Our friend Bob Abdou has some words of wisdom for everyone….
With the winter arriving in Denver I am wondering, how do you handle canceling a show? – Vick M from Denver
Good question! Canceling a show is not an easy decision. Especially on the day of the show and you feel you would be letting down a client or an audience. But sometimes it has to happen.
Now there are some reasons that you should NEVER use to decide to cancel a show:
You Got a Higher Paying Gig
If I committed to perform for a senior facility for $100 and a mother calls me for a birthday party that I charge $200 for the same day and time, I believe its just not right to cancel to take the higher paying show. My word is my bond and I take that very seriously. I have explained the situation to the birthday mother that I have another show at the same time and day and they will often rearrange their party to fit my schedule (if the invitations haven’t gone out yet!) Then, everybody wins! If they can’t change the time, I just wish them all the best and please remember me for next year and to call earlier. There have been rare occasions when I have called the first client to see if we could schedule their show for another time. If they can, I usually end up thanking them a lot and do something special for them in the show. If they can’t, then I just have to suck it up and lose out on the second show.
Not in the mood or forgetting
These circumstances can separate the pros from the wannabees. As a full time professional I rely on shows to pay my bills. I have said many times that after each show I am unemployed. I am always looking for the next gig. So “I’m not in the mood” or “I forgot” is not in my vocabulary.
Some people who have day jobs might look at a low-paying or free show as not important. I have performed at festivals with other performers and on many occasions, a wannabee was scheduled to perform and didn’t show up and didn’t even call. Lots of time, I have found out that the person just wanted stage-time and offered the show for free. Well this client got what they paid for. I’m not saying that all beginners have this mentality. (No hate mail, please.) But some people feel like they have nothing to lose when they just don’t show up. But really, everything is lost: the performer’s reputation is shot for bigger, better shows; the client is left in the lurch; and then they can end up getting upset with all ventriloquists, not just the offending performer. If you don’t take the little shows seriously, you’ll never get to the big ones. Just don’t do it.
Now some entertainers believe no matter the circumstances, the show absolutely must go on. I personally have a beef with that. If there is a really serious matter, I don’t believe that the world will stop spinning on it’s axis because I had to cancel.
There are some very legitimate reasons for canceling a show:
I’m a huge Abbot and Costello fan. When Lou Costello’s son, Butch, died in a pool accident. The world knew about the accident, but Lou’s feeling was “the show must go on”. The same day his son died, he went on with his regular radio show. I’m sure no matter how well written that show was, the audience did not laugh. The fact that he did the show damaged his reputation to some extent. You will never hear anyone say on their deathbed “I wish I spent more time at work”, it is usually the opposite “I wish I spent more time with my family”. Lou should have cancelled and taken time to grieve.
I had to cancel quite few show shows when my step mom died in 1998 and my father in 2007. When I called up the client, they understood my situation. I rescheduled some at a discount and found replacement performers for others (this is another good reason why we shouldn’t snub our competitors!) I canceled and my reputation stayed intact.
I remember seeing a ventriloquist perform with laryngitis, this performer believed that “the show must go on.” But the show was painful to watch and listen to. It was not at all enjoyable. After the show some audience members just gave the entertainer sympathetic pats on the back. The rest of the audience left realizing they just lost 45 minutes of their life they will never get back. It was a sad waste of time. Most people understand if you’re just too sick to do a show. They actually don’t want you showing up and infecting everyone (especially day cares and nursing homes.) Sometimes you just have to make the call and cancel. For a performer, taking care of your body is just as important as lip control!
This is probably what you’ll have to contend with the most in Colorado.
When it comes to weather, Mark Wade has a great suggestion for school shows: he makes sure to get the cell phone number of the principal just in a case of a snow storm. Now when I lived in Texas, I was lucky to never have this problem because school shows are never cancelled because of the sun! If I know there is going to be a snow storm in my area but not in the show’s area the next day, I might want to travel and stay in a motel near the show. This way I don’t have to worry about waking up at 4am and trying to drive in a bad storm.
One time, I drove all the way from Texas to Atlanta to do a school show. When I got to Atlanta, there was an ice storm and all the schools were closed. Too bad for me! I was all the way in Atlanta with nothing to show for it (at least I got to visit my brother and other friends.) I did learn a lesson though: any time I do an out of state show now, I get a non-refundable deposit. When really bad weather hits near a school, the last thing on a school’s mind is the Ventriloquist and the assembly program.
If you have cancel because of dangerous weather conditions on your end and they haven’t closed the schools or cancelled the party, it might be difficult to get another performer you know to make that same drive. But if you explain that it’s too dangerous, the clients will usually understand. They don’t want to be responsible for a crash on the way to their show! Show that you’re willing to reschedule and maybe offer a discount and your reputation will still be good.
We can’t predict a family crisis, the weather or sickness, but we can have PLAN B just in case. Have a list of professionals in the area that you can call. Check the weather reports,make sure you have the correct directions and always make sure you have a good phone number just in case. The thing that would make a client very upset is not hearing from the performer at all. With today’s technology there’s no excuse: email, text, cell phone, Morse code, carrier pigeon you can get the word to them somehow.
If you’re just blowing a client off, they can tell and they have every right to get upset. But in serious circumstances, remember that clients and audiences are also human and they will usually understand.
Now take 2 aspirin and call me in the morning.
As always Bob, thanks!
Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. He created the Ventriloquist Central Collection. It now has over 100 ventriloquist figures and over 50 of them are Frank Marshall figures. Because of his love for the art of ventriloquism, Mr. Willinger created the website Ventriloquist Central. For more information about the website, go to: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com
Copyright 2011 by Dan Willinger
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