Monday, September 28, 2009


People all over the globe, in every income bracket, are feeling the effects of the failing global economy… and belly dancers are no different! The belly dance world has been experiencing the fallout of this recession just like everyone else. Un-employment is high, and many are losing jobs. People are cutting back on necessities, not to mention luxuries and leisure expenditures. In general, it seems that belly dance students are attending less classes , and in turn, studios and instructors are experiencing lower overall attendance, which means less income. Restaurants and clubs have cut back on nights featuring live entertainers- belly dancers and musicians. Across the board, belly dance suppliers and vendors have noticed a drop in belly dance costume, prop, DVD and CD sales. Merchants are complaining about having less buyers, and buyers themselves are frustrated that they can no longer afford “luxuries” like belly dance costumes, DVD’s, and the like.

Yes, our county’s financial situation is dire, but there are things we can all do to make sure we can keep our careers, favorite hobby or dance practice alive. Sometimes, it just requires a little monetary juggling or re-thinking where and on what you are spending.

When I first began dancing almost twenty years ago, I was in a rock ‘n’ roll band, already leading the life of a “starving artist”… in other words, I was flat broke! Out of necessity, I had to get really creative about the ways I was going about moving my dance career forward, and figure out means for taking classes, getting myself costumed, and promoting myself. It was always a scramble to do this on a practically non-existant budget, but somehow I made it happen.
Recently, I began to recall all of the things I did “ back in the day”- my tricks for cutting corners and being able to afford music and costumes so I could do to achieve my goals… and I thought perhaps some of this might help other dancers get through these financially tough times, so here are some ideas.

There are many things you can “afford” by using barter or trade, and that includes your continuing dance education! Ask your local studio if you can trade some volunteer time in exchange for classes…maybe you can offer to tidy up the studio, or sit at the desk to take attendance for regular classes or workshops, or do office/ administrative work in exchange for classes.
Want a private class but can’t afford one? Think of what you could offer your teacher. If you have a skill, it could be a straight exchange: are you a photographer, make-up artist, seamstress or web designer? Any of these talents could be traded for belly dance lessons. Or perhaps you speak French, or are good at gardening, book keeping, child-care- whatever! Think of the skill set you have and see if they could possibly be performed in exchange for private dance lessons.

Make a Dance Play Date with a friend. This is like a private lesson, essentially: two dancers get together and figure out what they want to learn from each other, book an hour or two of rehearsal time in a studio (or just get together at someone’s house) and give each other a private lesson in each other’s specialties, say sword technique for fan tips, Hip Hop or jazz dance know-how in exchange for a Saidi choreography, even a Cabaret and Tribal movement swap. We all have skills and talents that we want to learn or wouldn’t mind sharing. Just ask!

Carpool to classes- enough said! This saves on gas and gives everyone a chance to socialize and hang out, too. You can also car-pool to major dance events, and for road trips, of course, share hotel rooms. Bring along cooler or two and save some dough by bringing along your own water, snacks and munchies. This is usually healthier-and way less expensive- than buying food on-site at dance events.

Many instructors are happy to give private lessons to two students at a time, or even a small group, for the same price that a single person would pay. Ask around about it and you might be able to get private instruction for less than the cost of a regular class.

Combine printing and promo costs. Say you and a friend both want business cards- print them double-sided (one dancer per side) and split the cost down the middle. If you have an event coming up that is fairly close to another scheduled event, contact the other promoter and see if there is a way to cut promotional costs by sharing a website, graphic designer or by printing up both events on one flyer or post card. This will reduce your expenses, and also open you and the other person up to a whole new range of potential students, business contacts, or ticket-buyers.

