Q&A with Ron "Ronnie Numbers" Rona
Written by Joe Longo
Thursday, 08 October 2009 14:58
|Q&A with Ron "Ronnie Numbers" Rona|
This year's Bingo! Parlour Tent at the 2009 Voodoo Fest promises to outdo last year's spectacle of music and showmanship, including an attempt on Halloween to break the Guinness Book of World Records for Largest Zombie Gathering. As we did last year, we talk once again with Ron Rona, artistic director (or in his words, "glorified stage hand") of the Bingo! Parlour. For last year's interview, click here.
NF: Just to understand more the economics of the whole venture, the upgrade from the tent in 2007 to 2008 was obviously significant. How much of a budget increase did you get to do that?
RR: Umm, it wasn’t as much as you would think, probably by a third.
NF: A third?
RR: I guess about a third, as far as hard production.
NF: Where did that money go? Was it just simply towards the tent?
RR: What happens is we’re hired and we’re provided with a budget, ya know, and it’s everything from talent, through sound, lighting, video, the tent, fucking hand sanitizer and like everything in between. You’ve just to make it work within those parameters.
NF: Do you have to actively shill to get your budget? How much salesmanship is involved to squeeze the money out?
RR: A lot. That was what was great about coming in the second year. The first year is the proving ground; you’ve got to knock it out the park and it went pretty well so it wasn’t too hard the second year. But as far as the bigger production, it’s not that much more difficult because everyone wants to put on a good show, especially Voodoo, they’re trying to really make it a mainstay thing, so I don’t think staying the same is going to do them any good.
NF: Who gets the money from Voodoo? I see the tent as being something that’s sublet or leased. Who’s ultimately responsible for that?
RR: For the physical tent?
NF: For the physical tent and the actual organization of the whole thing.
RR: It’s just like anything else, you know. You’re subcontracted. But it goes to a lot of different things. The tent is owned by the Anastasini family, so they get paid from Voodoo. If there were a circus tent in Louisiana we’d rent it from them, but there’s not one around. But as far as sound and lighting and video: those are local companies. It’s really just a branch of the tree.
NF: But you’re taking it upon yourself to book the bands, lay out the schedule, basically run the tent. What entity is that, is it basically just you?
RR: Yea, well you know, we’re individual subcontractors. There’s me as the director and lead producer, and then you have Lloyd Miller as the backstage manager, and you have a stage manager. I’m just like a glorified stagehand really, you know. But yeah, everybody is employed by Voodoo.
NF: How do they quantify a return on investment for you to say, “Look what we did in ’07; now give us more money in ’08?”
RR: Buzz. Press. Coming out of that first year there was a lot of press, a lot of really incredible press, and just reaction from the groups that are performing in there, man. You have an idea that you’re talking about for a whole year, and then it’s a physical reality and people are just pouring out of it. You know something good’s happening.
NF: Last year every day was pretty full. Just to the naked eye you could tell it was an attraction.
RR: Yeah, we’re looking to expand this year, but we’re not sure that’s going to happen because of budget constraints.
NF: About Bingo!, and I guess maybe this applies to the whole tent venture, your presentation is basically about pulling out all the stops, a lot of showmanship with a little something extra, as opposed to some stripped down band that just travels with an amp and a guitar: to what extent does that affect your ability to actually pull a dollar out of it? It seems like the same philosophy that the band uses, you apply to the tent.
RR: That’s the fun thing about being an artist and doing production. When you’re making art, you don’t want to just do the same thing over and over again; you always want to try challenging yourself, even if it’s just bigger spreadsheets and a bigger tent.
NF: Really, it flies in the face of what the trend is now; the best example is Theresa Andersson. She does that one-woman act now, and as interesting as it is, it seems like an act out of necessity, like she can’t afford to travel with a band anymore
RR: Everyone is feeling that pressure. You sort of hit a wall every once and a while. That’s the cool thing when we work with Voodoo, or doing more film work and stuff. I can do something with nothing and I still love that, you know, but it’s fun when you have the toys once and a while. You see if you can handle it.
NF: Like flying in people, for instance.
RR: Yeah, it’s neat. And with film and stuff, like this project I’m working on right now we got to use a jib, like a real crane and jib. It’s like, what are you going to do, just say no? You ask for it and if you don’t get it, you just keep trying to get it.
NF: You said you’re thinking about doing some additions to the tent this year?
RR: You’ve got this certain number, and you’re trying to figure out how to make the best show out of it. So, right now that’s the challenging part: dealing with different companies, trying to whittle little certain things down while trying to go in other direction.
NF: Any particular changes? Last year you had the trapezes in the rafters, and you also had the big screen projectors.
RR: We’d like to get a bigger tent, if possible. We have a couple of acts that really warrant more space. All those local groups are fucking killing it, man: Zydepunks, Fleur de Tease, Morning 40 Federation. It’d be nice to get more people in there to see it.
NF: Speaking of local groups, you didn’t need to really be able to read tea leaves to see that with the growth of that tent, you cast a long shadow over the NooMoon stage, and this year the NooMoon stage is no more.
RR: Yea, it’s because we’re not a part of it man, and it sucks.
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