Tag Archive: YTG

Jan 26

Weird Place for A Writer

(photo in this post courtesy of Nema Photographie)

 

I’m writing this long-overdue blog update while I should be writing content for By the Hour, my upcoming show—my VERY upcoming show, that opens in just a few weeks (Feb 12 – 14). Why I’m not: because more than any other show I’ve worked on, it’s hard.Photo by Nema Photographie

 

So, first, we’re developing the show in rehearsal, so it’s not just about pounding out a script. Not that I haven’t done this before, under similar time pressure, but here’s the rub: the show is supposed to be accessible to both Japanese and English speakers, without the use of subtitles. And the subject of the show (sex workers in Yokohama) is a talky-ass subject. Our research is not very deep at all, and there’s still pages and pages I could write, without being preachy or anything… but I don’t want to create that show. Not just because that’s not what I’ve promised to deliver to audiences at the TPAM showcase, but because I really want to do something different with this piece.

 

I have to be cognisant as well of the fact that a lot of what I write is going to have to be translated into Japanese by my co-creator Naoe Kawamoto. So again, trying to keep the words to a minimum. It’s an enormous challenge.

 

So yes, I should be writing the play RIGHT NOW as I sit on the local train to Kamiooka station, but I think I instead needed to type out this post to clear my thoughts on the matter. Not sure if it worked, but I’m now itching to write, which is a good sign.

 

(If you want  to support the show, please buy a ticket at http://ytg.jp or, if you’re not able to attend the show, because you don’t live in Japan or something, head over to https://patreon.com/ytg and pledge to support my theatre company.)

Jan 14

Joomla Language Switcher Stops Pointing at the Correct Page

[Note: I’m going to start writing about technical fixes here. This is less for my readers, and more just to note certain tricky or non-intuitive fixes for myself so that I can look back and reference them. Do not feel obliged to read this.]

 

Today the language-switcher module on the YTG site stopped working. It would send the user to an incorrect page. Either the home page, or a page I had visited recently. The last part was the crucial hint. After turning cloudflare caching off, I remembered that I’d recently enabled caching within the Global Settings menu in Joomla.

 

Turned it off. Problem solved.

Nov 30

In the Air

I guess that one hour and forty-five minutes isn’t so late in the grand scheme of things, but it’s hard looking down at my watch and thinking if we were on time, we would be landing in 30 minutes.

 

I can’t believe they still have the same movies that they had when I flew over a month ago. I thought they changed them every month! I watched a couple, but then got bored, so I’ve switched on my laptop (hooray for in-seat power outlets) and caught up on my email.

 

I guess it would be a good idea, I supposed, to write something for the blog.

 

Don’t really have anything to write about.

 

I really have no idea what is in store for me for the next 60 days. Father’s memorial, sure, mother’s birthday, yes, Xmas and New Years, check. But no real idea of where I’m going to be or what I’m going to be doing. I brought along my TASCAM US-800 USB mixer and two microphones just in case I decide to record some songs or something. Forgot the AC cable for the US-800, though.

 

One thing is clear is that my father’s death changes everything and moves my life schedule ahead about 10 years… despite the fact that my career schedule is about five years behind where I’d like it to be. My remaining family needs me, and I am going to have to make more frequent and longer trips to Canada. This jaunt, thought, will be my longest one until at least next fall: if everything goes well, my spring and summer are spoken for (papoose on the way). But starting from 2014, I think I need to find a way to spend at least three months a year in Canada.

 

That’s actually a hard mental shift for me. My identity is wrapped up quite tightly in Yokohama. I also have a sense of pride about being part of my community there. My long-range plan has always included spending a portion of my time in Canada, but my prior visions had all related to my professional life: touring a show, maybe. Just going there seems weird.

 

So everything’s up in the air right now. YTG ensemble rehearsals have been suspended while I’m gone; the winter semester of classes don’t have a venue yet (except for the voice class); my Canadian family is seriously changed, and the pieces haven’t stopped falling yet… probably more stuff I can’t think of at the moment.

 

Hmm. Lights are going from blue to pink. Food service probably starting soon. Better put away the laptop and get ready.

Nov 22

Up Shit Creek—Spare a Paddle?

I never got around to making the official announcement, I don’t think, but the Theatre company I run, YTG, became a registered NPO this past May. Yay!

