Selling tickets at the Fringe Festival is a risky business. If nobody's heard of you or your play, you just might be sh*t out of luck. I figured that would be the case with The House of Shadows, at least until we built up some word-of-mouth, made friends with other companies in our venue, or hopefully got a positive review. But our first preview performance, the first Friday afternoon of the 2012 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, had an audience of twelve. And in a theatre that only seats 40 total, twelve goes a long way. We worked hard for that twelve, flyering all morning and pushing free ticket vouchers on anyone who dared to make eye contact.
Saturday held strong. Twelve again, pretty decent. "So far so good," we told each other. "Onwards and upwards!"
Sunday was our day off, but on Monday we came back swinging. I sat in the back of the theater during the performance and counted the stubs. "Fourteen!" I crowed, and gave myself a mental pat on the back. On Tuesday our two-for-one deal was good to us, delivering 20 butts in seats, a few of whom had even paid for their tickets! And on Black Wednesday, the day after festival-wide two-for-one deals expire and a notoriously slow day for small theatre companies, we managed to exceed expectations. Eleven people for our first show at normal ticket rates had us on top of the world!
And then... Thursday. When I opened the door to let the audience in, only one girl wandered my way. It was Lauren, our friend who had agreed to pay full price for her ticket in exchange for sleeping on living room our floor that night. As the minutes ticked away I started doing the "waiting dance" (a grown-up version of the "potty dance"), hopping nervously from foot to foot and hoping someone else, anyone else, would show up soon. Curtain time rolled around quicker than ever before. The venue technicians gave me dirty looks as I tried to hold the house just a minute longer.I had to concede, no one else was coming.
I closed the door and retreated into our small theater space. "Are we really doing this?" asked one of the actors.
"Balls to the wall," replied his co-star.
To their credit, they put on a hell of a show. About 10 minutes into the performance, a woman walked in. If I hadn't torn her ticket myself, I would probably have assumed she was lost. I silently thanked the heavens that we had actually gone through with the performance.
Friday improved upon Thursday's audience, if only because neither of our two audience members were people we already knew. Although, does it really count as two audience members if one of them is asleep?
But Fringe audiences are fickle, and on Saturday we were again blessed with 14 beautiful strangers sitting in uncomfortable plastic chairs and waiting to be entertained. With that, week one was over, and it had ended on a high note. Or at least no lower than the note it began on. Fingers crossed for week two!
The House of Shadows -- theSpace @ Surgeons' Hall, 16:10