5 Rural Touring Ideas for Presenters: A Performer’s Perspective

By Trevor Copp, Artistic Director of Tottering Biped Theatre, Performer, Actor, Teacher

 

I’m writing as a performing artist who’s had a great time touring to some Northern communities and I wanted to share some thoughts on what works best from this end.

I love to get up North because, ironically, I like people. There are millions of people in the GTA, but when I perform down here I really have to work to meet them. I can get out in front of hundreds of people and do a show, then not have a soul to have a drink with when it’s over. Up North it’s the opposite – and that’s exactly what keeps me coming back. Northern presenters have the appeal of being in the hospitable and personable culture of the North – and it’s an advantage that can make all the difference for visiting artists.

So here’s a couple of ideas that aren’t expensive – or actively cheaper – than the charges that often come up for visiting artists. Of course these are my preferences and not every artists’ – but you may be surprised how many take you up on this if given the chance.

1. Billeting over Hotels

I prefer to stay with a friendly little family who’ll take the time to show me around and explain the sights and places I’m at over being in another lovely and empty hotel any day. Yes, a door that locks and an internet signal that works are necessary, but beyond that many would be glad of some company.

2. Family meals over Restaurants

Same idea as above. I am totally “restaurant-ed out” by weeks’ end when I’m on tour.

3. A local host


Even if we billet at one place but have a local with the gift of gab come take me around from another – still works. I love having someone with some local pride introduce me to where I’m at, otherwise I’m liable to miss the place despite having driven or flown such a long ways.

4. Hire the Artist, not just the Art


I think that it’s only with multiple visits that a real sense of a relationship occurs – and it pays dividends in all senses. If you bring in a show that has a good commercial angle to it, I can guarantee you that the artist/company has more shows that are even closer to their heart – and probably stronger work – in their repertoire. So if you’ve had a group in once and you and your audience like what they do, don’t bring back just their next show – market that you’re bringing THEM back, whatever they are doing. If you are always trying to market a show you need to reinvent the wheel every time. However, if you can convince your audience to back artists themselves, then the shows are secondary and will sell themselves. The best stuff out there isn’t the most marketable – and this is a way to get to that work. This allows you to present the stuff that the artists care deeply about, without having to stick to what will seemingly market the most easily.

5. Revolving doors are not as fun as they look


At the end of the day, showing up to a community just in time to leave forever isn’t fun for anyone. We don’t get a real connection to the community and you don’t get a real connection to us as people. It’s a lot of work without the sense of relationship that makes it all worthwhile. If I know that we’re in it together for some kind of longterm (arts development plan) I work very differently – and communities respond the same way. This is the kind of sincere energy you want to work with. You’re out there putting in countless hours in to make this work and this is a way for the work to have a long term pay off that makes all the difference.

As a mime maybe I don’t talk a lot, but the difference it makes when a community responds this way is tremendous – and I am keen to give back when it does.

To connect with Trevor and learn about his work, go to www.totteringbiped.ca .

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