I wake up screaming, soaked in sweat thinking about it. No, I'm not talking about my show, I'm talking about flyering. Flyering is a promotional tool, particular to the Fringe wherein you stand on the Royal Mile of Edinburgh passing out flyers to your show to the general public. You are surrounded by, literally, hundreds of others doing the exact same thing -- begging the public to come see your little show amongst the thousands of other shows on the offering -- imposing yourself on an oftentimes less than congenial public in the hopes that they will take your flyer and come see little old you.
Oftentimes those who pass out flyers can come across as rather obnoxious, perhaps it's a defense mechanism, a protective shield to soften the blow of rejection, or perhaps it's just residual obnoxiousness left over from being a high school theatre geek. Whatever it is, I tip my hats to them because flyering is one of the most humiliating things to do in a business not short on humiliating activities.
The first time I walked through the area of the Royal Mile that is cordoned off for flyering and other promotional activities, l noticed there were enormous dumpsters lined up every few feet, upon further inspection I discovered that each of these dumpsters is filled to the brim with flyers, just saturated with discarded, never-loved, never-will-be-loved, nope-I'm never-gonna-see-your-show-flyers. It is an unusual relay: I pass my flyer to an unsuspecting member of the public, who in turn passes the flyer to the enormous mouth at the nearest dumpster. There's a certain delightfully pathetic economy to the whole thing. Many (most?) flyers find their fate within the green plastic confines of the dumpster interior, but the hope is that some will not be, but instead will be kept and held close to the heart, placed on their bureau and ultimately referred back to when they are looking for a show to see. That is the hope.
The prospect of flyering terrifies me to a much larger degree than the thought of performing in front of people. And therein lies the rub, as Maury Povich would say, if I want to perform for ANY people -- and we're not talking hundreds here I mean really, 20 would be nice -- I have to get people to see the show, which requires promotion, which at the Fringe means flyering. I pray this is the closest I get to panhandling.
I recall as a child having to do fundraisers for school, selling waxy chocolates at exorbitant prices door-to-door so that Lyle Elementary School could get a new furnace or something. Walking to my neighbors, the Pulaski's, struggling to carry the enormous cardboard crate filled with boxes of assorted crèmes. I'd heave the crate onto the Pulaski's' doorstep, wipe the sweat from my brow and stare at myself in the glass of the tiny circular window carved into the front door. I would stand there for what felt like hours, but was really just moments, my throat dry, my fists clenched and then I would reach over pick up the crate turn around and walk back home.
Upon returning home, I would defend myself to my parents' skeptical glances and raised eyebrows, contending that truly no one was home in my entire suburban neighborhood on Tuesday at 6 p.m. I would maintain that I had gone to all 14 houses on my block -- really I was standing by the side of the house next to the garbage cans playing air tennis with an imaginary John McEnroe to pass the time -- and not a soul had answered, I suggested that perhaps they had all gone out to dinner, instead of staying in and eating pot roast for the thousandth night in a row. My parents ignored the last comment, shook their heads and sighed. Ultimately my dad wound up paying for the entire crate of candy and our family was left to enjoy waxy chocolatey goodness for the next six months or so.
So yeah, the prospect of selling something, be it bargain basement bonbons or a solo show created with my own blood, sweat and tears, is utterly terrifying to me. These are times when believing in God helps, I can ask for a little courage to get me through, open my mouth, impose myself on a perfect stranger and just be generally all around obnoxious. I pray to be obnoxious. Judging by what I have witnessed from the behavior from some other believers, apparently I'm not the first.