Share props and costumes with your trusted friends. Own a shamadan but need some fan veils for an up-coming performance? See if anyone would be interested in a temporary prop-swap…this would save you having to buy the props if you are only going to use them a couple of times.
If you are ordering a set of Isis Wings in silver, see if someone else in your area has them in gold (or red, or whatever) and ask if she would be willing to trade them on a per-performance basis, so they could be used by each of you with more than just one costume…and you wouldn’t have to spend on two sets of wings! Or, you and a pal or two could go in together on buying an expensive costume or prop, and decide who gets to use it and when. Some friends and I were all going to buy expensive Sally Rand Ostrich plume fans, and before buying them, we all co-coordinated who ordered what color so we could interchange them for various shows based upon our individual costume needs.

As someone who makes a living from teaching dancing both live and on DVD, I don’t at all advocate illegal copying of any DVD’s or CD’s… but I do think it’s perfectly fair for individuals to buy instructional or performance DVD’s and CD’s and share them with each other. Either swap your DVD’s after a few viewings or have a “workshop” day or “DVD party” at your house and invite a couple of dance pals over to view the latest instructional or performance DVD.

Make sure to take care of all your costumes and props, keeping them clean, repaired and in working condition. This will help not only in extending the “life span” of whatever you own, but should you decide to sell it, it will keep the re-sale value of the item higher.
Hand-wash your work-out and class wear- this will not only save on energy and electricity bills, but the garments will last longer, because the color and fabric fibers get broken down in the clothes dryer.
Belly dance costumes can also be hand-washed , too, and a clean costume will definitely last longer. Many dancers are afraid to try it, but do a spot test first, to make sure the color won’t run. To wash your costume, fill a bathtub about a quarter full with cool water and a very mild hand-washing dtergent, like Coollove or Woolite. I myself use baby shampoo. Just swish the costume around a little, rinse very well, and lay it flat somewhere safe to dry. On highly embellished costumes, this may take up to a few days, but the costume –and it’s fringe-will sparkle like new.

Think of ways you could re-work older costumes to make them new and fresh again. Replacing worn-out fringe - or even taking fringe off completely- can make it look new again, and costs much less than buying a new one! Gather up all your un-used veils and sew them into a full gypsy skirt… if you have a costume with sleeves, see if they can be removed and made into gauntlets… try dying older or stained veils- most dye well, and the sequins will retain their original color…mix and match the costume pieces you already have and see if you can come up with new ways to wear them.
Get your wigs and falls re-styled instead of buying new ones. This will not only prolong their life-span, but is much less expensive.
Re-sole your suede-soled dance shoes with a thin layer of “dance rubber”- this will extend the life of the shoes as well as protect your feet.

Sort through your costumes mercilessly and figure out what you can part with. Sell old items or those that never fit quite right on the Internet, or in your local dance studio. You can definitely “find” some money this way- or be suddenly able to afford a new costume.
Organize a costume; accessory and prop swap with your dance friends- one dancer’s trash is another gal’s treasure!
Shop at second-hand stores for old evening dresses or accessories that can be used to make or enhance costumes. Take a hard look at what you own, or what you want or need, and figure out a way to get it, either by making it, or incorporating it in some way…like cutting off appliqués from a brides maid dress you bought at a garage sale!
Ask your local dance studio or gym if they have a discount “class card” or will offer a special price on a block of classes paid in advance. Many studios and gyms do this already.
If you are professional dancer, you might already know that larger companies like Capezio or Mac Cosmetics offer a substantial professional discount if you present a business card, or register into a “Pro” program. Work this option, girl!

Many on-line vendors have a mailing list you can sign onto that will notify regular customers of costume and prop sales- sign up and save some serious greenbacks! As for festival vendors, if you are coveting a pricey costume you can always have a word with the vendor about your purchasing options- some vendors may reduce the item’s price after a few months, or be willing to charge less if you pay in cash, or will put it on lay-away for you.
Explore ordering belly dance supplies whole sale. You and a few friends want new hip scarves, CD’s or need finger cymbals? Contact vendors and see if it’s possible to get a wholesale price on an order with multiple pieces.

