Dishpig and Mr. Fox: The Final Four Farewell

by guest blogger Rebecca Coleman.

Okay, first off, apologies for the liberal use of alliteration. But that stuff has been proven to get people’s attention. Except when it pisses them off. Okay!

I have good news and bad news. The bad news is, we are losing Greg Landucci to Toronto. For those of you who may not be familiar with the guy that Simon and I now affectionately call “The Dooch” (he doesn’t really like it, we’re just trying desperately to be cool), Greg is responsible for two of the best frickin’ Fringe shows in the last two years: Dishpig (2007) and Mr. Fox (2008). He wisely teamed up with TJ Dawe, who helped him write and edit both scripts, and directed them as well.

Now for the good news: Greg is doing a final, Farewell-to-the-Wet-Coast remount of both shows. Starting tomorrow, and running in rep for the next two weeks, it may well be your last chance to see Dishpig and Mr. Fox. So, if you haven’t already seen them, or you want to enjoy them one last time, now’s your chance.

Read on below for information about the shows and tickets and stuff, but the first two people who email me (rebeccacoleman@shaw.ca) can have a pair of tickets to see Dishpig for FREE tomorrow (Wednesday) night. I won’t even make you answer some random question about where Greg went to High School or something lame like that. You just have to be available to go see the show tomorrow night. Because that’s the kind of person I am.

Now for the nitty-gritty details: (Click here to see a video of Greg talking about why you should see these shows)

Landucci as the Dishpig
Landucci as the Dishpig

Dishpig is the story of one guy’s journey to discover himself in a stinky, wet, disgusting hell filled with cooking grease and soggy bread, otherwise known as a restaurant dishpit. Landucci plays 15 roles, changing characters at lighting speed, and creating some pretty fast an furious comedy.

Praise for Dishpig:

“Wow! Dishpig is an absolutely assured piece of one-man theatre, so strong a show that it immediately establishes local talent Greg Landucci as an actor worth following…. Together, Dawe and Landucci have crafted a must-see piece about life in hell.”
-Peter Birnie, The Vancouver Sun.

“Greg Landucci is Dishpig and all the other characters in this fabulous hour-long take on life at the very bottom of the service-industry ladder. Graphic, vulgar, hilarious and surprisingly moving, Dishpig has emerged from the Fringe as a stand-alone evening that you’ll wish lasted much longer.”
-Jerry Wasserman, The Province/Vancouver Plays.com

Landucci sweats it out at Mr. Fox
Landucci sweats it out at Mr. Fox

Mr. Fox tells the story of Landucci’s tenure as the infamous “Mr. Fox,” the mascot for Vancouver’s very popular radio station, CFOX. Mr. Fox’s experience runs the gamut-from women coming on to him, to being kicked, abused, and nearly drowned, all while wearing a very heavy, drenched-in-sweat (not always his own) fox suit.

Praise for Mr: Fox:

“Greg Landucci does it again. Last year we were introduced to this human dynamo in Dishpig, his intensely observed study of life in the “dishpit” at a local restaurant. Its success led Landucci to dig deeper into his own life, and out pops the latest loopy chapter…Not to be missed.”
-Peter Birnie, The Vancouver Sun

“The remarkable Greg Landucci performs his solo script directed by Fringe stand-up fave TJ Dawe, the team behind last year’s knockout, Dishpig…. His charming, ingenuous storytelling and hugely energetic acting make Landucci an absolute crowd-pleaser.”
-Jerry Wasserman, The Vancouver Province

Both Mr. Fox and Dishpig enjoyed stunning success on the Fringe circuit, playing to sold-out houses, gaining critical acclaim, and multiple Best of Fests. Dishpig runs Sept. 24, 26, Oct 2 ,and 4 (9 pm). Mr Fox runs Sept 25, 27, Oct 1 and 3 (7 pm). All shows are at 8 pm, except where noted. Tickets are $15, and are available through Tickets Tonight: 604 684 2787, or online at www.ticketstonight.ca. Cash-only tickets may be available at the door. All shows are at Havana, 1212 Commercial Dr.

