I am so tickled that LIFE LIST was picked by BlogTo for their list of "12 Shows to see at the Toronto Fringe Festival 2016"!
Thank you, media person, for taking a risk on an unusual show!
I am so tickled that LIFE LIST was picked by BlogTo for their list of "12 Shows to see at the Toronto Fringe Festival 2016"!
Thank you, media person, for taking a risk on an unusual show!
Heidy M. over at the blog Hye's Musings was kind enough to sit down with me (electronically) for a Q+A about my brand new show LIFE LIST.
Her questions really got me thinking about the heart of this show, and the oddball ways that it pays tribute to my mother.
You can read the full post HERE, but I thought you might enjoy a taster:
HM: What is “magic realism” to you and how is it a part of Life List?
AE: “Magic Realism” is blending real things into unreal things, in a gradual way so that hopefully my audience is not sure when things stop actually being real. I want to build belief in the unreal things – to trick us into momentarily believing in something magical.
In Life List, when we are first looking for the White Robin it’s a very natural activity. We’re using binoculars and plotting the locations of birds. We’re noticing things that the local community has done to try to protect this bird. But as we go along, the audience tasks and the evidence of the bird gradually gets weirder – more abstract. There are quite a few little surprises along the way. And this is meant to parallel the way that the stories I’m telling get darker and more personal and less about birds and more about loss.
What brings you to SummerWorks this year?
I toured an earlier version of Yarn last summer on the Fringe circuit. My director (Tyler Seguin) and I knew that we wanted to take the piece to the next level, so we applied to SummerWorks with the idea of expanding the show - by developing the script, and by adding more music and live sound design.
We are returning to the same awesome indoor-outdoor venue we used for Toronto Fringe 2013 (Majlis Art Garden) but really putting in the time to explore lighting options (think flashlights and bike lights) - and decorating the garden and theatre with as much yarn as possible. Our knitter friends are donating balls and balls of unneeded yarn to the cause.
So we're using SummerWorks as an impetus to grow this piece that is so close to our hearts, and put some detailed work into rethinking what we have to say and how we'll say it.
This is my first time participating in SummerWorks, and I'm thrilled.
If you do not even contemplate laughing at just one of the many unfortunate sheep puns, you get to choose a ball of yarn to take home.
(stories + music) - separation
I'm going to be spending a lot of time at our site-specific venue: Majlis Art Garden. It takes a good while to set up and strike the show, due to the ca. 1,000 instruments, props and yarns involved.
Otherwise, you'll find me seeing as many other shows as I can catch. In between I will be at Bellwoods Brewery just up from the SummerWorks hub.
What artist will you be stalking throughout SummerWorks? What makes them so lucky?
Can I choose a whole company?
Because I will ruthlessly stalk the two artists of the Mind of a Snail company. I saw their beautiful show "Against Gravity" last year at Winnipeg Fringe. They are overhead-projector-puppetry geniuses! They also create live sound design with voice and loop pedal, something I'm getting into with "Yarn" and want to do more of. I will pick their brains. They have inspired me to get my overhead projector out of storage and play.
My solo show YARN is playing at the SummerWorks Performance Festival this August 7-17...
but first, join us for a YarnRaiser on Sunday July 27, 7-10pm. I'll share some stories and songs from the show (and beyond), special guests* will perform their own tales tunes and turns, and we'll chat and eat and drink** and have a good time.
It will be like a Ceilidh (sp?).
Plus: WE NEED YOUR YARN!
(Knitters: do you have some ends of yarns to spare? Non-knitters: do you live with a knitter?)
We're going to go all-out in decorating Majlis Art Garden: stringing instruments from the rafters, and so on. Thick yarn in light/bright colours is best... but we'll take any colours, any thickness, any amount. We need so much yarn.
* Special guest performers TBA soon!
**Eat/drink: Victory Cafe isn't charging me any rent, but they need to know that we'll drink and eat a certain amount of bar sales... which we are certainly capable of doing.
