Tag Archive: Andrew Woolner

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

_MG_3980

 

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.

_MG_3957

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 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.