Rebecca Coleman is a publicist whose company, Titania Productions, specializes in marketing and media relations for theatre.

The Art of the Business 9: Creating Meaningful Blog Connections

On August 10, 2008, in the wee small hours of the morning, a propane station blew up in Toronto. The video and the information was all over the internet long before it reached the mainstream media, even Television.

Lorraine Murpny, taking over the world, one blog post at a time...
Lorraine Murphy, taking over the world, one blog post at a time...

Local blogger Lorraine Murphy, otherwise known as Raincoaster, was awake that night, and saw the first reports about the explosion coming in on her Twitter feed. She immediately blogged about it, linking to videos, photos, and other blogs. Her blog ratings for that post were very soon #1 on Google.

Lorraine Murphy is a professional blogger here in Vancouver. Her blogs include teenymanolo.com, ayyyy.com (link blogging), The Fearless City project, and, of course, Raincoaster. She is also a social media consultant, and teaches a workshop called Pimp My Blog (details at the end) on how to grow your readership in a meaningful way. She defines meaningful connections as “linking to you, reading you, leaving comments, or recommending you to their friends.”

She shared some of her tips with me, in this, the third of my three-part series on blogging.

1. Be aware of different ways for people to access your blog.

You can physically go to the website and read the blog, you can subscribe to the blog through RSS readers, or by email updates (Feedburner can help you to write the code needed to create this widget for your blog, if you don’t already have it). The more of those options you can make available to people, the more people you can get to read your blog.

2. Blogrolling:

Blogrolling is still happening, but it is not as popular as it used to be. Blogrolling is kind of like having a links page on your website—you put your favorite blogs on your blogroll, and hopefully, those to whom you are linking, put you on theirs. “In addition to putting someone on your blogroll, also write a post about it,” is Murphy’s big tip about blogrolling. It gives them an extra boost.

3. Linking to other blogs in your posts

Linking and quoting other blog posts is a great way to increase traffic to your blog. Murphy warns against linking to Wikipedia or corporate websites or BoingBoing. Your link love will go unrequited–they are too big to care too much about linking to you. Linking to other bloggers is going to get the attention of individual bloggers and draw them to your site as they check trackbacks.

4. Commenting on other blogs:
Probably the best way to create a following is to post high-quality, appropriate comments on blogs that you are reading. “Add value or add amusement,” Murphy says. Don’t forget to leave your name and the URL of your blog so that they can follow you back to your blog.

5. Write often, and write well.
“Keep it short,” Murphy says, “just get it out there!” She recommends 100-200 words per blog post, and be sure to include at least one image. “It’s a multi-media platform—use multimedia!” Use keywords, but not too many—Wordpress will only allow 10-12 keywords and categories per post. Write about only one thing in your post. Write at least one blog post per week, three is optimal.

6. Include buttons on your site to connect with social networking
Buttons for Facebook, Digg, stumbleupon, del.icio.us,technorati, feedburner, and fark, right on your website, will make it easier for people who’ve read your post to share it with their network if they really like it. If you have a WordPress or Blogger blog, this feature is built in, but if you are running your own show, installing these buttons could help increase your readership. “It’s good to enable people to follow you around,” says Murphy. But she also reflects that a very small percentage of her readership comes from hits off of Twitter or Facebook.

7. Know your blogging platforms
Tumblr is a new blogging platform, similar to WordPress or Blogger. It’s pretty slick, but unlike WordPress or Blogger, it doesn’t allow you to connect with people off of Tumblr. So your audience potential is smaller. The WordPress.com platform is probably the strongest blogging platform available, and is probably the best in terms of Search Engine Optimization.

8. Add your blog URL to your email signature
”You wouldn’t think that it would have that much pull, but it really does,” says Murphy.

Pimp My Blog
takes place on Saturday, September 27, 10 am—2 pm, at  Tradeworks Training Society, 87 E Pender St. The course costs $150, which includes all materials, including computers. Email raincoaster@gmail.com to register.

