Tag Archive: 39

Sep 08

The Dream I Stole From Sam

(mumble mumble) years ago, I was sitting in an apartment in Toronto, watching the real actors smoke, including Sam Rosenthal, now Artistic Director and General Manager of the Vaughn City Playhouse. This was a party of some sort (my memory is vague), possibly even the closing night party of The Diary of Anne Frank, my first semi-professional show and my first real show unconnected to an educational institution I was studying in.

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My eyes weren’t blinded: I knew that this show, in a grotty little Theatre called, appropriately enough, The Annex, was not a high budget affair. And though they seemed seasoned and wise to me then, the creative forces behind the show (the aforementioned Sam Rosenthal and his partner-in-crime Eli Lukawitz) were young and just starting out into the world of making Theatre. Don’t get me wrong, I knew this at the time, but I also felt inspired by their energy to create Theatre and so I spent most of my time hanging on their every word. They were really doing it; they were making it happen.

 

Eli and Sam were very influential on me just at the right time, much more than most of my university professors, and I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity they gave me by casting me in that show, and letting me see how a semi-pro company should be run (i.e. as much as possible like a professional company). I’ve held every group I’ve worked with since up to the standards that those two set for me, including my own casts and crews. But beyond that, something that Sam said that night at the party has stayed with me ever since.

 

He talked about how his dream was to run a rep company. Simple as that. Back then, I still pretty much wanted to be “just” an actor, although at that point, I think I’d at least narrowed it down to wanting to be a stage actor (i.e. I’d realized that I found film shoots intensely boring), so I probably nodded sagely, even though he was talking to someone else (Walter Young, I think1).

 

(In case you don’t know what a repertory company is, at its most basic it is a cast and crew that stay together for an entire season (at least) and perform several different plays together. If you want more detail, go look it up.)

 

In any case, at the time, a rep Theatre didn’t sound so great to me. Not bad, mind you, just not particularly special. But for some reason, I carried the idea with me over the years, and by 2001 or so, I’d basically stolen it and made it my dream. However, I ran into the problem that when you’re not paying them, actors don’t want to commit to more than one show at a time. Who’d have thought it? Well, Sam, obviously, which is why he’d been smart enough not to try it.

 

I realize now that part of the problem was that I was trying to do very conventional Theatre. Although my company was emphasizing original works and new interpretations of classical works, my approach to Theatre was still, in many ways, very conservative. With no money on offer, and able to get very little attention from critics, what did I have to offer actors? Basically, my Theatre company was one of the places to go to get something on your resume until a better job came along. Why would anyone commit for the long haul?

 

I closed up my Theatre to move to Japan, and when I started working with the Yokohama Theatre Group, I put the idea of a rep company aside. With the way that expats come and go here, a rep company was unthinkable.

 

And then I made The Tribe of Dirt with a bunch of high school students in about four hours one Saturday afternoon as part of the annual drama festival put on by some of the Kanto-area international schools. If you look that the video on the other side of that link, it’s rough, sure, but there’s something that happened that day that caused the penny to start dropping. Working on that show caused me to want to work on developing something wholly my own, in rehearsal, which led to my show 39, developed over three months of rehearsal with Kimberly Tierney. Doing 39, and the summer Fringe tour to Canada that went with it inspired me further, and by the time I got back, I was eager to develop more… which got me into trouble as I worked that ambition into the Tartuffe project I’d committed to the year before.

 

It’s now been nearly ten months since Tartuffe ended, and after much experimentation and farting about, I hit upon a possible answer to the question of “why would an actor commit to more than one show?”. The answer I hit upon was: an actor won’t.

 

Okay, but why would I? I would because I’ve come a long way since that night at the party, and I no longer think of myself as an actor: I think of myself as a Theatre Maker, as utterly pretentious as that sounds. What it means is that I want to be involved in the whole process of making new Theatre. I’ve known for years now that I want to do more than just interpret a playwright’s words in the way that a director wants me to: I have ideas that are too big to fit only into that niche. Which means I’ve been doing writing and directing. But what I’ve yearned for, and what Sam Rosenthal’s stolen dream has turned into is that I want to work with a group of people who want the same thing. Maybe they will want it in a more limited way than I do, I don’t know, but I want to find out.

 

The reason I’ve always loved Theatre so much is that I love collaborating with other people, and now that I’ve realized that the way I want to do that is much less conservative and more hippy-dippy than I had initially thought (owing more to the 1970s collective Theatre movement than to the rep companies of mid-20th century England), I think I may have found a way, if I’m really lucky and things go my way, to fulfil that dream I swiped from Sam.

 

1 No link there, by the way; he doesn’t come up on Google, and on Google images, searching [“Walter Young” toronto actor] brings up unrelated photos including Pennywise the Clown and Hitler.

Sep 10

Victoria – Last Show

So it finally happened: the last show of the tour.

 

I went out with a bang.  The tech went smoothly; I rocked the show, I don’t know what else there is to write.

 

39 in Victoria

 

What to do except sum up the tour (at least for now)?

 

The Cons

  • Smaller houses than planned for
  • Disappointing financial returns
  • Some organizational problems within the various festivals (e.g. my previous post)
  • Probably cannot afford to do another tour for at least two years

 

The Pros

  • More than 400 people came to see 39 outside of Japan
  • Made innumerable and innumerably valuable Fringe friends in each city, some of whom I hope to collaborate with, in Canada or Japan, over the next few years.
  • Fulfilled a lifelong ambition to do a Fringe tour
  • Great enthusiastic feedback from almost all the other Fringe artists who came to see 39
  • Saw more than 35 plays over a four-week period; more than I’ve probably seen in my entire lifetime so far, thanks to free tickets from other performers
    • Out of those 35, only three or four were absolute stinkers
    • Out of those 35, about ten were brilliant and jaw-dropping

 

The pros, my friends, far outweigh the cons.  Thank you to everyone who was a part of the 39  2010 Summer Fringe Tour!

 

That includes the creative team, the stage crews, the techs, the Fringe volunteers, the Fringe organizers, our WONDERFUL AND GENEROUS donors, and, of course, my stalwart Stage Manager/Production Manager: Ramona.

 

Huzzah!

Sep 05

Fourth Show

There was some scheduling weirdness yesterday, and It’s Raining in Barcelona finished right when we were supposed to load in, leaving only fifteen minutes for both their strike and our setup.  Not their fault: like in London, there was some kind of scheduling SNAFU, but it’s a bit maddening.  I’m not an actor who is super precious with warm-ups or anything, but I do like to stretch the pipes (larynx, you perverts) before I go on, and this left me no time to do that.

 

That may be why the first bit of the show was a little loose.  However, I managed to pull it out of the fire, and we had our best audience yet (in size as well as responsiveness).

Our Victoria hosts, Jed and TJ, came tonight and at least told me that they enjoyed the show.  I had another couple of laughers, which was great as well.

 

My only complaint about the audience is that someone was drinking Starbucks in the front row (I’ve had a front row drinker in every show so far), and I had asked Front-Of-House to make announcement about that, and they hadn’t.  Otherwise, they were superb.

Sep 05

Victoria – Fifth Show and Fuck You

Fuck you, Victoria Fringe organizers.  Actually, you are generally nice people, and kudos on organizing such a great Fringe.  But you’ve hit this performer where it hurts: his house, and he’s upset.

 

For my other readers, let me give you some context:

 

So here I am, doing my show, and other than a disappointing opening night, am actually getting better houses than I did in Edmonton.