If you have dance items, props, craft supplies or even old materials or trims you are not using, consider donating them to a student dance troupe, local theater companies, drama classes, kid’s day camps or even women’s centers. It will not only clear out your closet, you will have the great satisfaction of knowing that someone will be getting some good use out of whatever you don’t need!
Above all, don’t let the bad economy prevent you from doing something you love! Have fun, get creative and keep belly dancing! The world- no matter what the financial climate- will be a better place because of you!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Over the years, many people have wondered about my stage name, Princess Farhana. Reactions to my royal moniker have run the gamut from those who “get” it, to people who are confused or once in a while, even outraged. Many individuals show tongue-in-cheek deference and call me “Your Majesty”, or “Your Highness”.

Sometimes when I was teach and perform in Europe and the UK, where there are people who are true royalty, dancers earnestly and politely asked my sponsors if they should refer to me by my “title”. I even recall a review of a an early video performance of mine where the mean-spirited writer not only dissed my dancing but seemed to be downright disgusted that my name was Princess Farhana. I should have taken a cue from my royal sister Marie Antoinette and told her to go eat cake!

The truth is, when I started dancing, I was just plain old Farhana. But like an ancient legend, my royal title was bestowed upon me; the “fairy-godmother” who started calling me Princess Farhana was the dancer Atlantis. Her reason? The fact that I wore my trademark crown or tiara every time I performed. Like many nicknames, it stuck immediately!

Before I even set foot onstage, I had a crazy, big-ass collection of crowns and tiaras, ranging from vintage beauty queen numbers I’d found at flea markets to plastic kid’s tiaras with blinking LED lights to cheesy “Halloween Headquarters” Cleopatra-style Egyptian cobra-crowns to Victorian –through- 1920’s headpieces glittering with semi-precious stones purchased (sometimes for budget-breaking sums) from auctions and estate sales. I was an addict! It got to the point that rhinestone tiaras were simply not enough, I needed CROWNS. Then, in total junkie mode, crowns were not enough and I needed full-on headdresses. I soon realized that merely wishing for royal headgear wasn’t going to make it a reality… so I got out my craft supplies and started to play.

After a lot of experimenting, I got pretty good at fabricating fabulous head pieces… so here are a few ideas and tips for doing it yourself. You will need some or all of the following materials, many of which can be purchased inexpensively at craft or sewing stores, or even- if you are a crazy crafts/costume hoarder like me- found around your home. Here’s what you’ll need: a glue gun and glue sticks, craft glue, glitter, a yard or two of 1” elastic, rhinestones, artificial flowers, Mardi Gras beads or pearls-by-the-yard, feather plumes, sequin appliqués, and scraps of decorative material, such as brocade, sequin-dot fabric, or lame’. Get a couple of cheap plastic headbands – Goody, Scunci or any dime store brand is fine. Also- have a Styrofoam wig-head on hand, they are invaluable for the crafting of your headpiece, and the perfect place to store crowns and headdresses.

Coquette Feather Spray:
This cute headpiece is like one that a can-can dancer or saloon girl would wear, and is an awesome topper for cabaret, tribal, Goth or burlesque style dance costumes. Place a headband securely onto a wig-head, and with your glue gun, draw a line down the center of surface of the headband, thinly and evenly, then press sequin trim or decorative ribbon down on the line, turning the ends of the trim under at each end of the headband. Wait a few minutes for the glue to set, and then squirt a healthy blob onto one end of the band, the part that goes over and behind your ear. Press a feather plume or two into the glue. When the feather is stable, squirt more hot glue onto the “join” of the feather and headband, and cover it with glitter or rhinestones, which will cover any excess glue as well as look adorable!

