I’m actually, believe it or not, in Thunder Bay. Fringe is over and I’m well on my way home, by a less circuitous route than last year, which took us on a loop through Washington state to visit my Dad’s cousins amongst nearly inexplicable* dry canyons bigger than that at Niagara Falls. This year we’ve been driving actually toward Toronto every day, although our first night-stop might seem frivolous due to the presence of llamas.
* We watched an interpretive film explaining the landscape. It was glacial floods.
We didn’t know they were there when we arrived, after dark, and checked into our caboose. I’m traveling with Alison, by the way, obviously, since she was my co-star in Victoria and Vancouver Fringes, which I realise, by the way, that I’ve written almost nothing about. I have to moosh it all in right here, right now, before I fall asleep and then have to drive and drive and drive and not then write this until I’m all the way back from my tour, and the tour is fully over, and I won’t be writing from within it any more. So Alison and I checked into our caboose, the real thing, at the Shuswap Lake HI hostel, walking right past the llama pen as we did so, and never knew those that two of those most noble beasts resided there. The two young people who checked us in, who were of course German, asked if we were afraid of dogs or cats. I said I wasn’t so much afraid as allergic. Alison expressed a mild fear of dogs. Llamas never came up. We grabbed our caboose bunks, I made a phone call from the dock on the lake, we slept, and in the morning, walking to the kitchen cabin to grab our all-we-could-eat pancake breakfast (I could eat seven, the record for men was thirteen, I was determined to at least make it halfway), we walked by a pen containing two male LLAMAS. Massey and Ferguson. The two of which had been quiet all night!
The rest of the trans-Canadian drive has been uneventful. In Calgary we stayed with a stage manager friend from Fringe ’06. In Regina, an SM from this year. In Winnipeg, my 2007 Fringe billets. And here in Thunder Bay, a colleague of mine from the U of Alberta. Tomorrow we’re staying near Thessalon ON, Tuesday in Penetanguishine (Ali’s grandparents live there – we’re stalling a bit before Toronto claims us) – we’re still three days from arrival and we’re already in the correct time zone. But that is all so recent, and there’s a lot more to write about about the time between when Alison took over as my co-star in Old Growth, and the end of the tour and the long drive home.
Victoria was a bit of a miracle. Alison and I somehow dodged a bullet, inexplicably managing to re-rehearse and partly rewrite the show in two days. I arrived in Victoria on the Monday before Fringe began – we rehearsed Tuesday and Wednesday, figured out how to integrate Aura’s CD recording of the music only on the second of those days, performed together for the first time ever on Wednesday evening at the Fringe preview night (we performed the travel song with extremely high energy and the crowd of 250-ish was unmistakably with us and diggin’ it) – and ran through the show for the first time during our opening performance on the Thursday night. And two reviewers came. We made sure they knew about the cast change, but still, I was nervous. Bizarrely, they both gave us good reviews, one of them even mentioning how well Alison stepped in at the last minute. This was encouraging. Our theatre in Victoria held 50. Because the venue was so petite, the Fringe gave us eight performances instead of the usual six. And we never *quite* sold out, believe it or not. We were perpetually exhausted. Friends saw the show – and friends of friends like Josh, who works as a street canvasser for a few organizations, including Greenpeace. He stopped being a stranger to me immediately following the first performance, when he kissed me – on the lips – hard – because parts of the show spoke to/for him and his kind. He came again, refusing my usual offer of a free ticket for repeat viewers, brought all his colleagues, and even bought me a beer afterward. Andy came to see the show when he returned from the Juan de Fuca trail, and we talked all about it over beers at Swan’s. Performer friends came to see the show, some of them came again, keen it would seem to compare it with the former version.
When I think back on Victoria it felt like a wrap-up festival... which is wasn’t quite. Ali and I got into a groove, the show found a rhythm, albeit one that was often just over the slotted hour (our tech and house manager were patient), my days off were spent clambering on beaches, and my two biggest memories of Victoria are eating far too much good, expensive, vegan food from Green Cuisine and Rebar – and the seagulls. The big, big west coast seagulls whose calls, it turns out, sound more melodious to me than those of our eastern gulls. I think downtown Victoria must be a breeding ground, because the calls are continuous, relentless, 24/7, and I love ‘em. I miss them! The only other person who seems to feel like I do is Elison Zasko, who was touring the show “The Sputniks”. When we ate together, she insisted on sitting out on patios, “with the seagulls”. I complied – others complained. Look, you know what – this entry is getting really long. How are you going to find what you need when you need it, when you’re compiling that, annotated blog –ography. Or something? Plus, I’m tired. So I think I’ll just post this up there and return to my memories as soon as I can – which may be a few days. First I may need to re-establish my hierarchy among the smaller breed of ring-billed gulls.