 

My fiscal year starts September 1, which means that for the last few months I’ve been doing the taxes. I’ve had a neighbourhood friend helping me, without whom I would not have been able to meet the first deadline to file and pay taxes with/to three branches of government on October 30. I now have to November 30 to submit an annual report to the Yokohama City NPO office.

 

In some ways, this is easier than the tax stuff, and in some ways harder. There is a very specific format for this document and, of course, it has to be in Japanese, even if the group’s meetings take place and are documented in another language. I’m not saying that this doesn’t make sense, just that it’s hard.

 

Anyway, I’m at the point now where I have a pretty good idea of what I need to do, but what I could really use is some help from a fully bilingual friend. The line items for the budget and financial report portion are incomprehensible to me, and I need to turn around a quick translation on an activity report. Ideally, this would be someone who could come over and sit down with me to go through it all.

 

I can buy you lunch.

Aug 09

Unexpected Begging

I’ve been gearing up to start a crowd-funding campaign for a while for YTG, but my plan was to fund some rehearsal set pieces that we desperately need, or even one of our upcoming shows! Instead, I’m raising money to save a shed! What happened?!

 

The damage done to the shed.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, some idiot rammed a vehicle into the Yokohama Theatre Group’s storage shed and damaged one of the outer walls (see photo). The YCAC, on whose property our shed is located, removed that outer wall for safety reasons before contacting me.

 

Sadly, with the wall removed, it’s impossible to verify how the damage occurred or to evaluate whether the whole side needed to come off. In any case, what’s done is done. The YCAC is not interested in investigating further, and since we are essentially guests on their properly, I must defer to their judgement on the matter. That’s left YTG (read: me) holding the bag, financially. If you’ve been following me, you might have an inkling that I’ve been covering a lot of YTG expenses out of pocket for a while now, and even if I wanted to, I just don’t have deep enough pockets for this.

 

Save Our Shed

So, I’m reaching out to readers of this blog, particularly those who know me personally or through my Theatre work (those here because of the Wall of Shame may be slightly less interested) to go to the Indiegogo site, watch the amusing video I recorded yesterday (by myself, in the 37 degree heat with the cicadas chirping like mad in the background), see if you can pinpoint the moment when two pigeons start going at it, and, most importantly, give some money to help fund the shed repair.

 

Any amount over $10 will get you a perk, which is great, but the real point is to get this shed repaired so YTG doesn’t lose all the stuff we store inside it.

 

If you’re poor as a church mouse, that’s okay, just pass along this blog entry, or just this link: http://igg.me/p/198024?a=488241 <—that’s the link to the campaign. Please go there now and watch the video, which represents the “sweat” part of this campaign. The “blood” and “tears” are coming soon, no doubt…

 

Thanks!

Dec 03

Website Frustration

The new website for YTG is basically done. However, it’s still not live, because most of the content is still in English.

New Website Sneak Peak

The change of direction of Yokohama Theatre has meant that most of the content on the old site will not be moved to the new site. That means I’ve had to write new items, which I did, but it also means that those items need to be translated into Japanese before I launch.

 

So I’m trying to rope in everyone I know: my usual volunteer translator, the ensemble members themselves, and some family members too.

 

Hopefully this means I can launch the site mid-week next week and start directing people towards it.

 

If you’re bilingual and want to help out, drop me a line, though. The sooner I can launch, the better!

Nov 08

Back to the Grind

Last night was the first YT Ensemble Rehearsal for me in just over two weeks. I’d taken a break from rehearsals while my parents were visiting from Canada. It was also nice to give the group a chance to find a dynamic without me, as so far I’d been the only constant.

 

During my two weeks “off”, I was hardly idle, though. I was working on a new YTG website, as well as looking into a possible rehearsal space that we could rent by the month.

 

The group was also not idle. The first week they worked on their presentation for the monthly Gekisalon meeting, and in the second week, they continued work on our elements series.

 

Unfortunately, we had barely any working time last night. We were in a kumin (community) centre, and it closed at 21:00. I mean REALLY closed. Like we had to be packed up and out the door at 21:00. Also, Mayu (who had booked the space) had misplaced the receipt, which really put the staff’s noses out of joint. After thinking we’d solved the problem, they actually came and interrupted our rehearsal to make Takahiko do almost 20 minutes of paperwork!

 

We didn’t make a mess in the room, so we were planning to work right up until 20:50, and then change and exit. That plan also proved unworkable, because from 20:45 on, the centre kept playing loud end-of-day music and announcements over the P.A. system.

