Being Asked to “Audition” by Working for Free?

Posted by: on June 14, 2017

SERENITY NOW. Every time I think I’ve seen it all, I’m proven wrong in the WORST WAYS. This is a message going out to all the brand spankin’ new aerialists, or those who have Big Aerial Dreams, and I hope it reaches the people who need to hear it most. Here goes.

The Latest Really Shady Business Practice

Picture this: you go in for a job interview at Morganstern and Wompbottom Law Offices. You meet Ms Morganstern, and the interview goes something like this.

“So, I see you want to be a legal secretary.”

“Yes, yes I do! I’m really eager!”

“Great! So, we’ll just need you to work a few days as an audition. Then, if we like you, maybe we’ll give you the job sometime down the road.”

“…… OK….. that seems a bit unusual, but may I ask what the rate of pay will be for the few days?”

“Oh – like I said – it’s not really work, it’s an “audition”. You know, so we can see if we like you. No pay.”

HEAD. DESK.

The latest thing to crop up here in NYC (and probably other places) is the Working Audition – a company will express interest, but want you to work a night for free in order to be considered for regular gigs. Friends, this is not how this is supposed to work. Many companies have apprentice programs, where green aerialists learn the biz by performing at a reduced rate for a bit while being actively trained, but free? No bueno. If this is a professional event (as opposed to a volunteer situation for everyone), you are being taken advantage of, and (unintentionally) undercutting our industry.


If someone asks you to work a gig for free as an audition, RUN FAR FAR AWAY. This is not how this business works.


Beware of Artist Pyramid Schemes

What the heck would that look like? Maybe someone offers “free aerial training” in exchange for working a few gigs, and entry into This Fabulous New Company (wow – I’ll bet that aerial training is going to be REALLY TOP NOTCH). Oh – and hey, you’ll also need a professional video that’s $$. And headshots that are $$. And a costume which is $$. And you’ll also need this workshop…… See where I’m going with this?

Want excellent training? Look around – you’re swimming in it. Broke? Plenty of spaces offer work study. That “training” you’re going to get from a pyramid scheme is gonna be worth as much as those gigs – $0.00. Do it right. Take classes, put in the time, and if someone offers you aerial work with “no experience necessary”, RUN AWAY.

Not All Arrangements Are Bad

I’ve seen arrangements between teachers and students work out a number of ways. Some teach in exchange for the student doing admin work, or assisting with other classes. Some teachers put in the time in exchange for a percentage of the artist’s earnings for x number of years. Some companies get newbie performers up to speed by training business specifics on the job (and providing costumes, apparatus, rigging, etc) in exchange for a reduced rate on the gig. Arrangements exchanging excellent training for other services can work out great, so long as the training IS excellent and there’s a real spirit of equity.

That said, an audition doesn’t equal working a gig free. That isn’t an audition, that’s working a gig for free. They could just as easily have you come into the studio and do a legit audition. Newbies beware – shenanigans abound. Dare to imagine, Laura

PS – Scammy McScammertons, you’re being put on notice.

 

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Packing for Tour – Everything But the Kitchen Sink! Wait…. Grab That Too…

Posted by: on May 9, 2017

Hey friends! I was recently asked – what should you pack when you’re headed out on the road on tour? Here’s my current list!