 

Two days before my fifth show, the Fringe announces that they’ll be running a fundraiser in order to help manage some of the financial problems caused by last-minute pulled funding.  Totally cool.  I’m down with that.  Performer and Fringe superstar Chris Gibbs generously offers to do a benefit performance of his show, Gibberish, at $20 a head with proceeds going to the Fringe.  Super!  Great idea!  Pats on the back all around.

 

Except.

 

Except.

 

Except that they slot this show in on Saturday at 8:00pm.  There are other Fringe shows on during that time, including mine, which is 60 minutes long and starts at 7:15.  I don’t think I need to say that this is considered a ‘prime time’ slot, and as such should be one of my better-attended shows.

 

Oh, did I mention that for two days, every single house manager was plugging the show to every single Fringe audience?  My house manager even plugged it to my Saturday audience, even though there was no way for them to make it at that point!  It was just salt in the wound.

 

Wound?  What wound?

 

I went from audiences of around 30 people (even at my late shows) to an audience of 9 on that Saturday night.  Other performers reported audiences being halved for their shows between 7:00 and 9:30 that evening.

 

I gave a pretty good performance, but an audience of 9 doesn’t have the critical mass needed to feed the fire, and the house was absolutely silent.  After working so hard flyering and schmoozing to build the audiences even to a modest 30, it was a huge, deflating, letdown.

 

Look, we know when we join the Fringe that we are competing against the other shows and performers.  But even my performance that was up against Martin Dockery’s juggernaut Wanderlust had 30-something people in the house.  The point is that the fundraiser had an important advantage that the other shows didn’t have: they had the house managers pushing it, and pushing it hard!

 

I think it’s obvious that I have no problem with the Fringe running fundraisers, but we performers paid money to be in this festival, and we had no idea that the Fringe itself would counterprogram us.  I think what they did was incredibly unfair and was essentially raising money for the Fringe at the expense of a number of Fringe performers.

 

I heard some grumbling from some of the other Fringe Artists, but I’m not sure if anyone complained officially.  I will certainly be complaining when I get back to Japan: this was a douchy thing to do.  If any other Vic Fringe artists are reading this, please let me know, either via comments or a direct message/email, if you will also be complaining.  I think a relatively large number of us were affected, and a complaint endorsed by all of us (maybe even copied to the CAFF) would be more effective than a lone curmudgeon complaining on his own.

Sep 03

Third Show

Another great, high energy show today, with an even bigger house than yesterday (at least from what I could see).

 

A few things marred tonight’s show, most of them to do with the show before us taking a fuck of a long time to load out and clear the dressing room for me.  Now don’t get me wrong, they were as nice as could be, but aside from being a cast of 20 which filled up the dressing room nearly ten minutes past the point that I needed to get in it, they made a mess.

 

The venue’s one backstage washroom looked like it had flooded and had fake blood and dirt on the floor; I had to mop it in order to use it without tracking fake blood onto our WHITE set.

 

Just as I was going to take my place in the wings, one of the zombie show personnel noticed a red spot on the ass of my white pants… it turns out that there was fake blood on the chair I’d sat on to put on my boots.  The two remaining zombie folk did their best to scrub it off my butt, but the result was still a red stain that was visible from the audience (an audience member mentioned it after the show), and it left a small red mark on the seat of the chair.

 

The UVic students who mostly people the zombie production were super nice, but I can’t tell you how stressful this was—I didn’t get to the wings until the house manager was actually making the announcement that starts the show, and was all too aware of the remaining pink stain on my ass.

 

Despite this, I had a great show and still adore all the super nice zombies.

Sep 03

Victoria – second Show

Running on two consecutive nights of 4 hours of sleep or less, and a whole day of zipping all over Victoria, I found myself standing backstage as the clock crept closer and closer to 22:00; our curtain time.

 

I’m still not satisfied with the first few moments of the show.  I think I had it at some point, but I’ve never felt good about it since we opened in Edmonton, after our July tour break.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s not working anymore, and I’m not sure what to do to fix it.  But I did pump as much energy as I could into it, and I didn’t flag… not then, and not at any point in last night’s show.

 

I had thought the audience would be loaded with fellow Fringe artists; but it turns out no one I knew was there at all.  No matter: it kept me chugging through at full blast, despite a front-row sleeper mid-way through the play.  In general, the audience was responsive and attentive, and I felt I had certainly earned the applause at the end of the show.

Sep 02

Victoria Review

Monday Magazine has reviewed “39”.

 

Three stars, but I don’t know what the James T. Kirk crack is about, unless it’s the crack the reviewer is smoking.

 

Not a terrible review, though, considering how I felt about Monday’s show.

 

http://www.mondaymag.com/articles/entry/2010-fringe-reviews-f

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I call this photo “Bones… Spock… you’ve got to help me!”

Sep 02

Opening Night in Victoria

I’m writing this in a Starbucks, in a Chapters, which redeems itself by having free wifi and an occasional Daniel Lanois song playing in the background.

 

It’s taken me two days to get this up (we opened on Monday night), because we tend to get home quite late due to the necessary late night schmoozing we need to do every night.  In Victoria, a bunch of local bylaws prohibit us from handing out flyers to hip people we see walking down the street (soliciting: $x00 fine), so our only chance is to crash other shows’ lineups and flyers the people who come to the Fringe Club after 22:00 every night.

 

Monday began for us with our technical rehearsal, which meant that we were at the space from about 14:00ish (sometimes they let you in early) to about 20 minutes before the 18:45 show tech-ing.  This gave me about 10 minutes to prepare before I went on.

 

David Bukach, a local photographer, was in attendance, photographing the show in exchange for free  tickets, so we FINALLY got good photos of the show with projections and stage lights.

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Each space in each new town that we perform in has its own quirks, and the Metro in Victoria is no exception.  It’s a real Theatre venue, so it has practicals and headsets and specials that were hung especially for us.  The drawback here is that the gap between the lip of the stage (as defined by the lighting) is about 4 meters from the audience, which is double the distance we’ve had at any other venue.

 

Tech-ing just before the show sounded great!  And it was from a setup/takedown point of view, but it turned out that it wasn’t so good for me.  In retrospect, I think I needed more time to process the distance between me and the first row of seats. 

 

Being an out-of-town company, our opening show was also sparsely attended (if forced to guess, I would say about 9 people), which will hopefully change as word begins to spread to the local audience (we have a good buzz among the other artists and volunteers, it seems).

 

These two factors (distance and small house) may have contributed towards what I felt was a very… something… show.  I’m still not quite sure what happened.  I did not give a low energy performance: I pushed it, and I felt actually hit some moments better than I ever had before.  The audience wasn’t bad: they were quiet and attentive (a bit too much so; most of the jokes fell off the edge of the world).  But I felt like I never quite reached them, never quite connected with them.

 

(Another small drawback of the space is that the aisle for the audience is not centered with the stage, which can be confusing when one is standing at the forward extreme of the stage with no reference points; I found myself wandering a little too far stage right at times.)

 

I have my next show tonight, and I really hope that having had a day to let the opening performance sit will help me really knock this one out of the park, no matter how few or how many people are there.

Aug 26

BC Ferry RECAP

I’m writing this on the Ferry over to Victoria just to create a quick recap (in pictures) of the Edmonton to Victoria leg of our trip.

 

We drove out of Edmonton two mornings ago in our touring van: Vanessa.

 

We said a fond farewell to our host in Edmonton, Lois Pawl, as she loaded us up with extras and treats as she had during our entire stay (three or four french toast breakfasts during the two weeks we were with her!).  We bid farewell also to Caesar the Greyhound.

