the agony & the ecstasy (of crowdfunding)

Bear with me to the end here.

I’ve never done a crowd-sourcing fundraiser before. Just watching them from afar gave me anxiety – they seemed exhausting . Both for the people running them, tasked with constantly shrieking on social media about the project, and for the would-be funders on the receiving end, with the awkward ponying-up of your hard-earned cash to your friend or cousin or niece or classmate for their pie-in-the-sky notion.

I was never a Girl Scout – never an entrepreneur, aside from the enterprise of being a professional actor. Despite being a competitive child, I never sold wrapping paper or chocolates or any of the things-that-come-in-catalogs whose proceeds are split 60/40 with your marching band.

So when we seven women (and the others in our collective) decided to put on this play . . . (and none of us millionaires…..)

I thought finding the money would be the biggest, scariest step.

Asking for money to do a project you care about is a petri dish for your imposter syndrome. This isn’t comping your friends into a show, confident what you have to offer is worth two hours of their time. It isn’t getting drinks on your birthday – when you’ll have the turnaround to do the same for them. This is their cash you’re talking about – their worked for, valued money that they use for bills and kids and keeping a roof over their heads.

The 2 AM voice of your insecurity whispers to in your ear;
“What makes you think your idea, your project, your creation is worth the two hours of their time it took them to make that $25? What kind of arrogance do you have to have to blatantly ask for that? Who do you think you arrrrrrrreee?”

(Mine sounds a little like Andy Serkis’s Gollum.)

How do you battle that without folding like a card table?

Do you really believe the art you have to offer is worth it?

I took a deep breath and looked inside my heart and – yes. I do.

As new as this is; as nervous as I am – yes.

 I believe this in this play; this beautiful, funny, Greek-in-its-scope piece of theatre – a play where women fight against each other, not men, and the victims are not helpless, trapped ciphers but complicated, equally-matched fighters whose battles are thrillingly calibrated and breathless to watch.

I believe in these women; incredibly talented, intelligent artists, with thousands of hours of stage time between them, and the delicacy and commitment of their craft at their fingertips (often times, going entirely to waste in a world of 5 male roles for every one female.)

Most of all – I can’t wait for these things to come together. To offer seven women, seven bold and skilled women, the opportunity to work on text that’s equal to every single one of their talents.

And it turns out? Other people do too.

And that is the incredible gift of crowd-funding, that I never anticipated and could not have foreseen; that people say yes. And along with that? They say “we believe in you.”

The first day, I got teary multiple times as I tentatively asked for help. “Do you think” – “would you mind” – “might you be interested” barely came out of my mouth before people said, enthusiastically, kindly, “of course!”

Trickles of support, ebbing and flowing, came in from many directions; parents, siblings, cousins, coworkers, teachers, mentors, fellow artists and former classmates. People were excited to support our first solo enterprise as a company; proud of our ambition and eager to encourage it; delighted to be able to participate as a producer in the artistic process. And with every single click on Indiegogo came words of encouragement – “of course we’re happy to support you! We wish we could see it! You’ll be great!”

I love West Wing. (Doesn’t everyone?) And for me, this experience brings to mind the magnificent flashback between Leo and Jed Bartlet, as Bartlet is starting his campaign for the presidency:
Leo: “They say a good man can’t get elected president. I don’t believe that, do you?”
Bartlett: “And you think I’m that man?”
Leo: “Yes.”
Bartlett: “Doesn’t it matter than I’m not as sure?”
Leo: “Nah.”

I believe in this show. I know we can make something extraordinary and important.

But when we take the stage at Fringe on August 21st, it will only be in part because of us. It will also be because of my brothers, Casey and Emmett. My aunts and uncle, Linda and Kimberly and Tim; my mentor, James; all of our former graduate professors; my best friends Lauren and Sarah, Ryan and Annie, Jen and Justin, Matt and Kiwi; my cousins, my old dresser Christiana, our company member Catherine, our classmates Ryman, Andrew, Sloan, Meaghan, Sean, Jordan, Jonathan, Drew, and Brian; family friends Ken, Suzanne, Larry, and Anna; our parents, our surrogate parents (Ellen and Terry!), our friends, our ensemble members, our coworkers, and……

So on and so on.

As I write, we are five days away from our deadline, with just over 26% of our goal left to find.  Will we get there? I hope so. Leo would tell me, “Act as if ye have faith, and faith shall be given to you.”

I always misunderstood that, I think; believing your own choice to take the leap was what empowered you to find the faith to make it to the other side.

Now this is what I get; It’s the faith of my community in this work and in us that has given and strengthened my own. Given, indeed.

I’d better add “write 70* thank you notes” to my to-do list.

– Danielle O’Farrell, co-producer (and Babette)

*if you’d like to make it 71 – thank you.

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