This week, we reached the halfway point of our monthlong run in the Countdown Theater space. Here’s a midpoint assessment of how things are going so far.
Most broadly, this has been an incredibly rewarding experience, and has been absolutely worth doing. The shows people pitched and have performed so far have not only been great, they’ve affirmed that when you give people the opportunity to put up their own work, they’ll rise to the occasion. We’ve been continually impressed with the talent coming through our doors, and we’ve done our best to give them a supportive environment in which to succeed. (Also, not for nothing, our performers have handled the unpredictable loud noise from the recording studio next door amazingly well.)
When we first rented the space, we worried that it might be too small to accommodate performances. Now we know: starting small is definitely the way to go. There are 15 seats in our theater, so an audience of 5 makes the place feel practically full. Also, the small space decreases the distance between the players and the audience, and the audience members from one another, and that level of intimacy has resulted in the creation of a warm, inviting creative space. You can feel it when you walk in the door.
We’ve also learned that getting people to come out to shows doesn’t have to feel like you’re groveling and calling in every last favor of every friend you’ve ever had. It turns out you just have to put up interesting work, and people will come! That has been incredibly heartening.
Justin and I put ourselves on the schedule at least twice a week, and have subsequently learned that performing multiple times per week is pretty much the best thing for our partnership. We knew this from our extensive touring, but shows back home have always been much trickier. Prior to this, performing here in NYC typically amounted to a monthly show. The long layoffs between shows left us feeling rusty when we finally took the stage again, and the monthly shows were never great as a result. If we did have a good show, we had to cool our heels for a month until the next one, and lost considerable momentum. If we had a bad show, the pressure and dread mounted for the next month. Eliminating those layoffs has meant that, good show or bad, we have no choice but to get right back on the horse. It’s boosted our confidence considerably. It’s also a damn relief to finally be doing really good shows in New York.
When we signed the sublease on this space, we told each other that we had to comfortable with the idea that we wouldn’t recoup any of the money we put down on it. Intellectually, we were comfortable with it, but the reality of it has taken a bit of adjustment. Our main revenue stream for this space was to be teaching workshops. Let me be straight with you: we’ve tried every way we know how to get the word out, and people aren’t biting. We’ve got some theories on why that might be, which perhaps we’ll write about in a future blog post. Sure, this is disappointing — we really like teaching, and we would have loved to have taught these, for one — but it’s been an exercise in putting our money where our mouths are. We’re gonna lose all the money we put into this venture, and that sucks. The next time we do this, we’re going to have to recoup most of our costs, so we need to devise some new methods for minimizing expenses and maximizing revenue. And we’ll do that. We’ll find that balance. For now, what we’ve gotten out of the first edition of Countdown Theater has been extraordinarily valuable and entirely worth it.