 

After almost heading towards Calgary by mistake, we righted our course and beelined for Jasper National Park.

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Ramona was overjoyed.

Jasper National Park

 

We continued through, stopping constantly to see the sights, including…

 

The Athabasca Falls

 

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Mount Kitchener

 

Jasper National Park

 

The Athabasca Glacier (that’s it in background)

 

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And then, we finally arrived at our campsite and Ramona set up our magic tent that only takes two minutes to set up (including pegging down the two cables on the side), and two minutes to fold up… and can be done by one person.

Jasper National Park

 

We had an amazing campsite.

 

I’ll post more later.  I don’t have  access to the other photos right now.

Aug 22

Seventh Show – Closing Edmonton

We had our last show tonight at 22:00.

 

I’d hustled my ass off all afternoon to do whatever I could to boost our audience numbers.  I wanted to go out on a high note.

 

So we had 52 people in the audience tonight (I calculate that there were supposed to be 56, but four people must have bought tickets and were late.  There was one walkout, but he’d been checking his phone.

 

I spent probably about 5 – 6 hours flyering this afternoon, specifically to get a younger, noisier crowd.  Did get younger (some mother came with her 9 year-old!).  Still got very quiet.

 

Josiah again said that he felt they were listening; which seems true.  I had no sleepers that I could see.  But they were very unresponsive, although they laughed at some of the jokes.

 

Anyway, we loaded out tonight, and are spending one more day fringeing (or at least, I am: Ramona needs to take Vanessa the Van in for a checkup tomorrow).  After that, there’s a party tomorrow night at 20:30, and then we’re off bright and early on Monday for Victoria (but first, camping near the Ice Fields in Jasper!).

 

A great note to leave Edmonton on!

Aug 20

Sixth Show

Had our sixth show today at 18:15.  Decent house, though once again, somewhat papered.

 

Today’s audience was really quiet again, but intent.  Josiah once again heard people saying they liked it as they left the building.  But almost NOTHING got a laugh today.  Not even the “Ladies, gentlemen… racoons” got a giggle today.  Only last Sunday’s evil audience was worse for that.  Thinking they were bored, I pumped everything I had into the show, resulting in a broken voice and a very sore back.

 

(The broken voice may also have been caused by the thick smoke in the air which has been blown in from the B.C. forest wildfires.)

 

The chair didn’t slide today: Ramona shored it up with some non-skid patches and it stayed put.

Aug 19

Fifth Show

Okay, so we’re over the hump now with two more shows to go.

 

Today’s audience was quiet again, but they weren’t frowny like our Sunday audience, and I was able to, as we used to say in Theatre school, “bus’ a cap in its ass” and avoid the vampiric leaching effect that I felt on Sunday.

 

A technical problem has surfaced over the last two performances.  I think the vinyl for the floorpiece is wearing down and getting slick, because in shows four and five, the chair moved back early in the show (I think during the decompression scene when I lean against it), which it never used to do.  I know the chair moved back, because I preset it myself, thinking that yesterday’s problem was a chair misplacement, and when I went to open it, it touched the back flat again, which it is not supposed to do.

 

So, the audience was quiet, but our tech, Josiah, said that he heard people saying they enjoyed it as they walked out (something he did not hear on Sunday).

 

It’s getting hard to flyer lines now, because so many people have already got all their tickets for the rest of the Fringe (Edmonton allows shows to advance sell 100% of their tickets with no additional surcharge).  I’m still doing it when we pass a line, but today my friend Robyn was driving through on the way to Vancouver, so I spent a few hours in the afternoon with her, since we haven’t seen each other in 12 years.

 

Tomorrow’s a light day: show at 18:15 and we’re seeing only two or three other shows.  We will probably sleep in in the morning and then do laundry and such: both Ramona and I were exhausted today.

Aug 18

Fourth Show

Very brief because it’s very late.

 

Great show today.  We papered the house and tried to get artists in, rather than what Ian Goodtime calls “the CBC greyhairs”, who are old people who just sit there and frown at you because I suppose they expected “a proper play”.  Not all old people are CBC greyhairs: our host, in whose house we are staying, is 74, and more open-minded than most people a third of her age.

 

What we’re finding in Edmonton, based on the reactions of audiences of shows we’ve seen or otherwise know of, is that people in Edmonton are pretty tolerant when it comes to content, but you frustrate their expectations of STRUCTURE at your own peril.  They don’t expect Neil Simon, but they expect the structure to not challenge them very much.

 

In any case, I had a few glitches in today’s show (like forgetting to turn the chair on at the start of the show), which I covered gracefully, because I was in the zone thanks to a super-supportive audience (including the big dude from The Supervillan Monologues who guffawed at every joke—even the ones I thought would never get a laugh).   It was a nice cool day (high around 16 degrees), so the venue was pleasant.

 

Ramona and I also took in 4 more shows, which I will have to blog at more length about later.

Aug 17

Day Off

We had another day off today, so we did some more fringing.

 

We saw only three shows today (these are not reviews, just impressions):

 

This Is Not A Play, a physical Theatre show which was amazing to watch, although my ability to follow physical Theatre is limited.  It was well-conceived, fucking well performed, and beautiful to watch.  So my not understanding it is more a comment on me being a moron when it comes to non-text-based shows more than the show.  It did not lessen my enjoyment of it.

 

Fucking Stephen Harper: How I Sexually Assaulted the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada and Saved Democracy, great political piece, every minute of which is as enjoyable as actually talking to Rob Salerno (the author/performer)  himself, which is very.

 

One Man Riot: finally saw this piece, and it lived up to its hype.  Not only awesome and sweat-filled but inspiring.

 

So, wow.  Only three shows and some flyering of lines and such today.  Tomorrow I have a show at 12:30, after which we have a full dance card (five or six shows—don’t expect me to write about them all).  I hope it goes better than Monday’s show.  I really need to kick one out of the park on this tour (no, I’m not mixing metaphors: I’m shit at baseball, I prefer kickball).

Aug 17

Third Performance – A Cup of Water

Blah.

 

A moth flew around the stage as I plugged my way through a technically perfect performance #3.

 

It may have all been my fault.  Something strange happened when I went out on stage.

 

Now, I’m an atheist and a sceptic.  I don’t believe in “vibes” or “hoodoo” or vague notions of “energy”, but something happened.  From the first moments of the show, my energy level was low.  I realized it immediately, and dialled it up… or tried to,anyway.

 

No matter what I did, it felt like, in the words of the Wizard Ged from the Earthsea novels, "All I had in the end was one cup of water, and I had to pour it out on the sand . . . "

 

The sand, in this case, if I wasn’t a sceptic, was the audience.  I felt, however unfairly, however irrationally, that their unresponsiveness, their blank faces, their dour looks, were pulling the life right out of me.  I fought and I pushed and I tried to reach them, but… nothing.  And in the end, I got my first real half-assed polite applause of my entire Fringe tour.  It wasn’t just a quiet audience… it felt like a malevolent audience.

 

But that is irrational.  In the end, it all comes down to me, and I need to search myself and figure out why my performance fell flat and why I couldn’t activate them.  London proved that 39 is not an alienating show and that while some people may not “get” it and thus be pulled out of the world, most people, even those a bit lost, will allow themselves to venture forth with me on my odyssey.

 

As depressing and upsetting as it was, I will try to take this experience on board and reflect on it so that I can improve the show for Tuesday.

