Putting it Together – The Fringe Lottery
Putting it Together is my Monday “artist talking about art stuff blog”. The title comes from “Sunday in the Park with George,” the best (and possibly only) musical that is entirely dedicated to an artist talking about his art. Is that pretentious enough?
I sometimes wonder if I got into this game too late. Most of my friends who are successful are in their early to mid 30’s. I spent those years putting together a science fiction convention, which is doing OK.
I graduated from college with a theatre degree, but left theatre behind me to do things like work a regular job, have a couple of kids, start a convention…you know, the normal stuff. I still loved theatre but I guess part of my problem was that I never knew what I wanted to do in theatre.
One thing did happen, though. I started writing sketches for CONvergence and I was pretty good. It is possible that writing parodies of popular culture presents very little challenge. I think it is more likely that I found something that finally re-ignited my interest in the stage.
When I went to college, I thought I wanted to be an actor. I’m not a great actor but I felt like I had the talent to play character roles. I ended up getting very interested in scenic design and I think I had the aptitude for it. The problem is designers also need to be builders and I wasn’t very good at building things.
We didn’t spend a lot of time on writing comedy. Too bad. Maybe I would have figured out what I wanted to do earlier.
In 2007, a couple of friends suggested that we try to produce Vilification Tennis at the Minnesota Fringe Festival and I figured we might as well give it a shot. Our number was drawn and we produced a good, popular show. It turned into a series of monthly shows at the Bryant Lake Bowl we are still producing today.
It took three years before I tried to get into the Fringe again and when I did, I had the crazy idea that I could write my own show. Well, co-write anyway. I’ve been writing my own shows ever since.
I’ve had some success at the Fringe (“The Complete Works of William Shatner”) and some moderate failure (“Schroedinger’s Apocalypse”) but the Fringe provides the most unique opportunity to just try something. If you have an idea that just might work, you can give it a shot. The overhead is small and the potential audience is large.
You might not get your show in front of thousands of rabid fans but you will get it in front of someone and that is tremendously invigorating.
Last Monday was the Fringe lottery and, as I have for the last four years, I had a ball in the cage. I had a ball in the cage because I had an idea. I had a ball in the cage because if your number gets drawn, you need to step up and make a show happen. I had a ball in the cage because the Fringe brings together so many talented people in the singular goal of producing theatre for two weeks every year. I had a ball in the cage because the Fringe got me back into theatre again.
My number got drawn and that means I have a lot of work to do, which is stressful and exciting.
But what is more exciting is the simple fact that the Fringe finally showed me why I had slipped away from theatre. It wasn’t because I didn’t like theatre. It was because I never knew what kind of theatre I wanted to produce.
I never wanted to produce works written by someone else. Shakespeare is fantastic. I love Shakespeare. I have no desire, however, to produce Shakespeare. I want to produce stuff that came from my brain, for better or worse.
My advice to anyone getting into theatre in the Twin Cities is simple. Next year, have a ball in the cage.
Next week, I’m going to write about Social Media!
I honestly think the same thing (about getting into things too late). I have skill, I have talent that I’ve honed, but I often feel trapped by my age and occupational circumstances. Honestly, I would love to have this as a deep conversation with people such as yourself (who’ve clearly given this a lot of thought) and see if there’s a way out of this trap.