Everything Is Already Something: Non-Profit Arts Organizations On Giving Tuesday In 10 Feels

Allison Page, giving back on Wednesday.

Yesterday was Giving Tuesday and every non-profit you’ve heard of and haven’t heard of was out there hustlin’. Here’s the experience of working at a non-profit arts organization on Giving Tuesday in 10 feels.

Feel 1: How are my marking materials? HOW ARE EVERYONE ELSE’S MARKETING MATERIALS? Is this other place doing it better than me?! *Cut to obsessively scrolling through everybody else’s posts to see their strategies*

Feel 2: Posting your first ask of the day, realizing a link didn’t work and frantically fixing it, hoping you didn’t lose any possible donors in that 5 minutes.

Feel 3: Other artists you work with start spreading the word and saying nice things about the company. TEARS. TEARS.

Halfway through the day, you start losing your mind and taking selfies with lifejackets and plastic fish, or at least that's what Allison did.

Halfway through the day, you start losing your mind and taking selfies with lifejackets and plastic fish, or at least that’s what Allison did.

Feel 4: DID WE MAKE ANY MONEY YET, DID WE MAKE ANY MONEY YET, DID WE MAKE ANY MONEY YET

Feel 5: Texting the only person who can see the numbers every five minutes asking for an update and shouting “COME ON!” at your phone if they don’t respond in the first 30 seconds.

Feel 6: Looking at all the other posts from non-profits and agreeing that they are very worthy of donations as well.

Feel 7: Retweet, retweet, retweet, like, comment, share, retweet, retweet, answer questions, like, share, comment retweet, post.

Feel 8: How much longer can I do this before I have to get some food? I hope I don’t pass out from using the internet for too long. That would be embarrassing…but maybe we’d get more donations.

Feel 9: People outside the company start saying nice things and telling you they donated. TEARS. TEARS. TEARS.

Feel 10: It’s over. You can’t believe you made it through the day. Emotional rollercoaster. And then you remember why you were doing this in the first place, and it’s because you love what you do, where you work, and the people you work with. To work in a non-profit you have to believe in what you’re doing. The mission is important. And when you get a bunch of people together who agree to believe in something, it’s a really powerful thing. It’s so satisfying and joy-giving. Everyone’s out there fighting for their particular interests, and somehow raise funds even when we’re all doing it at the same time. Pretty amazing, really.

I’m exhausted. This was my first Giving Tuesday and I want to sleep for a week. But I can’t. Because I’m the Artistic Director of a non-profit performance company and we have a show in 10 days. BACK TO IT.

*exit pursuing an espresso*

Allison Page is a writer/actor/artistic director at Killing My Lobster, who managed to drum up $9,644 yesterday in their Giving Tuesday efforts.

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The Five- It’s TERROR-RAMA TIME

Anthony R. Miller checks in with some shameless self-promotion.

Hey you guys, so this Monday, the Horror-Theatre Double-Feature returns with the first public reading of TERROR-RAMA 2: PROM NIGHT. It’s a fund raiser, it’s a developmental reading, it’s a party. I have a million reasons I want you to be there, but I’ll whittle it down to five.

Join us on the Journey

This “Grand Unveiling” of sorts is just the beginning. TR2 will get a full production in October 2016 at the lovely new PianoFight. This reading begins our year-long effort to produce the show. Just like last time we will give you a crapload of behind-the-scenes access like photos, videos and the backstage journal known as the TERROR-RAMA DIARIES. Follow us as we fundraise, design, plan and stage this crazy, crazy show.

New Plays

I feel like we’ve really upped our game here. We’ve got two brand new plays that we’ve developing over the last 10 months and now it’s time to show you what we got. The first is “Purity” by Claire Rice, it’s a creeptastic look into the world of Purity Balls, religion and fear. The second is “Sexy Vampire Academy” by me, it’s about a coven of vampires who live the year 1996 over and over. Think “Lost Boys” meets “Jawbreaker”. Oh and it’s pretty funny, I think.

An Awesome Cast

We totally lucked out on this cast, we love them. You should come see them be great. It’s not every day you get to see fellow t-pub blogger Ashley Cowan-Leschber play a teenage nineties Vampire.