 

It wasn’t all bad, though.  I think the two burnout scenes were the best they’ve been yet, and the shuttle launch sequence was the most physically grounded it’s ever been.  Oh, and I had a big dog in the audience, so I got to play some of the post-human bits to him/her.

Aug 15

Second Edmonton Performance

It’s getting late, and we have an early brunch with our host’s family tomorrow morning, so I’ll make this short.

 

We had our second performance this afternoon at 4:15.  The official count  says 30 people, but Ramona swears she counted 38 in the house.

 

The venue was nice and cool, owing to the on-and-off rain we had yesterday and this morning (I think).  So I only added about one kilo to the weight of my costume’s shirt via sweat transfer.

 

This time it was our smoke machine that conked out; the web cam worked fine.  Only the first smoke effect happened, and for the rest, the device stayed silent.

 

I thought I had a relatively strong performance, but the audience today was QUI-ET.  Our house tech Josiah said that he thought they seemed attentive.  I told him he was a gentleman for saying so.  There’s a good chance that there was another reviewer in the house today, as our ticket sales list another media pass for today.  NERVES!

 

Oh, and I see one for tomorrow, too.  NERVES!

 

Oh, Ramona added another layer of vinyl to the backdrop yesterday which FINALLY stopped the light bleed from the projector.  She was working tonight on the floor piece which was having problems due to being transported from Toronto in a hot car, so it should be flatter and easier to tape down tomorrow.

 

Sleeping time now…

Aug 15

Reviews

Okay, here are the reviews.  Quite a mixed bag so far.

 

http://vueweekly.com/fringe/play/p_39/  (3 out of 5 stars)

This one I take some pride in.  I’ve read a few of her other reviews, and it seems that unlike some of her colleagues (one of whom gave the TERRIBLE show I saw yesterday a FOUR star review—and we’re not talking a matter-of-opinion here, we’re talking no one who has seen more than a handful of plays in his or her lifetime would have thought this show was good; we’re talking her standards must be so low that a cat vomiting a hairball would get three stars; we’re talking first time scene study class here, people), Ms. Dart actually is stingy with her stars.  So I’ll take this one as a win.

Oh, and I don’t know where they got their info about our show, but apparently Monique Van Kerkhof is in this version of the show?!?!

 

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/entertainment/festivals/3302118/story.html (2 out of 5 stars)

Ouch.  I think this was the bored guy I saw in the front row.  On re-reading, it’s not as bad as it looked when I saw it last night, but I think he must have got lost early on and then never hooked back in.  I also don’t like how he calls me a “Toronto actor”.  I’m a Yokohama actor.  I guess he got the info from a Google search or from reading my bio page at http://yokohama-theatre.com without noticing the context of THE YOKOHAMA THEATRE GROUP.

 

http://www.seemagazine.com/edmonton-blogs/Go-Fest-Yourself/2010/08/13/fringe-review-39-87/ (4 out of 5 stars)

I’m less proud of this than I should be.  I think the reviewer got the jist and obviously enjoyed the show, but it niggles me that I didn’t transmit the idea of the gland in the brainstem being an optional thing that people have installed, or that the machines are benevolent and it’s the post-humans themselves who have created problems in a society that should/could be perfect.  But I guess them’s the breaks of doing a one-hour show of an idea that could probably yield six hours of material.

 

So those are the reviews.  We may have one more coming from the Edmonton Sun.

Aug 14

First Show Edmonton

So, we rehearsed our butts off with our two new stagehands yesterday afternoon before the show.  I went from being pants-shitting nervous to simple urine-stain nervous during that time, as they seemed to be quietly competent which was more than I had the right to expect from grade 11 students.

The show went… well, all things considered.  The web cam failed just before we went up, so our great bits of stagecraft with it (the floating in space scene, and the crash scene) didn’t read as well as they should of.  But that was the only technical problem, except for some minor lighting cue fluffs.  But that’s just because Ramona is getting used to our improvised walkie-talkie intercom system.  She can’t operate it hands free (since there’s no booth, she has to whisper into it, which is not loud enough to activate the VOX system).

 

It was a cool night, so the venue was only about as hot as our London venue, but my shirt at the end weighed about two kilograms more than it did when I started, loaded down as it was with sweat.  I regret the choice of vinyl for the costume jackets.  I am NOT looking forward to doing the show on a really hot day (like 25+) in there.

 

The house was 27.  Which is about 25% of the venue’s capacity.  Not a huge house, although it looked large from where I was performing, since everyone sat in the middle rows.  Important to note: this is bigger than our largest house in London, so hopefully it’s just the beginning.

 

There was a reviewer in the house last night, who gave us an okay review.  At three stars (out of five), it’s not a glowing endorsement, but it shouldn’t keep people away either.  We’ve been told that Edmonton is very review-driven, so it’s a relief that we didn’t get trashed, and the end of the review did call us “fringe-worthy”.  Of course, there are still at least two more publications that are likely to review us, so we’re not out of the woods, yet.

 

One thing I’d like to know: how did we go from “best stagecraft of the festival” (London) to “passable” (Edmonton)?

Aug 12

Networking and Signage

Or signage and networking, if you want the strict chronological order of things.

 

No photos here, so I’ll keep this short to prevent my blog from becoming a wall of text.

 

On Monday we started throwing signs up after being told by Jem Rolls that we’d better shit or get off the pot (he was more couth than that).  We postered on the streets and walked into stores and begged them to put up our paper (this early and in some the available space was already being eaten up).  We managed to get our posters up, even if we had to hang them sideways.

 

Yesterday (Tuesday), we postered the area around the Fringe where posterboards and fences were starting to come out.  While we waiting for the venue boards to be numbered, we postered wherever else we could, including the AMAZING bubble tea shop we discovered:

 

Then, in the evening, we headed to the billet party, where all the Fringe billeters and their billets (I don’t know which is which, linguistically speaking) came and met.

 

We met a bunch of people and will hopefully exchange comps with them in order to see a bunch of shows for free.

 

That’s about it for now.

Aug 10

New Mission: Edmonton!

39 officially landed in Edmonton on Monday, August 9th 2010 when Andrew’s Greyhound bus pulled into the Edmonton bus terminal 30 minutes late.

 

The 39 cast and touring crew (all two of us) are being billeted in Edmonton by a lovely woman named Lois and her greyhound (dog, not bus) Caesar.  Lois has a giant house, and Ramona and I have each taken over an entire storey of the building.  Ramona’s up on the third floor loft bedroom, and I’m in the basement.  The house is entirely open concept, so we really do each have a whole floor to ourselves.  (I think we each have a toilet to ourselves too, or at least I do.)  The shower is on Lois’s floor, so we need to let her know when we’re going to be naked up there, since not only is the house open-concept, but it’s covered with mirrors.

 

For his part, Caesar is probably the sweetest dog I’ve ever met.  He’s friendly, but not aggressively so, and very gentle, almost to the point of timidity.  This probably has to do with the fact that he’s a rescued racing dog and was likely not trained too gently.

 

 Production Photos
"39" Edmonton Fringe Tour
Yokohama Theatre Group, August 12 - 22, 2010

Caesar: my new favourite dog in the world.

 

 

We had our tech last night in our venue: The Academy at King Edward.  Only two of the venues of the Edmonton Fringe are actual Theatres.  The rest are converted from other buildings.  In our case, a school gymnasium.