Rebecca is a contributing columnist and founder of Titania Productions, a Vancouver Marketing and Public Relations Company.

New listing service alert!

Further to yesterday’s post on us indie theatrists making full use of the publicity resources available to us (on which I was quite rightly called out for my chastising tone, but honestly, I just get frustrated with the state of the union sometimes. And I’m one of the soft-spoken bloggers on the theatroshpere.), comes this link sent to me by a new site that seems to be snowballing in popularity.

UQ Events is a new social networking site (I know, I know, just hang on a second) that is dedicated to spreading the word about events happening in your area across the entertainment spectrum, and it’s searchable by discipline. It’s fully free to members and allows you you post cast photos, bios, complete production descriptions, ticketing and website links, maps to theatre etc., even video. The big house civic theatres here in Vancouver are already on it, but it has yet to catch on with the indie scene. (What? That wasn’t chastising! Yeesh.)

And right now, but only for a limited time, they’re offering free placement of opening night events on their homepage.

This web marketing thing may catch on yet…

On listing with VancouverPlays.com

Dear Vancouver theatre companies with upcoming productions:

Being a regular independent theatre-goer, I was just skimming the coming soon section of Jerry Wasserman’s essential theatre guide on VancouverPlays.com, and I’d like to make an observation that I hope may be of some benefit to those of you who are wisely choosing to use this service.

Of the 21 impending indie productions listed in this section, 7 of you have made the choice to pay the (comparatively) modest price to expand your listing into a preview page, which has provided me with story details, cast and crew names, web-site links, ticketing information and promotional photos. The rest of you have chosen to only take advantage of the free offer of listing only the production and company name, the location and date of the run.

I’m sorry to say that I know nothing about you or your plays, and after reading the bare-bones production details provided on the site I feel no more enlightened, so based on the amount of information I now have I find myself with zero incentive to clear time in my rather busy schedule to see what it is you’re offering.

I did, however, click on the preview for Exit Commander Kitty (among others) and the description offered therein has intrigued me enough that I’m going to make the time to see this play.

I do not presume to tell you how to run your company, or your marketing plan. I merely offer this post as insight into the experience of a potential audience member, and one of thousands that regularly visit Jerry’s site.

I sincerely hope it is of some benefit to you.

Regards,

Simon.

Vancouver premiere of Doubt opens tonight

It’s no secret amongst her students who Michèle Lonsdale Smith’s all-time favourite playwright is. Well, okay, in truth it’s probably a tie between John Patrick Shanley and Chekhov, but it’s Shanley that she hands out more of in class. Michèle heads up the Lyric School of Acting here in Vancouver, and is also the artistic director of my company; Lyric Stage Project. When Shanley’s mega-hit and mass award-winning (including a Tony for best play and, oh, um…the pulitzer) parable Doubt starting making the scene study rounds a couple of years ago in Michèle’s master class, she would tell whoever she assigned the role of Mrs. Muller to that, just so they knew, she was pretty sure Shanley had written that role just for her, and that one day she was destined to play it when it finally premiered in Vancouver, just you wait. Not to put any pressure on the student, or anything.

Flash forward to this past summer, the Arts Club acquires the rights to said Shanley opus, auditions are held and, well, suffice it to say that sometimes dreams do come true. Doubt opens tonight at the Stanley with Michèle sharing the stage with a dream cast comprised of the Grande Dame of Vancouver theatre; Gabrielle Rose, the incomparable Jonathon Young and the wonderful Sasa Brown. Here’s a first look…

Michèle Lonsdale Smith as Mrs. Muller, and Gabrielle Rose as Sister Aloysius, in the Arts Club Theatre Company's production of Doubt. Photo by David Cooper
Michèle Lonsdale Smith as Mrs. Muller and Gabrielle Rose as Sister Aloysius, in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Doubt. Photo by David Cooper.
Jonathon Young gets to the point as Father Flynn. Photo by David Cooper
Jonathon Young gets to the point as Father Flynn. Photo by David Cooper

Gabrielle Rose, Sasa Brown as Sister James and Jonathon Young. Photo by David Cooper
Gabrielle Rose, Sasa Brown as Sister James and Jonathon Young. Photo by David Cooper
Jonathon and Gabrielle, beyond the shadow of a doubt. Photo by David Cooper.
Jonathon and Gabrielle, beyond the shadow of a doubt. Photo by David Cooper.

