The State of Entertainment in Tucson

Entertainment is a very broad term.  Before we can appropriately analyze this we have to be more specific of what exactly we are talking about.  When I discuss entertainment in Tucson, I am not referring to sports, I am not referring to national tours, I am not referring to seminars or festivals, I am not referring to films or movie theaters, and I am not referring to contests.  So what am I referring to?

We are talking specifically about the local entertainment and local talent right here in Tucson, AZ.  We are talking about local musicians, local singers, local actors, local dancers, local performers, and local entertainment.  Over the last five years there has been a surge of local talent in Tucson and it continues to grow every year.  Tucson has become a hub for Burlesque performance.  One can easily throw a rock and hit three people who perform or have performed burlesque at a local bar or other venue in Tucson.  And that is the problem.  There are so many performers but not enough shows or venues for all of them to perform.

This is not happening in the Burlesque scene alone.  There has been a rise in local standup comedians in Tucson as well as several open mic events.  Other than hosting gigs, which there are not very many, most comedians do not get paid for their performances.  Most of them spend five or six days a week attending open mic events every day of the week just for a chance to perform.  Often they only receive three to five minutes and other times they might get as much as fifteen minutes.  But are they paid for their performance?  Almost never.

Musicians have been fighting this battle for years in every part of the country.  It is no different in Tucson; however, there are enough musicians in Tucson for them all to say they won’t work for free.  Some will still attend open mic events while others refer to open mics as “garbage festivals” because they do not offer pay.  Sometimes, people just enjoy performing and will do it for free or for money.  There is a better chance for a musician to receive a paying gig before a standup comedian will.

There are a few local stage theaters that offer paid employment for actors and singers but there are still very few of them.  Many of the actors in Tucson are students at the University of Arizona.  Many of these students graduate and decide to move to Los Angeles or New York to further their acting career.  Many do not even know there are acting opportunities in Tucson but even if they did there is still too much competition from other local talent.

What about other performers?  Those obscure acts that do not really fit into any categories.  What about magicians, celebrity impersonators, female and male impersonators, or iPad players?  Yes there is a guy in Tucson who performs music from his iPad as if it were an instrument.  There is a large scene of female impersonators in Tucson but there are only a couple venues that offer to pay performers.

The real issue that I am stressing is there are more and more performers coming up in Tucson but very few places for them to actually get paid for their art.  The downtown Tucson area is still getting revamped and there is always a possibility that more venues will spring up in the next ten years but it is still a very slow process.  Imagine if it were possible for a performer to work full time as a performer and live comfortably.  What a concept?  So here is the real question.  What will you do to help?  Go to these live events at local bars and venues.  Find the performers online through social media and interact with them.  Support those venues so they can continue to have these live events.  Long story short: Support Your Local Performers!

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