 

And they’ve done a fantastic job of converting it.  From the audience point-of-view, it’s great!  From our point-of-view it’s slightly less so.  There are not really enough practicals (power outlets for backstage equipment) for our needs (chair, projector, laptop, smoke machine).  To be fair, there was a mention of this in the tech sheet the Fringe gave us, but it referred to “onstage practicals”, and I guess we just expected that backstage ones would be available.  Whoops, our bad.  Our house techs (who are awesome, nice, and incredible) have done their best to help us out, and we think we’ve got a solution which will work on Thursday (which involves us buying a power bar just in case). 

 

As a side note, the house techs need to refocus the specials before each show—they are awesome people.  Of course, this means that while we get three specials, we have no real choice as to where they are hung in the grid.  We should have figured this out as well from the technical specs sent by the venue, and I think we would have if we’d had a little more experience with various Fringes, but I think we just figured that the specials would be hung on top of what was already in the grid and that they’d be patched in as needed.  We didn’t do the math though: 10 shows x 3 specials = 30 instruments.  Duh.

 

One element that is missing and wasn’t mentioned on the tech sheet is an intercom.  Ramona therefore can’t call cues from the soundboard to our stagehands who are running the projector (and who won’t be in town until a scant six hours before we open).  The show is already crazily over budget, we’re planning to drop at least $200 on some decent handsfree walkie-talkies (we need two sets, since we need three) in order to make sure Ramona can communicate with the backstage area.  We’re hoping to sell them on Craigslist after the show is over.

 

In any case, lots of stress before we open.

 

But while I’m stressed out and nervous, I have got to say this: I am so psyched to be in Edmonton and actually be part of this Fringe.  This is really a dream come true, touring a Fringe show across the country.

 

We managed to snap a few shots at the tech, but they were taken by our billet-person Lois, who, while she did a tolerable enough job, was using an SLR camera for the first time in her life.  They are posted below.

 

39 at the Edmonton Fringe 39 at the Edmonton Fringe 39 at the Edmonton Fringe39 at the Edmonton Fringe

Aug 10

Mountain Crossing Music

What I’m listening to and thoughts en route from Kamloops to Edmonton by bus (as long as my laptop battery lasts anyway):

 

Love is Like A Bottle of Gin – The Magnetic Fields

“Love is like a bottle of gin/ but a bottle of gin is not like love.” What a great sentiment

 

Walking in and Out of Your Arms – k.d. lang

What a great song to have come up while crossing into Alberta!

 

Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance – Bob Dylan

Was too busy writing the other entries to pay much attention.

 

Suil A Gra – Anita Best and someone the player won’t tell me.

Jetlag is creeping back in. I couldn’t sleep at all last night, and then slept almost all five hours between Vancouver and Kamloops, and it (the jetlag) keeps threatening to put me to sleep again. But I want to be able to sleep tonight, so I’m fighting it.

 

Come to The Bower – Shane McGowan and the Popes

We pass through a hallway of forest as Shane McGowan sings this Irish classic through his beautifully broken mouth. We’re out of the deforested hills now, and the green mountains are stunning, and incredibly not reminiscent of Japan.

 

Doctor Who Closing Theme (80s) –

We’re crawling into a city. Another stop? Since Kamloops, people get off but not on. Hopefully, that trend continues and I get to keep my double seat.

 

Intentional Heartache – Dwight Yoakam

I love how the Gas and Grocery places here have Canadian flags on their signs… as if there’s any doubt as to where we are. This song is a real head-nodder. We’ve stopped and someone’s getting on. She’s cute. The Shell lady comes out and the bus driver gives her what looks like a stack of magazines or newspapers from the cargo area under the bus. I feel like we’re a stagecoach. This song has a great ending.

 

The Last Time I Saw Richard – Joni Mitchell

This song has a hell of a long intro. I’ve eaten one of the sandwiches that Mademoiselle/Madame Tardif made for me. She packed me enough for two meals, which was good. Our bus was running late, so we didn’t get our 40 minute lunch stop in Kamloops. Only enough time to pee and buy a Coke Zero from the machine. The next stop (25 minutes, I think) isn’t until 21:00 or so, so I’m surviving on her kindness.

It makes me think of those fairy stories with the young man seeking his fortune, and the lunch he carries from his mother or his fairy godmother or whatever ends up becoming important to the story. Maybe it saves him from starvation, or maybe there’s some magic inside it. I had such a great two days with her and her boyfriend Kevin that that’s how I feel about it.

 

Every Drop of Rain – Chris De Burgh

Song about the sea, while I’m far from it. Wow, I always forget how smooth and pleasant early Chris De Burgh is. This guy was really good before he started singing about ladies in red.

 

Queen of the Savages – The Magnetic Fields

Spending time with Kevin and Andree (Tardif) was almost like going home to an alternate reality. They were not only absolutely perfect hosts, but I felt like an adopted child. Maybe it’s because of all the time that Andree spends with children (she’s continued teaching grade one for 27 years since I was in her class)—I didn’t feel like a child again, but I felt like someone’s child.

 

Bad Weather Friends – Kevin Quain

Not that I don’t with my own parents, but I think it has something to do with not having seen each other in the intervening time. Our relationship is nearly founded on a small tattered book of Quebecquois folk songs and similar shared history.

 

Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon – Queen

What a great, silly song! There is no god, but if there was, he ought to bless Freddy Mercury.

 

Too Many Dicks – Flight of the Conchords

“Five to one is a rodeo.”

 

Goodbye Old Girl – Richard Adler and Jerry Ross (Damn Yankees)

A surprisingly appropriate song as we turn a mountain corner and the under-the-window based air conditioning blows on my cheek and the punk with the Mohawk in the seat behind me strums his unplugged electric guitar.

“…Our love will keep, old girl, ‘til then.”

The song climaxes as we pull through Vavenby Another pickup?

 

So Spricht Das Leiben – Mediaeval Baebes

Yep. Right in front of the vintage Pepsi Cola sign and the lottery ticket centre. I discovered yesterday that one of the Baebes’ songs was one that Andree Tardif had taught me in grade one! I’d even played it at my wedding reception! No wonder I’d liked it so much. Or maybe it was another paper dropoff, because no one got on.

 

Battle Music from Candide – Leonard Bernstein

It’s the martial music that we hear in the Overture as well. What a great musical!

Where Teardrops Fall – Bob Dylan

I’ll have to stop writing soon—this battery is pretty wimpy, and I don’t want to kill it by totally discharging it. The battery in my tablet died yesterday morning. Something tripped the protective circuit, and I had to order a new one… so instead of using the tablet and getting almost four hours of typing, I’m using the X60s, which I brought to run the projections for 39, and has never really had much juice. Still kicking myself for not bringing the smaller capacity backup battery for the tablet, though.

 

And then the power on the mini-laptop dropped below the safe area.

Aug 06

On the Road Again

Well, I’m sitting in Narita airport, at my gate, just shy of two hours before boarding.

 

I’m flying JAL this time, which isn’t so bad (they have a great Japanese lime drink that they serve), but I mislike Narita’s Terminal two.

 

One: it’s too hot.  I’m dressed in cotton for my flight, and I’m overheating!

 

Two: the gates are dumb.  At least this time I’m not in the section of the terminal you have to take a shitty little train to.  Which always struck me as weird, because some of the other gates, for instance the gate I’m at now, are equally far out, so why not at least have an open pedestrian walkway for those of us who don’t want to have the Japanese subway experience at the airport.

 

Then, the gates are down at the arrivals level, which means a long flight of stairs.  Which is fine.  Except that the toilets are on the upper level.  For a passenger traveling alone, that means hauling hand luggage up and down.