  • Clothes – laundry facilities may sometimes be spotty, so plan ahead. Pick one color and stick to it – everything should go with everything else. I just bring all black – it’s great for theater stuff, doesn’t show as much dirt, and easy to accessorize. Choose stuff that absolutely doesn’t need dry cleaning, and that doesn’t wrinkle.
    • For travel and training, I wear pretty much the same thing – t shirts/tunics and leggings or sweat pants. (7 days)
    • Socks-n-undies (7 days)
    • One nice enough outfit. I bring a stretchy black dress, and pair it with a fancy hair doodad, earrings, etc.
    • If you’ve got more room, bring a few cute clothes.
    • Shoes – one pair of exercise shoes, and one “all purpose” pair – boots, ballet flats, whatever’s comfy. If you’re really short on space, pack socks and/or undies in your shoes.
    • A baseball cap is super useful!
    • Any seasonal clothes you’ll need. Do your homework – nothing is worse than freezing or melting because you packed the wrong clothes.
    • Jewelry bag – don’t take any family heirlooms on tour! Stuff gets left places, dressing rooms might get “visited”, etc. Stick to a few well-chosen – but not priceless or too sentimental – pieces.
    • I section everything into plastic freezer bags or zippered packing bags – life gets a lot easier.
    • Bring a laundry bag or pillow case for dirty laundry.
    • Pack an open bar of soap or a sachet or two in your suitcase to keep your clothes from getting that “I am living out of a suitcase” smell.
    • Toiletries and your personal makeup if you use it.
    • Ear plugs and an eye mask to make nutty sleep schedules a bit more humane.
    • Neck pillow
    • Small pharmacy that I bring:
      • Tylenol & Advil
      • nasal spray
      • band aids, liquid bandage, tape
      • melatonin tablets
      • Burts Bees Res-Q Ointment (for burns and ouchies)
      • Capsaicin HP (anti-inflammatory cream)
      •  A few Imodium caplets (take a box if you’re going to be in areas without potable tap water)
      • a couple of “Smooth Move” tea bags in case things get…. backed up
      • any meds you take regularly
  • Show
    • Rigging – whatever you need, in a separate bag from your personal stuff as this will likely ride in the truck with the equipment. You’d rather be looking at it than looking for it, so troubleshoot and bring whatever you need.
    • Apparatus/Props – do a GOOD AND THOROUGH inspection of your apparatus and rigging before you head out. Make any repairs needed (trapeze padding, for example), and order new fabrics  or rigging if need be.
    • Grip aids – bring extra if you use it. Spray rosin often may not fly, so pack your powder.
    • Costumes – bring your main and a backup. Also, pack a small sewing kit.
    • Makeup – bring an extra set of lashes & glue, and make sure you have enough of whatever you’ll be using to get you through the tour.
    • A small can of FDS for tights and thongs that have to make it through multiple shows between washings (or bring a big old bunch of thongs and tights).
  •  Household
    • SMALL refillable bottle of laundry detergent, or bring pre-filled packets.
    • A small stash of plastic bags in various sizes.
    • 2-3 large trashbags if your luggage isn’t waterproof – makes a great impromptu covering.
    • Duct tape – it’s just so damned useful.
    • I always bring a few clothes pins or binder clips – again, crazy useful.
  • Office
    • Phone, computer, and any converters you may need for international travel.
    • I always travel with an “office in a bag”, which includes:
      • small flash drive
      • odds and ends – paper clips, rubber bands, stamps & a few envelopes, etc.
      • post it notes
      • pens
      • legal pad or spiral notebook

And, of course, whatever you need to keep yourself entertained on long bus rides! Entertainment is easier than ever (thanks, technology!). Bring good ear phones though – nobody wants to listen to your music. 😉

And I think that’s it! I’ll probably think of 1000 more things by the time I post this. Generally speaking, start packing about a week before you leave – it’s AMAZING what you’ll forget if you leave it til the last minute. Happy trails! Dare to imagine, Laura

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ImaginAerial Presents: Vintage Circus

Posted by: on May 3, 2017

What is Vintage Circus?

ImaginAerial takes some inspiration from traditional circus and sideshow in our cheeky take on the circus of yesteryear. From vintage circus costumes to burlesque-esque and Steampunk offerings, we’ve got you covered.

What do Vintage Circus Artists Need to Perform?

  • Acts include hula hoops, trapeze, chair balancing, acrobats, juggling, contortion, sideshow, and more! We can even give modern acts a vintage twist with old-fashioned costumes and music.
  • Artists can perform acts while mingling with guests, on a stage or pedestal, or as part of a show.
  • Vintage ground artists need a clean floor space, and about 5×5 feet of space on a stage, pedestal, or floor.
  • Aerialists require a hang point to rig off of. A free-standing rig is available if a rig point is not available in the venue.

 

If you have questions (and I’ll bet you do), give us a ring at (929) 260-3134 and we can talk you through it.

 

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ImaginAerial Presents: Blue Cirque

Posted by: on April 26, 2017

 

ImaginAerial in dreamy shades of blue!

  • Beautiful cirque-style costumes in a variety of blues to suit your theme!
  • Aerialists, acrobats, contortionists, stilt walkers, and all manner of cirque-style artists bring elegance and surprise to your event.

 

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But are You a REAL Artist?

Posted by: on April 25, 2017

A friend and I have recently been having some pretty provocative conversations about the nature of art, and we touched on the subject of “who gets to call themselves an artist”. What makes a real artist? Can anyone just jump on the bandwagon and assume the moniker? Do you need to have some measure of success? Does it have to be good art? What about entertainment? Let’s just say she and I have polished off more than one bottle of wine on this topic (I find I do my best debating on glass number 3). Who gets to call themselves a real artist?

