Now in Victoria, B.C., one of the most beautiful cities on the planet, wrapping week three on the road in British Columbia with My Stroke of Luck.
A good friend up from Portland to see my show asked, "How are you feeling about touring?"
The short answer: LOVING IT!!!
Picture yourself in one of your favorite cities, glorious end of summer weather, hosted by a new best friend = sister from another mother (or is is just separated at birth?) in a beautiful downtown townhome, walking distance of everything, with a show you've workshopped, honed and refined over time, a good perforrmance schedule, a good central venue, your main job to perform a great show, (second job, of course, getting butts in seats), engaged, curious audiences, tons of great edgy, original, brilliant and creative theater to see, performed by an assortment of similarly committed, friendly, fun, talented, risk taking and generous artists!
What's not to love? Other than selling out the house - full disclosure, that full house photo above? My venue, but not for my show ;-( That empty front center seat is mine, but couldn't pass up the oppportunity to photo a full house! (told the audience, which had a good laugh!) - and having a twin, identical except extroverted, to handle my publicity and promotion, not much more I could want!
Of course, in Victoria, the stars have aligned! There are so many variables in the life of a tourning Fringe artist. And I'm sure you see how many in that paragraph!
Not every city is a Victoria. Blue skies, sunlight, a sea breeze and glorious weather make everything bettter.
And then there is the billet. Billet = Canadian/ Aussie/ UK word for hosted stay. The Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) rules require billeting of artists. The free place to stay helps make the Fringe economically feasible for all the touring artists who are, essentially, self producing. We pay a lump sum theater fee, our development, travel, publicity and miscellaneous expenses, hoping to at least recoup those expenses through ticket revenue, which CAFF rules say must be returned 100% to us (most US festivals are not CAFF members or CAFF compliant). Billeting an artist brings perks, like a Super Pass or bunches of tickets to the Fringe, and all the joys and risks of hosting (a) creative stranger(s). (Need I say more?)
But in this era of AirBnb, securing space for artists has become much more challenging. As for us artists, we can find a new best friend or sister from another mother -or is it separated from birth- (my current situation! ; -) ), absolute peace and privacy (my Nanaimo Fringe Billet, a hilltop studio apartment in the dorm at Vancouver Island University), a couple delighted to introduce you to their city and brring all their friends to your show sight unseen (my London/Ontario Fringe billet) . We can be housed across the street from our venues (Performance spaces), or a 40 minute freeway drive away, in a house or apartment, on a bed or on a couch. Stories abound about every variation of roommate and housing nightmares imaginable.
Your show is another big variable. Maybe your show was already complete when you applied to the Fringe. But as applications for Fringe close 6-10 months before the festivals begin, some, especially regulars, apply, planning to develop their shows in the interval. When did you start writing it? Is it finished? Is the Fringe essentially a workshop, or do you have a completed show? One artist wrote and rehearsed his play as a three person theater piece. His other actors backed out at the last minute. He arrived with a newly fashioned monologue! Now, many artists thrive under pressure, even need it to create, but the state of your show will affect your experience.
The major revisions of My Stroke of Luck this last year meant that essentially, I was premiering a new show at Nanaimo Fringe, but one I'd been able to workshop and hone, that was audience ready. With appreciative audiences giving me feedback in nightly unscheduled talk backs, and a venue (the lobby of The Port Theatre, the 800 seat legit Nanaimo main performance space) where sunlight bathed the audiences (creating havoc with my lighting scheme, but allowing me to really see my audience), I had a number of new discoveries, which is always exciting. I hit Victoria on a high, ready!
Venues, assigned by the Fringe through some alchemy not understood by me, including technical requirements of your show, your preferred seating capacity, also vary. Could be a legit theater with all the bells, whistles and audience regulars, a cafe, cabaret, gym or meeting room with folding chairs, a church with pews, central and close in or remote, warm or cold, 30 seats or 600. Mine, Venue 8, is a new one for the Fringe. A gym in one of the oldest, landmark Presbyterian Churchs in town (there's a catholic church with the same name), centrally located. But black drapes, risers and comfy chairs have made it into a great black box theater, holding 72-90 people.
And with 56 shows here, plenty of great theater to see, from magicians and comedians to serious drama, solo performers, improv, duos and even a family of four! And behind each of those shows, great creatives, sharing creative process, inspirations, struggles, triumphs, restaurants, drinking holes and things not to miss.
Which brings me to the wish for an extroverted, happy-to-self-promote twin! The Fringe is a whirlwind of activity and energy, which, for an intuitive introvert like myself, can be taxing. Then add on the need to fill seats! Most Fringe audiences are built word of mouth, and what better mouth to start than the artists? So email and Facebook and advance work go only so far. Flyering (engaging and sharing flyers with show image, dates, times and venue) lines of patrons waiting for shows, leaving shows, buying tickets or even walking down the street with their Fringe buttons is required. There's a whole art and etiquitte to the process, not trampling on the air time of other artists doing the same, varying the pitch within earshot, honoring ecologically sensitive patrons who want info, but not paper, others who prefer not to engage.
And then you have to decide which shows to flyer (like yours? cross over? biggest lines?) and how much. Some Fringe artists do not stop flyering until their shows are sold out. But seeing other work, for me, is an essential part of the experience, so I flyer the lines of shows I'm seeing, and as many others as I can. Exhausting! But as another introverted solo performer said yesterday, "People here are much easier to approach, and a lot more polite if they're not interested, so it doesn't feel like so much of a chore." I've found myself enjoying it at times, especially when I see some of those faces in the audience.
So, loving it!
In 10 days, it will be over. I'll be home, rehearsals and fine tuning, then on to United Solo Festival Theater Row, 420 W 42nd Street Sunday 9/24 4 PM, Friday 9/29, 9 PM (tickets 9/24: telecharge.com or 212‑239‑6200, 9/29 email me, box office sold out but tickets available) then on to Atlanta Black Theater Festival 10/4 4PM (tickets ABTF atlantabtf.org/day-4---sat.-oct.-7.html ), then home for run at The Marsh San Francisco, 11/2-12/9, Thurs at 8, Sat at 5.
With gratitude for this life!