 

Three: the souvenir shops are tiny and cramped.  The Tiffany’s and Hermes and all of those shops are huge, and open, and empty, but the souvenir shops are not, and they are crammed with people.  Also, the selection in Terminal 2 sucks.  I wanted to buy a Hachimaki for a friend’s son, and they didn’t even have any!  At a souvenir store in the airport?  As the French would say: Quoi le fuck?

 

In any case, I’m looking forward to getting back on the road with this show.  I need to do some serious line running, as the four or five weeks I’ve had away from the show (with only two long rehearsals to break it up) have broken my confidence (such as it was) with the lines.

 

It’s so damn amateur to read actors go on about lines.  Lines are something that are supposed to just happen at this level, but I’ll be frank and say that I’ve always had a memory like a… what do you call those things… metal… with the holes… oh, goddamn it.

 

Bloody hell!  How many times are they going to check my frigging passport?  Apart from all the regular checks: insurance counter, check-in machine, luggage check-in, security, immigration, and when boarding the aircraft, they’ve started checking at the upstairs entry to the gate area (and presumably, if I use the toilet, I will have to show it to get back in again).  As if that isn’t bad enough, they just checked my passport again while I was just sitting here minding my own business.  What’s next?  Passport scanners on the toilets to make sure the craps we take are authorized.

 

Wow.  I talk about doing Theatre, but these airplane people are true experts.  At Security Theatre, that is.  Maybe they should tour the Fringe next year instead of me.  The whole show can consist of being checked, searched, questioned, and probed to get into the Theatre, and by the time you’re in, the show is over.

 

Actually, that’s not a bad idea for a show.  Except who would pay to be treated like that outside of an airport setting?

 

Nyug.  I’ve been feeling nauseous since the cab ride from the house (lots of narrow streets and twists and turns while I checked my bags for 忘れ物 (shit I forgot)), and I really can’t shake it.  Hope this doesn’t last onto the plane.  I would blame lack of sleep, but with 5 hours under my belt from last night, I got more than usual.  I’ve only once come close to losing my cookies (tossing my lunch) on the airplane, and I really don’t want to repeat that experience.

 

Oh well.  So the point is that I’m back on the road with 39.  And while I will definitely miss Japan (my home), and my wife, I am really looking forward to really do some serious Fringing this time, unhindered by social, production, or family obligations.

 

がんばりますよ!

Aug 06

Update… Of DOOM!

I’m writing this on the bus to the airport … I’m about to head off to do the second leg of my summer Theatre tour.

 

I was at the house almost every day since the weekend, puttering around, finishing things up.  Of course, I’m not nearly close to finishing, but my friend Dave has taken it upon himself to finish all the waterproofing stuff before I get back, leaving only the roof for me.  We’ll see if that happens… it’s a lot of work.

 

The work on the house is happening quickly now.  I’ll post photos of the construction soon… it’s a shame I’ll miss the next bits.

 

Some bad news yesterday, though… they ripped out the bathroom walls and the tub and realized that there was a lot of rot back there.  Also, apparently the support posts are missing.  Arg.  Another 130,000 yen…  On top of that, they also discovered that the drain from the bath, the powder room sink, the washing machine, and the kitchen sink all went through the same pipe and drained into an OPEN weeping system that rings the west side of the house before it connects to the city’s sewage line.

 

Well, that partially explains the mosquitoes.  Fixing this properly would take more than we can afford (in the neighbourhood of 1 million yen), so the renovators will have to rig something.  They can’t just stick a pipe into the weeping trough, because there’s a 90 degree bend in it, which would make it prone to plugging up.  So they’re going to separate the bathroom and laundry from the kitchen drainpipes, but they will still have to drain into the weeping system.  My impression is that they’re also going to cover it up a bit more effectively than it’s covered now (just some slabs of concrete), to reduce the potential smell (grey water shouldn’t be that bad, but why take chances). 

 

Oh, and a clarification: in Japan ‘bathroom’ literally means the room with the bath in it.  Our toilets are on the other side of the house and drain separately and properly, so the weeping system isn’t going to be full of turds or anything.

 

So that’s probably another 100,000.

 

Garg.

 

Oh, and a note about how this may have happened: originally, the kitchen was the room that my office is going to be in.  When the first set of renovations were done to the house, probably in the eighties, I think the bathroom was added onto the house.  The contractors at the time re-plumbed the whole south side of the house, but simply didn’t tie the drains in properly.

Jun 28

39 – Show Diaries – Fringe Day & Show 6

We zipped into London early on June 27th in order to actually get to see some shows. Our priority was to see Dying Hard, not only because Mikaela Dyke had taken such good care of us, but because we agreed it actually seemed like the most interesting show in the Fringe. So we had to book all our other shows around that.

The first show we saw was The Burning Man and the Reverend Nuge, which was a one-man show about this fellow’s actual journey from being a crazy Pentecostal Jesus nut and youth minister to a hedonistic, self-destructive anarchist nut, to finally something that, at least for now, seems to make a little more sense. Great, great show. Not Theatrical at all, more like a motivational seminar that you’d hear at a school, so very low key and natural, but so fascinating that we hung on his every word. I regretted that I couldn’t afford to buy his DVD of the show, with the money being so tight, because I wanted my family and friends to see it too.

Then we headed over to the Wolf Theatre to see Mikaela in Dying Hard. Tour-de-fucking-force. A little about the show: it told the true stories of Newfoundland fluorspar miners, most of whom died horribly from diseases caused by working in said mines: silicosis, cancer, etc. Each piece of the show was a monologue, taken verbatim from interviews with the miners themselves, or their wives(originally done for a book with the same title). Mikaela and her team had had access to the original interview tapes as well, which helped them to build these real-life characters.

It was a great show. Imagine Letters From Wingfield Farm, except with depth and meaning and purpose. No, scratch that: that doesn’t cover it. This is a show that I hope will have a life beyond the London Fringe. Mikaela talked to me about touring it to Newfoundland and also industrial towns around Canada. I think it needs a mainstream audience as well. I think that CanStage or one of the big non-profits really needs to put some development money into this and expand it into a full-length piece.

The only disappointment I had with the show was that the house wasn’t full. Monster was playing down the street and pretty much selling out every show, but Mikaela’s audience was only slightly bigger than our biggest houses. While this makes me feel a little bit better about our small houses, it saddens me that more people in London didn’t get to see this. Nothing wrong with Monster, it’s a good show, the actor was super nice backstage, and by all accounts they nailed it… but when I Fringe, I like to primarily see new stuff, and I suppose I expect others to have that bias as well? To me, that’s the point of having super-cheap tickets and so many shows in one place.

(And maybe I’m just rambling because I’m writing this on the airplane home at 14:15, Toronto time, and I’ve had a total of 90 minutes sleep since yesterday (June 27) at 9:00. So sue me.)

After Dying Hard, we proceeded to the next venue (Fanshaw College) to see FRUITCAKE: The Ten Commandments from the Psych Ward written and featuring an English performance poet named Rob Gee. For fourteen years, he had worked as a psychiatric nurse in what I think he referred to as a “dodgy” psychiatric hospital, and for an hour he regaled us with tales of his and his charges’ exploits. A very enjoyable show, to be sure. My one beef was the voice reciting the ten commandments. I’m not sure why it was necessary to have it as a voiceover and why he couldn’t have done itself. But just an absolutely super performance.

Okay, this is all getting a bit generic.

After FRUITCAKE, we went to do our show.

Which went pear-shaped almost immediately. Another very stressful setup, with our house tech disappearing, as was his wont, just when we needed to ask him for his help. But, with his help, we did get things set up on time.