Fringe wrap-up: Is everybody satisfied?

And so, with the announcement of the 2008 Pick of the Fringe, the curtains fall on yet another Fringe season, and the overarching humor in the air seems to indicate a general feeling of success amongst its perpetrators. Just how successful was it? How do we measure the success of this festival in today’s theatrical climate? This, of course, depends entirely on what you consider the purpose of the Fringe to be, and what you hope to get out of it.

According to the party line, most Fringe artists are innovators who want to throw some new stuff against a black box wall to see if it sticks. This is the value most commonly touted by its defendants as the core ideology behind the invention of the thing when someone dares to criticize performance quality at the Fest. While this is certainly true for some of the artists that got served first because they came first, there is no large body of evidence to support the thesis that much of the fare on offer is edge-cutting, out-on-a-limb theatre being taken out for a low-risk test drive. Pity.

Most of what is on offer these days is a) solid, tried-and-true material that is proven to be road worthy – and indeed is out there on the road making a tidy living for its Fringe-pro neo-minstrels. Or b) small-cast shows that have some material they want to do but are without time, money or an administrative team to handle the workload involved in mounting their piece outside of the finance-friendly production machine that is the Fringe organization. Which is great, it really is, it makes for an interesting enough menu to choose from, but how does this affect our indie theatre scene the rest of the year? Does the Fringe, with its soft cushion of low fiscal risk, actually hurt the city’s theatre scene in the broad view?

Short answer, of course, is no. That’s ridiculous. Any vehicle that raises theatre in the public consciousness and celebrates the form is a positive force on the industry as a whole. But how much potential from that annual high-profile are we squandering? How can we be better using the Fringe as a springboard to bounce the medium deeper into the collective consciousness of a city that just doesn’t think about us that much, if at all?

Like it or not, there is a large percentage of the Fringe audience (not counting the artists supporting each other in said audience, who make up a mighty big percentage themselves) that only see live theatre during Fringe time. They are secretaries and baristas and accountants who love to be part of the buzzy ‘scene’ of the thing, then brush their hands together, say ‘that’s that’ and put theatre out of their mind for the rest of the year. (It’s easy to do, indie theatre hasn’t exactly perfected ‘in-yer-face’ marketing yet.) This condition is directly proportional to our du Maurier Jazz festival here in Vancouver, can’t get tickets to the big shows, gotta stand in line for most of the rest, but when that circus ships out, how many rooms here sustain year-round live Jazz? Two? Three if you count that one Robson hotel lounge on the weekends? Those Fringers are our target audience, and they just need to be finessed, coaxed back out into a black box every other month or so, with an uninitiated frind in tow. Did we talk to them? Or more importantly, listen to them? Did we get some contact info from them to keep in touch? Give them something to remember us by? Did we make them feel like they were part of something, as opposed to making them feel like they were watching some people who are a part of something?

Now, if you’re entered into the Fringe as an exercise, as something to do to feel artisty between Battlestar auditions, then none of this applies to you. Likewise if you’re a performer who has chosen to parlay the Fringe experience into a steady touring income. (Both of these, I would like to note, are fine objectives, and I do not deride you for them nor ask you to reconsider.) But if you’re a theatre artist with any aspirations towards developing a self-sustaining and local industry around your craft, I ask you this: are you taking full advantage of the little bit of hip that the Fringe Festival generates in town every year? And this is directed at the indie companies that have moved beyond the need to Fringe their work as well. Should the Fringe simply exist to give a leg up to a few artists who managed to make the cut that year? Or can we, with a little bit more effort, transform it into an Expo for selling ourselves as the must-have accessory to the urban lifestyle?

I think we can. We will, however, have to do it as a community. And we’ll have to make a little more noise.