The difference between crowns and tiaras is that crowns encircle your head, and tiaras are U-shaped, affixed to your head at each end, behind the ears, for dance-worthy tiaras, it’s a good idea to secure the headpiece with elastic from end-to-end. You may want to buy a couple of a pre-made tiara forms, which are basically wire-framed buckram or net crowns, available from most bridal shops or on the Internet. These range in price from about $5.00-$15.00, and make wonderful bases for embellishment, as well as save you some time in fabrication. If you get one of these, they usually have a covered wire attached from end to end. You can either leave it on, or snip it off with a craft scissors or wire cutter, and affix elastic either to each end by hand-sewing it with sturdy thread or dental floss. If your hair is dark, use dark elastic, so that it matches your hair.

You can cover the tiara form with decorative material (trace the tiara, c and cut the material a little larger so you can fold back the edges for more coverage. An easier option would be to lightly spray the tiara form with regular spray paint (from a hardware store) to match your costume. After it has dried thoroughly, and affix sequin appliqués or faux flowers to the front of the crown with a glue gun. You may also want to line the top edge of the tiara with sequins-by-the-yard trim or grosgrain ribbon, to give it a finished look. Make certain to turn the ends under, so they do not fray.

To fabricate a headdress, begin by measuring your head from ear-to-ear across the top, and using a plastic headband for a guide, draw a curved crown shape on a sturdy piece of cardboard… any stiff cardboard is fine- I’ve used everything from (oh, the GLAMOUR!!!) water bottle or beer boxes to mailing cartons from the recycling bin! Cut the shape from the cardboard with a sturdy scissors. You may need a couple of tries to get a good shape that fits your head snugly. You may also have the crown rounded or with a point in the middle, at the top- your choice. Personally, I like the ends to be about 1-2” in size, and the mid-point, or top of the crown, about 3-5”. Once you have a shape that works for you, fits your head and is the height you want, trace it, and cut out another identical shape. To embellish, you can either spray the crown-shapes again, or lay them flat on a two scraps of decorative cloth, tracing out the design on the cloth with about an inch to spare. After you’ve cut out the shapes on your material, lay each of the cardboard crowns on both of the pieces of cloth, and glue them down by folding the cloth over the edges, and securing with a glue gun.

Next, place one crown-shape with the decorated side down, take your feather plumes, and lay them out on the wrong side of the crown, end-points down (you may need to trim them a bit from the bottom) on the crown. An uneven number is best for this, so start from the center, and place the other plumes on each side of the center plume. Measure for even spacing, mark with a pencil, and using your glue gun, trace the lines you’ve marked, with a good amount of glue, and press the feathers into the glue. Let this dry, try it on, and measure a length of elastic (white or flesh tone is best) from ear-to-ear, with about an inch left over on each side. This will be your headdress chinstrap, so make sure it’s a tight fit, but not so tight that it will strangle you! Again, with the glue gun, squirt a healthy dollop on one end of the headdress, at the bottom, on the wrong side (the side you’ve affixed the feathers to) and glue down the excess elastic. Making sure the elastic is straight; repeat this step on the other side.

Now, take the other crown-shape, and its wrong side, cover the entire surface with hot glue. Making sure it is laying evenly on top of the first form you made, press it down like a headdress-sandwich onto the feathers, so that they are held between the two layers of crown-shapes. After it has dried, you may want to make sure that top ends of the headdress-crown or held together in a sturdy way, and add a little glue for re-enforcement, being careful not to get any of the goo on the feathers.

Make sure to practice your dancing with the headdress or tiara a lot before you hit the stage- because the added height can throw you off a bit. Turns will also have a different feel, because of the height and resistance-factor, and some moves, like head-tosses, may be impossible! Also, warm up your neck and shoulders properly, because if you don’t, even that little bit of extra weight on your head may cause some discomfort the next day.

Have fun being a dancing diva!!!!

*Photo by Don Spiro

Monday, September 7, 2009


It's barely the end of summer, and in some places, school isn't even in session... but already, the stores are filled with Halloween decorations, and you know that means: we're sliding down a slippery slope to the end of 2009, and The Holidays. For some people, that means going into a purchasing frenzy. But with the economy being the way it is today, many of us may not be able to afford to spend the way we previously did on the gifts, feasts, bells and whistles that go along with the Holidays. So why not get your Jolly Holiday fix for 2009 by helping others?

