Blog 1 – Programmer Pitch

For this post, I thought I’d try a trial pitch to a programmer. The advice from Claire Symonds at the Lowry informed us that there is not hard and fast rule for pitching to programmer, although we were given examples of ‘best practice’. This post would likely be the covering letter to a ‘tour pack’ which would be sent to potential programmers. I’ve annotated this letter in red, to explain my reasoning – these annotations would not be included in the actual covering letter.

Dear James, (whilst a tour pack can be generic, the covering letter should be personalised to the venue. Claire at Lowry said it was crucial to address the programmer by name.)

Please find attached the tour pack for my latest work SUBSCRIBE. Which I think would make a great addition to Spring 2019 programme at Camden People’s Theatre. (The tour pack would likely include photos, press reviews, technical specifications as well as links to videos of the show.)

My name is Josh Cannon, and I’m one third of Popbox Theatre, we performed Love Letters to Asia at CPT last summer (I have a slight advantage as I’ve performed at this venue before. Hopefully they’ll remember me, but given the volume of work they see, it’s possible they may have forgotten. I just wanted to reaffirm that relationship, and remind them that they have seen and programmed my work previously). SUBSCRIBE marks my first piece of solo work, a contemporary, devised piece which explores vlogging in the live theatre space (Claire said it was good to start with a one sentence summary of the show, it allows programmers to read and understand quickly):

SUBSCRIBE: A show about YouTube and my very arrogant alter-ego, a self-confessed ‘famous’ vlogger. Join him as he talks to you about what it’s like to be vlogger, he may even show you examples of his work, but be careful, as with anything on YouTube not everything is as it seems.

SUBSCRIBE  lets us see the live side of vlogging. Taking the person we usually see through a screen and putting them right there in front of us.  This experimental performance explores vlogging and gives us chance to question whether we should actually believe everything we see. Expect screens, videos and larger-than-life personalities as SUBSCRIBE explores one of the world’s newest and most popular media forms.
(Although it sounds simple, I had to include a brief summary/ copy for the piece, programmers want know whether the work would be appropriate for their venue, so they need to know as much about it, in as little time, as possible)

 

CPT has great reputation for supporting emerging artists particularly in the contemporary sphere, I admire your varied programme and it would be a pleasure to perform at the venue again. This work is in part inspired by Louise Orwin’s Pretty/Ugly which premiered at CPT back in 2013. Given the success of Orwin’s piece, I’d really like to share my work with the CPT audience. (These are two of the main reasons I’ve chosen this venue. They support artists in the early stage of their careers, just like myself. They have also programmed similar work, including Orwin’s piece, which has been a big inspiration on my work)


Since Pretty/Ugly , there haven’t been many examples of theatremakers exploring YouTube in this depth. This makes SUBSCRIBE a pretty unusual piece, which engages with an extremely popular media form. London was graced with a state of the art ‘YouTube’ space back in 2016, marking it on the map as one the world’s biggest youtube cities. There’s a real potential to get some new audiences into the theatre here, as you’ll be able to see in my audience development strategy. (I wanted to let the programmer know what made this show unique. I also wanted to illustrate that alongside the existing audience, I have a strategy for bringing new audiences into the show. Ultimately, theatres and programmers need to sell tickets, so it’s good to show that you have a plan to address this)

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions. Thanks for reading, and look forward to hearing from you soon

Best

Josh Cannon
Theatre Maker

(Overall the covering letter may seem short, but programmers get sent hundreds of email. Claire’s advice was keep it short, and succinct)

 

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Blog 2 – Audience Development (People)

PEOPLE

What audiences will this work naturally reach?


From my last visit to Camden People’s theatre it was clear that they have a dedicated and regular audience of theatre-goers. This comes as no surprise, given the theatre’s location in the capital. According to the Audience Agency there is a high concentration of ‘metro-culturals’ in the area. This demographic are often engaged with the arts, are often educated to degree level, and have enough disposable income to buy theatre tickets. Given my own network in the area, it should be easy to target this group of people.

 

 

Who do you want it to reach?

