I’ve spent most of my career in long term contracts. I got my start at Pier 39 in San Francisco which is a sort of long contract and have spent most of the past six years in contracts ranging from 3-11 months. These long contracts are getting rarer and rarer for comedy jugglers and there is a certain art to pulling one off well. It can be difficult to stay inspired, healthy, and happy during a long run.
Here are 5 tips to help you survive.
1. Create A Routine
This is a simple piece of advice but it is hard to do. If you can create a pre and post show routine that you like and stick to it, you’ll find that you have a built in support system. When the contract begins to wear on you or you get sick the routine will provide you with a sort of cruise control. I’m almost finished with a 3 1/2 month contract and for past week we had very under-sold shows and they were tough. I was able to sink into my routine and find some solace there. I’ve been engaged in this routine for years and when I am not totally present my body goes through the motions and I slowly find myself prepared for the show.
Here is my pre show routine:
Arrive at the theater an hour before the show.
Open my notebook to the next blank page, write the show number and date at the top.
Loudly announce to everyone which show we are on.
I spend the next 30 minutes working on Tip 2.
For 25 minutes after that I shoot the shit.
The last five minutes before the show I get dressed and check my pre-sets.
Finally, before I step on stage I tell the nearest stage hand that I quit.
Here is my post show routine:
Takes notes about the show in my notebook.
Change into my street clothes as quickly as possible.
Say goodbye to everyone.
Eat some junky food from a 24 hour kiosk on the walk home.
2. Learn Something New
One of the hardest things about a long contract is resisting bordedom. You are performing the same show almost every day for months. I always pick a new thing to learn during each contract. This year it was a head bounce while juggling. Even if the show sucks and you hate everyone you work with you can still find some satisfaction in learning a new thing. Next year I’m going to learn how to write in Cooperplate.
3. Use Your Co-Workers As A Focus Group
You will be spending a lot of time with the people at the gig and they will be seeing a lot of your performances. Ask them questions and use them to grow as a performer. You will rarely have the chance to try something new, get feedback, and then try it again the next night. The you get more feedback and so on. Take advantage.
4. Follow The “Campground” Rule
Leave the space better than you found it. Treat the theater or venue like it it your own. Pick up garbage, clean, and if you see a chance to improve it: take it. Chances are another show or cast will follow yours and they will appreciate anything you’ve improved. Looking for things to fix will also help you avoid getting bored.
5. Video Killed The Mediocre Artist
You have the chance to film a bunch of shows and to try a lot of new stuff in long contracts. You should document the shit out of it. At the very least take video of the 1st show and the Last show and see how much has changed.
And 1 Trick:
1. Practical Jokes…
You are not going to like everyone you work with. There may be one person who really bothers you. Fighting isn’t good for group moral but sometimes you have to let your anger and frustration out. A great way to do it is the occasional practical joke. I’m not going to say that I’ve done it…but I’m not going to say that I haven’t either.