#dontmakeuscrowdsource

We’re trying something a little different for fundraising. Not crowdsourcing, not officially, not with kickstarter or indie go-go. We plan to have a “My Bloody Valentine” fundraiser in February, we have outside investors and there will be a way to donate on line, but we’re trying to do it the old fashioned way. We’re trying to grow , but in a smart way, the venue is larger, the cast is (slightly) larger and god willing the payroll is larger. So if you like the idea of one less Kickstarter campaign in the world,and giving actors and designers raises, come to the reading, make a donation in person like people did back in 90’s.

It’ll be fun Dammit

PianoFight is already a great place to see a show, awesome bar, good food and a great atmosphere. We couldn’t be happier to be partnering with them for the reading and the actual run in October 2016. Our stalwart Director Colin Johnson is back. Horror-Host Sindie Chopper is back to run the show and dammit, these plays are awesome. We’ve really gotten to focus on the development of these plays over the last ten months and it’s crazy to think how ahead of the game we are compared to the last production. So there it is, two world-premiere Horror-Plays, a great venue, the best host, an awesome cast and the promise of a very fun time. October is chock full of awesome, spooky theatre, so kick off your spooky theatre season with us! I hope you can all make it; we need your help to make this happen. Instead of giving us $10 online for a credit in the program, give us $10 in person and we’ll entertain the crap out of you.

SEE YOU AT THE FIRGHTFEST

TERROR-RAMA 2: PROM NIGHT

Reading/Fundraiser

Monday October 12, 8PM

Pianofight 144 Taylor St. SF

$10 suggested donation at the door

WATCH THIS VIDEO!

Anthony R. Miller is a writer and producer, keep up with all things TERROR-RAMA at www.awesometheatre.org. You can also learn more about his play “Christian Teen Dolphin-Sex Beach Party” at www.sfolympians.com

Everything Is Already Something Week 36: The Day The Theatre Died

Allison Page gets serious for a moment. Not really.

It’s hard out there for an artist. It’s even harder out there for a company of artists. If you were a theater company, and standing in a room with a bunch of other theater companies, I would get up on a collapsible stage and say, “Everyone look to your left. Now everyone look to your right. Some of these people will not survive the next few years.” and everyone would either go “Oooooo.” or “Uh oh” or roll their eyes, or laugh awkwardly, knowing it’s true. The theater community has been shaken up even more than usual lately. Intersection For The Arts, San Jose Rep…there are more fatalities and you’ve seen and read about them, I’m not going to go on about who they are, the point is – we’re dropping like fucking flies over here. And I really hate saying this, but the more I think about it, the less surprised I am.

Remember Vaudeville? No? Oh, that’s because it’s been gone since the early 1930s. People didn’t want to consume their entertainment the same way they had been, and with movies easily accessible everywhere, Vaudeville fell out of the interest of the public.

The ONLY Theatre In Los Angeles!

The ONLY Theatre In Los Angeles!

In a twist of fate, movies took the same blow they had dealt to Vaudeville when television came into play. People could be entertained in their own homes for free, and movies became a less frequent event in the lives of many. With the improvements made to all-things-internet, many people now don’t even bother with traditional television and watch things directly from their computers, tablets, phones, or have the images grafted directly to their eyeballs for all of eternity, or however the hell a google glass works.

I love theater, and I don’t think it’s dead, but I do think it has moved back into its parents’ basement much to the chagrin of the entire family. I feel frustrated that it can almost never sustain itself without resorting to asking for lunch money which it then uses to buy case after case of Miller High Life.

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I hate that even the most successful theater in the area, a theater with lots and lots of seats, shows and actors imported from New York and wherever else, still has to fundraise huge amounts of money (recently $100,000…a number I can’t even think about) to make things happen. But I guess that’s something that brings up a discussion about whether or not theater is both an art form AND a business (regardless of non-profit-ness). A business which requires yearly (or more frequently than that) gigantic gobs of money in the form of donations, doesn’t sound like a particularly well-run business to me. And I hate the thought of always scrambling, wondering if you’ll be open the next season, and knowing that if you don’t raise X amount of money with your elaborate Kickstarter campaign of relatively meaningless perks and rewards, that things could get very sticky for you and yours.