It would like to target people who do no often come to the theatre, but do watch YouTube. This is a difficult demographic to target. YouTube has an extremely wide reach, and while I don’t want to disregard the older population, it seems the groups who spend the most time on YouTube are aged between 18-34 (Digiday, 2015). Given the content of my piece (A Student vlogger) it’s likely that these ages will relate more to the material.

 

Are you working with any partners/funders – if so, who might they want

or need the work to reach & who might they be able to help you reach?
Currently the only partner for the work is The University of Salford. Having not discussed the touring of this piece with them, I am unsure of their involvement. After a review of the university strategy, the key priority for the university is to establish and utilise ‘Industry Collaboration Zones’. I’m hoping if the work gets programmed at CPT (a professional theatre), the university will support this engagement with industry, and help to promote the show via their own social media. Another key strategy for the university is to expand student recruitment, meaning the university may want me to target prospective students. This could be achieved by approaching local colleges and perhaps offering post show discussion about studying at Salford.

 

What pre-engagement activity might help you reach your target

audiences?
Alongside contacting potential education institutes (with some help from the University of Salford), I will be contacting YouTube Space in London. YouTube space schedule events and offer classes and facilities for YouTube creators. YouTubers are increasingly looking to perform live, and many of the popular creators are already embarking on national tours. I plan to offer a workshop/seminar talking about the project and my own experience of major differences between live and recorded performance.

Alongside this workshop, I will be promoting the event via social media. I plan to create a short vlog video (in character) to promote the show and generate interest. I’ll then be using facebook to target this video around the North/Central London area. Facebook targeted advertising can be as expensive or inexpensive as required. Generally the more money given to Facebook, the more they will promote your advert – funds will need to be raised for this to be an effective activity.

Blog – 3 Documentation/Louise Orwin

For this post I’d like to look at the documentation of Louise Orwin’s Pretty/Ugly. Interestingly, I have only been able to view this show via the documentation which is available. The first thing I came across when looking for information on the show was this trailer:

 

The trailers gives a good a sense of what the themes and content of the show may be and the intertiles provide us plenty of context. They directly inform us that this is a show about teenage girls who ask the internet to rate their appearance. The artist is shown speaking lines, and dancing in various outfits. This direct approach may seem simple, but is really useful. It’s gives us a sense of the form, content and themes of the work. It’s something I plan to adopt myself to promote (and document my own work). I’m not always a fan of trailers in theatre, but it seems appropriate for Orwin (and maybe even myself) to make a trailer in the very medium which our projects explore and critique (YouTube videos).

Most of the (public facing) documentation for the show is kept online at a wordpress site: https://prettyorugly.wordpress.com/

Again, documenting online seems appropriate as the show addresses issues and themes which are a direct result of internet culture. The main focus of the site is concerned with the motivations/ influences for making the piece. These motivations informed the practice, the research and a number of engagement activities that resulted as part of Pretty/Ugly.

Photos and videos of the rehearsal process are not included on the site. This may be a decision from the artist. Personally, I aim to include videos, photos and even draft scripts as I feel it provides insight into the decisions which formed my work. Here, Orwin has provided us here initial research and experiment: posing as teenagers on YouTube, and asking the public to rate her appearance. The results of this experiment were alarming, and it was clear that teenagers were putting themselves in potential danger. Orwin then took it upon herself to inform educate people on these dangers, in the form of her live show and the accompanying workshops on cyberbullying for teenage women.

It seems unusual to document a project without photos and videos, however this is not necessarily a bad thing. By leaving these out, Orwin has managed to keep her documentation focused on her objectives – to educate us on the potential dangers to young people. Indeed, Orwin has included in her documentation a number of resources to help those who may be affected by the project’s issues. In his book on documentation, Reason (2006) discusses the need for ‘pragmatic’ documentation – information about the length of the show, pictures of what it looked like, running times, venues performed etc. And while some of this information appears in Orwin’s wordpress, the aim of this documentation seems much greater. Orwin has managed to capture the principles of her project. As Reason (2006) states, this sort of documentation is just as important as pragmatic information, as it ‘becomes not merely the accident of documentary limitations, nor only the methodology, but the ideology’ (p.60).
Managing to document an ‘ideology’ or even just a fragment of an ideology is no easy task. Going forward I aim to communicate some of my project ideologies in my own documentation (alongside the pragmatic information), and thanks to Orwin, I’ll be using my own initial research, and experiments to communicate this. I’ve realised just how important these can be, and that documentation is much more powerful than just capturing the process of making.