Victory Cafe (581 Markham Street, Toronto... near Honest Ed's) MAP
$5 at the door
... or FREE if you bring us yarn!
Sunday, July 27
RSVP (if you can) by Friday, July 25: alex [dot] eddington [at] sympatico [dot] ca
Feel free to bring friends and significant chothers!
has changed a lot for us in 2012: we had an apartment fire, moved, got
married, and I've got a new degree and have been transitioning into a
Things have been settling down a bit this fall, but I still have some creative projects afoot that you
might be interested in, taking place in five different cities:
PLUS plans are coming together to tour my new solo show "Yarn" in summer of 2013 - starting with the London Fringe in June and then going on to... well, that depends how the lotteries go.
Details are below!
In chronological order...with as much detail as I know at this time.
1) FUZZY LOGIC
for narrator and chamber ensemble
Written, composed and narrated by Alex Eddington.
With the St. Crispin's Chamber Players.
Saturday, November 17, 2012 - 2:00 pm
Edmonton, Alberta: Muttart Hall, Alberta College (10050 Macdonald Drive)
Part ot the Edmonton Festival of New Music (November 15-17)
Festival Passes: $65 General/ $35 NME and Mile Zero Members
Individual events: $20 General/$10 Students/$5 NME Member
More info: http://newmusicedmonton.ca/
I wrote most of the text of Fuzzy Logic when I lived in Scotland in 2003. Sheep were my neighbours. I took a lot of notes about them. Here are some of the things they make me think about - a kind of sheep-based philosophy. Set to music.
I wrote myself into the piece because that's what sheep would do. Sheep wouldn't sit in the back row. They would get themselves dirty.
2) The Dusty Miller March
for brass quintet
The Red Brass:
Andre Dubelsten and Jonas Feldman, trumpets
Iris Krizmanic, French horn
Brad Dickson, trombone
Wilfred Lee, bass trombone
Sunday, December 16, 2012 - 6:00 pm
Toronto, Ontario: St. Paul's L'Amoreaux Anglican Church (3333 Finch Ave. E., at Warden)
For information about tickets, contact the church at (416) 499-1545
3) Living Soul
for string orchestra (world premiere)
Student violinists, violists and cellists of the Suzuki String School of Guelph (ca. 140 performers!)
Sunday, April 28, 2013 - 2:00 pm
Guelph, Ontario: River Run Centre (35 Woolwich Street)
For information about tickets, visit the Suzuki String School of Guelph website.
Following the success of Watershed, commissioned through the Canadian Music Centre's New Music for Young Performers program, and premiered in April 2012 by students of the Suzuki String School of Guelph (with teacher Paule Barsalou), the SSSG has commissioned me to write a new piece celebrating the 40th anniversary of their school.
Inspired by the Tonalization excercises used in Suzuki string training (for the development of a beautiful tone from the first days of playing an instrument) and named for a quote from founder Dr. Suzuki ("Tone has a living soul"), Living Soul will be performed by nearly all the students in the school: around 140 string players! The River Run Centre is Guelph's premiere performance facility - a beautiful hall.
4) The Stolen Child
for tenor and piano (world premiere of revised version)
In New York City.
Nathan Letourneau, tenor
Date TBA (April or May 2013)
Manhattan, NY: location TBA
junctQín keyboard collective (Stephanie Chua, Joseph Feretti and Elaine Lau)
Monday, May 27, 2013 - 8:00 pm
In chronologicalish order...
I'm reading an excerpt from my new solo show.
Yarn is a new autobiographical monologue about my strange and wonderful summer living on the isolated Isle of Mull, Scotland, in 2003 - what living there did to my brain - and the stories we tell ourselves to get by.
I'm planning to premiere the full show in the summer of 2013. It will involve live music on many instruments! And possibly stop-motion animation depicting the perplexing behaviour of sheep...
The Four Winds Collective presents...
A Night of Lies
Join us on Monday, March 19th as we take over the TRANZAC’s Tiki Room, say bye-bye to the Truth for a couple hours, have a few drinks and experience some live theatre fresh from the incubator.