 

We’re back in that space tomorrow (Wednesday), but we’ll have the receipt this time, and I’ll try to be primed to make the best use of our time.

 

Our experiences at some of these Kumin centres simply serve to drive home the point that we really need our own space, ASAP.

Aug 27

The Ensemble

I was supposed to have my cast a month ago. It’s taken me a long time to set up auditions, get people to come to them, and then convince them to join.IMG_1399-Edit

 

Actually, the auditions are more for the candidates to evaluate whether or not they want to work with me than they are for me to judge their talents. Why? Because most Theatre people here aren’t used to the idea of a long term repertory unit, let alone one that is going to specialize in a type of collective creation. (I think dance people are, but that’s a whole other blog post.)

 

I’m asking the people to sign up to essentially commit for an indefinite term, an unspecified number of shows, and an intense (3 days a week) rehearsal schedule. I think we all will have the goal of doing this for a living, but for now, there’s no money in it. I am asking people to do this for the love of making collaborative Theatre. And that’s a big ask.

 

That’s why I’m not running the auditions to weed out people based on skill level. A Theatre producer friend of mine once gave me the advice, while we were casting one of the Amos Takes Hogtown shows, that I shouldn’t mistake enthusiasm for talent. Which is good advice when you have a 6 – 8 week, three day-a-week rehearsal process gearing up for a show that is going to get just one production. It’s less good advice when building an ensemble for a long-term creative project.

 

The fact is that someone can learn to be a better performer (indeed, one of the principles on which I’m founding the ensemble is that we all must always be open to learning new skills), but what can’t be taught is a desire to express oneself through live performance. That desire, that need, is what I am looking for.

 

What I’m keeping my eye out for in auditions is a flexibility of mind and a desire to jump right in and participate. So far, I’ve seen a lot of that. It seems like the kind of people who come out to this type of audition are already cut from that cloth. This is encouraging to me.

 

So, one more set of auditions on Tuesday, and I should have a company of between two and five people set up and ready to go by the end of the week.

May 16

A Class Act, Er, Acting Class

In real life, I run a 111 year-old Theatre company called YTG, which I am in the process of registering as an NPO here in Japan.The Beggar's Opera as performed by The Yokohama Theatre Group

 

The first half of the mandate of the company is to bring contemporary Theatre to people in Yokohama and Japan. To fulfill this mandate, we obviously mount shows, but we’re also trying to get a Theatre school off the ground. There are several reasons why the school is an important part of what we do.

 

Firstly, with our limited resources, shows can only happen a couple of times per year for the time being. This gap between productions causes YTG to drop out of public awareness for months at a time. Running workshops gives us something to publicize all year long.

 

Secondly, good training will empower and inspire students to go off and do their own projects, which will mean more Theatre buzz. I strongly believe that art begets art in a positive feedback loop. A city that has lots of active artists has lots of demand for art because everyone is aware of it. That is true for all the arts, but especially performance-oriented arts like dance and Theatre.

 

Thirdly, there is a dearth right now of Theatre artists who have both the need to create contemporary work and the technical skills to do so. The YTG classes are being designed to develop both of these requirements in the hopes generating future YTG company members.

 

We’ve had some problems finding suitable rehearsal spaces for these classes, so we’ve just got one coming up: Voice for the Actor. Voice_For_The_Actor_Spring_2011_Graphic_and_TitleBut what a class to start with. My friend and Theatre colleague Graig Russell has been working his butt off to write the curriculum for the class, and it’s going to be eight weeks of intense voice work. It’s not all the time I get to work with someone like Graig whose philosophy toward Theatre is so much like mine that it’s uncanny. Although voice work will always involve technical elements, what’s great about this course is that it doesn’t concentrate on technique to the exclusion of all else. Graig has really built a workshop that emphasizes the idea of the individual voice, so that each student will learn not something that’s standardized, but something that’s unique to his or her own body.

 

(And I’m not talking sight unseen here; Graig was my vocal coach on William Shakespeare’s R3 two years ago, and did some wonderful work with a number of my actors.)