Maybe that sounds harsh, I don’t know. I feel frustrated with the state of things lately. I hate begging for money. More than that, I hate needing to do it. I hate that this thing that can bring a little happiness and magic to a bunch of lives all at once, doesn’t seem valuable enough to pay for itself. Obviously costs in the bay area aren’t helping anything. When I started a theater company in Minnesota, I did get a grant. A one time grant which was, I believe, around $1,000. I used it to buy a lot of basic things which we used to build a stage, build a set which could be moved around to create a different set, and generally to get things going. That’s the only grant I ever applied for. After that, I used the money earned from each show to put up the next one (supplemented by some of my own cash, for which I would try to reimburse myself later). I did that for five years. A theater company existing for five years having received only one grant? That’s pretty fucking great. But that would be really hard to make happen here. The cost of just renting the space in which to perform for a few days is more than the entirety of the grant I received in 2003.

Perform in our great new Abandoned Asylum - er - Brand New Theater Space for only $7,200 a week! WHAT A STEAL!...Extra $2,000 if you need someone to operate the light board. And you definitely need someone to operate the light board because it's made out of bones.

Perform in our great new Abandoned Asylum – er – Brand New Theater Space for only $7,200 a week! WHAT A STEAL!…Extra $2,000 if you need someone to operate the light board. And you definitely need someone to operate the light board because it’s made out of bones.

When Kickstarter became a thing, artists went bananas. Finally, a great way to crowdsource funds to make your dream happen. It was a revelation. Initially I think it felt like an amazing way to make someone’s biggest, most long-awaited aspiration come to life…and now it’s everyone’s biggest aspiration THIS MONTH. So instead of feeling like we’re supporting a one-time artistic dream project, it feels like everyone wants us all to pay for every single thing that they do. It’s overwhelming. I should mention that I contribute to Kickstarter and IndieGoGo campaigns all the time. When I see a project I like, or when a frequent collaborator or friend is working on something, I donate to it. But I’m definitely starting to feel like it’s going to be too much at some point. Particularly when the numbers start ticking up and up and up. I miss the scrappy days of yore. Scrappiness is a trait I really admire in others, and something I try to exercise in my own life. The pilot episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, shot by the guys who thought it up, was made for a famously small amount of money. Depending on who you ask, it was somewhere between $85 and $200. Meanwhile, I know a guy who just tried to crowdsource $60,000 for his independent film. I’m not suggesting he should make it for $200, but I am suggesting that $60,000 might be too much to as your friends to pay for. And as it turns out, I’m right. Because his campaign was unsuccessful and his donations added up to only $5,000 and because it was done on Kickstarter, I’m assuming that means he got a whopping $0. And this was a campaign which included some moderately fancy names.

I don’t know. This feels like a time of change and uncertainty in the performing arts. I’m not sure what the next chapter holds for us. I will continue to support the projects I care about (for example, the SF Olympians Festival, which supports the work of over 100 artists every year: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/san-francisco-olympians-festival-v-monsters-ball ) but I wonder what funding for theatrical projects will look like in even two years. When will people start to feel maxed out? Is there a better way to do this? Are we making things too big, too complicated, too expensive for their own good? For their own sustainability?

I don’t have the answers, but I am working on them in relation to my own projects in the next year. I’m spending lots of time and energy trying to find a way to not spend every available dime, and to be a nimble creator of nimble things. Because, at the end of the day, I don’t have any other choice. Money doesn’t grow on fake trees even if you spend $10,000 to build them.

Allison Page is an actor/writer/director, and Co-Creative Director of Killing My Lobster. You can find her on Twitter @allisonlynnpage. 

Higher Education: Show Me The Money, Part One

Barbara Jwanouskous’ first column of 2014 is asking some tough but vital questions. 

This is the last week before the second (and last, for me) semester of the dramatic writing program at CMU. Over the course of the holiday, I’ve gotten to link up with various people and re-connect with the Bay Area theater scene. One thing that I’ve been keeping my eye on is the A.C.T. Indiegogo for their project to research women’s leadership in residential theaters, and I hope others are keeping their eye on this too.

The idea for the project is that women’s leadership came from the statistics that point that women have never held more than 27% of the leadership positions in American nonprofit theater. A.C.T. seeks to discover why there are so few women in leadership positions and what can be done to achieve greater diversity in theater leadership. They plan to make a study with the Wellesley Centers for Women and conduct forums alongside HowlRound.