About four scenes in, I just lost it. I totally lost it. I went dry. I lived the Actor’s Nightmare. I had to call to be prompted… and within minutes, I’d screwed up again, jumping us over nearly half the play. Knowing that I could not hope to recover from this and still keep the play making any sense (especially now that the projections were just totally out of sequence), I stopped the show, humbly begged the audience’s forgiveness, and started from just before I’d screwed up.

It was one of the single most humiliating things I’ve ever had to do. And it was absolutely my fault: for this one night, the tech had actually gone perfectly for once. I then rushed through the rest of the show, terrified that we’d run over (we didn’t). The audience was lovely; they were very understanding (though we did have the usual number of sleepers), and I apologized to them with a very deep bow at the end of the show.

After loading out, Ramona crashed in the car, while I headed to the Fringe office to pick up our final payout before catching (and I do mean catching; Dave and I galloped down the street) the show.

We got there just in time to see The Forest for the Trees, a show which I’ll describe as Fool for Love lite and leave it at that. Without getting into the nitty gritty, it felt clumsy in almost every way, and while I don’t doubt the commitment and talent of the actor/playwrights, it was the only thing I saw in London that was a real disappointment.

Dave and I were supposed to meet up with Ramona for the last show of the evening, a mentalist/magic show. She didn’t make it, and it’s a shame, because it was the best ‘magic’ show I’ve ever seen, partly because it had a solid core at the centre: no fluffiness in sight.

After that, we met Ramona, grabbed some Pizza Pizza, and then headed back to the Lounge (same venue as the NO SHOW from the night before) for the Fringe awards. Needless to say, we didn’t win: most of the categories were based on patron votes, so even if we had deserved any of those awards, we wouldn’t have had the numbers to win. I was happy to see Mikaela win one (can’t remember which category, offhand, but it actually wasn’t the ‘most daring’ or ‘best solo show’, I don’t think, the two categories I thought the most probably).

And then we went into the party proper. I had a few good chats with people, mostly Fringe volunteers (Ximena, Melissa, and what-his-name, primarily), and then, just before 1:00 am, we said out goodbyes and shoved off, heading back to Toronto.

What a great experience. Great town full of nice people (the ones who weren’t “doin’ a needle” anyway), and a great place to test out a new show. I wish we’d had bigger houses, of course, and not just for the money: I really wanted to show 39 off more. I know it needs much more spit and polish, but it’s an idea show, and that’s why I’m in this whole arts business: I want to share my ideas. When it comes down to it, that’s what fulfils me.

Jun 26

39 – Show Diaries – Show 4

Only one sound cue glitch in this show.  This was also the show my family (mother, father, aunt, uncle, cousin, cousin’s wife) came to.  My good friend and scholar-about-town Jeff Orchard also managed to bus himself in to see me perform.

 

It was our biggest house so far tonight at 25 people.  Two more shows like this, and we’ll crack 100—30% of what we needed to break even on this leg of the tour (and that was before the extra-budgetal began to add up).  Yippee!

 

I’ve been paying attention to my reviews, which I felt were overwhelming positive and constructive.  London really earns its reputation as a friendly place to try new shows out in.  I’ve taken some of the criticisms on board, and played with how I do the show.  I think the show I performed tonight was the better for it: more nuanced.

 

I had three sleepers though, which seems to be about par.  I wonder if the other one-person shows have this problem or if it’s something specific about mine?  This is the kind of thing that makes one worry that one is not a compelling performer.  (Yes, I’m insecure: I think it goes with the territory.)

 

After the performance, we all proceeded to dinner at a nearby restaurant: cast, crew, family, and scholar-about-town.

 

We said goodbye in the parking lot behind The Grand Theatre, and hopped into our cars.  Fatefully, I decided to go back to the Farm with my parents rather than return to Toronto for the night with Ramona and Jordan.

 

My family was about ten kilometers out from Woodstock, Ontario, when my phone rang.  It was Ramona.  The touring van (dubbed ‘Van’essa) had broken down just outside of Woodstock.  The engine had just stopped and the electrical system shut off.

 

Long story short: Ramona’s brother-in-law will drive in from Toronto to pick them up and use his CAA card to get them a tow.  Another family member says that it sounds like the battery has just bitten the dust and it should just be a replacement, which should be able to be done in the morning.  I really hope so.  We’d just found a stagehand to fill in for Jordon on the Saturday and Sunday shows, and losing our transportation now would really just be kicking as we’re starting to get up.

 

We need to rehearse the new technician in, but luckily tomorrow (June 26) is a late show.  So we won’t get to see anyone else’s shows tomorrow, but we should at least be able to rehearse and then make it in to perform… provided that Vanessa isn’t terminally stricken.

 

What a night.  I will sleep now… because ONE of us needs to be awake tomorrow.

Jun 26

39 – Show Diaries – Show 5 & NO SHOW

For show five, we were back to the usual audience numbers hovering just over ten people.  This was Dangerous Dave’s first show with us, and things went a little less than smoothly.  Jordan, our previous stagehand, actually had a lot of experience backstage (although he didn’t know how to whisper instead of talk into the headset, probably because the shows he techs have loud music throughout), and got the hang of things very quickly.

 

Dave is a York student, going into his second year, and it’s apparent that he’s had a little less experience backstage, which meant that I had to be a little more present than I was used to during setup, not just to help him, but to wrangle our sometimes elusive venue tech, Keith.  Keith, like me, had become used to Jordan’s ability to get things sorted on his own, and so needed a little coaxing from me to help Dave get things set up.

 

Don’t get me wrong: Dave’s not a bad kid: he just needs to be backstage on some more shows to build his confidence so that he knows when to ask for help and when to just get on with things himself.  He’ll probably be there by the end of second year.  He joined York with the intent of going into the acting stream originally, so he’s about exactly where I would expect a second year Yorkie to be.

 

But yeah, super guy.  Total trooper.  Throughout his two shows, he kept his cool when things went to shit (usually my fault, or the fault of weird tech issues like someone having turned the volume on the headset WAY down), and while he might not have had the instincts (or experience on this show) to do exactly the right thing (although he did in a bunch of cases), he DIDN’T PANIC, which is so incredibly important.

 

So, fifth show, not bad.  A few wonky tech bits.

 

After the show (we were 22:15 – 23:15, the last show of the evening), we went to the No Show—a sort of cabaret affair that had been going on every or almost every evening throughout the Fringe.  Since we’d been driving in and out, and rehearsing the show during the days (Saturday afternoon was like that), we hadn’t been able to participate much in the Fringe culture, so we were pretty stoked to finally get to an event (despite the fact that Ramona was extremely tired due to the car nonsense the night before).

 

Unfortunately, by this point in the festival, the atmosphere had already condensed, and we were at a disadvantage, only knowing a few of the other performers.  M.K. had introduced us to Martin Dockery earlier in the festival, so I made a point of saying hello to him, although he was almost always wading through an entourage.

 

Neither Ramona nor I are good schmoozing people, and Dave isn’t either, so we kind of hung out alone for a bit, until Mikaela Dyke came along and rescued us by introducing us to several people.  I managed to introduce myself to Rob Gee, who was doing a piece about being a psychiatric nurse, and got the show password from him (which would get us in for free).

 

Once the show started, we all just watched the show.  During the short breaks, there was always somewhat loud music on, which I found interesting, considering that a high percentage of people in the room were performers, many of whom had shows on the morrow, and therefore should probably not be yelling at the top of their lungs just to carry on conversations.