 

Because we’ve had trouble booking space at YTG’s usual Yokohama haunts, this workshop will take place in Tokyo at the OUR SPACE rehearsal lounge. I’m so lucky that the management at that space are also good friends

 

So my job now is to sign up seven students to take this course. I’ve printed flyers and we’re sending them out to Universities; I’ve sent out the YTG newsletter announcing the class; I’ve notified a Yokohama English-through-Theatre school; I’ve sent email to my international school contacts; I’ve updated the YTG facebook page; I’ve tweeted it; etc., ad nauseum… Publicity is definitely the part of the job that I’m worst at.  I know that there are people out there interested in this course… the question is simply: how do I reach them?

 

Oh well, I’ll find the magic formula one day. In the meantime, I just need to keep plugging away. I really do believe that if I build something based on good, solid, ideas and ideals, that it will eventually generate interest. Art begets art and all that.

Nov 03

Tartuffe–4th Rehearsal

I’m constantly amazed by what a good group we’ve assembled for this show.  I’ve got a huge mix of people with lots of experience, and people with almost none, and they’re working very well together.

Tartuffe_image_1

I’ve heard from several people now that they’re still panicked about not having a script yet, so I gave another talk tonight, emphasizing that I’m not fiddling while Rome burns, but that even if we were working from a finished script, I’d rather not have given it to them at this point anyway.  I don’t want people memorizing lines yet.  This is a play, and we need to learn how to play together.

 

I would rather have a show with a few line flubs, where the actors know who they are, and what they’re doing, and what’s happening next, and in which they totally have bought in the world of the play, than a show in which people have memorized lines and are just marking things through.  I think, if compared side-by-side, this is what an audience would prefer as well.

 

After having said that, we continued the tactics/objectives work we started yesterday, and then moved into a Meisner exercise, courtesy of Jon Reimer (who teaches this stuff: http://tokyoplayers.org/?lang=1&page=58&mode=detail&event=38 If you’re in Tokyo, take his classes!), which deals with truth in acting.

 

I think his exercises clearly showed the idea that in truthful acting, emotion is a by-product of action.  (And yes!  This even applies to “stylized” acting, which is the same as “normal” acting, except that the rules of the world are different!)  This is really important to the framing section of our play (called the “1941 section”), because we’re striving for naturalism (although, of course, the stakes are high enough that people can be reasonably big without blowing the audience’s acceptance of the situation), and really don’t want to end up with anything that looks like self-conscious acting… or what my first acting teacher called “shmackting”.

 

Actually, that whole attitude is summed up by a story told to me by the great and intense Canadian director Paul Lambert.  I may get details of this wrong, but the point is the same:

 

One night, a relatively famous director who was guesting at the National Theatre School  was holding court in a bar.  All the young acting students were there asking him question after question.  After a long evening of this, and a perhaps particularly obtuse question from a first year, the director took a drag on his cigarette, and a sip from his full-to-the-brim pint of Carlsberg.  After he put the glass down, after seeming to consider the whole evening worth of questions, he said simply: “Just be there.  Fuck!”

 

Best advice for actors I’ve ever heard.  I wish this was my story.

 

Just be there.  Fuck

 

I believe that all the actors I’ve assembled for this show can be there.

 

Damn!  This show is going to be fantastic!

 

JustBeThereFuck

Oct 30

Tartuffe – Rehearsal #2

Well, we’re on our way.  I revealed the outline and the main ideas of the show to the actors after sending out the cast list (with final casting for both parts of the play).

 

I guess I should explain a little bit here what I’m doing so that this and future entries make a modicum of sense to people other than me…

 

The play opens in 1941.  When the audience walks into the Theatre, they will be confronted with a 1941 Japanese train station.  Through sound (mental note: need to recruit a sound designer) and dialogue, it will be revealed that this is February xth, at 23:30, and there is a blizzard raging outside.  The station is rural, but it is a major rail hub nonetheless.

 

A variety of people are trapped here: from foreign amateur actors, to a war widow, to a girl being sold by her family into factory work.  Between themselves, to pass the time, they decide to put on a play: Tartuffe.

 

Using items from their suitcases, they dress the station up to look finer and make themselves costumes.  The Station Master volunteers his gramophone for music, and they’re off!

 

The idea behind my production is the transformative power of Theatre, with a touch of the usual Tartuffe moral about blind faith vs reason.  Each of these individuals is changed somehow (maybe not obviously to the audience) by the performance of this play, and they all leave the station different from the way they were when they arrived.  (And, with luck, some of this will rub off on the audience.)

 

In any case, I gave the cast the whole breakdown of the show, including Tartuffe scene breakdowns, thus lifting the veil of secrecy that I’d unintentionally laid over the production.

