It used to be that to get hired at schools, libraries and the like in your local area, you hoped to be invited to perform at a Performers Showcase. If you got a chance to perform, and you were well received, you had a very good chance of getting bookings and, thus, making a living. If you were not “invited” to perform, you at least could PURCHASE space at a table in a room filled with others hoping to make an impression on the buyers (librarians, teachers, PTA or PTO moms). Yes, we still had the chance of being hired by the mailings, phone calls and the like, but those showcases gave Teaching Artists and performers more of a chance.
Now? Many of these venues have gone belly up. Yes, there are the National Organizations, but they also charge National Organization prices. Locally, in the New York City region, we’ve lost a number of these potentialities of our lifestyle. The Westchester & Mid-Hudson Library Performers Showcases both were canceled this year due to major cut backs in staff funding and firings (friendly term: down-sizing). The Westchester Arts Council long ago stopped hosting their annual event at Purchase College, as well as the PACT showcase in NYC.
We still have library showcases in: Rockland/Catskill region, New Jersey, Suffolk County of Long Island (never got a word on one for Nassau County), Connecticut and, unless I am wrong, that’s it. Performer showcases for school: again, as far as I know, only for BOCES schools on Long Island. There might still be small ones (I think in parts of New Jersey, and only for New Jersey based artists), but… it’s kind of a ghost town for performers and TAs.
Yes, there have been more and more online performer rosters (I’m on as many as I can find). You do get some work out of them, now and then, but it’s not a sure thing. Just being posted does not mean calls, let along bookings, will happen.
So…where does that leave us? To join and REALLY do the national orgs (APAP, NCAC, etc) costs a lot of money. I figured that to do the National College Campus one, with both regional and the national showcases, and to do them right, I’d need about $3,000+ (the plus are the extra fees if you’re chosen to be a main stage performer). The camp ones you need more.
Are the “Mom & Pop” showcases simply a thing of the past, and the big Walmart-like ones the only outlet for us?
I think it’s time for the growth of TA & Arts-In-Education performer guilds. The local showcases could be up and running again being manned by the performers and TAs. I did that before, with a few other AIE performers, the year after the arts council dropped theirs. It’s a lot of work, but… it was worth it. We didn’t go further for a variety of reasons, but… it was a big learning experience of what to do, what not to do, and how well planned you need to be when you book a space to hold the thing (they had their own political agenda that bollixed up a lot of things).
I volunteered my services free of charge to the two library associations to pick up some of the manpower slack. First..it serves me well to be showcased; I get nada from a canceled one. I was chosen to perform at both. Woo hoo, and the big deal that is at the end of the day. BTW…neither association went for it. I found out the decimation in their ranks was larger then what I’d first heard.
What would you do to help reverse this trend?