At this point in the Festival (Day 9), Fringe scheduling is all about me: how far do I need to travel, am I performing in or calling cues on a show that day, will I be able to find food aka energy aka the will to live near that venue.
In spite of my desire to share in the collective joy and zeitgeist of seeing as many show as possible, I have to consider my needs. My needs these days are all conserve conserve conserve WINTER IS COMING, so I've been taking it easy. I admire those who can see five million shows, I really do, but even before the festival starts, I get cagey about committing to seeing things. My stock answer is, "I'll be honest: I don't know if I'm going to make it, but I'll try." I feel like a jerk, because I want people to come see my shows, but energy is a finite resource.
On my process for choosing shows: I have two horses in the running this year - TAPESTRIES 0.5 with Threads Dance Project (dancing in it) and HUMAN-NATURE (producing/stage managing it). Both shows are at The Southern Theater, which means I've spent all of my non-regular job time there over the past eight days. I needed to choose shows that worked with my schedule and my limited energy resources, so time and distance from my venue trumped all.
Friday at 5:30 pm, I was all set to see 11:11 because I'm a sucker for a sci-fi premise, and at 4:58 pm, I got as far as the corner of 21st and Riverside. I could see Rarig in the middle distance. It occurred to me that if I saw EVERYDAY HUSTLE at The Southern instead of 11:11 at Rarig, I could mark the reciprocal attendance check box (yes, this is totally a thing I sometimes feel I should do), not to mention see what promised to be a fun show if last year's Bump In the Night was any indication of what Erin Sheppard can do, and I would already be in the venue for my show, HUMAN-NATURE, which is a major bonus for an energy-maximizer who really doesn't want to have to move her car multiple times in one evening. (I hear you, Paul de Cordova; camp out!)
I stood on the corner for a moment, munching my Seward Co-Op burrito (delicious, by the way) and deciding. Do I follow the plan and see the show I'd picked last week, or do I go with convenience and ease?
I turned on my heel and trotted back to my car.
"Planning is for suckers," I thought.
I was rewarded for my laziness by seeing a few friendly faces in the audience for Everyday Hustle, including my Fringe buddy from last year, Justin. This year, I've really missed feeling like I'm at a family reunion: both of my shows are dance shows, and Dance Fringe is very different than Regular Fringe. Dancers don't seem to get swept up into the Fringe Vortex as much as everyone else. Last year, I gave The Crooked Pint so many of my dollars. This year, not a one, partly because of that whole energy thing, and partly because I feel like I'm watching from the fringes. (Someone already made that joke, didn't they? Pitfalls of being third-to-last.)
Everyday Hustle was, as expected, good - and slightly dirty - fun. I have to admit that I missed the gleeful attitude toward the macabre that was a feature of Erin's 2013 Fringe effort. I also could see inklings of their mastery of hip hop (which were apparent last year), and I wanted so much more of that because I knew it was in there. I recognize, though - even as I write - that Erin Sheppard Presents is no one-trick pony, and I chuckled all the way through the first number at the too-big plastic smiles coupled with earnest movement. The sunshiny quality laced with Sam Landman's acerbic text (and Joe Bozic's twitchy delivery) gave a solid, buzzy start to the evening.
After the show, I had a few minutes to mill around in the lobby before it was time for my show to load in. (Can I just pause for a moment - like I've been doing this whole essay - and say how deliciously efficient the changeover process is? The Stage Manager in me loves the clear demarcation between shows, the nod from the tech staff that it's time to enter the space, and the necessity of not farting around in preparing for your show. Beautiful.)
One of my Fringe Firsts this year is calling cues for a dance show. It's a different animal. I'm lucky in that my show's creator drew up a detailed tech sheet with time cues, so all I have to do - most of the time - is watch the clock. This approach doesn't fly in the piece without music, but even there, the choreographer gave clear notes on what the movement looks like at the beginning and end of each section, so I think, "When she folds over at the waist, call ‘Standby 301’. When she turns her heel just so, it's ‘Lights go.’ ”
I also enjoy the view from the booth: watching audience member body language is fascinating. I often think, "Oh, they're hating this," because some people are completely unmoving, or they're slumped over to one side, and then at the end they hoot and holler and jump to their feet. I'm sure they're experiencing some Festival Fatigue, or maybe that's just Minnesota.
HUMAN-NATURE went well, of course, with the exception of a few minutes of watching the dancers too closely and forgetting to watch the clock, at which point Karin, one of our technicians, was staring at me with her "isn't it time to call the cue?" look, and I snapped back to reality and blurted "Lights go" as quickly as possible.
More awkward milling in the lobby, then for the 10:00 slot, I decided to follow my plan. (Yes, I skipped the 8:30, because a girl just needs to ditch her car and take the light rail sometimes, you know?) I chose a genre that I haven't seen at the Fringe in a while: a musical.
Look. I, like many people, had my musical theatre phase. It was glorious. The music is thrilling, and it still stirs something in me when those musical theatre hits pop up on my Pandora station in between Disney songs. (Yeah, you know that station. You have one, too.) These days, though, I avoid watching musicals because the acting can be…light. Not always, but it can be. I no longer have much patience for limp acting, so I tend to pass on musicals. That is a big, broad generalization about my bias about musical theatre. I'm not talking about your show, of course. Your show is gold.
I chose DREAMBOYS at Illusion because it had a 10:00 show that I could get to without too much travel hassle, and I wanted to challenge my distaste for musicals and figured I could tolerate a 50-minute show if it ended up being terrible.
So. Dreamboys. (One more aside: I don't know the last time I was a gender minority in a theater. I think the answer is never. SO MANY DUDES.) I am SO very glad I chose to see this show. It was so much fun to hear those familiar songs performed live, and by guys. Because this show is, simply, about men wanting to sing musical theatre songs written for women. That's it, and this simple premise is perfect for Fringe. We were off and running into the meat of the show without too much unnecessary set up, and it was a blast. I giggled, I LOL'd, I may have even snorted a few times.
Sure, the scenes didn't feature the greatest acting or dialogue I'd ever seen, but so what? DEFYING GRAVITY IS IN THE PROGRAM SONG LIST. Bring it, boys. And they did. I'm still not going to rush out to see ALL THE MUSICALS now, but I'm glad I could take a chunk out of that bias of mine.
For the rest of my Fringe, I have two more shows to do and two more shows to see for sure for sure. I've been lucky to see good and great shows thus far (seen on different days: (in)Humanity; There Is No Myth), and I hope it continues. If you don't see me out and about, I'll be hiding in a dark corner of The Southern sucking down energy drinks in between naps and refreshing the Audience Reviews page on my phone.