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.
Someone out there is going to post a one or two star review of my show.
I think you could write a horror show all about the process of getting audience reviews. Audience reviews are necessary to having a successful run and they can be super helpful. They are also a source of constant pain.
It may come as a surprise to many people that most Fringe artists have fragile egos. Even though we know that there is no way we can write a show that will please everyone, we are devastated when we get that one bad review because deep down, that is the review we thought was right all along.
As reviews for my show roll in, they are pretty positive. And that’s great.
But someone out there hates what we did. And at some point, they will sit down in front of a keyboard to let us know.
I don’t resent those reviews. But I dread them. Because I’m pretty sure they’re right.
And speaking of reviews, here are my reviews of shows I saw on Monday!