Did you ever get so engrossed in a research project that you didn’t want to stop working on it?
People were calling you for dinner, the kids needed your attention, it was time to go to work…and it felt absolutely torturous to remove yourself from what you were doing.
Here’s my question…
Whether it was family history, or a favorite car model, a musical instrument, a specific artist, or even collectible brass picture buttons from the Victorian era (Phil…), could you put a performance piece together surrounding your area of interest?
Think about it.
There are organizations out there whose missions involve educating and inspiring the public about (fill in the blank with whatever you were researching).
Most of these groups have not-for-profit status, meaning they can write grants to fund special projects and public programs.
Do you see where this is going?
There’s probably funding to hire you for performances. Multiple times, in multiple venues.
A Case Study: Button Mania
Let’s take the brass buttons example from above, because I think it will be harder than most (and, I know absolutely nothing about it).
Now, I’m NOT suggesting that you put a performance together about Victorian buttons unless buttons are your thing, so you’ll want to be thinking about how this would work for your area(s) of interest.
If You Were Into Victorian Brass Picture Buttons, You Would Know…
….and I just learned from Collectors Weekly that:
“These charming discs were stamped with images taken from everything from operas to children’s books. In fact, if you wanted to tell the world you were a fan of a work of literature, you’d sew buttons featuring scenes from the novel or story on your coat or shirt. Other picture buttons took their cues from nature (flora and fauna), the sciences (stars and moons), or mythology (cupids and fairies).”
So let’s say you’ve spent countless hours researching these buttons – you know where they were made, by whom, and where the brass came from, and you’ve uncovered some great stories about who wore them, when, and why.
Those stories you turned up about how people used the buttons are going to be the heart of your performance. Write some songs, put a theater piece together, research the (insert your artform) that was popular at that time in that place, and put it together with the stories.
Create something new using this material you’ve found.
Who Will Care?
Lots of people. Read on…
A quick internet search just turned up an organization called the National Button Society. Just by exploring this very first search result on the very first page of Google, I discovered a trove of possibilities for work:
The National Button Society Conference – they have an annual conference, which would be a perfect place to perform your new concert, theater piece, story cycle, magic act, juggling show, or whatever.
The website also lists dozens of regional and international button societies. Each of these groups has their own annual event, and several are also engaged in the work of educating the public about button collecting. How better to do that than through live performance?
Here’s where things really expand exponentially. Who else is going to be interested in your Victorian button performance, other than button people? Well, people interested in Victorian times, for one. The general public. Seniors. Historians. Students learning about Victorian history. Teachers. NPR!?
You’ve got a really cool angle now, and the material is yours – you dug it up and put it together in this way.
I know, this button example is a bit abstract
I don’t do shows about buttons. For me, it’s always been about American and New York State history and heritage, digging up cool forgotten music that tells stories of these earlier times and gives us some feel for how people lived.
But if it could conceivably work for buttons, it could almost certainly work for something you’re passionate about.
Let’s Brainstorm Some Ideas!
There’s a “Comments” section below. What do you think?
About The Blog
Since leaving a white-collar marketing job in 1992, Dave Ruch has been educating and entertaining full-time in schools, historical societies and museums, folk music and concert venues, libraries, and online via distance learning programs.
Along the way, he’s learned a great deal about supporting a family of four as a musician.
The Educate and Entertain blog provides articles, tips, encouragements, and how-to’s for regional performers (in any region) interested in making a great full-time living in the arts.