Saturday, May 31, 2014

creating a/broad, May 31, 2014

Keeping up Appearances
by Cameryn Moore

I went to a promo appearance on Tuesday here in London, at the venue where I am going to be performing Phone Whore next Tuesday. It was an open mic night at a well-known queer bar. I got there early for the sign-up, hardly anyone was there, but I was still nervous walking in. Every time I do a promo appearance like this, I worry about the same thing: Do people feel attracted to me? 

I don’t mean, do they want to jump my bones. I mean, are they drawn to me? Do they like the way I look? Do I feel approachable, if they have questions or if they want to get a card? Is it clear, hopefully from the host’s intro or at least from my own intro, why I am even there? Will they like me?

It’s like the worst parts of a networking event and a talent audition and moving to a new high school, all rolled up into one dimly lit room with no tech and lots of booze.

It’s a bit agonizing, in other words, and not much in my control at all. But I can’t not do these things, when I come to a new town. I can’t just hide out in my billet all the time, as much as I want to, and hope that word of mouth will keep going on its own. I can’t expect individual producers or venue managers to have done everything possible to get the word out about my show. No. If I am only making income from box office, then I need to be hauling ass the whole way, in all the ways I can think of. Sometimes that’s Sidewalk Smut (damn I wish the England summer would clear up). And sometimes that’s just spending the money for tube fare and going down to a historic queer bar to rock that mic in whatever way possible.

Yes, go ahead, she says, flyer the shit out of those tables.

I dress normal for me: blue floral babygirl dress with a plunging neckline, ruffle-butt panties, garter belt holding up my thermal cut-off leggings, cowboy boots of course. This is comfortable attire for me, but I know for a fact that in most communities it is considered serious slutwear for a fattie to show so much tits and leg and garter-belt straps. That’s fine. I am always looking for attention. I just want to feel comfortable doing it.

As soon as I walk in the joint, I’m sizing it up: what’s the stage like, damn, that is one high stage, where are the lights, what are the sightlines, where are the people sitting? Are there postcards already out on the tables, is it appropriate to place mine out, too? At these things, I break my own rule about flyering tables, because not everyone arrives and leaves at the same time, and I can’t flyer during the actual event, but I want at least a little exposure to everyone.

I meet the event producer, she’s the one who’s bringing me in for the next two Tuesdays. She is happy to see me. I can’t imagine an event producer out there who isn’t excited when their performers show up and help push. Yes, go ahead, she says, flyer the shit out of those tables.

I can tell the other people who made it onto the sign-up sheet; they’ve got their guitars out and the grimy, sweat-softened sheets of poetry. They’ve held those pieces of paper a lot. I suffer a little twinge of doubt: should I go for a monologue, instead of a sampling of Sidewalk Smut? It’s too late to shift it out. I flip through my three volumes of Bang It Out, quickly marking three likely candidates. Meanwhile, a lithe, friendly Gay boy, dark hair flopping across his brow, draws a high stool up to my table and starts chatting with me: where am I from, what am I doing in London, what’s my act? Oh, really? What’s Sidewalk Smut? Wow, really! What’s the name of your show? REALLY? I am totally coming to that!

When I deliver my reading, I plant my feet wide.

I get that a lot, people saying OMG I am totally coming to your show, I’m going to tweet this and bring friends to it and OMG this is amazing. I smile and offer them extra cards if they want them, but I learned long ago not to take seriously anything that anyone says with a pint of booze in their hand.

I scope out the stage entrance ahead of time; it’s a tricksy one, involving steps up to the dressing room on the side, and from thence to the lamé-draped stage. I can tell this space mostly gets used for drag shows. I add it to the second mental list I’m keeping—the one of things I’m going to need to handle before or at my show next week, like not-ideal sightlines and small stage and how do I chat up the audience and still make it up to the stage on time to answer the first call. I make the mental note and then put it aside. I need to get through this open mic first.

The host is totally inexperienced, but I had noticed my spot on the sign-up sheet, I’m ready to walk on. When I deliver my reading, I plant my feet wide. I learned early on in doing my shows to stand still and get grounded, unless there’s a good reason to move my feet. This stands me in good stead at promo appearances; I look way more confident than I usually feel. 

At the break, two people come up and buy my books right there. Many people take a card from me, tuck them away safely in purses or pockets. At the end of the night, a few cards, dispiritingly soggy, are left around the tables, but I knew the risk. Coasters. Cards left on tables inevitably end up as coasters. When I get home, a few friend requests are waiting for me on Facebook.

It went pretty well. I think they like me.

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