I don’t like to hear no—especially about my own work as an artist! I don’t think anyone does. When I was 22, I took a one-act musical I had written to NYC and managed to get enough interest from an agent to help me produce a 2-night off-off Broadway showing in the village. I just assumed I could do it, and I was right. Flash forward a few years (I won’t admit how many), and it occurred to me that I could do it again. I had a script in my hand I had workshopped for over a year, my baby show just had its first reading, and I had the need to move forward with my career as a playwright. So, I did.
In 2017 Hollywood Fringe Festival, I wrote 2 short musicals. I finished the scripts and showed up to watch. But this time, I wanted control and freedom. I wanted to grow my show, my own abilities, and my understanding of what I could accomplish—as a writer, a producer, and a director! A whole DIY project. [Grace’s HFF19 show, The Masher, has an Encore! performance July 11, 7pm at Studio C.]
Here’s a short list of what I did right and wrong. I hope this helps you sum up your own Fringe experience, or if you are thinking about 2020, gives you a little head start.
1. Trust Your Instincts
Trust you are good at what you do. Trust you make good decisions. Trust your talent. Absolutely get advice, but trust yourself. It turns out my instincts were dead-on. Yes, I was right to get this show up at THIS Fringe, yes, I was right to direct, yes, I was right to make an LLC, yes, I had good instincts. I might have saved myself a few lost nights’ sleep and Xanax if I trusted myself sooner.
2. Make Friends
Get to know your stage manager and tech people. Talk to other people about THEIR shows, ask people for help and volunteer help. Support other people’s shows. Be generous. Be friendly and be kind. And on that note, let me shout out here to wonderful shows—and strong women who wrote, produced, directed, and acted in them who were especially dear to me and have become new friends: I Am Not a Man*, Crack Whore, Bulimic, Girl-Next-Door*, The Flower Society*, Paper Trails*, Speak I Will—a Fractured Shakespeare*, Trash, Drought, My Trans Wife*, What I Never Told You*… And to the new friend I am sure I just forgot, I love you too. (An asterisk means the show has an Encore! Congrats!)
3. Do the PR
Write your press release EARLY. Get your list of industry and press people together early. I did not do this fast enough and it became a thing that slowed me down. To do a great press release you need to really synopsize your show, down to a log line. That takes some think-time. Make sure you make time for it.
4. Pay People Something
I know it’s Fringe and we are all “starving artists” but people deserve payment for their work, even if it is the tiniest stipend. We all feel more validated if there is payment for our amazingly committed and quality work. I hope to always do this in the future. Another note: MAKE A BUDGET. And, oh, yeah: Do a KICKSTARTER, BUT DO IT EARLY. (I lost out on this and next time, I will do this first!)
5. Ask for Help
At Fringe you have to ask for help. Ask for advice from people you respect, ask for referrals or help with things you don’t know about. Ask your husband, wife, kids, partner, best friend, or sister for HELP. People will step up if you expect it and realize you deserve it. You do. This is your time. (You have supported everyone else’s dreams, right?)
6. Kill Your Darlings
Rewrite early. Cut the hell out of the things that don’t work. Work your transitions until they are fast and painless. Be brutal. Do the work. You will NOT be sorry. Fringe is an incubator. The 7th draft that ended up on your Fringe stage is probably 5 drafts away from a finished product. When the dust settles, take notes from people you trust, and move forward to your next DIY play.
And finally, realize you stepped out on the invisible bridge, you did the brave and the daring—you brought your show to The Hollywood Fringe!
For more info about Grace Jasmine and The Masher, visit https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/5726