Real Artist Qualifications

Do you make art? Does it hold a place of primary importance in your life? Does not making art send you into a maelstrom of misery and depression? Congratulations – you’re an artist. Notice that I didn’t say you were a “successful” artist or a “good” artist – that’s another blog post (and yardstick) entirely.

Does someone occasionally pay you for your art? This is where the wicket gets a bit sticky for some of you, right? Can I call myself a plumber if no one ever pays me to plunge their potty? Can I call myself a teacher if I’m never in front of a classroom? This assumes that the designation “artist” refers solely to profession, not identity (“if nobody ever pays for my art, I am not an artist”). I feel it can be either or both – that the term Artist need not be tied to commerce or profession. If you spend the majority of your life thinking about/making/purchasing supplies for art, I think you get to call yourself an artist if you want to. Vincent van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime, just saying….

Disagree? Here – pass the cabernet.

You Cannot Have a Day Job and Call Yourself a Real Artist

Friend, we live in ‘Murica – how are you an artist WITHOUT a day job? We live in a country that, for the most part, doesn’t value art or artists in any meaningful way. We can go through many a bottle about whose fault that is (“the artists are too weird or not weird enough”), whether it’s OK (“art isn’t essential”), or how to fix it (“don’t bother”), but the fact remains that the USA does not fund art in the way that say Canada does, or France. What does this mean? Most artists will not work in their chosen field consistently. This often means getting a day job (Maya Angelou was a streetcar conductor, a shake dancer, paint stripper, restaurant cook, and teacher, among other things), or working “broadly” in your field (see below).

You might have a day job, a night job, and an in-between job, but that doesn’t mean you’re not an artist.

Broaden That Definition

Being an artist doesn’t look like one specific thing. We all have the way we’d prefer it to look – performing all the time, commissioned paintings out the wazoo, your choreography work booked solid for the next five years, etc., but reality requires a broader take. Some artists choose to make a living totally outside their art – completely fine. Many of us prefer to work close to what we love best; consequently, the life of a working artist may include teaching, lecturing, designing, consulting, performing, costume making, makeup design, etc. Some choose to branch out into closely related fields – oodles of circus artists and dancers work in fitness, for example, or nutrition. Does it make them less serious artists? Maybe, if you’re a hoity elitist trust fund baby who’s never had to make rent in NYC.

As a society, we’ve bought into this ludicrous idea that being an artist – good, bad, or ugly – means that you’re making a living with your art, and that you’re well-known during your lifetime. If you’re suffering from this delusion, I urge you to run – don’t walk – to your nearest bookstore and start reading about the lives of famous artists throughout history. It’s a delicious reality check, and one that’s much needed, methinks. Dare to imagine, Laura

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Betta Have My Money! Don’t Make Performers Chase You for a Paycheck

Posted by: on April 18, 2017

If you’re a freelancer, you’ve been there: the work is done, but that paycheck is gone with the wind. When you get radio silence or the runaround from the person who hired you, it can be a whirlwind of stress, anxiety and anger. As a performer, you have a number of options to pursue, but that’s next week’s post. This week? I want to talk to the folks who hire the performers, because if people are consistently waiting on you for a paycheck, that’s a problem.

You Have a Responsibility

I’ve only not been paid for my work one time – New Years Eve 2009 when I worked for Cirque USA (if you’re reading this, it’s never too late to do the right thing…). After chasing the paycheck for a long while, I eventually chalked it up to a lesson learned. But ugh – what a lesson.

When we hire artists, we feel the responsibility of the commitment that’s made – you perform at our event, we pay you for that performance. It’s not your problem whether or not WE get paid by the client, that’s on us. It’s not your problem if the house doesn’t sell enough seats. It’s not your problem if the company went nuts on hookers and blow and spent your paycheck. You worked? You should get that money. Period. Can’t take that on? You’re not ready to hire anyone.

Disposable Artist Syndrome

We see this ALL the time – venues who regularly hire talent, then make them chase that check. They often suffer from what I like to call Disposable Artist Syndrome – they’re banking on the fact that there are so many artists eager to perform, what does it matter if they piss some off? There’s always another one to take their place. Ew.

Artists are people, not tissues. That’s really all I have to say about that. Don’t be surprised if you start to find it tough to get (and keep) good talent.

Just to Be Clear

It’s so important to be clear about pay – how much you will pay, how it will be paid, and the time frame. If you know it’s going to be 90 days before you can pay, say so at the time of booking. Did you agree to pay sooner? You betta do it. If something insane happens and you cannot pay on time, transparency is key. Be honest about what happened, and how you will make it right.