Come for the stories, stay for the conversation.
You will hear excerpts from:
When: Monday, March 19th
Doors - 8pm
The event will start shortly thereafter.
(recommended $5 – all donations go towards funding the future of this series)
Where: The Tiki Room of TRANZAC
Commissioned through the Canadian Music Centre's wonderful New Music for Young Musicians project.
Watershed is a musical journey following the path of a drop of water from the Columbia Icefield in Alberta, through lakes and rivers all the way to Hudson's Bay in Manitoba. The piece is a duet for beginning and advanced violinists. It has seven movements, each of which explores different musical skills as well as depicting different locations along the Hudson's Bay watershed:
North Saskatchewan River
TWO performances this April!
a) PING! Premiere:
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
3:30 pm (Student workshop with the Penderecki String Quartet)
Featuring new compositions for young string players by Canadian Music Centre associate composers.
Location: North Toronto Collegiate Institute Auditorium (17 Broadway Avenue, near Yonge and Eglinton)
b) Guelph Suzuki School
Sunday, April 27, 2012
Featuring violin students of the Guelph Suzuki School, in group performance on my piece!
Special thanks go to my consulting educator, Paule Barsalou, for coordinating this performance and for her help composing the piece.
Details to be posted at the Guelph Suzuki School website.
3) SATURDAY NIGHT at FORT CHAMBLY
for orchestra (2009/2012)
(my professional orchestra debut!)
Sunday April 15, 2012 - 7:30 pm BRANTFORD Ontario
My music was selected to be part of a concert of folk music for fiddles featuring the wonderful Pierre Schryer band!
My only Canadian ancestor was stationed at Fort Chambly, Québec. I wondered what the culture was like there when the soldiers were off duty. Did they drink beer like "Blanche de Chambly"? What music did they play and sing? My piece is a collage of French-Canadian folk songs (at least 25 of 'em), thrown together in drunken chaos. Sometimes they get along and sometimes they fight, but they'll be friends again in the morning.
4) Continuum at New Music 101
Monday, May 7, 2012 - 7:00pm (1 hour)
Toronto Reference Library
with Alex Eddington, narrator
One concert in a 4-part series at the Toronto Reference Library
"Telling a Story"
There is a long and lively tradition of using music to convey a story,
through many forms -- programmatic music, opera, ballet, lieder. But
possibly the most direct means involves narration underpinned by music. As
part of New Music 101, Continuum presents contemporary expressions of the
practice, including "l’Eléphant de mer" (from Contes pour enfants pas sages)
by west-coast composer Christopher Butterfield, Why the parrot repeats human
words by east-coast composer Emily Doolittle, and a much-compressed version
of Stravinsky’s classic l’Histoire du Soldat.
The works call for
clarinet, violin, viola and percussion, as well as narrator.
This is turning out to be a busy season - especially because I'm directly involved in several of these performances as a composer-who-talks-about-their-music (junctQin Keyboard Collective - Sept 30 and other dates), conductor (Scarborough Philharmonic - Oct 29), and narrator (Continuum - Nov 6).
I'm extremely excited about the opportunities that have been coming my way, and the wide-range of these performances! If you are in Toronto, Hamilton, Barrie, Kitchener, Brantford, Sudbury or Edmonton, you have the opportunity to catch a concert with my music on it - or even a theatrical staging of my adaptation of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol"! (in Sudbury)
1) Big Muddy for piano six hands (!) - world premiere
Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - 12:00 noon - BARRIE ON. (Colours of Music Festival) Central United Church, 54 Ross Street (at Toronto Street) Pricing information
Friday, September 30, 2011 - 7:00pm - TORONTO ON (Culture Days) North York Central Library, 5120 Yonge St. FREE! details I'll be talking about the piece at this lecture-recital performance.
