Pound Sign

New York City, pop culture, art and nightlife. Because nobody else is blogging about those things.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Some reflections on two years as an independent producer

Earlier this month we presented the two-year anniversary show of the Gameshow Speakeasy, doubly exciting because we were debuting on our new night, the first Thursday of every month, at our new home: the Slipper Room. (We also had the unfortunate timing to have that show happening the same night as the most-watched Vice-Presidential debate in television history, but that's a different story. Hey, we Tivo'ed it.) Now, we were celebrating our two-year anniversary of the show two months late; it would have been in August. But, we put the show on a two-month summer hiatus during which we endeavored to move it from Lucky Cheng's, our venue since the spring, to a new place. The red-curtained Slipper Room, a venue we know and love, and which knows and loves us, is really the perfect home for the show (as we discovered, ironically enough, at our FIRST anniversary show, which we moved to the Slipper Room at the last minute when the air-conditioning broke down at our original home, the Parkside Lounge). We moved the show to Lucky Cheng's with the promise of substantial support from the venue, help with promotion and excitement of having us there, as part of a family of new shows moving in. It turned out to be, frankly, mostly a disaster. We weren't alone in struggling with the realities of moving a show to Cheng's: last Thursday, Starshine Burlesque, one of New York's longest running and most respected and beloved weekly burlesque shows, which had been run by Little Brooklyn and Creamy Stevens for six years without hardly a missed Thursday night, had its last weekly show. After moving to Cheng's ahead of the closing of its long-time venue Rififi, Starshine had struggled with the same, many technical, administrative and priority issues that made doing a show at Lucky Cheng's almost no fun at all. It certainly was the contributing factor in the two of them calling it quits, which is a real loss to New York's burlesque community, and nightlife in general.

And that's why we had to move; the Gameshow Speakeasy is a show we love to do, it's where we started producing, and it's survived a cease-and-desist order from one of the World's largest media conglomerates over the use of its original name, so dammit, it can survive a move two blocks south to a much better venue! And, it was appropriate to launch at our new home on our anniversary show, as this has all been a tremendous learning experience in the realities of being an independent show producer in New York. Any venue is a risk; even a perfect venue is subject to the growing pressures of NYC real estate: the Slipper Room is under the annually-building pressure of the rising costs of the Lower East Side, and by competition like the douchebag den called the Box, with velvet rope and bottle service. Of course, columnists are writing about how the economic downturn could be what saves New York nightlife from thousand-dollar booths; it could get cheaper, cooler, more audience and performer friendly again, more interesting. I hope that's true. Meanwhile we'll keep doing what we're doing for the love of putting it in front of the audience and paying our amazing performers as much as possible. We have so much coming up that I'm very excited about. Let's get back to that!


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