WE MEET on the cold damp streets of Edinburgh. It is an intimate exchange. I extend my hand toward her hand, smile, holding her gaze, trying to appear perky and fun like a party waiting to happen and she is the only guest invited. She is shy, turning away, avoiding eye contact. I must make my move or fear losing her forever!
"Hello, may I hand you a flyer for my one-woman show?"
"Um, I guess," she says, as if she is doing me a favour, as if she can feel the desperation in my flyer, as if looking into my eyes is like staring into a crystal ball that is filled with images of empty seats in the Joker Dome, like the joke is on me and she knows it!
"Would you like to know what the show is about?" I ask earnestly.
"Ah, sure…but, uh, um, I'm waiting for a friend so…"
I know I only have a moment to sell her on my show. I assess the situation quickly, looking for the right thing to say, something efficient and succinct, but light and insouciant. "It's about boobs: the ones you date and the ones you lose. Oh, and it's a fantastic show! My mother really enjoys it."
She smiles, giggles a bit, takes the 6 x 8 glossy card-stock and starts reading it. "Thank you," she says, and means it.
This is my first Fringe. And even though I have a fair amount of experience promoting my plays and books and such, being in this environment is unique.
So after observing how different people flyer: either giving a 30-second pitch, or just casually handing the flyer to as many people as possible with no explanation, or chatting up the show for as much time as people will allow them to, or some combination of the three, I have made my way into the crowded, eager streets of Edinburgh in hopes of passing out my flyers to people who will want to come and see Saving Tania's Privates.
There is just one problem. I suffer from a mildly debilitating social disease: connectivitis. There, I said it. Basically this means that I can't simply hand someone a flyer. Oh no, that would feel disingenuous and dirty. Connectivitis sufferers have this compulsive need to connect with people. We have to make eye contact and have some genuine interaction in order to proceed with promoting, otherwise we start to hyperventilate, feel like a fake and failure all at the same time. So, being genuine is, well, hard to achieve in 30-second blocks, but because I'm at the Fringe, where thousands of shows and potential audience members abound, I've come up with a method that is actually working. Seriously, every person I've handed a flyer to has come to my show. True, my method doesn't allow me to hand out hundreds of flyers in a day, but it's working! So, here goes…
1. I always ask a person, "May I give you a flyer for my one-woman show?" Then what happens is one of two responses: a. they are confused that I said "one-woman" because I look like a 20-something man. b. They are appreciative that I asked them rather than shoving it at them and therefore they feel empowered when they say yes, or no. It was their choice.
2. If they say yes to the flyer, I try connecting to them with any of the following ideas about my show: it's a really funny show, and sometimes not so funny. It's about dating healthy women and not-so-healthy women and some other stuff too. It's about kicking cancer's ass with a sense of humour and urgency. What kind of shows have you been seeing at the festival? Oh, I noticed the pink ribbon button on your lapel, I've had breast cancer too, but you'll see that in the show. I don't believe that illness needs to be maudlin, that's redundant – my show is a good time! Yeah, "boobs" real ones and euphemistic ones!
3. I smile. A lot. At people. Look, I'm a happy person and smiling feels good and people seem to like people who are smiling and the people who get irritated with people who smile a lot really need to see my show so… it's a win/win situation!
4. Being thankful. I thank people for taking a flyer, for engaging in a quick generative conversation about theatre that has the potential to change lives and minds. I am thankful that there are people who believe in the power of theatre. That makes me smile too.
Ultimately, flyering at the Fringe feels like I am promoting me, my story, a glimpse into my private life. It's a tough job putting a slice of your life in the hands of a random person, but it feels like people are receptive and open to this dialogue. So, I'll see you on the streets.
• Saving Tania's Privates is at the Pleasance Dome, 1pm, until 25 August