 

Blog 4 – Liz Lerman

Perhaps one of the most useful tools I’ve been introduced to on this course in Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process. It’s been a big part of shaping SUBSCRIBE. I could spend time describing the method, but Liz Lerman does a better job, so feel free to read about it here.

To briefly summarise the artist shows some work (usually work-in-progress). The audience are asked to give some statements of ‘meaning’, then the artist asks some specific questions. The audience then have a turn to ask questions (although they should be neutral, as not too express an opinion). Finally the audience are allowed to express an opinion, but only if the artist allows. The whole process is chaired by a facilitator, who keeps things neutral, keeps everyone and on task, and tries to fill in those awkward silences.

 

It sounds like quite a formal process, and in all honesty, the first time I tried it, everything felt very tense and unnatural. However, after trying it a couple of times I really warmed to the process. While all the rules and ‘process’ appear to hinder creative expression and can feel a little limiting, the opposite is actually true. The formalised process enabled me to really focus on specific aspects of my performance which I needed help with. It was also great because everyone else in the room was a maker/artist – I felt like even though I was struggling, everyone else had been there before. The advice I got was really useful.

After a few practices, we has 2 sessions where we employed Lerman’s process. I’ll only speak about the first session for now, but the second session will get a mention in my process documentation. I showed a 5 minute scratch in this first session – I played a vlog I had made earlier in the week, and deconstructed it live (basically I critiqued it, and expanding on what I was doing). I was struggling between my digital self, and my physical self, and my first question really helped address this, I asked the audience: ‘Should I perform the blog material live, and pre-record the critique?  I got a resounding sea of “No” from everyone who raised their hand. People said it was much clearer to see what I was doing this way round, and to swap it may add confusion.

As clear as my work felt in my own head, it was obvious that the audience were still struggling. When it came to their questions, most people asked something along the lines of ‘What is the relationship between the physical you, and the digital you?’ As I was unable to answer this question, I knew I had to firm up the idea, and make it clearer. From this point on, I kept to this format: my digital self would always perform, and my physical self who expand/critique on the video. I hope the evidence of this can been seen in my final work.

 

Finally, the Lerman method was great as it gave quite a lot of control to the artist. At this point in my process I hadn’t thought about costume, lighting/sound design or even what videos I was actually going to use. The Lerman process allowed me to (politely) decline people’s opinions on such things, I knew I had reshoot videos, and think about scenography and design, and I was happy that we didn’t get carried away (as artists often do) focusing on these points, as it would not have been useful for me at that time.

Blog 5 – Creative Producer/ Touring

WHERE DOES THE WORK GO?

A few weeks ago we has a session with Leo Burtin, who gave us a great insight into the role of a creative producer. After Leo’s session, we each had a 15 minute surgery with him – his questions to us: ‘How can I help?’ ‘What can a creative producer do for you?’

I wasted no time asking Leo how to tour work. I have a few pieces of work that I would like to share with audiences, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to find venues that will programme the work. Leo’s advice was clear, he said that you need to look at other companies/ artists at a similar level to me. See where they have perform and approach the same venues. He also advised to only approach appropriate venues i.e. my work isn’t going to fit into a venue who programme musical theatre etc.

So I started looking into a few venues, venues that programme work similar to what I’m making. Venues that may programme devised, contemporary, experimental work. This is by no means exhaustive, but I’ve tried to go for lesser known venues as I found this a bit more useful. Organised by region, because why not? (when booking a tour, location becomes really important) I’ve linked to venues where appropriate:.

