I found myself awake at 6am having a Twitter message conversation with a reviewer who was venting about how reviewers are treated poorly by performers and PRs seeking reviews.
I went to sleep at 2am following a Facebook messenger convo with a reviewer who was ranting about being exhausted from reviewing too much.
I ran into a reviewer who moaned about not being able to contact a PR when their tickets weren’t at the box office.
I sat with a reviewer at Fringe Central who went on about how they didn’t have enough reviewers to review.
I had a meeting with the media office to figure out a new spin to get reviewers to review my kids’ show. And then I sent out 2 dozen personalized review requests. Crickets.
And then yesterday, I heard a little girl, about 7-years-old, reviewed the TITLE of my show, stating that she “hated it.” And she hadn’t even seen it. I hope she doesn’t work for The Scotsman.
This is my fifth time performing and producing at the Edinburgh Fringe, and it is without a doubt, the most unbelievably challenging. I thought it was just me until I heard dozens of veteran EdFringe performers chatting over Coca-Cola’s late last night at the Blundabus about how they’re struggling more than ever for audiences, stories, and reviews. You know folks are basically done when they’re not drinking alcohol at 1am.
What the fuck is going on here? Why are we having these chats one week into the festival? Why am I, a performer, having these secret conversations with reviewers? They’ve always seemed almost almighty, untouchable, and unwavering. But this year, they’re openly sharing their frustrations and exhaustion. With me…and with the world.
I’ve seen critics on social media taking down and challenging other critics for everyone to see. I’ve read posts from critics quoting emails they’ve gotten from PRs. I’ve seen major critics publicly accuse other critics of not being as worthy as other critics – and then being surprised by the backlash. I’ve seen just a handful of critics posting supportive messages to all of us. And I’ve seen producers, PRs, and performers not-so-passive-aggressively bitching on their Twitter feeds about the media and the critics. I myself have been accused of throwing shade when I recently tweeted about how I’ve become a private sounding board for critics who haven’t even expressed an interest in reviewing my two shows. I wasn’t throwing shade, I was tossing rainbows.
This week, a very influential critic told me they would review one of my shows, and I asked them not to because my houses were small because I haven’t gotten any reviews (assuming of course they’d be 5 stars like they were for the same show last year). WTF?! I’ve never said no to a critic. And I’m desperate for some ink and recognition here.
Now that I’m painfully aware of how overworked, overwhelmed, and underpaid these critics are (because they’ve not only told me, but they’ve shared their mental and emotional state of being with their thousands of social media followers) I just can’t ask them to review my show. I can’t put that extra burden on them. I can’t seem needy. I can’t be selfish. These people have become my friends. And the last thing you want to do is ask your overscheduled friends to take time support your work. Right? I do not know. I am too tired. And I have two shows to do today. And promote. And flyer for. And sweat through.
I suppose I should be screaming to the internet, “We need to have a conversation about this!” But we already are. I have no idea who’s listening?
‘Show Up” and ‘Show Up, Kids!’ play every day at The Counting House. Information at www.showuptheshow.com