Thursday, October 13, 2011 - 12:00 noon - KITCHENER ON. (Wilfred Laurier University - Maureen Forrester Recital Hall) FREE details
Sunday, December 11, 2011 - 3:00pm - TORONTO ON. (Great Hall, Hart House)
Peformed by the junctQín Keyboard Collective (Elaine Lau, Joseph Ferretti, Stephanie Chua)
This will be the first installment of a large-scale piece in my ongoing geographical series called "Grasslands, Badlands and Spirit Sands", inspired by soundscapes and landscapes in Canada's southern prairies. This piece owes its genesis to Saskatchewan's Big Muddy Valley. Big Muddy Valley has big muddy buttes in it, like Castle Butte, on which there are incredible rain-carved patterns. I have mapped the shape and experience of this landform into musical sound, with the help of SIX HANDS on one piano! One of the more dense pieces you are ever likely to hear... but not always. At the top of Castle Butte there is quite the view, and perfect quiet except for the whistle of a gopher.
** You can see more pictures of Big Muddy Valley and Castle Butte, and read about my summer 2010 travels across the south of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta HERE
2) Psycho B*tch a one-woman show written and performed by Tamara Lynn Robert, directed by Laura Anne Harris, with extensive sound design by Alex Eddington.
A funny and moving story about a woman's experience living with mental illness: seeking diagnosis, trying to understand and accept herself.
ONE NIGHT ONLY (x2)!
Sunday, October 2, 2011 - 8:00pm - TORONTO ON. Pia Bouman School for Ballet and Creative Movement (6 Noble St.)
Friday, October 7, 2011 - 8:00pm - HAMILTON ON. Staircase Café Theatre (27 Dundurn St. N.)
General admission: $15
Tickets will be sold at the door - cash only.
This event is set to occur during Mental Illness Awareness Week and will help fund future endeavors to help raise awareness about mental illness and the devastating effects of stigma.
3) Huron Antiphon for brass quintet and orchestra (world premiere - and orchestral conducting debut!)
Saturday, October 29, 2011 - 8:00pm - TORONTO.
An exploration of deconstruction and reconstruction, composed in reaction to the F3 tornado that leveled many historic buildings in the town of Goderich, Ontario on the shore of Lake Huron. Inspired by Goderich's unique eight-sided town square which the tornado hit directly, the piece asks the brass quintet play from different parts of the perimeter of the hall, creating an acoustic "surround sound" experience.
Performed by the Red Brass with the Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra. Conducted by Alex Eddington.
Part of the concert "An American in Paris", featuring music by Copland, Gershwin, and a new trumpet concerto by Music Director Ronald Royer.
Birchmount Park Collegiate Institute, 3663 Danforth Ave.
Tickets: $30 adults, $25 seniors, $15 youth. (contact me for a reduced rate)
(416) 429-0007 firstname.lastname@example.org www.spo.ca
4) Fuzzy Logic for narrator and chamber ensemble (world premiere)
Written, composed and performed by Alex Eddington with the Continuum ensemble.
Commissioned by Continuum Contemporary Music with the support of the Toronto Arts Council.
Sunday November 6, 2011 - 8:00 pm
Toronto - The Music Gallery (in St. George the Martyr Church - 197 John Street - just north of Queen)
Sheep were once my neighbours. I took a lot of notes about them. Here are some things they make me think about, set to music. I wrote myself into the piece because that's what sheep would do. Sheep wouldn't sit in the back row. They'd get themselves dirty.
5) Light Looked Down SSATB choir unaccompanied (2007, revised 2011). Text by Laurence Housman.
Light looked down and beheld Darkness. "Thither will I go," said Light...
Part of "Living Sound", a concert featuring choral works by Edmontonian and Canadian composers.
Sunday, November 13, 2011 - 3:00pm. EDMONTON AB
First Baptist Church, 10031 109 St.
$20/$15 available at the door or through choir members
6) A Christmas Carol for narrator and string quartet (playing toy instruments too). Text by Charles Dickens, edited by Alex Eddington.
Thursday December 8 and Sunday December 11, 2011 - 7:00pm - SUDBURY Ontario
Narrated by celebrity special guests with music by the Juno-nominated Silver Birch string quartet
Presented by the Sudbury Theatre Centre. Visit their site for ticket details.
