Thursday November 19th, 2009 - Milwaukee, WI/Vernon Hills, IL
This whole Milwaukee themed one man play idea has gone way farther than I imagined, but I’m not going to stop working on it. Something in the back of my coconut tells me it’s a winner, and everything else can wait. When I listen to my inner voice, it’s always right.
My biggest problem is I try to out think it when in reality all I need to do is follow along and do what it says. The feeling I’m getting is to get it up and running as soon as possible so I drove up to Milwaukee this afternoon to meet with Ron Lee to scout some locations.
Ron lives up there and knows a few people I don’t know, but I’m very familiar with the territory so it didn’t take long for us to make the rounds. We looked at several spaces with an open mind, and then had a brainstorming session to compare notes of what we thought the pros and cons of each one might be. After that we planned out what we wanted to do.
He would be responsible for getting any space ready to go for a performance and it’s my job to come up with an actual show. I think both of us can make that happen, and we then went to see Jeff Shaffer who used to run the sound at the old Sunday Funnies at Teddy’s.
Jeff is a sound guy from way back and does mostly music events. He was working for a band who was playing at the Mitchell Park Domes, a Milwaukee landmark. Ron and I had some time so we went to talk to Jeff, mainly because I hadn’t seen The Domes for years.
It really is one of the more unique attractions I’ve ever seen anywhere. It’s like a zoo for plants of all kinds from around the world and each Dome has a different theme. There are cacti and palm trees and flowers and it’s very well displayed. I really enjoyed the tour and I remembered both my grandfather taking me there as a kid and also going with my class.
We met one of the people in charge and Ron brought up the possibility of doing a show at The Domes at some point. We got a name of the person who can authorize it and that’s a step in the right direction. We talked to Jeff and he said he thinks we can easily do this.
This kind of stuff really interests me, because it’s creating something from nothing. It’s not going to be hard to put a show together about Milwaukee, the real challenge will be to see how and where we can do it to create a niche for ourselves and make it worth doing.
It doesn’t really matter what venue we use to start, just so we do it. We’ll need a couple of times to run it to work the bugs out as Ron and I both agreed we’d like to add things to the mix like maybe a power point slide show or audio. It’s a constant work in progress for both of us but if I give him an idea it’s his and Jeff’s job to see how to make it workable.
Jeff is excited to be part of this project too. Everyone I’ve told about it has immediately said how much they love the idea and how they think it will work. Now I have to write an outline of the show, which I started to do in the car on the way home. It will be a two part presentation to allow for an intermission if necessary. Everything is falling right into step.
Rob Becker is the guy who wrote and produced the hit play ‘Defending The Caveman’ which made millions, and is still running today. He’s got several actors doing the role all over the country and I heard he has sold the franchise completely. I haven’t seen Rob in a while, but I’ve had him on my radio shows through the years and I know he’d help me.
Todd Grove was his Ron Lee and I should talk to Todd too. Any tips and hints I can get about making this work onstage or off would be much appreciated. I want to be smart for once and not just go into something half assed and shoot myself in the foot. I want to win.
The only downside I can see to all of this is the product is for a limited audience. Rob’s theme of men vs. women is about as broad based as it gets. Mine is a local show that also has a time boundary. It super serves a client base from about age 30 to 70 and that’s about it. I doubt if younger people would like this because they didn’t live through it like I did.
Still, I think there is enough of an audience for this to make it worth everyone’s while to at least try it out. The faster I can get it going, the faster I can find out if I was right. It will not require a major investment of money and better yet I won’t have to depend on comedy clubs to make this work. This is a whole new market and I’ll be the one calling the shots.
This whole thing is a risk, but a calculated one. Minimal too. If I do it and it flops, I will easily be able to go back and do what I was doing without missing a step. In fact, I’m not going to stop doing what I was doing as this gets going. I’m only going to do it one or two weekends a month for a few months to test the interest level. After that, we’ll reassess it.
Above all else, it’s been really fun to work on this so far. It’s only been a week, but I am having a blast sorting out the ideas I had and mixing them with those that people sent me. I like working with Ron, and he’s excited to have a new project to develop. It feels right.
This also gives me something to use as a backup to the Jerry’s Kidders play. That’s also a fun project that bypasses comedy clubs, and we’re getting bookings with it. I can stay in the area with both of these projects and fill in blank dates by cherry picking quality clubs.
This is the best of all worlds, and if I can pull it off I’ll be doing quite well. I love all the projects and I love even more the fact my travel will stay to a minimum. I’ve been out and about and it was fun, now I have different goals. One of them is a little financial security.
Tonight I had a show at Zanies in Vernon Hills. The audience was an odd mix and I had to really work to get them and I’m not sure if I did. They were in and out and I didn’t feel I was able to get on a roll and knock it out of the park. That room can be tricky depending on the size of the audience and weekdays are usually pretty small. I wasn’t happy with it.
These are some of the lumps I’m going to have with the play as well. I won’t start with a big venue, so audiences will be smaller in size. Sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw, but a smaller audience can go either way. If I get 40 people who aren’t laughers, that can be a LONG night. Still, I’m grateful for the work and life goes on. I’ve got plenty to do.