 

The show itself was pretty fun.  It was great to get to see Martin in action, since we weren’t going to be able to catch his show in London (we’ll see another one of his pieces when we meet up again in Victoria).  Wow.  I can’t wait to see that show.  This guy is, as M.K. promised, an amazing storyteller.

 

The other highlight of the evening was a series of verbatim bits, collected from Craigslist “Missed Connections” postings by Mikaela, and read out by various performers (the entries chosen were local to the performers’ hometowns).  Again, I think Dockery stole the show with his.  Ramona and I will probably repeat on of the lines from his forever: “I wondered what would happen if I tickled you!”  (Read as a four-foot tall Yoda-like Velma-the-cafeteria-like woman).  I guess you had to be there.

 

There was some weak sketch comedy as well, although there were also two incredibly strong funny pieces, so it balanced out.  (One of the weaker pieces did have a great character, though: Candy McFeelie and his Magical Bag.  Don’t ask.)

 

We ended up having to leave before the end because Ramona was fading fast, and we wanted to be sure to get back to the Farm in one piece.  We were in bed by 3:00.  And up the next morning at 9:00 to go back and do our only day of Fringeing.

Jun 25

Character Profile: Clancy

Another cut character, poor Clancy didn’t even make it into the Yokohama show (though we did create a totally movement-based scene with him, and just couldn’t wedge it in).  But the old boy is still rattling around in my head, and despite the fact that he didn’t even get a mention in either of the two versions of the show, he is very dear to my heart, and he is still part of the story.

 

Here then, is the character description I prepared for Kim and Bridget (the director and production designer, respectively):

 

Clancy was born and raised on a working family farm in rural Manitoba.  Always an overachiever, he became an Olympic athlete at the age of 17, coming fourth in his weight class in Judo.

Fall, that same year, he lost both his legs below the knee in a tractor accident while working on a neighbour’s harvest.

There had been a recent advance in prosthetics, and Clancy’s family and community raised the money necessary to get these for him.

However, he was banned from competing in the next Olympics as his prosthetics were considered to be an unfair advantage.

The next two years were very dark.  Clancy worked only farm jobs and developed a dependence on alcohol.  He started moving around, because he began to burn too many bridges in his own community.  And then he started torching any bridges that were even under construction, wherever he went.

One night, while talking with a stranger in a bar about the best way to just get away permanently, the other man joked about becoming an astronaut, commenting, "but those guys are like Olympic athletes or something."

The next day, Clancy didn’t get drunk, and instead started training for the Space program.  As soon as the applications for Colony I opened up, he applied.

He places 7th in the Astronaut cohort (he had trouble with the classroom elements), but is passed up for the mission (Jarhead goes instead) due to the concern that his prosthetics will malfunction during the 6-year journey or later on the colony world.

Although Clancy is offered another orbital job, as are all the astronauts who don’t make the cut, he turns it down.  He does not attend graduation.

On 39’s return 39 years later, Clancy has replaced his entire body with prosthetics and is now totally post-human.  He can no longer even speak, but communicates through complicated movement.

Jun 25

Deleted Scene – The Waste of Space

This is the scene from the Yokohama version of the show in which Ms. Umqhat revealed herself to be an avatar for The Waste of Space.  Yes, the odd punctuation is deliberate.

 

Umqhat’s office

 

39 is here with Umqhat.

39:     And that’s when they kicked me out.

UMQHAT:     Shame.

39:     Is it? Look, you said something about going back into space.

UMQHAT:     On the orbital habitats?

39:     Deep space, you said. Don’t play coy.

UMQHAT:     I am putting together a mission.

39:     You? You’re the one who told me people were completely uninterested in space travel. How can you say that about people in general terms, and then exclude yourself? You’re people!

UMQHAT:     Not exactly.

Umqhat begins twisting her body and moving in strange shapes.

 

 

WASTE OF SPACE: She is, the avatar, a personality splinter of one of the AIs.

This AI is currently occupying a large, purpose-built spacecraft.

It has a name. I am called The Waste of Space.

39:     You’re a hyper-intelligent spacecraft. What do you need me for?

WASTE OF SPACE: A purpose? Fun? I’m just a bit weird that way. We all are.

In any case, we’re prepping for departure.

Umqhat returns to her normal self.

 

UMQHAT: So, are you in?

39: Darn tootin’.

Jun 25

Deleted Scene – Goodbye to Maya

Here’s a scene that was cut from the Fringe version of the show.  39 has snuck back to the 39th Luddite Micronation in order to meet his sister, and say goodbye to her for what he thinks will be forever:

 

The 39th Luddite Micronation. Maya’s bedroom.

 

39 is here, singing Spanish Ladies to his 8 year-old sister.

 

39: Shh! Don’t wake Mother and Father.
This used to be my room, you know.
That’s right. I’m your big brother.
It was the night of your birth I ran away
And I’ve missed you so much, and I’m so sorry, and no; I’m never coming back again.
I would, I would, I would take you with me if I could.
I’m going there; up there… yes, they say it’s the biggest sin, the highest hubris.
But it’s where I belong. Not here.
You’re the only family I have who hasn’t tried to stop me from being who I am.
Maybe. But you’re eight. You get the benefit of the doubt.

 

A noise.

 

39: I’ve got to– Maya… whatever happens: be who you want to be.
No. I can’t stay for breakfast.

Jun 25

Character Profile: Maya

Another character who ended up being cut after the Yokohama performance was Maya, 39’s sister.  Here’s the character description I wrote for our designer:

 

Maya is 39’s sister.  She was born the year he left the 39th Luddite Micronation, and thus is eight years old when he leaves Earth.  Before leaving, 39 makes a special, secret visit to say goodbye to her, even though they’ve never met before.

During the Corporate Wars (when Maya was 27), all the Luddite Micronations were destroyed, along with all her family and friends.

She survived the Wars and their aftermath, and after the AIs had rebuilt human society, she came out from underground and joined with the few survivors and converts remaining.  Together they rejected the new world as they had the old, and set up a new Luddite Micronation, called The Last Luddite Micronation.

The AIs, dedicated as they were to everyone having what they wanted, made sure that the Micronation had arable land and was undisturbed by other humans.

Of course, the AIs also secretly made sure that the colony was successful.  There were no crop failures, no livestock blights, or anything that would threaten the seeming independence of the Micronation.

The Luddites were only too ready to chalk up their successes to their skill and foresight.

When 39 returns to Earth, a message is delivered to Maya, his only living relative, and she decides to make the trek out of the Micronation to bring him back.  She is certain that once he sees the decadence of the new world, he will want to return to his roots.

She fails to persuade him: he tells her he left for a reason and that he refuses to live with his head in the sand.  However, he soon becomes overwhelmed by the new world and shows up to rejoin the Micronation.

She watches him work diligently, and chides him when he begins to slack off.  When he proves that the AIs are responsible for the great success of the Luddites, she agrees with the Elders that 39 needs to be thrown out.  The revelation changes her, but she makes the choice to live with a lie, and chooses the Micronation over her brother.

I really loved the character, and the fact that it gave 39 someone to interact with who he loved, but who wasn’t a lover of some variety.  I felt that the culmination of the scenes with Maya on the Last Luddite Micronation were also key for showing one of the key reasons that 39 can’t live in this future world: without the chance of failure, his life becomes meaningless.

 

Unfortunately, while rewriting the show for the Fringe tour, I realized that my changes were beginning to make the show too future-heavy, and I felt that there were already enough reasons for 39 to wish to leave future Earth (not the least how the supposedly enlightened future people treat Yuki), so Maya had to go.  I will bring her back someday.

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