This used to be an annual tradition in Sudbury but hasn't been done in a while. The string quartet score creates atmosphere with ghostly sounds and toy instruments, interwoven with many old Christmas carols that would have been sung in Dickens' day.
This is a STAGED performance and will be extremely wonderful. I'm hoping to attend!
7) Saturday Night at Fort Chambly for orchestra (2009) (professional orchestra debut)
Performed by the Brantford Symphony, conducted by Philip Sarabura.
Part of a concert of folk music for fiddles featuring the wonderful Pierre Schryer band!
My only Canadian ancestor was stationed at Fort Chambly, Québec. I wondered what the culture was like there when the soldiers were off duty. Did they drink beer like "Blanche de Chambly"? What music did they play and sing? My piece is a collage of French-Canadian folk songs (at least 25 of 'em), thrown together in drunken chaos. Sometimes they get along and sometimes they fight, but they'll be friends again in the morning.
Sunday April 15, 2012 - 7:30 pm BRANTFORD Ontario
Details on the BSO website.
8) Watershed for two violins (teacher/advance student and novice student)
Commissioned through the Canadian Music Centre's wonderful New Music for Young Musicians project
To be premiered at Ping! in Fall 2012
I know, it's been forever. The hourglass that was the 2010 Edmonton Fringe Festival spilled itself out, marking the end of summer. I drove home, in a fun way, and immediately jumped into a new and engrossing job.
I'm not going to blog about the job - not that it's anything top secret, nor even second-rung secret - I just feel that it's professional to keep it out of here. I'm teaching, and my students know how to use a computer really really well. Gord knows I didn't when I was their age... which was before they were born. By quite a bit. Um... whoa.
In other, completely unrelated news, my back hurts all the time and I'm increasingly resistant to change.
But I promised to blog this whole summer with you - and in fact I intend to keep this blog going beyond the Fringe summer, for once - but that is going to entail quite a bit of remembering of things that seem like they happened a year ago, even though the front of my station wagon is still covered in fluids that insects would prefer to keep on their inside. I'm likely to have lost all the on-the-spot insights on the drive home, and all I might be left with are the hardened witty quips used in brief recountings of the summer for semi-interested Torontonians. It's a risk we're going to have to take - together. This has happened before: like when I didn't blog in Scotland for about 3 months, and then probably made a bunch of sheep stories up to satisfy my voracious readers back home, and then believed my own stories enough to make a play out of them. And it will happen again. I'll be writing my novel in my 70s, my will on my deathbed, and my memoirs in the Beyond.
Let's start with Edmonton! And let's be honest. Edmonton Fringe wasn't what it could have been - but it was something that was okay. I never sold out my little 90-seater. I discovered that no one remembered The Fugue Code (a semi-hit in 2007), but some people remembered WOOL, but thought it was from one or two summers ago instead of four. No one remembered Barry Smith (at first), who has had two previous hits there, one of which was brought back for the regular season! The Edmonton Fringe-going public, to put it nicely, seems to live in the moment. Which is great in its own way, I suppose. But as I discovered when my unsympathetic Edmonton Journal review came out, they still on the whole treat the Journal star system (i.e. 1 to 5 stars) as a kind of scientific data set. And let's face it, the other reviews have basically no weight, rightly or wrongly. When my Journal review went to print, my sales literally stopped. I know this because (as I mentioned in past entries) you can check the progress of your sales in Edmonton as often as you can refresh the page. It was disappointing - and it's not about the money. People wanted to come because they'd made up their mind. And then they handed their mind over to someone else, and no longer wanted to come. Perhaps they cheated themselves out of seeing something they really would have enjoyed. Perhaps they saw something lame and dumb (they're out there, lots of 'em) instead, and loved it, because they were supposed to. Of course, this isn't everyone - but it's enough people to make me not necessarily be that excited about returning to Edmonton Fringe, while one reviewer can still hold that much power.