Have you ever wanted to contribute to a worthy cause, but couldn’t seem find the time to volunteer, or realized that any “disposable income” you might have went directly to dance classes or costume purchases? There's a way you can help, and it doesn't cost a penny. Dancing at benefits and fund-raising events for charities, social or environmental organizations can be a great way for you to contribute to the worthy cause of your choice AND display your dance talent.

My entire adult life I have been involved in the arts, and though that has been unbelievably rewarding on a personal as well as creative level, I can tell you sincerely that “starving artist” is not a euphemistic phrase. Sometimes, over the years, even donating ten or twenty bucks to a great cause that I believed in would’ve broken my bank, so whenever I could, I donated what I could: my time and talent - both as an entertainer and an event producer- to organizations or assistance groups whose work I supported.

Since the late 1980’s, I have either produced or performed on countless shows that raised funds for organizations like The American Red Cross, The United Way, Rock The Vote, Hollygrove Orphanage, AIDS Project Los Angeles, Sweet Relief, Project Angel Food, The Los Angeles Free Clinic, SPARK, Caring For Babies With Aids, The ASPCA, Food Not Bombs, Los Angeles Youth Network, Children of The Night and numerous women’s shelters…as well as many “private citizen” benefits for fellow artists who needed financial help in dealing with health problems or personal misfortune. This experience has definately enriched my life, and also given me a handle on how to help the community through donating my services as opposed to financial resources. Like me, you may have a schedule that is too full to be able to volunteer on a regular basis, so you may want to explore being part of a benefit show, or even putting one on yourself.

Fund raising shows occur all year round, because there is always a need for money. Youth organizations, animal rescue services, women’s shelters and general relief type charities constantly need funds. There are also certain times when benefits or fund raising events might “spike”, such as the months leading up to the Holiday Season, or after a national or international disaster, like Hurricane Katrina or the Tsunami. Every bit of money counts, so there is no such thing as any show or event being too small. Do what you can, when you can because it all adds up.

If you are interested in donating your time and talent to this sort of work, there are a few ways of going about it: you can either choose to offer your services to an established organization as an entertainer, or you can set up a fund raising event yourself. Either way, you will get that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with doing good deed!

There may already be belly dancers involved in volunteer work in your area, and you can seek them out and get involved with them. For example, in Los Angeles, MECDA routinely holds haflas that raise funds and take donations of food, clothes and bedding for women’s shelters, and Tonya and Atlantis of BDUC have always put aside a portion of funds from their events to make financial contributions to animal and wildlife organizations, like Wild Horse Rescue and the ASPCA. Ask around with the dancers in your community, see what you can find; then introduce yourself and offer to help.

You can also approach an organization you believe in and tell them you would like to donate your services as an entertainer or stage manager if they are planning any future fund raising shows. Ask for the people who head the fund raising or public relations committees, explain that you want to help, what you can offer, and make sure they keep your business card and resume on file.

You could opt to put on a show yourself- on any scale, large or small- but you also need to know that if you producing a fund raising show or benefit yourself, prepared for a lot of work, literally- weeks and months of work, to be specific.

If you are asked to perform at a charity event, there are a few things you need to bear in mind. Some fund-raisers pay entertainers a fee for their services, but this isn’t always the case. You may not be able to afford missing a regular gig in order to do a fund-raiser, but on the other hand, you may feel passionate about the cause and wish to participate even if it means foregoing pay. Some benefit shows are very high-profile events that will bring you a lot of free publicity, not to mention other job contacts, so it can be lucrative for you in the long run.

Ask questions about where you will be performing, as you would for any gig. Is the venue a theater, art gallery, or a private home? Will you be dancing on a stage or dance floor? Outside in a festival atmosphere? In this case, because of wind and other weather conditions, props such as veils and swords may not be a good idea. Bring shoes, flat sandals or ballet slippers are probably best when you are not sure what sort of surface you will be dancing on. Make sure there is a dressing room or somewhere you can change and safely leave your belongings while you perform.

