My First Fringe

My first experience with a fringe festival was growing up in Victoria.  As a poor student, I didn't have the opportunity to go to tons of theatre unless my parents paid (which they often did).  Also, Victoria was (is) a small-ish town and there wasn't always tons going on.  So I loved the Victoria Fringe Festival, where I could buy a relatively inexpensive pass and skip from show to show to show.  I spent hours flipping through the Fringe guide, plotting and planning the shows to see.    Some of the shows were fantastic.  Some were transformative.  Some were god-awful.  But that "pick-n-mix" aspect of Fringe was liberating, inspiring, exhilarating.

This year is my first Fringe as an artist.  I am performing in a new musical work called CAPS LOCK, which is a modern office romance, appearing on the main stage at Studio 16 (1555 West 7th) during the Vancouver International Fringe Festival.  We've been working hard all summer on this show - hence my relative silence here on this blog - and tonight was our opening.

What I never realized before is that the sheer volume of shows put on by Fringe, in a limited number of venues, means: a) very little time in your actual venue to rehearse; and b) a mere 15 minutes at the top and tail of each show to get in costume, get your set ready, and post-show, strike the set and get the hell outta dodge so the next show goes up in time.  YOWZA.  For a theatrical control-freak like me, today - our tech day in our venue and also our opening, within 2 hours - was the epitome of stressful.

The CAPS LOCK team had its first look at the venue in which we'd be performing at noon today, with our opening scheduled for 5 pm.  This means that at 12, our production team first laid eyes on the stage it now had to dress, the lighting board it now had to program, and the screen where we wanted to project various slides during the show (oooh, fancy!).  It meant we had to figure out where to squeeze the 7 piece orchestra.  Just how far apart we could place the characters' desks in the "office."  Where we had to stand for lighting cues.  Whether our choreography was going to fit on the stage we had.  Whether the technical effects were going to be timed properly with our performance.  Whether the sound cues would happen on time.  You know.  No big deal.

Well, actually, very big deal.  The screen wasn't high enough for the audience to see.  There wasn't enough room for the cello.  Was the double-bass going to be able to see our music director/composer?  If I stood here would I still be in the light?  By 2:30 p.m. we had just finished setting props.  There was no time to do an actual run in the space - we'd have to just rehearse particular cues, do as much of a stop-and-start of problem areas as we could, and then hope for the best for our opening at 5:00 p.m.   So that was it.  We were going to go on, in front of an audience, having not fully rehearsed the show in our venue.  I was literally sweating bullets from anxiety. 

At 3:15 p.m., when we were firmly shown the exit by a Fringe official, some of us went for a very subdued bite to eat before we had to be back at the theatre for 4:30 p.m.  I could barely eat, I felt so sick with nerves.  Not for my performance - that I could control - but for how everything else was going to somehow come together in time.  As I got into costume and make-up, I could hear a buzz of arriving audience members outside the dressing room.  I peeked out to see that there were audience members lined up out the door of the venue.  My hands started to shake.  What have I gotten myself into?

As it turned out - it turned out.  The audience laughed.  They applauded.  No one forgot to sing.  Nothing fell apart.  There were a few technical glitches, but in the end, it was a show, and an entertaining one, too.   And I have never felt so exhilarated after a performance in my life.  The stress and urgency of the earlier part of the day, the anxiety at the lack of rehearsal time in the venue - it all melted away and I felt just a tremendous sense of pride and relief that we had made it happen.  And no one had killed (or even maimed) anyone else in the process!

One of the additional perks of being a Fringe Artist is the Fringe rush pass - I have access to as many shows as I can possibly cram into my already incredibly-busy schedule (surprisingly - ha - Fringe doesn't pay enough for me to leave the practice of law). 

My fellow cast member (and Danielle), Danielle St. Pierre, and I, have always joked about her propensity to look for the silver lining in every show, always finding something good to say, whilst I tend to be overly critical.  "We should write a theatre review blog called 'Good Danielle, Bad Danielle'," I said one day, jokingly.

Well, we've decided to do just that - although, truth be told, sometimes I'm Good Danielle and she's Bad Danielle (you won't even know which - sneaky!).  But we've set ourselves an ambitious schedule between now and the end of Fringe on September 16, and plan to say something on this blog about each of them.

In case you're in Vancouver and interested in checking out CAPS LOCK, or seeing another one of the shows with Good Danielle, Bad Danielle, here's our schedule:

Saturday, September 8

12:50 - Chlamydia dell'Arte - Performance Works, Granville Island

2:30 pm - Underbelly - Waterfront Theatre, Granville Island

4:30 pm -  Burnt at the Steak - Peformance Works, Granville Island

9:30 - Romance, CBC Studios (Hamilton & Georgia)

Monday, September 10

6:30 p.m. - Fishbowl,  Performance Works, Granville Island

9:45 p.m. - CAPS LOCK: THE MUSICAL (starring ME!), Studio 16

Tuesday, September 11

1:00 p.m. - Zanna, Don't!,  CBC Studios (Hamilton & Georgia)

5:00 p.m. - CAPS LOCK: THE MUSICAL (starring ME!), Studio 16

 7:45 p.m. - Loon, Waterfront Theatre, Granville Island (after our show)

Wednesday, September 12

5:30 p.m. - Saints of British Rock, Firehall Arts Centre (Main and Cordova)

7:15 p.m. - Riverview High, Firehall Arts Centre (Main and Cordova)

10:00 p.m. - My Aim is True, Revue Stage, Granville Island

Thursday, September 13

6:00 - Intrusion, Carousel Theatre, Granville Island

8:30 p.m. - Welcome to My Wake (Site-Specific, Granville Island Parking Garage)

Friday, September 14

12:30 p.m. -  RIOT - Woodwards Atrium, Gastown

5:00 p.m. - The Histories, Carousel Theatre, Granville Island

8:40 p.m. - CAPS LOCK: THE MUSICAL (starring ME!), Studio 16

Saturday, September 15


5:20 p.m. - The Best. Man - Carousel Theatre, Granville Island

Happy Fringing, everyone.  It's the best time of the year.