So, unfortunately there were quite a few times during Edmonton Fringe where wished I had stayed home to get ahead on work for the fall. Despite my best intentions, I can't get anything done during Fringe tours. Nothing! I've been trying for 5 years. I become so obsessed with getting people to come to the show that that's all I can think about. This summer I thought I turned the corner when I realised that I have a limited tolerance for flyering, but then I would just sit around and silently wish that people would buy tickets, which generally doesn't work. Martin Dockery pulled me aside and basically tried to stage an intervention. It half-worked, in that I stopped feeling personally cheated by my Journal review. Of course, Martin sold out his 175-seat venue for the entire run (and deservedly so), so he didn't have to worry about flyering so much at all.
So when people ask me how my summer was I usually say it was great, annoying, okay, terrible and fantastic. What was fantastic? I met Martin Dockery! And hung (hanged?) with Carly Tarrett! And Jeff Culbert! And Miss Hiccup! And the Turtle Boy, and other real-seeming people with amazing shows. This summer was all about the people - and the prairies. I've been wearing my "I [heart] SK" shirt with pride. My friend, whose initials happen to be S.K., was taken aback.
Also wonderful: the library venue in Edmonton, the two Ginas running lights/sound/love there, and the wonderful David Cheoros organizing it all. I'd perform again there in a heartbeat.
The weirdest thing of the summer happened in Edmonton too, when all the B.C. forest fire smoke descended on the city without warning for the last four days of Fringe. I actually wore a mask during the worst of it, until I decided I looked stupid because no one else was. Like anyone, I'd rather fit in than avoid having to cough all that stuff back up and possibly increase my chances of lung cancer. The Thursday was the worst: the sun was a red disk that you could look at comfortably with the naked eye - though I was smart enough not to stare. The sky itself was Martian. Take a look at this:
Gord Janet! I've got to change the title of this blog post again! This is the second one I've called "Written in Stone", with the intention of actually recounting the rest of my camping trip across the Prairies (including Writing-on-Stone park). I will do this SOON. There are photos to remind me of what might have actually happened, and barring that I'll make some stories up.
Argh! Argh, I say! I can't get any work done. Not that this is really anything new, or anything different than my usual Fringe touring life, in which I flyer and worry and perform and flyer in that order and sometimes I remember to eat, but in the last couple of days since I drove limply into Edmonton with mud-caked tires and my bike falling off the back I've actually been able to focus. Not today! There's media coming out. The festival opens tomorrow. There's so much to worry about. No one knows how it's going to go!
So I'm blogging. Instead of just reading early Edmonton Journal reviews (just now out) or reading, I dunno, tweets about stuff, I'm blogging. At least that is a kind of Thing, that I am Doing.
I've been putting up posters - not too many, but some. Postering is a bit like dowsing. I hold out my tape gun and listen for subtle tugs of energy and intention. Where will the audience flow? How high will they look? How many posters do they need to walk by before they stop to jot down my website and then go home and type it into their browser? You almost have to learn to see through their eyes. You have to be the audience.
This is all all of us are talking about. How many posters did you print? How is that tape gun working for you? Did you know the triangle posterboard thingies are up on Whyte Ave? Will my poster get ripped down if I put it here? There's a lot of rumour swirling around, a lot of buzz. Sometimes, we ask each other whether we teched today. How many people does your theatre hold? Have you checked your presales? (the answer is either "I don't like to know, so I don't check" or "about 10 seconds ago. They hadn't changed yet.") Mine are at 82 seats, and have been for a couple of hours. Obviously I'm in the second camp. I just checked again: 82. My demographic seems more likely to purchase in person, and the box office is closed for the day. We talk about each other's demographics.
Seriously, though, 82! I've handed out ONE flyer, and sold 82 tickets! That's one effective flyer!
