I recently returned from Melbourne where I was performing in a show at The Butterfly Club.
It’s an amazing venue with two small performance areas, one of which has an audience capacity of around 40, the other around 70, and it operates on the basis of the venue and presenters of shows splitting the Box office receipts. Because of this lack of up front costs in staging a show, and because of the professional and efficient way in which it is managed, there have been, and no doubt will continue to be, hundreds of shows that have been presented there.
What struck me most was the huge amount of effort being put in by people driven to present their work, and the high standards of professionalism amongst those performers. Each show presented involved many hours of creative work to actually formulate it and many hours of rehearsal to get it ready for performance. All of this effort culminated in a short season in front of a small audience and generated what most people would consider a small return in terms of income.
There are hundreds of posters stuck up on the walls, proudly proclaiming the name of the individual show and, mostly, who was in it. Amongst the names of the performers were many that I recognized as people I had performed alongside in major professional productions, and others I knew as lead performers in such productions.
I realized something during my visit to the Butterfly Club. Being in a major professional production is seductive and thrilling in that it validates you as a performer. You are being paid pretty good money for performing therefore you must be pretty good at what you are doing. You are in a show which has serious resources behind it therefore you perform night after night to full houses, and the audiences are nearly always wildly enthusiastic about the production you are involved in. But I realized that performing to small audiences in a show of your own making with scant resources was just as much a validation of you as an artist, if not more so.
If you can share a performance under such conditions and still move and entertain an audience then you really must be pretty damned good at what you do. I realized that as a true performing artist it is all about the work, regardless of where or with what resources you are performing. To grow as an artist you simply must keep performing, and good performing artists know that. They don’t wait at home until the next paid gig comes along, if the gigs aren’t there they create their own performance opportunities.
It is vital that as a performing artist you know how to create your own work and how to produce, promote and present it in a way that allows that work to generate an income, meager though it may be. With that in mind, PAPA will, as well as providing you with the skills required to get into major productions when the opportunities arise, provide you with the skills and information you need to successfully produce your own work. As well as performing material from successful West End and Broadway productions, we will also stage self-devised projects so that you can gain confidence in your ability to present your own work. We do this because we believe it is an integral part of learning to survive and thrive as a successful performing artist.