There are a couple interesting facets about the project I’d like to point out and then I’d like to start asking some questions. Let me get it straight that I’m neither in vehement support for or against this project, but I do find some things vague and I would like to open them up a bit more (if nothing else, so I can wrap my head around them…). That being said, this topic will probably get a lot of love from me, so this, my friends, is Part One!

Tom Cruise's standard money-getting turtleneck.

Tom Cruise’s standard money-getting turtleneck.

Though they used a crowdfunding platform to raise funds for the project, there was already been support from a variety of players.

A little background for those unfamiliar: Kickstarter and Indiegogo are known for their ability to raise funds and visibility for various projects using a social media to encourage funding. Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing platform where the goal for funding is established by the project creator whereas Indiegogo projects receive all the funds raised regardless of whether the goal is met. Those interested in supporting the project receive specific incentives for “investing” at certain levels with both services.

Both on the indiegogo project and on the page on their website, A.C.T. indicates that they are receiving a matching grant from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. This means that whatever they raise from other donors for this project will be matched by the Toulmin Foundation (it does not indicate on their pages whether there is a cap on the matching level). They are also partnering with the Wellesley Centers for Women for the research (though they do not indicate whether partnership with the WCW is an in-kind service, or if they will use money raised to pay for Center services).

As of December 31, 2013, the indigogo project raised $6,805 for the project via indiegogo. A portion of that will have to go to indiegogo for administrative hosting fees, but the rest will be matched by the Toulmin Foundation, bringing the total for this research project to more than $13,000 – nothing to sneeze at if you’re a theater producer or arts organization.

They could be reaching out to their donors in a variety of ways other than through indigogo and their webpage.

I would be surprised if A.C.T. hadn’t targeted particular current major gift donors that were interested in women’s leadership within theaters. It would be easy to find this out since most foundations and donors indicate during the cultivation process what their priorities and interests are in funding nonprofits. A.C.T. has a link on their webpage encouraging folks to donate to the leadership project directly (not through indiegogo).

One of the main ways we used to encourage individual support for a matching gift from a major donor when I previously worked in fundraising at Second Harvest Food Bank, was to use our direct mail campaigns as a venue for this solicitation. The direct mail stats year over year indicated about how much revenue we would receive given on past history. I remember once we started using more challenge or matching grants (which, let me just say, are one of my favorite ways to raise support) we received even more favorable responses than in years prior.

That means, that instead of a total project budget of $13,000, they have possibly raised even more than that from other donors for this research.

So, one of my questions is, why would A.C.T. use indiegogo as a way to generate support for this project when they could have found it using their own donor base?

There are a variety of reasons why an organization would choose to do this – perhaps to receive greater widespread visibility for this project or perhaps it helped with the matching grant accounting to show which funds came in for the support of the research. I’d like to hear thoughts from you! Let’s keep this discussion rolling before I move on to the second part of this series.

Cowan Palace: PianoFight Resolves to Open the Damn Venue

Things are changing in the San Francisco Theater scene and PianoFight needs your help! Ashley Cowan profiles the ambitious folks behind this ambitious attempt to open a new space in the ever-emerging downtown theater scene!

Happy 2014! If you resolved to see more theater this year or become a more active participant in the community, I may have a suggestion. The fellas at PianoFight (Rob Ready, Dan Williams, and Kevin Fink) have made the ultimate resolution: to open a landmark entertainment venue complete with two theaters, a full restaurant and bar with a cabaret stage, rehearsal and office spaces, and even a film studio. It’s going to be huge. It’s going to be epic. It’s PianoFight.

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In the midst of their fundraising, I had the chance to ask the guys a few questions this week and learn a bit more about the project.

To those who are unfamiliar with PianoFight, can you give us a brief introduction?

Sure! PianoFight is a San Francisco based production company. We produce theater, manage / build venues, play music and cut records, film corporate and other creative videos, produce comedy and interactive shows, stage dance, run a website and do other generally creative things. It’s fun and we make it a priority to have fun, and we’re committed to producing new work by new artists.

Super fun! Can you tell us a little bit more about your new space and what you’re currently working on?