More things to inquire about: What is the sound system like? You may be the only act that features music. Definitely bring a back-up copy of your performance set. If there is more than one oriental dancer performing, it is a good idea to co-ordinate the music with other dancers beforehand, so two dancers don’t use the same song. How long will your performance be? And what sort of performance is it?

Many people who are not familiar with oriental dance will want to book a belly dancer at their fund raising event, but as an “atmosphere performer”, to add “color” to their event. The event may have a theme such as “Circus” or "Arabian Nights”. If you are asked to perform to add to the atmosphere, this basically means that they would like to dance through the crowd, to whatever random music is playing. Obviously, though you will be helping to raise money for your cause, this is not what would be termed an “optimal” performance opportunity! Check to make sure that this is what is being asked of you, because if it is, you may want to reconsider, or at the least, explain that although you appreciate that they want “color” at your event, your talents will go to waste. Personally, I ALWAYS insists on dancing on a stage or dance floor, in a designated performance area. I turn down any gig- for charity or otherwise- where they want me to dance through the crowd. You may not feel the same, but my reasons- with experience, as my teacher- is many. First of all, why dance to any music other than your own personal performance piece? Secondly, roaming through a crowd doesn’t show off your skills, there’s just no room to actually perform, and in a crowd situation, there is always the risk of having people step on your skirts, rip your veil or spill drinks on you. This is no good for a paying gig, and it’s even worse if you are volunteering your time! You want to come home feeling good, not resentful, riiiight?

As for other considerations, if you are donating your time and talent to an event, at any well-organized show, it’s routine have your parking taken care of, and have water, soft drinks or food provided. It’s also not unreasonable to ask if, in return for your services, you can have your business card or contact number printed in the programs, and you should also check if you can pass out or display business cards or flyers advertising your classes or other performances. Some benefit producers will pay you a small honorarium, but even if you are not getting paid, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for a charity donation receipt, which you can use for your own tax purposes.

If you are putting together a benefit or charity event yourself, like I said earlier, be prepared for A LOT of work. It will be necessary for you to have someone designated as your ‘second in command’ and a stage manager at the least, if not a full staff of volunteers, like door people, raffle-ticket sellers, stage hands, and so on. Don’t even attempt to co-ordinate AND perform if you have no previous experience in running a show. You will want to start strategizing and planning your event months in advance.

First you must pick your cause- whether it’s a fellow dancer who needs help with medical bills, or an established charitable organization. If you are putting on a show for a specific, established organization, you need to contact the organization, tell them your intentions, and make sure that it is ok for you to use their name on flyers, advertising the benefit. Some organizations are leery of being associated with any sort of “outside” fund-raising events because of scams- many people claim they are doing a fund-raiser and the money never actually reaches it’s intended goal. In addition, the cause you are raising money for may want to send representatives, speakers, or printed literature to your event.

Now it’s time to choose your performers. You want to go for those with a large draw, so the event will be packed. If you want to work with someone locally (or even nationally) famous, write up a short, business-like proposal letter, outlining your goals, specifying date, what cause the money will go to, and possible venues. With good performers, venues will be more interested in working with you. If dancers will be working in a tipping situation, you should allow them the option of keeping their tips, as they are donating their time and talents to your event. Make sure you specify how long you need each artist or group to perform, and roughly what time they will go on. Make up a schedule; allow for lateness or run- over by inserting a few minutes of “dead time” between performance slots. Make sure each act knows what time to be there for sound/light checks or tech rehearsal, what time the show begins, what time they actually go on, and if they will be permitted to bring a guest or two. Confirm all this in writing and re-confirm by phone or email a week before the show as well as the day before. It’s not just a great idea but a necessity to make up a contact list with email and cell phone numbers of your crew and performers and keep them updated as to schedule changes, availability of promotional materials, etc. in the weeks before the show.

