"Inside my heart is breaking / My make-up may be flaking / But my smile still stays on"
One of the best parts of volunteering as a Friendraiser for the Fringe is getting free tickets to see shows, like comic Nile Seguin's one-man show Fear of a Brown Planet. His hilarious and pointed insights on race issues in North America merit an entire post, but let's talk about some of his rules for being an entertainer.
Nile said that you need thick skin to be in the entertainment business. You have to let the rejection and dejection roll off your back. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. You will bomb. People will heckle you. It will suck.
Come to think of it, you should have thick skin to be a writer, too. No wonder I haven't made it big yet. My writer's skin is only as thick as the paper in my printer. And just as recyclable! Badum-TISH! Thank you! Please tip your waitress.
It occurred to me that being a Friend/fundraiser also requires thick skin and a certain amount of gumption. Sass. Moxie. You need to be bold when you ask people for money, especially if it's to support the arts. It's a good thing I have what Karincita calls Dedication to Excellent Costumage because I've discovered that I become braver and bolder "in character". It's not Cookie Everman out there asking people to keep the Fringe alive by donating their precious loonies and toonies. It's Pussy Galore!
Actually, it was OctoPussy Galore. Among the hundreds who streamed past the west gate on Bond Girl Day, only one person got close enough to count that there were indeed eight kitties dangling from my belt. That was the manchild calling himself Trentastic.
He had dark emo hair, gorgeous olive skin, and razor-sharp cheekbones. He wore sparkling navy blue eyeliner that matched the streak in his hair. He was tall, willowy, beautiful, and oh-so-very-young. Trentastic didn't walk through the west gate; he sauntered. And then:
Me: Welcome to Fringe! Would you care to make a small donation and help keep Fringe alive?
Him: [whips open his sweatshirt to reveal three "Fringe Friendly" stickers] I already have.
Me: Yes, I see. Three times. Thank you! [turns away to greet other patrons]
Him: [looks at my nametag] So you're Cookie, eh? I'm Trentastic. Now that we know each other, could I pet your ears?
Me: Erm... sure... [leans over cautiously]
Him: Meowr! So, what's the costume about?
Me: Well, today is Bond Girl Day. Can you guess which one I'm supposed to be?
Him: Hmmm... [looks me up and down] It's SO obvious. You're the HOT ONE.
[15-year-old Cookie giggles internally, but 32-year-old Cookie is all, "Please, child. This is very flattering, but I would BREAK you."]
Me: Wow, that was pretty smooth. Anyway, thanks for donating. Have a good evening! [read: Run along now.]
Nile Seguin also talked about playing to your audience. As an entertainer, you should pick up on the cues that your audience gives you. Play with them, let them into your act, connect with them. Although not necessarily in the way Trentastic wanted to "connect" with me, am I right? You're a fantastic crowd! I'll be here all week. Try the duck!
When you're a Friendraiser, that connection to your audience translates to looking people in the eye when you welcome them to Fringe. More often than not, people stopped to donate when I made eye contact with and smiled at them or complimented their dresses or shirts. If I've learned nothing else from my years in fundraising and PR, I've learned that the most effective--and hardest, most consuming--kind of PR is personal, one-on-one.
I left fundraising and PR because I found it difficult and draining to spend my days practically begging people for money to support The Cause. Yet I enjoy Friendraising for Fringe. Isn't it ironic? Don't you think? Even when I was sniffly and tired and the knee-high boots I wore for my Sheena Easton costume pinched my toesies, my smile still stayed on. If I had known then what I know now, I would've worn a red boa and tiara to all the fundraising events I organized.