After I'd been there for a time on Sunday, I asked the house manager about the traffic at Rarig Center. She had house managed in previous years at Rarig, and said that, compared to those, it's been quieter.
I asked because Rarig wasn't quite the hub I remembered. There are a lot of people hanging around to get into the three stages, but with the Arena closed for renovations and an Arena replacement and an extra stage in the wider Fringe world, the Rarig seemed sedate, the energy contained. The expertise thrown at the Rarig in previous years to manage queuing and the crowds was in full force, and audience members snapped into old habits. They knew where the box office and will call was, and where to stand for the artist pass line and the line after they'd gotten their tickets. If they didn't know, someone else did. But because there was less human volume, all of this training made Rarig singularly quiet.
But it was still busy. Let's say 75% from previous years busy. There's three stages there, and the crowds went up and down during the day depending on the lineup, reaching its busiest for the 7 pm showing of Hickory Minimum Security Correctional Facility Presents Hoosiers: A Stage Adaptation.
What I faced in Rarig then wasn't the preponderance in crowds, but what I always faced: choice.
For the first time since I began this experiment way back last Thursday (can you remember it? So long ago now, a whole other Fringe world of infinite possibility where every show could be the best one), I had choices to make, their names the Xperimental, the Proscenium, and the Thrust.
To emphasize this, there came a point where I was faced with seeing a show I had originally on my list to see--They Shoot 25 Year Old Gay Men, Don't They?--and Wanderlust, which was playing in the Thrust and generating great word of mouth. I had a Hamlet moment, and I dallied until I was forced to make a choice, and I chose TS25YOGMDT. "Stick with the script," said my brain. "Get your Xperimental space in there!"
So, faced with an option in the Rarig, I made a choice to "stick with the script." Was that an actual decision? Am I just fooling myself? Was I scared to see a different show because I was afraid of deviating from some script?
With these thoughts spinning in my head, I was surprisingly emotional through TS25YOGMDT and In Watermelon Sugar. My brother and his girlfriend showed up around 6:30 for Hoosiers, and I watched, with some pangs of jealously, as they experienced Fringe for the first time, talking about the postcards they saw on the table, asking me and other people in line what to see (and not to see). They were excited to see Lolita and Stuck in an Elevator with Patrick Stewart, and I was excited for them.
But I didn't know if I was excited for myself. When I first began this experiment, I had a conversation with a friend at Intermedia Arts. She warned me that I shouldn't always stick with the plan, that I should deviate when the opportunity or inclination presents itself. If it's something I want to do, I should do it, and don't let adherence to said plan keep me from it.
We went into Hoosiers and I came out after feeling like this trouble wasn't that great of a concern. Dinner and beer at Town Hall? Yes, please.
We went and sat on the patio and talked about the show, about Fringe, about musical adaptations and what choices my brother and his girlfriend could make over the next week. That was a good decision.
As I was suggesting they should try to see Joseph Scrimshaw's How To Swear Like a Minnesotan, his partner Sara Scrimshaw was walking by and I said hello and soon asked: "Are there tickets available for Joseph's show tonight?"
Nope. Sold out. Another decision made, though not by me.
They went home, and I went back to Rarig. I had a 10 pm slot and a choice to make. Scrimshaw was in the Xperimental and sold out. I had two choices.
And I made one.
Recommendations from the Rarig
The Legend of White Woman Creek stands out as the most memorable and haunting piece I saw on Sunday. In addition to having a fantastic performance from Katie Hartman, it had some of the best lighting choices I've seen this Fringe, accentuating mood and performance while never being distracting.
Venue the Next: A Night at the New Century Theatre