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!
The Arizona Cardinals became the first team in NFL history to add a woman to their coaching staff when Jen Welter was hired as a pre-season intern working with the inside linebackers.
Don’t care about sports? That’s fine. The breaking of the gender barrier is still important even if she is not a permanent member of the coaching staff. If she does a decent job, one can assume she will open the door for as many as two or three other women to have temporary coaching jobs in the NFL.
The article linked above is in Welter’s own words and mostly she is talking about how excited she is by the opportunity.
Later, though, she talks about friends in women’s football being called up to do interviews with ESPN because of her. And she says this:
I won four championships and two gold medals and I was never asked to go on ESPN. None of us were.
Got that? She was an accomplished athlete before she temporarily joined the Cardinals coaching staff and nobody on a 24-hour sports station wanted to talk to her. Or anyone else involved in women’s football. Until now.
Have no fear, gentlemen (including the brilliant guy who commented on the article by saying women will never be equal to men until they have to sign up for the draft). The glass ceiling is still very much intact.
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!
When I first began Fringing, I did it hard. If I didn’t have a show, I was at someone else’s show. I wouldn’t even take breaks before my performance because I had an artist’s pass and I was going to use it.
After a full day of shows, I would go to Fringe central and stay there until 1:00 AM or later.
By the end of the festival, I’d be a little burned out.
Somewhere along the way, I realized I could take a one night break about midway through the festival and it really helped restore my enthusiasm for the whole experience.
Tonight, I’ll be staying home. By making that choice, I know I’ll be missing my chance to see something fantastic. I’ll be missing out on the opportunity to socialize with some amazing people I see only once a year.
That’s the price I pay for my fringe tradition. I hope everyone else has a great night at the Fringe.
And now on to my reviews from Sunday!
I cannot presume every artist has the same Fringe experience as me. Yet it would seem that one of the most common topics for discussion at Fringe central is whatever show everyone is going to do next year.
Having managed to pull together one show, it is time to come up with the craziest of ideas for our follow up. For at least ten minutes last year, I was seriously contemplating “Shark Week: The Musical.”
You get five shows over ten days. Then you’re done and this little slice of theatre Brigadoon evaporates into the mists for another twelve months.
But while we all nurse our beers at the Red Stag, the theatre community of the Twin Cities turns into a gigantic brainstorming session. Ideas are flung about in a (sometimes) drunken frenzy and every single one of them could turn into something spectacular.
Most of them (like “Shark Week: The Musical”) are rejected (or forgotten) and fade into the mists of a sleep deprived hangover, but I can never help but wonder what shows at this year’s fringe were given birth at last year’s Fringe. And what shows will never end up on a stage.
The following reviews are from a long Saturday of Fringing.