Last night I learned a valuable (and expensive) lesson about heeding red flags attached to poor public relations. And knowing where you're going and what to expect before you get there.
After exchanging several e-mails with the coordinator of the Richard Harris men's runway show taking place at a "gala" in Queens, I was a little wary because I still didn't fully understand the program. The event wasn't standalone, it was actually paired with such acts as Daniel Merriweather, Magic Mask Change and The Hunan Opera. Why was it being billed as a gala (which seemed a strange word choice to me, with connotations of banquet halls and cocktail hours)? Why was it being paired with presentations from opera performers and ballet dancers and musicians and vaudevillian acts? For what purpose was this hodgepodge of talent coming together on a stage for 2.5 hours? And why did I even want to go?
Well, I wanted to go because I was comped as press so that I could write about the evening, which actually turned out to be the First Annual Cultural Expansion - A Celebration. The show was intended to celebrate the Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, which this year falls on Feb. 3, but I wouldn't learn that until much later. In fact, when I was trying to understand what was going on, the press materials were confusing at best, and I wasn't given much better information for asking questions, so I decided to stop doing that and just show up on Saturday. Bad choice.
When I arrived, it was mayhem. Given a general address, the actual auditorium was difficult to find due to poor lighting, huge snow piles and lack of signage. But I wasn't the only one running late; the show wasn't near starting when I arrived, and people were still mingling outside. All of the auditorium doors were closed except one, which we were all ushered through. The ushers themselves didn't seem to typically work for the theater, because they were looking for the seats as much as the patrons were, they just happened to have flashlights. And when I asked if there was some kind of program, I was told that "someone is walking around with some, I think." Great way to welcome press; continuing to put zero information into their hands. Well, I requested that if my usher saw this mysterious program harbinger, could she please send him or her to E106. And then I settled in for the show, which seemed to be finally starting.
Instead of going over all of the 20+ acts independently, which would further waste my time, I'm just going to share with you five key points:
1) A fog machine was used egregiously, but only on one side of the stage.
2) Small children jumped around as ballerina bunnies for awhile.
3) Highlights included soloists Daniel Merriweather, He Yi and Han Jianwei.
4) Technical glitches started out with scruffy mic feedback.
5) Oh, and did I mention that the entire show was in Chinese?
At 10:15, a quarter-hour past when the show was supposed to end, I saw the woman next to me searching her program--so I decided to peer over like the polite young lady my parents raised. I noticed that a huge chunk of the performances didn't seem like they'd been onstage yet. In fact, the fashion show, which I'd come to see and had thoroughly enjoyed (with themes of monochrome and looser tailoring, as I'm sure Fashion Week F/W 2011 will see more of in the coming weeks), was about the halfway mark. Which meant there was almost another hour of these indecipherable song-and-dance routines to go--way past the amount of time I was willing to invest in a show that barely seemed invested in itself. So I headed out.
Not the gala's fault by any stretch of the imagination, except for being hosted in the middle of absolutely nowhere, but when I called my car service that had dropped me off, they actually refused to pick me up. By then I'd walked across the street to a gas station, thinking it would be easier to find than the performing arts center had been when I first arrived. And then I called three more services, who similarly refused to pick me up. I would later hear from the cabbie who finally came that other drivers refused to cross boroughs, making my trip from Queens to Brooklyn a large stretch of the imagination on a busy Saturday night. That's an important lesson learned, I suppose, at the very fair sum of $57. Now that's a far cry from a free fashion show, to be sure. A very, very long and expensive night out--and I was still sober!
But today is a new day and a new week, so I'm going to stop crying over spilled milk and put the whole thing behind me. I can't say that last night was a total waste, and have instead decided to focus on what I've learned. Like not to go to every fashion event to which I'm invited. And to know that when a designated PR team can't even clearly explain the event they're trying to push, it's my cue to just stay home with a good book.