Not in the habit of giving a timeline for payment? Enjoy the drama. Performers start getting really antsy when they start having to ask about their check, and thus begins the downward spiral. A lot of potentially great producer/performer relationships get needlessly ruined that way – sad.

 

Over 70% of freelancers will report not being paid at some point for work they’ve done. This is not OK. If you are an artist hiring artists, your responsibility is even greater – these are your people, for heavens sake! Money is already a subject fraught with feeeeeeeelings and tension and baggage – don’t be shady. Don’t pull a Donald. Be excellent to each other. Dare to imagine, Laura

 

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Yer Money or Yer Life! How to Ask About Pay Without Sounding Crass

Posted by: on March 22, 2017

We all have those moments – someone asks you to be in their show or event, and you’re all like, “YES! Hooray! I am totally available!” And then it dawns on you – you have no idea what they’re thinking of paying you. OMG, are they thinking of paying you at all?! It’s an important question, but how do you ask it without sounding a wee bit crass?

It’s About Relationship

We went to a conference a while back, and, weirdly, the best perspective shift I came away with was this:


All business, particularly in the arts, is about relationships.


The goal isn’t so much to book a gig or a show (although it ultimately is), but to forge new, mutually fulfilling relationships with folks who can hire you. These relationships are about a lot of things, not just financial transactions; so, when we reduce them to a paycheck, we diminish the potential richness (pardon the entendre) of the partnership.

How to Ask About Pay Rates – Best Practices

Anyone who knows me is well aware of my direct and candid nature – there’s not much I won’t say or talk about. But, I’ve learned (and turned!) a trick or two when it comes to chatting about finances. When I’m talking to potential clients, we both know that the real deal breaker will likely be budget, but how will that client feel if that’s the first question out of my mouth?

Potential Client: “Hi! I’m interested in booking circus entertainment for my event in a couple of months!”

Me: Great! What’s your budget?

… Nope! While budget may be the determining factor, it’s not the most important thing. There’s a person planning an event on the other end of this phone call or email! The person – the relationship – is the most important thing. We’ll get to budget pretty quickly, but a couple of minutes listening to their needs goes a long way towards increasing the likelihood that we’ll work together – if not now, then maybe in the future.

There are a lot of ways this dynamic plays out in our business. Here, I’m going to focus on the artist/entertainment company relationship.

Do:

  • Express enthusiasm about working with the company. Even if you’ve been working with a company for years, a little pep in your step when you accept a gig goes a long way. Say thanks! Say how excited you are to be working with them! Trust me – an eager attitude with a little gratitude stands out, and helps you appear friendly, fun to work with, and gracious.
  • Think long-term. Unless the company sucks, you want to lay a strong foundation for future work. Beyond the basics (respond to communications promptly, know your performance parameters, etc), you want to invest in this relationship the way you would any other. Express interest, keep it friendly, grease the wheels.
  • Keep it professional. Unless the person booking you is your bestie, then let them set the tone for communications. Are they uber formal? Respond in kind. Are they super informal? Err on the side of caution and spare them the emoticons. When talking about money, watch your phrasing and keep it on the up and up. “What can you pay?” is a far cry from “What do you have set aside in your budget for me on this event?”

So, how do you phrase money talk with class? Here are some good examples that came across my desk recently:

  • “Hi Laura! Thank you so much for thinking of me for the 22nd – I’m so excited to work with you again! Can you give me an idea of what you have set aside budget-wise for me? I’m really looking forward to this event.”
  • “Hello Laura! Thank you so much for thinking of me for the 22nd – I’m so excited to work with you! This is my first time with your company, and I’m not familiar with your pay scale. When you get a minute, could you please let me know what the rate is for this event? Thanks again – I’m really looking forward to it.”

 

If the pay rate is WAY below what you had in mind, you have two options:

  1. Negotiate. If it’s within a couple hundred dollars, ask if there’s some wiggle room in the budget. “Hi Belinda! Thank you so much for the info about the 22nd. My usual rate is closer to $1000 – is there any flexibility in the budget for this event? I would really love to work with you on this one!”
  2. Decline. If there’s no way that budget is going to cut it, you’ll have to bow out. Do it like a jerk, and you can be sure they won’t contact you again. Decline with class, and, when they have a budget that can work, you’ll likely be on the list! “Hi Lulabelle! Thank you so much for clarifying the rates for the 22nd. My usual rate is $1000 for this type of event – is there any wiggle room in this budget?” (No.) “Hi Lulabelle! I completely understand. I’m so sad to say that I won’t be a good fit for this event – I will not be able to make $300 work. Please do keep me in mind for future events – I would really love to work with you down the road!” Then, consider recommending a student who might be a good fit for this show. If this company is kind of jerky though, don’t pass the buck.