 

I’ve also assigned research topics to each of the actors, which, in all the cases it was possible, I’ve tried to tie in with their 1941 character.  Presentations are next Sunday, and I’m really looking forward to see what they come up with.

 

We played some status games tonight, since status is so important in Japanese society, particularly in the era in question, and particularly across the lines of nationality and gender.

 

From here, we start working and developing  the 1941 characters.  Once that process bears some fruit, it will give me some options on how to attack the Tartuffe adaptation, which I’m trying to tie in as closely with what I’m seeing in rehearsal.

 

Getting excited!

Oct 05

Callbacks

So tonight I ran callbacks for Tartuffe, the production I’m directing this winter in Tokyo and Yokohama.  The people I called back were all definitely people that I plan to cast, the question is just placement.

 

The concept for the show is this:

 

A bunch of passengers, which includes the audience, are stranded in a rural train station during a snowstorm in early 1941.  A number of the stranded passengers are members of a Theatre troupe, and they decide they want to put on a show for their fellow passengers.  They recruit some people from among the other passengers, figure out casting, dress the station house up as a set, pull “costumes” out of whatever they have in their suitcases, and start to do Tartuffe.

 

So tonight, I put the callbackees through what a rehearsal with me might be like.  I’ve decided for this show that I want to do much more ensemble work; I felt that group unity was really lacking on R3, and I really want to build a strong bond between the cast members.  So we did a warm-up, played some games, did some physical Theatre improv work, and then did some show-related improvs.  Overall, I was really impressed with the group, their instincts, and their willingness to just go for it.  Casting is always very difficult, and I saw some good actors during the audition process who I felt unable to cast because I felt they were more talented as solo actors; more at home in a professional production in which people come in, rehearse their scene, and go home. The point is, I felt vindicated in my choices tonight.

 

There’s still a lot to do.  I’m missing three or four actors still: two Japanese men, one Japanese woman, and a Japanese teenage girl.  I can probably work around some of those roles, but I really would like to create a more realistic balance of foreigner to Japanese.

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.

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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 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

The Mountain Man Visits The Fringe

So last night, we’re sitting in the Academy at King Edward (our venue as well) watching a show called Seeking.  The show is a little into its first scene when suddenly there’s this banging on the door.

 

“What ho?” we all think, or rather, we don’t, because people don’t think words like that, and especially not all at the same time, but you get the idea, which is startlement and surprise and “is it part of the show”?

 

No.  It’s not part of the show.  It’s some crazy ass fringer and his girlfriend who got lost and arrived late, and are now trying to get in by any means necessary.

 

The door is opened slightly to stop the pounding and a mountain man pushes his way in with his girlfriend.

 

“Do you want a war?” he asks Josiah, one of the venue’s techs, “Because I love a war.”

 

Josiah decides (rightly, as it turns out, because this mofo is built like a goddamn smokehouse) that discretion is the better part of valour, and the man stomps heavily into the audience.

 

This is when we see him, and we all decide discretion, etc. because this mofo, etc.

 

He complains loudly (we can hear the alcohol on his breath) that he JUST WANTS TO SIT DOWN AND WATCH THE SHOW.  So sit down.  CAN’T I JUST SIT DOWN AND WATCH THE SHOW I PAID FOR.  All right.  Sit down.  I WANT TO SIT—well, you get the picture.

 

He finally sits down.

 

Someone onstage cracks a joke, and the show continues, albeit with tension a little thick in the air.

 

The cast of Seeking handles it like the pros they are, and the audience makes a concerted effort to enjoy it.

 

It’s a good show.

 

Afterwards, we pass three burly security guys on the way out the door, waiting for Mountain Man.  We get in Vanessa (our vehicle) and I suggest to Ramona that we wait for the cast to come out, worried that they’ll be frazzled, and might want to hear some words about what pros they were.  Because frankly, I think I’d like some positive feedback if I’d had to deal with that.

 

While we’re waiting, Mountain Man is encouraged out of the venue and starts talking nonsense to the security guys.  It looks like this might blow up, so we agree to boot it rather than stay seated (as duck) where we are.  As we drive away, we hear Mountain Man talk about how he’s “ON YOUR SIDE”.

 

Apparently, after we left, he went on about how he fought against demons and such.

 

Glad we missed that.

 

Anyway, interesting night.Mountain_Man

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.

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