LONDON:

Camden People’s Theatre: Small theatre, but very supportive. Their programme is varied, but with a focus on the contemporary and emerging (whatever that means). Small theatres are easier to fill, they let you have a technician, and have some very lovely box office splits (They gave us an 80:20 split as we were only just starting last time I performed their). You need your own insurance, but it’s a good place to invite reviewers and press to.

New Diorama: An 80 seat theatre in the city, more varied than CPT, as they include writing, but still a focus on ’emerging forms’. Lots of artist support including grants for Edinburgh, residencies. This just makes it easier to approach the venue, instead of pitching a show from scratch, I can apply to one of their festivals/residencies.

Leeds:

Live Art Bistro: This place is perfect for Live Art, and contemporary devised work. Not only can you pitch to be programmed here, they offer some great scratch nights/ WIP opportunities, where they will help facilitate feedback. There are some worries about funding, but hopefully the place can sustain for longer.

Slung Low/ The Hub: Again a focus on contemporary and devised work The Hub offers some great opportunities to share work. Again, you can pitch for a programme, or go to their scratch nights. There is a really loyal audience here, so it’s a good place to share work with established theatre goers (great for feedback). All shows at the HUB are pay what you decide, it makes the booking negotiations a lot easier.

Manchester:

Partisan Collective: Incredible space, with a real DIY/grungey vibe, owing to its basement location. Only been open since July, but already proving very popular. Partisan are a co-operative, so similar to the hub, negotiations may go a bit differently to other venues. Most performances are ticketed, or pay what you decide. Partisan is not just a performance venue, I’ve seen music, installations, and experimental theatre here so it’s a perfect spot for collaborations. Due to it’s multi purpose use, there may be some drawbacks when it comes to technical support (there isn’t much of a lighting rig).

 

Process Documentation

Motivations

It all started with Jake Paul. I heard about him on the news, and had no idea who he was. I went to research, and what I found was an arrogant, loud, childish young man who was allegedly a self-made millionaire thanks to YouTube. As annoying as he is, there was something intriguing about it. Why was he so popular? (His most popular video, see below, has 195 Million views).

 


After searching through his videos, and others like him, I noticed a few things that I wanted to explore in live performance. Firstly, the presence of advertising, and secondly the use of persona. Andy Lavender (2016) has written briefly about persona and YouTube videos – I wanted to continue this investigation. There were plenty more things I wanted to explore, but given the timescale, I focused on just these two.

 

Starting the show

I wanted to showcase a selection of the personas I found, and I was also struggling for a way to start the piece. I decided that I’ll leave it to the professionals. I selected a number of vloggers, and mashed their introductions together. Not only would this showcase a number of personas, it would also serve as a pretty appropriate introduction.

 

As you can see, I appear at the end of the video. As soon as the video stopped playing, I appeared on stage. It was to flaunt the ‘postdigital’ aesthetic of my piece. According to Florian Cramer (2104) postdigital see’s the breaking down of the binary Physical vs Digital. Having me appear on screen (digitally) and then appear on stage (physically), in the same persona, is one way I sought to flaunt this ideology in practice.

Finding Form
I knew I was exploring YouTube, and had some material I had written, but I was struggling to find my form, or ‘frame’ for the piece. This is where peer feedback came in really useful. I wrote about our first session using the Liz Lerman method here. For now I wanted to focus on the second session – where I came prepared with questions about the form of the piece. Here’s a section of the recorded feedback from that session:

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 14.26.08

As you can see from the highlighted statements, form became the main focus, and the suggestions of framing the piece as a Ted Talk/conference were well received. Not only did this provide some much needed consistency to the piece, it fit in with my desired aesthetic. Just the other day I was watching a vlogger who decided to launch a competition. The prize was spending an hour with the vlogger in question, to allow him to teach you his secrets. It all seems quite arrogant, and ludicrous to think that your own time is so valuable to others – and that is exactly what I wanted to exploit in the show.

Other points from this feedback also made it into the show. I didn’t have time to create a realistic social media account for my persona, but I did manage allude to ‘celebrity status’ – I created a pre-show slide show to showcase my persona meeting ‘celebrities’ and acting as a dignitary at various occasions. The aim wasn’t to be realistic, the celebrities were very minor, and the awards and the slide show looked very amateur. For me, this just served to emphasise the ego of my persona (although, further development of the piece should communicate that not ALL vloggers are like this).