In closing, remember: it’s about relationship. If the company is good, nurture that relationship by using your mad people skilz! Dare to imagine, Laura

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Happy Valentine’s Day from ImaginAerial!

Posted by: on February 9, 2017

 

Love really IS in the air! From Champagne Aerialists to a Living Red Carpet, ImaginAerial adds a new twist to Valentine’s Day.

  • Spectacular elite cirque-style acts to enthrall your guests
  • A gorgeous array of costumes – from traditional red and white to lingerie-inspired, gowns, etc.
  • A Living Red Carpet is a novel surprise for your attendees!
  • Glamorous Champagne Aerialists add flair and elegance to any welcome.
  • Strolling Tables make mingling more fun!
  • … and so much more!

 

 
 

 

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Killian Cog: Traveling Thru Time to Ithaca and Reading!

Posted by: on February 7, 2017

Killian is on the move again! Come somersault through time and space on this cirque-style journey through the mutli-verse!

March 2 & 3, 7:00 pm at the Hangar Theater in Ithaca, NY

Get tickets here!!!!!

March 5, 3:00 pm at The Miller Center for the Arts in Reading, PA

Get tickets here!!!!!

 

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That Show Sucked. Seriously – It Was the Worst.

Posted by: on January 24, 2017

THIS show was a winner!

Ever had a show go bad? I mean REAL BAD? Yep – us too. Your act can go poorly one night, or an entire show can just be le poo for whatever reason – maybe the whole thing is just wretched, maybe it was just an off night. Most of us, when confronted with a stinker, do one of two things: we castigate ourselves mercilessly, or we pretend that nothing is wrong. Move along people, nothing to see here…..

Hate Yourself. You’re Awful. Oh – and You’re a Fraud.

If you come off stage and flip a table, or sob in the dressing room while eating the entire last tray of catering, you’re in this camp. It feels so goooooooood, and so right somehow, to really let yourself have it if you messed up, or if things didn’t go as you’d hoped. And it’s so motivating and helpful, right? Well…. right?

……Maybe….. If you find that giving yourself a harsh talking to really works for you – gets you motivated to fix what’s broken and work harder, then have at it! You’re awful! Positively dreadful! Get to work tomorrow. BUT. If, after screaming at yourself, you feel broken, sick, sad, hopeless, or exhausted, your reaction may be a hair counterproductive. By all means, wallow in self-hatred for a few minutes, but all that energy has to go somewhere productive eventually. Keep reading.

Pretend Everything is Fine

If you find yourself getting stabby if someone suggests you weren’t perfect, or if you can’t “hear” any input other than your own, welcome to Pollyanna-ville. Population you. Every time you perform – EVERY TIME – something could be better. Can you be honest enough with yourself to admit that you, your act, or the show aren’t perfect? If you can’t bear to evaluate your own work, or have it evaluated for you, it can help to remember this: you are NOT your work. You are not your act, you are not the show. Criticism of the work is not personal. Repeat until you actually believe that.

(I get it – believe me. It can be hard to separate “us” from the work, as much of it is reflective, or has so much of “us” wound up in it. Work to cultivate a slight detachment, kind of like you do during meditation when you watch your thoughts, but are NOT your thoughts. It’s HARD, but it can be done. It’s a process.)

Reality Check

Performance is never perfect. What we do is always somewhere on a spectrum between The Worst Thing That’s Ever Deliberately Happened on a Stage and Absolute Perfection Incarnate – Like Angels Dancing on My Eyeballs.

When we think of our work this way, it’s so much easier to see each performance as a blueprint for future work. We look at each show – what worked great? What was not so good? What should never, ever, happen on a stage again? Write it down if you have to. Keep the good, fix or make a plan to work on the bad.

There’s no need to bash yourself into a hole of depression, no need to pretend that everything you did was great. Some stuff was meh/bad/stupid/uuuuugh, some stuff was pretty good/amazing/yes/right direction. Every time. Each and every time we rehearse, perform, or create, we have the opportunity to get a little closer to what we really envision for ourselves and our work. Whether we flog ourselves emotionally, live in a perpetual state of denial, or use each creation as an opportunity for growth is completely us. What’s it going to be? Dare to imagine, Laura

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