When I first moved to Chicago in 2011 I didn’t know anyone here. I spent the first year struggling to get my name out there and find gigs. It was a year of trial and error, with way more failures than successes.
For some reason, that autumn I decided to put together a run of shows at a small theatre near my apartment. I would be self-producing and performing four shows over four weeks. I spent hours canvassing the surrounding neighborhoods with posters and flyers, inviting strangers, and trying my best to get the word out.
But on opening night we only had 7 people in the audience. It was a massive disappointment. I was embarrassed and discouraged and began questioning everything that had led me to that point.
The next day, I got an email from WGN TV wanting to feature me on their morning show the following week. As a result, the next three shows were packed and I felt like I had gotten my first small break in Chicago.
It was also the first experience of many that taught me to push through a discouraging situation. From that moment on I’ve always remembered that when things get challenging there’s usually something positive waiting around the corner.
Since that first show I’ve produced a different run of shows every year since. Always a new show, always a new venue, always a learning experience. I’ve done shows in wine bars, gymnasiums, basements, restaurants, small rooms, and bigger theaters. I even put an international tour together, formed out of my favorite pieces from those shows.
This year, against my better judgement, I decided to do my longest run yet. Every Wednesday for the past six months I’ve been performing in Lincoln Park here in the city. It’s always a challenge to build buzz for a show and keep that momentum going, but I can easily say that this has been my most successful run yet.
We sold out for much of the summer, got featured on Windy City Live, WGN, multiple times on WGN Radio, and reviewed by nearly every major publication in Chicago. The show received rave reviews and even won a Chicago Theatre Award, perhaps one of my proudest accomplishments to date.
Every run of shows has been building up to this point. Every small audience, every misstep, every frustrating producer or theatre staff I’ve worked with. Venues have closed or changed management mid-run. There’s no guidebook to this, especially when you’re producing the show yourself. As a result, I’ve made more mistakes along the way than you could possibly imagine.
I’ve never been the kind of person to let failures stop me. If anything, they just make me work harder and keep moving forward. Each show has taught me something new and I can see a noticeable improvement in my ability as a live performer.
Next Wednesday will be the final performance of this run of shows. I couldn’t think of a better end to the run than having closing night on Halloween. If you haven’t seen the show yet, there are still a few tickets available here.
After next week I’ll never do this show again, so don’t miss your chance to experience it for yourself. In the meantime, I’ve already started writing the next show and I can’t wait for you to see what’s next.