(the last post of Alex's 2007 official CBC Winnipeg Fringe blog)
Could this be the end? - The last post? It's Saturday, the day of our final performance in Winnipeg. We're into the second half of our tour now, and about to wrap up things, and wrap things up, and sail up to Saskatchewan for smaller climes. Winnipeg has been great to us. We had our largest crowd of the tour (2:30 on a Thursday!) and some of our most welcoming, engaged and amused audients.
Tonight was an early night returning from the Fringe, which is to say that I'm beginning my blogging at (exactly!) midnight instead of, like, 1, or 2, or many. I just made a conscious decision not to see "Bald Ego", deciding instead to save it for a time when my head was more together and the Number 11 Bus (there's a piece of experimental music-theatre by Peter Maxwell Davies called that, just so you know, named for the much more exciting #11 that goes by Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and St. Paul's Cathedral) wasn't arriving at the bus stop on Main St. at the tantalizingly exact same time as me. I saw three shows today, one heavy and poetic ("Toasting the Snow Bride"), one light and personal and poetic ("Be Prepared"), and one personal and heavily-physical and exactly what I needed at that moment ("On Second Thought"). The first two were underattended, as have been many shows I've seen this year. Not one performance has yet to sell out in my venue (#4), despite there only being 125 seats. Whassup?But considering the late night I had last night, the reasons for which were revealed in this morning's blog (take that, Kris Joseph, two in one day!), I find myself here, sitting and sipping typically fizzy homebrew, feeling like today hasn't really started. Today I was sitting on the bus at about 3 p.m., just heading into Fringe, feeling like it was MORNING. This is not typical. I'm not one of those "dudes." I like my mornings to be before noon. This is what Winnipeg Fringe does to me, and what Saskatoon Fringe with its "dude"-filled performer bar and the easy stroll home will do even more. Fringes make me into a Perpetually Tired Person. I am not a morning dove, nor a night owl, I'm just always kinda dozy. And this heat don't help. Today, especially, I never woke up at all. I'm going to sleep now and get up again, and then today will finally get going, I think.
Audiences. Audiences! They're all different! Mine on the whole fall into one of two categories: the Laughers and the Listeners. Not that there isn't some mixing, but generally speaking, almost the entirety of the audience at a particular show is one or the other. The Laughers take the show as it passes by, enjoying moments in the present, laughing at the words, or the physicality, or whatever their particular set or neural pathways makes them likely to laugh at. The Listeners quietly hang on to all the (admittedly enormous pile of) information as it passes by, looking to form the bigger picture (and there is a BIG picture in this show, I assure you), afraid (I suspect) that if they laugh, then the gathered information will slip out and be lost.
I can never know if an audience will be primarily composed of Laughers or Listeners based on time of day, day of week, or size of crowd. I spend a lot of time thinking about whether a minority of Laughers in a Listener-heavy crowd get pressured into Listening by the dominating silence. And these are, of course, the general trends. In every crowd, there could be the Bored, the Baffled, the Smiling Constantly, the Eyes Closed But Possibly Listening Even More Attentively Than the Average Listener, the Walkout, the Would Be a Walkout if I Didn't Have to Cross the Stage to Do So (some of these have been kind enough to blog about their experiences), the Engrossed Ten-Year-Old, the Guffawer (a Laugher who laughs in unexpected bursts, or possibly a Listener who has given up and must expel the information thus far collected), the Whisperer (usually, but not always, travelling in pairs), the Family Friend, and the Scribbler. Or yes, and the Blogger who often assumes (and this is a natural but dangerous assumption) that their way of seeing and reacting to the show was, is, and will be shared by all members of all possible audiences. If performing - and especially performing this show - has taught me anything that is useful to me as an audience member, it is that I should own my reactions/opinions, because they are highly individual and highly variable.Two years ago, I did a show (called "Adieu, Friedrich Lips", it played only at Edmonton Fringe) in which my character had a line about "the very limits of human preception [sic]". Sometimes, with this show, I feel like I'm playing right along the edge of it. I didn't exactly intend to. I intended to write a show that is bigger than it is - that is so full of detail (so, if you will, Baroque) that members of my audience are forced to find their own path through it - to follow parts or listen to the whole as suits them - to enjoy whatever number of layers they would like. This is an appropriate metaphor for Baroque music, particularly fugues: a whole made from parts in argument - music that gives up more the more you study it. This is a show about listening, so I wanted people to have to listen. So I expected people to have varied reactions - to have chosen differing paths. While people (including myself) have a lot of trouble talking about their memories of theatre (or music) that they have just experienced, I am pretty sure that the experiment has succeeded. But I did not expect the size of the discrepancy:
Today was a four-show day, maybe my busiest day of show viewing on the festival circuit so far. No, that's not true. There was a day at the end of Ottawa when I dragged my visiting girlfriend to what seemed like 8 shows, but was probably 5. But most of those I had seen before (including my and most's perennial fave "Giant Invisible Robot") and wanted to share with her while I could. Today I saw four new shows, two of which CBC asked me to see and write about, so I even had the little notebook going. Okay, it was a sheet of printer paper. But there was one for each show.
Keir Cutler ("Teaching As You Like It", another show I've seen twice) has been following this blog and requests on behalf of the populace that I explain the keys a little bit more. Here's what I'm doing.
My show ("The Fugue Code") is based around a certain cycle of pieces for keyboard by J.S. Bach called "The Well-Tempered Clavier". Bach wrote a pair of prelude-and-fugue for each of the 24 major and minor keys, C major, C minor, C# major, C# minor and so on, all the way up to B minor. Twice through. Now-a-days (that's a much better phrase when you hyphenate it, don't you think?) we think that music can be played in any key (especially on piano), that they're all the same, just transpositions up or down from some other key. But to Bach and his ilk (I always, and I mean *always* think of cartoonish salt-licking elk when I see ilk), to Bach and his silky-wigged ilk, the way their harpsichords and organs were tuned made each key sound somewhat different - the shortish explanation being that the distances between some notes on the keyboard and their neighbours were larger or smaller than others, and depending on what note you choose to begin a scale, you come through this uneven pattern of intervals in a different order. So, Bach (and Beethoven, and many more) felt that music in different keys had different characters. Bach's approach was more subtle than Beethoven's (for whom C minor WAS ALWAYS a certain kind of mood), but in the Well-Tempered Clavier, he gives us a new mood for each key. And these are subtly shaded gradations of feeling: moods that could not be expressed in words, so he expressed them in preludes and in fugues. The fugues are what interest me (and my script), because they are both a mood and a journey, sometimes a rollercoaster of ups and downs within the given emotional colour.
So what I'm sharing with you, in my offhanded way, is a list of my favourite fugues in the first volume of the well-tempered clavier. No joke. And we probably won't get through them all. E-flat major is one of the few I've learned well enough to perform. C#-major is one I will never be able to play, but one that I will never, and I mean *never* tire of listening to. And there are so many more that I've studied and learned to love. A good Bach fugue is something that reveals more the deeper you dig, but you can also choose to just relax and enjoy the ride. Maybe this will make what I'm trying to do in this crazy little play of mine a little clearer...
(the first post of Alex's official 2007 CBC Winnipeg Fringe blog)
I have set up my little "The Fugue Code" tour office in my Volvo's passenger seat. Alison is driving today. We're on Day Three of the long car trip between Toronto and Winnipeg - between two Fringes whose schedules are squooshed together such that those of us who have to drive between them (due to big sets or big cast-and-crews) have to really boot it. Or, as in our case, take it at a careful but steady pace and just accept that we'll be postering the 'Peg a day or two later than we'd like to.