Tag Archive: Mikaela Dyke

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 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 24

39 – Show Diaries – Papering

So, on Tuesday, we finally had a chance to do some walking around to spread the word about our show before heading back to Toronto.

 

I’m very bad at this sort of thing.  So I just told people that they should come see my show.  It’s about space.  I wear fantastic boots in it.   That sort of thing.

 

 

Good news: I actually bumped into the woman with the skinned knees from my Monday show and was able to thank her in person!  It was Mikaela Dyke, another performer who is doing a show called Dying Hard, which we will be doing our best to see on Sunday.  That unfortunately will mean I won’t be able to keep my (non)commitment to the The Plank team, but those performers will be in Edmonton with us, so we’ll be able to see them there.

 

We also got to meet several other Fringe performers, including Jem Rolls, who we will also unfortunately be missing in London, but may be able to catch at one of the other Fringes.

 

Good friend Albert Lee came all the way from Toronto to see the show, so he snapped a few pictures (above) of us pressing the flesh, so to speak.  On the way home, while we patronized a roadside McDonalds (barf), I returned the favour: