Apologies to regular fans of my Friday blog. I’m going to do things a little differently today.
I’ve been writing Shit that Pissed me off most Fridays for the last three years. I enjoy it as an exercise in writing humor and in exploring my opinions about what is happening in the world around me. Since I’ve started writing the column, it has never coincided with my birthday.
Well this year, it has.
So I decided instead of spending my birthday thinking about stuff that annoys me, I’m going to write about things that make me happy. I’ll post this week’s shit that pissed me off on Monday. Because even on my birthday, there are things that piss me off.
I begin my 48th year today and in honor of that, here are 48 things that make me happy.
1. I’ve been married to the same amazing woman for the last 25 1/2 years. She is brilliant, courageous, thoughtful, sexy, and supportive. She laughs at some of my jokes. She listens when I’m in a bad mood. She corrects me when I’m wrong. There is not a night that goes by where I am not happy we share a bed, a home, and a life.
2. I’ve got one fantastic mother. She loves math and has spent her life finding ways to help others love it too. She loves being an amateur artist. She is a fun travel companion. Any day I know I’m going to see her is automatically a good day.
3. My oldest son is great. He’s clever, cheerful, fun, and affectionate. He grew several inches in the last year and is starting to show signs of facial hair. Pretty soon, he’s going to learn how to drive and get a job and start looking at colleges. I’m not sure I’m ready for any of that.
4. My youngest son is wonderfully creative. The way he builds new Lego structures and describes ideas for new games or parks or dinosaurs shows boundless inventiveness. His head must be such an interesting place to live.
5. My Brother is full of passion and energy. He has been remarkably successful in not just the field he has chosen to pursue, but most anything he decides to accomplish. We have a great relationship hampered only by the distance that separates us.
6. My Sister-in-law has a sharp sense of humor, an infectious positive attitude, and seems like a perfect partner for my brother.
I came nowhere close to seeing a show in every slot of the festival this year. While I know some people have such a goal, I try to strike a balance between watching theater and doing – you know – other things.
My choices are driven a little by who I know but also what I know I’ll like. For instance, everyone loves Transatlantic Love Affair. They produce really good dramatic theater. I think their theater is fine but I’m a comedian. I like to laugh. A really good drama is still a little bit of a waste of time for me.
It may seem strange that I’d rather watch a bad comedy than a good drama but the great thing about the Fringe is I can make that choice. It is the theatrical equivalent of a really good brunch buffet. Everyone is going to find something they like.
I find the Fringe one of the most enriching experiences of my theatrical career. It has made me a better writer. It has connected me with other artists I would never have known. It has taught me how to be a better producer.
The Fringe is over but connections I’ve made this year will bear fruit over the next several. And that’s while I’ll be back.
I saw four shows on the final day of the Fringe. Here’s what I thought!
I’ve done the Fringe for a few years now and one thing I can say for sure: my name alone doesn’t get butts in the seats. Audiences recognize the names of a few production companies (Transatlantic Love Affair, Four Humors) but it seems to me that at least part of what brings audiences back to the same artists year after year is the recognition of the personality.
Joseph Scrimshaw was a great example of a performer whose name drew people to his productions. It was both his writing and on stage charisma that keep them coming back.
In most cases, I don’t think audiences notice who wrote or directed a show at Fringe.
They see my name and they don’t think “hey – I remember the other shows that guy wrote.” They think: “who’s that guy?”
It’s my own fault, of course, for writing shows that don’t feature a part for me. And for being more of a character actor than a lead.
It can be frustrating, at times, to feel like you have to win your audience back with each successive year. Yet, that is what most fringe producers do. Those who don’t have to do that aren’t lucky. They are talented and consistent.
And I have to admit I’m just a little bit jealous.
I watched four shows on Saturday. One of them was mine so let’s talk about the other three, shall we?
For my part, I’ve always been lucky if my show was reviewed by one major news outlet. With 174 shows, most of the press seems to divide up their choices rather neatly. Certainly there are some shows that get reviewed by nearly everyone.
By the time the Fringe is half over, the press isn’t doing much reviewing any longer because the show only has one or two performances left. I always wish they would keep writing because if there is even one performance left, they can help the show.
Now writing reviews after the fringe is over is just silly.
But I’m going to do it anyway.
Here are the reviews of the shows I watched on Friday.
My viewing patterns change as the Fringe draws on. Early, I watch shows by friends because I want to make sure I don’t miss them. I watch shows by popular producers because I don’t want to risk a sell out.
Later, I start watching shows that have been recommended by others or I just give something a try because I have an open spot on my schedule and nothing to see.
There’s a lot of excitement when one walks into a show you know nothing about. It could be fantastic. It could be awful. It will probably be somewhere in between.
Fringe is a voyage of theatrical discovery. The artists are looking to discover or expand their voice. The audience is looking to discover new artists. Over the last few days, I’ve been doing a lot more discovery as an audience member.
Here are the two shows I saw on Thursday. One was a discovery and the other was by an old favorite.
It isn’t the dancing. I love the dancing. It isn’t even the fact most of it is movement for the sake of movement and being a writer, I’m always looking for the story.
No, what really drives me nuts about modern dance is the music. I understand why most dance troupes select boring, repetitious music that may or may not be Philip Glass. I get it. I’m supposed to be watching the dancers.
Personally, though, I prefer a soundtrack that sounds like more than a keyboardist who only knows three chords. I like the interaction of sight and sound.
Most modern dance leaves me wanting more. And it isn’t the dancing. It is the fact my eyes are excited and my ears are bored.
Here’s some notes on the shows I saw Wednesday! They were all quite good!
As I wrote earlier, I always take a day off of the Fringe Festival. I didn’t see any shows on Tuesday night.
Let me write instead about the crucible of criticism that is the Fringe Festival. Because there is nothing like it. Artists love to hate it. Or hate to love it. Amongst a group of people who thrive on validation, however, the Fringe can be an emotional roller coaster.
Or maybe that’s just me.
I always tell people don’t write five-star shows. Because I don’t. It isn’t false modesty to say that I didn’t set out to create a brilliant piece of theater with the title “The Sound of Footloose: The Not Musical.”
I wrote a show that mashes up Footloose and The Sound of Music but nobody sings. It’s right there in the title, my friends. There are no lofty themes or deeply personal reflections.
What I set out to do is write something that will make people laugh. To me, something that is funny and a bit of a trifle is worth four stars. That’s all I’m writing. I don’t have any fantasies that I will eventually churn out the next Death of a Salesman.
So a four star review is fine. It’s expected. Heck, it’s a success.
The problem, however, is the math.
Whether you are producing great theater or something that is notable primarily for its Nazi jokes, Fringe producers need reviews to drive attendance. The more reviews the better.
Because all those reviews are averaged, a couple of two or one star reviews can really mess with your overall rating. And the more reviews you get, the more likely you are going to get a two or one star review. Unless you are Transatlantic Love Affair. Lucky, talented bastards.