IMG_0495

Video Work

The more vlogs I researched the more techniques I was noticing, the more skills I was picking up. I first made a vlog at the very start of the process, but as time went on, I realised that I could improve. The first video below shows my initial vlog (which never made it into the show), the second video is the final cut (for now).

 

As you can see, several elements developed and have changed. My persona is more pronounced, more animated. I added an ‘outtake’ at the beginning of the video, I added a soundtrack (which was literally called ‘free music for vlogs’), I increased the number of cuts, I used a higher quality camera, I actually used a microphone, and I even acquired some lighting.It actually surprised me that so much effort had to go into ‘looking amateur’ and realistic, it really made me question the artifice of these vloggers – another point which i began to explore in this piece. Building the Persona As I said previously, my persona was based on the larger-than-life personalities you can see in my opening video. Perhaps a reflection on my own performance, but this persona was not coming through in the live performance. You can see from the peer feedback session that people found it most interesting when the live performer, and the digital performer were the same. It was only from sharing my work with my supervisor that I discovered that my on-stage persona needed to be more apparent. Surprisingly I turned to Hollywood for inspiration, and looked at the cut-throat, shameless character Tom Cruise played in Magnolia.

Finally I wanted to allude to the [sometimes] artificial and fickle nature of these personas. My research into YouTube videos showed me that different types of delivery are used to achieve different things. When a vloggers audience, are unhappy, the vlogger is quick to make an emotional, apologetic video. A great example is from Zoella, a beauty vlogger. Last year, Zoella released an advent calendar which had various beauty products in it. The calendar retailed at £50.00, and the contents added up to value of only £10-£15. Audiences were upset and began lashing out at Zoella – who quickly responded with the below video:

 

The authenticity of this apology is still being questioned today. I wasn’t so concerned with the genuine nature of the apology, but I did find it interesting that people questioned it. It was also refreshing to see the usual ‘bubbly’ Zoella, speak in a much more sincere tone. It was quite out-of-character for her. Due to the media scandal surrounding the advent calendar, Zoella got a lot of attention, and this apology got many, many views (and let’s not forget, YouTube pays creators based on the amount of views they recieve). Regardless of whether the apology was genuine or not, there was money being made from the scandal. In the live show I decided to show a shift in my own persona, from energetic and confident, to emotional and ‘sincere’. To add another layer to show, I decided to record this seemingly ‘natural’ (but in actuality, very rehearsed) breakdown, and prepare it as a video for upload to the web. This recording would play to the audience at the end of the show. Initially my script obviously alluded to this, during ‘the breakdown’ I initially read the following line: “What’s even worse is that this could be one of my highest rated videos. All I’d need to do is put some sad music on and upload it to the web” It was decided between my supervisor and myself to strike this line from the show, it made everything seem too deceptive. Just like my reaction to Zoella, I wanted people to question the authenticity of this breakdown. Whether this breakdown was ‘true’ or not was questionable. What was obvious was that the video was going to be uploaded, the motivations behind the upload were deliberately ambiguous.

Bibliography

The Audience Agency. 2018. Home Page. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theaudienceagency.org/. [Accessed 17 May 2018].

 

Cramer, F. (2015). What is Post-digital? in D. Berry and M. Dieter. (eds.) Postdigital Aesthetics (p.12-26). London/New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

 

Digiday. 2015. You Demographics. [ONLINE] Available at: https://digiday.com/media/demographics-youtube-5-charts/. [Accessed 15 May 2018].

 

Lavender, A., 2016. Performance in the twenty-first century : theatres of engagement,. Routledge: London

Lerman, Liz. 2017. Critical Response Process. [ONLINE] Available at: https://lizlerman.com/critical-response-process/. [Accessed 18 May 2018].

 

Orwin, Lousie. 2013. Pretty Ugly. [ONLINE] Available at: https://prettyorugly.wordpress.com/. [Accessed 21 May 2018].

