcement and we get to it.
Today’s Hard Truth is about size and how it doesn’t matter.
And sue me for using a line that might lead someone to think that they’re getting a peek into my sex life. NIX. But I did post this super hot picture of me in 1987 on Facebook yesterday:
You’re welcome. Anywhoo.
From the day of our first school assembly as kids, we look out into a sea of seats filled with anxious parents and teachers. Pleaaaaase don’t let my kid fuck this up. Pleaaaaaaaaase just let him get off stage without peeing his pants or picking his nose. Aaaaaaaan there she goes, picking her nose.
We fill the seats. We’re told that a large audience is preferred, and from a pure revenue angle, who can argue? After all — the more people who know aboutcha and see ya in action, the more folks who can share you with more folks who might like ya and then there are more folks to spend money witcha.
BAM business growth in a nutshell, using aboutcha and witchya.
But one of the hardest truths I’ve learned is that you can’t think about your audience as if they were asses in seats in some grand auditorium.
It’s much smarter to think of them as fish in a fish bowl.
And not just because I like sushi and I would never eat my audience and I don’t like where this is going so I’m just going to close out this metaphor.
Fish. When your parents got you that one stupid Beta fish. Y’know, the one you’d everntually rename Dead? That one. The day the fish came home, the water in the bowl was clear. And that bowl? It was a motherfucker to clean because you had to scoop the fish out into one of your mom’s good mixing bowls, do a very UNkid-like thing and CLEAN the bowl, and then fill the bowl back up and put the fish back in.
And that’s the difference between thinking about your audience as asses in seats in some grand auditorium and fish in a fish bowl.
You have to take care of the fish. The asses will come and go (and usually leave all sorts of shit all over the floor for someone who busts his ass for a living to clean up which pisses me off because where else in the world is it just socially acceptable to dump your trash on the floor and leave it for someone else to pick up?).
You have to take care of your fish. Your audience.
And that’s why size doesn’t matter. Because taking care of fish and cleaning a fish bowl stays the same — making sure you deliver the same standard of food and care no matter how many fish are in the bowl. You can’t slack off because ARGH I just caaaaaan’t.
You can’t outsource it because it’s your job to know your audience.
And you can’t phone your brand in when you find that you’re audience is small.
Because that small audience — they showed up for you.
Which is why we had a super fun show last night for our three little old ladies sitting in the very front row. Three little old ladies.
That’s all we had. Three.
And that’s all we needed.
Because sweey baby Jesus — the cackling! They laughed at the craziest things and spent an hour and half in sheer delight as we wove in and out of scene after scene. There were points where it was all we could do to not bust out laughing backstage as we heard one of them rip a laugh out that was especially hysterical.
And in our adorable little theatre that holds 40, we had all the audience we needed — three little old ladies who took themselves out for a show.
So — size? Pshaw. It doesn’t matter. I care about whether the people who showed up are having a good time. Because if they are, I am.
And it’s pretty hard for anyone to have a good time if you’re not having a good time.
So here’s to our three little old ladies for brightening our show last night and for reminding me why I do what I do.
It’s all…for you.