The new space is at 144 Taylor Street, in the Tenderloin. It’s a 50-seat theater, a 90-seat theater, rehearsal spaces, office spaces, a film production studio and a full restaurant and bar with a cabaret stage. We’ll have a multi-camera setup in the larger theater so we can live-stream and record shows, and we’ll rent out the space and offer classes so anyone and everyone can get in on the action. Find out more right HERE.

This is a massive undertaking. What’s been the biggest surprise in leading a fundraising campaign of this size?

Hands down, the broad-based and energetic support for the project. We knew we’d need a ton of backers to reach our goal, and were excited to see our immediate community step up and financially support this vision. But it’s really cool to see interest from all kinds of folks excited to be a part of something like this happening in San Francisco. And then there’s the random/awesome people that come out of the woodwork – someone with whom you went to elementary school but haven’t spoken to in years dropping $50 on the campaign. That’s freakin’ awesome.

What can we, the awesome Theater Pub community, do to help?

Well, the most straightforward way is to back the project and recruit other like-minded folks to back the project. Talk it up, post in on FB, Tweet about it and email your peeps – getting the word out in general is a HUGE help. If you know anybody who works at cool blogs that would be into this, please email Rob at rob@pianofight.com. Beyond that, just keep making dope art so we’ve got tons of cool projects and artists to fill up the stages.

What project and/or dope art are you most excited to work on in the new place?

Can’t wait to reboot our audience-judged playwriting competition, ShortLived. This has always been a fun, big project for us because it involves the indy theater community in a really interesting and unique way. We’ve taken time to rework the rules and format to make it’s more of a theater competition with different teams staging short plays. It’s still audience judged, but this time we’re upping the production value and adding cash prizes for the winners. When we launch it, we’re gonna go big, and whoever wins is going to have to run the gauntlet and prove themselves real theater rockstars.

I can’t wait. Personally speaking, writing for ShortLived has been one of my favorite Bay Area involvements. But in the meantime, how do you get through some of the more challenging aspects of this process?

Beer. Lot’s of it. Also, it helps that the three of us have been friends for so long – we’ve all been friends since grade school. Sometimes that’s rough, because we’re comfortable with each other to the point that we can say whatever the hell is on our minds. This can be, sometimes, not the nicest most sensitive thing in the universe. But really, knowing what we’ve been through over the years, and that we’ve had each other’s backs through all of that, there is nothing more reassuring than knowing your two best friends are in the trenches right beside you.

If PianoFight could be made into a drink, what beverage would it be?

Cutty Sark on the rocks. Or in two drinks – one shot, and one shitty beer.

What was your favorite theatrical experience of 2013?

Final run of Theater Pub at Cafe Royale. It was emotional and fun, and those kind of events mark phases of our lives and the life of the art-making community in the Bay. It was a very cool experience.

What’s the best part of being involved in the Bay Area theater community? And what’s the hardest?

Best part: the Bay Area is bursting with talent that tends to have a singular edge or rawness. Bay Area artists are highly motivated to take risks and be innovative, producing some extremely exciting work.

The hardest part is the lack of platforms / distribution channels / megaphones to propel that art and those artists into greater markets, so that Bay Area art can be better represented on the national and International stage. Thus, this venue.

Bang, kill, or marry: Shakespeare, Chekov, or Arthur Miller :

They’re all already dead so killing would be redundant, and banging or marrying would be illegal. How bout this – we promise not to produce any of them.

Any interesting, personal resolutions you guys have made for 2014?

OPEN THE DAMN VENUE!

What can we expect next from PianoFight?

In January, Mission CTRL will premiere an all new show at SketchFest, and Chardonnay (formerly ForePlays) will also play a show with SketchFest. And then in February, Chardonnay will premiere an all new show at EXIT Theater. Then after that, WE’RE OPENING THAT DAMN VENUE!

Back us on Kickstarter.
Like us on Facebook.
Follow us on Twitter.
Check out our website.

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A big thanks to PianoFight for taking a moment to chat about this exciting project. They have 9 days to raise the money and make this resolution come true. So spread the word, sing it from the rooftops, hire a carrier pigeon, or do whatever you can do because this is something worth (Piano)Fight(ing) for. (Did you guys see what I did there?) As always, I wish you all well and look forward to another glorious year of Bay Area Theater!