Reason, M.  2006, Documentation, Disappearance and the Representation of Live Performance, Palgrave Macmillan Limited, London. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [21 May 2018].

 

The University of Salford. 2016. University Strategy 2016-2021. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.salford.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/817548/University-Strategy-2016-21.pdf. [Accessed 21 May 2018].

 

Audience Development 1 – Positioning

Just thought I’d work through some of the questions from Sarah Hunter – Quarantine’s very own ‘audience ninja’. Sarah said that the answers to these questions are key for audience development.

  1. POSITIONING
  • Describe your work in one sentence
    An experimental performance which takes YouTube out of the virtual world and into the physical one, expect comedy, cameras and capitalism.
  • What are your three key selling points?
    1- The performance explores YouTube in a way that others haven’t really done yet- making this content quite unique. 2- This show can appeal to a wide age range, YouTube vloggers are watched by people from their early teens to late 60s. 3- This could appeal to many people who don’t often visit the theatre – many people watch YouTube in their own homes – but not as many attend the theatre.
  • Who are your peers? [artists/companies making similar work or an inspiration]
    Lousie Orwin has made some similar work with Pretty/Ugly. The work of Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch (although their work remains in video or installation format). The solo aspect of the work, along with the humour has some influence from Bobby Baker and Bryony Kimmings. The use of screens on stage is heavily influenced by The Wooster Group.
  • Who might you share responsibility for audience development with? [e.g. what support can venues/festivals offer you? Can you share resources with another artist/company – e.g. a joint social media campaign/shared print for tours?]
    I would make an effort to work with the venue on a strong social media campaign. One of the great aspects for this show is that it can be marketed with YouTube – which can access a really wide range of audiences . The character in the show has his own social media accounts, so I would work with the venue/ festival and request their support in sharing these posts, and would in turn happily share anything they might be promoting. As for join print campaigns (exit flyering etc.) this piece could be marketed alongside any show which has a focus on technology, or even other contemporary devised work. This would of course depend on the programme at the venue/festival – but different aspects of this show can be focused on for a joint marketing campaign.

Project Activity

It would be useful for me, at this stage to summarise my current project ideas. Even though the work is no way near ready, it’s useful to do this, particularly for audience development and promotion. So here’s what I’ve got so far.

SUBSCRIBE

This show is about YouTube and my very arrogant alter-ego, a self-confessed ‘famous’ vlogger. Join him as he talks to you about what it’s like to be vlogger, he may even show you examples of his work, but be careful, as with anything on YouTube not everything is as it seems.

SUBSCRIBE  lets us see the live side of vlogging. Taking the person we usually see through a screen and putting them right there in front of us.  This experimental performance explores vlogging and gives us chance to question whether we should actually believe everything we see. Expect screens, videos and larger-than-life personalities as SUBSCRIBE explores one of the worlds newest and most popular media forms.

Screen Shot 2018-03-05 at 15.08.30

Audience Development 1- Artist Statement

I am literally just trying this, writing about myself in the third person is still bizarre, but it’s gotta be done, here’s a draft artist statement. These statements are not just for Audience development, they can be used for all sorts of things:

Josh Cannon is a theatre maker, director, writer and performer based in Manchester. He trained at Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts and is currently completing an MA in Contemporary Performance Practice as Salford. Josh’s creates performance work which is devised, experimental, but usually with a sense of humour. Josh is one third of Popbox Theatre – who create playful experimental work which reflects the life of a millennial today, and speak greatly of globalisation and travel. Recently Josh’s work concentrates on our relationship with technology and how ‘everyday technologies’ are changing human nature, and the way we make and experience Art. Josh’s work has been shown in several cities across the UK and he’s always interested in touring work and meeting new engaged audiences.

“popbox are drawing on some well-worn ideas […] but they deliver it with a fresh, millennial edge that draws heavily on pop culture and the digital landscape that makes the world so much smaller” – The Reviews Hub

Popbox Twitter: https://popboxtheatre.wordpress.com/

Josh’s Blog: www.macppjoshcannon.wordpress.com