Next, you should pick a venue. Ideally, it would be a restaurant, club or theater with which you already have a relationship. Set a date that is far enough in advance for you to be able to generate ample publicity. Getting the space donated for free is optimal, but if that isn’t possible, try to work out a special rental rate. Sometimes, if you want to use a place on an off night, and seem to be able to guarantee business, they will be happy to work with you. And many business owners are glad to do something for a good cause. You either need to put the money up yourself, or agree with the owner that the rental expense will be taken directly off the top of the door. Some restaurants may be glad to charge a cover and split it with you for donation purposes, or donate half of each paid meal to the cause. Don’t expect this, and make sure to work this out in advance with the owner, and get it in writing. Offer to make out a charitable donation slip in their name or the name of the business for a tax deduction. You can do this with your performers, too. Everyone needs a tax write off! You also must mutually decide if customers can pay with personal checks and /or credit cards, or if you will be accepting cash only. Some places will also allow you to put a donation box up, too. The price of the event should be slightly higher than normal, because this show is special, but you don’t want to make it astronomical, because you want a sold-out crowd. Decide in advance if you will also be taking donations of, say, canned foods, used clothing, toys, etc. If you do this, know that it is your responsibility to get the donated items to their final destination.

You can also explore getting flyers or programs, T-shirts, or ads in newspapers donated by sponsors. This takes legwork- you have to contact the potential sponsors, give them an outline of your goals, etc. Local papers or magazines may be able to give you a special charity rate or even donate an ad, and they are usually enthusiastic about running a pre-event announcement, sometimes, they will even run a feature. Make sure to provide them with photos or j-pegs at least a month in advance of your event. Publications almost never turn down printing pictures of pretty women … Hello! Glamorous belly dancers working for a good cause! If a sponsor or a publication is donating a sizeable amount of cash or ad space, you may want to put their names above the title of the event:

“ (You) and (Local Business or Businesses) Present A Night of Dance To Benefit (Name Of Organization) “

Otherwise, printing their name in a “ Special Thanks To Our Sponsors” area of the program will do. You may be able to get artwork and/or printing, either for flyers, programs or T-shirts donated, too. Be aware that this process takes a lot of time and follow-up work; so if you are going to try to get these goods or services donated, start working on it as soon as you secure your date and venue.

You can raise even more money with door prizes, either by using numbered admission tickets or by having volunteers selling raffle tickets inside the event. In order to get good prizes you also have to use your head: who do you know that would be willing to donate a door prize? This can be anything from a set of zills or grab-bag of CD’s, to gift-certificates from a store, passes for movies, dinner for two at a local restaurant, or coupons for a spa treatment, theater show car-wash … Anything goes! How about a gift certificate for free belly dance lessons?

On the day or night of the show make your performers feel comfortable. Be sure you have water, soft drinks and snacks backstage, or that you have arranged for the cast and crew to be fed afterwards. Some promoters even provide a small, inexpensive gift for performers. This is a nice touch, which shows your gratitude, but is not necessary. Treat your performers and volunteers well because they are donating their precious time and talents.

Hopefully, your show will go off without a hitch… BUT DON’T COUNT ON IT! Even though Murphy’s Law will usually apply, try to maintain a calm, professional attitude no matter what. Definitely anticipate last minute, “Plan B” type changes, but also realize that if you have worked everything out in advance, there will be glitches, but they should be minimal.

After the show is over and the money has been counted, it is your duty as the producer to get the funds and whatever other donations (canned food, toys, clothes, etc.) To the organization or person you raised the funds for. You will probably also be spending some time filling out tax donation receipts for yourself, the venue, and performers. Please remember to thank all the performers, technicians, wait staff and volunteers that donated time, services and talent. You can do this by phone, or email, but a thank-you note is much classier!

Remember, you can make a difference! May you be blessed for your generous spirit, and have a great show!