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Dear Fringegoer:

So you’re headed to Showcase Showdown, SpeakeasyDC‘s storytelling/The Price Is Right mashup?  Awesome; you’re gonna have a good time.

And you say you’re an extroverted sort, and so will be putting your name in the running to be called down as a contestant, and possibly earn the chance to win glamorous prizes? Glad to hear it!  Knock yourself out. Mazel tov.

Little advice?

The mechanics of Showcase Showdown are straight-up TPIR: Once your name is called, you’ll take a seat in Contestants’ Row (read: three downstage chairs) and bid for a chance to play a game.  But you won’t be bidding on a lounge suite, a canister vacuum, or a 18-inch television encased in a faux-walnut console the size of the Altar of Baal. Instead, you’ll be listening to a SpeakeasyDC storyteller, who’ll stop midway through and ask you to guess a number relevant to the story he or she is telling. You’ll bid (guess), the story will continue and the number in question will be revealed — and the contestant who came closest to the actual number without going over will win.

Basic, right? A process most of us soaked up via pop-culture-osmosis over years of ditching school to laze on the couch snarfing Pop-Tarts, right?

If we are to judge by the performances of Showcase Showdown contestants to date: Wrong.

Lookit:  There’s a simple science to bidding on The Price is Right. Pencil-necked academics have published papers on it.  Game-theory geeks have filled message boards with bid-bloviatin’.

But you don’t need to worry your pretty little head with any of that.  We’re gonna break it down for you.

Keep this mnemonic in mind:  ABC3.  Always. Be. Contestant #3.

You want to be sitting in the chair farthest downstage, because (unlike TPIR, which rotates the order of bidding), the Speakeasy DC folk always start with the contestant in the chair farthest upstage.  This will provide you with the singular advantage of knowing your competitors’ bids, which allows you to exploit a quirk of the rules to best effect.

Remember: The idea is to come closest without going over.  You don’t get extra points for guessing on the nose.

Okay, let’s role-play:

It’s last Friday night.  You’re a beardy guy who’s made his way into Contestants’ Row.  The first contestant was asked the number of times the storyteller … did something (no spoilers here).  The true number could be just about anything, really – 1 to 100 or more, it’s anyone’s guess.

Contestant #1 guesses “3.”

Contestant #2, for reasons of her own, guesses “5.”

Now it’s your turn, Beardy McGurk. Here are your options.

1. Guess “1.” A time-tested strategy, to be employed if and only if you believe your fellow contestants have all overbid.  As a gambit, it is simple, elegant, and not a little bit snooty; it says “Oh, DO let’s allow cooler heads to prevail, hmm?”  It’s effective, having sent many a corpulent Keokuk realtor into the waiting arms of Bob/Drew. In this particular case, however, the odds are against it being the smart move; ideally, you want to see a little more daylight between “0” and the lowest bid before busting out the ol’ 1er.

2. Guess “6.” You know who wins in life?  Who wins elections, money, narrative-based-game shows?  I’ll tell you: The bold, that’s who. Granted, this is an aggressive tactic. Which is to say: Yes, it’s a dick move. You’d be claiming for yourself all rational and imaginary numbers above 5, essentially shutting out contestant #2 — and she looks like a nice person.  But you know what, Grizzly Addams?  There’s Fringe glory at stake here.  Fringe glory, and an Econo-size bottle of Palmolive.  Which, we shouldn’t really have to point out, SOFTENS HANDS WHILE YOU DO THE DISHES.  So risk the approbation of the crowd, and nut up already.

There’s … another option, of course. It’s the one chosen by that beardy guy last Friday night.  Call it the Path of What The Fuck Are You Doing, I Mean Are You Kidding Here, With This?  Because that’s what the ardent TPIR-watcher two rows in front of me exclaimed, when she witnessed it.

3. Guess “4.” Yep, no kidding: 4. The one number that occupies the tiny patch of real estate on the number line between his fellow contestant’s guesses. I mean: Come on.

Do we even need to tell you he didn’t win?  We don’t, right?

Here endeth the lesson.  But if you glean only one bit of wisdom from this experience, let it be this:

Don’t bid like Beardy Guy.

Showcase Showdown will be performed Thursday, July 15 and Friday, July 16 at the U.S. Navy Memorial at 8 p.m. Tickets here.