What I guess I'm saying is that we're all demented from anticipation. I feel like absolutely and that when this festival actually starts we'll all finally relax. And then remember that we're supposed to be performing shows. And then the reviews hit. This is why we're really nervous here. For the bad ones. And for the pressure of the good ones. If you get a five-star-'un in the Edmonton Journal, you can't not sell out. They might hate the show, but they'll keep coming. You couldn't keep them away if you physically assaulted your lineups with a basketful of rabid ferrets. They have to come. It's like, they've been called.
We're all demented. Not just the performers.
The most exciting thing that's happened so far is that the Fringe ran over my bicycle. I was parked outside the Orange Hall, near the box office, and a truck (technically a sub-contractor) dropped off a kind of big bin thing. I was in the library nearby, and only when I tried to ride the bike a while later did I notice that the front rim was warped. And had three broken spokes. And the very strong lock was bent to the point of being unusable. No human kick could have done this. Not even a basketfull of rabid ferrets could have done this. Thankfully, the Orange Hall is where the Fringe security is, and was setting up at that time. They took full responsibility on behalf of the Fringe, and reimbursed me for my repairs (which were done *very* quickly by United Cycle) and a new lock. The damage was done on Tuesday, and here I am Thursday evening with my fixed bike and my money in my wallet. Wow. I feel very well-treated!
Oh! I guess you want to hear about the rest of my trip across the Grasslands, Badlands and Cakelands (just kidding, deliciously) of Saskatchewan and Alberta! Well, I want to tell you about it. In my next post. I've got a lot of photos to put up and I have to get my memories in some kind of order. And right now I feel like I should do SOME work before the library closes and I feel my way across the street to the Next Act Pub to put and end to my dementia for the night.
By the way, the photo above was not cropped, except by the young boy who took it in Dinosaur Provincial Park. This was taken on the very morning of the day I drove in to Edmonton; I'm pretty sure I left this part of me behind in the badlands.
This is probably about how the dinosaurs feel too. They were big ol' featherless chickens, after all.
This is the time of the Winnipeg Fringe where everything gets a little muddy. Particularly this year: my fourth, and if you look at it through green-tinted glasses, my best. By the third last day or so I was sick of flyering. Every year in the final weekend I start majorly losing what little ability I ever had to remember who I've already talked to. Or as my character might point out: "to whom I've already talked". But I should flyer in the last weekend, because there are plenty of new people out there who haven't been around for the whole week before, and some of them aren't between the ages of 45 and 78, and if I don't get my show into the minds of these fresh new unbiased theatre-likers, then they'll just go to the five-star shows by default. But by the time they've shown up, I'm worn out at worst and terribly cynical at best. Yesterday I was going up to people (in fun) and saying "OK, look, we're going to be honest with each other here. I'm running out of flyers; we're running out of days in the Fringe festival; so tell me: are you still actually making decisions about shows to see, or are you all booked up?" But I find it draining to be told by hundreds of people that they've made their decisions (on what basis, I wonder?) and that I just haven't made the cut. It's hard to hear that an hour before performing. That's why I didn't flyer much at all in the last few days. Because I have to get up on stage and genuinely love my audience.
This happens every year, for a lot of us I think. And it feels like the festival, as it comes to an end, should come to an end. And then we go on to Saskatoon Fringe, or Calgary Fringe, (or camping, for me, this year, which actually might be more profitable)... and then we get to Edmonton, where people have planned out THE ENTIRE FESTIVAL in advance! You flyer them, and without saying a word they reach into their purse or their handbag, and they pull out an enormous, complex schedule of every show they already have tickets for, and they have no idea whether your show is on the schedule or not. And they find you on it, or not, and they either nod or shake their head, and the schedule gets folded back into the purse or handbag and no words are ever exchanged. And then you go eat a green onion cake because at least you know what you're going to get from it.
Last night I had my last show, which wasn't my hugest house (I actually sold out part of this Festival run, it's been awesome) - but they were amazing. There was a woman who hilariously vocalised her reactions. "Oh yeah!" "Oh no!" And possibly "D'oh!" at one point. We had a great time. After the show I drank a bottle of Bushwakker Bombay IPA while walking up Main Street, while continually wondering aloud whether or not this was legal in this province. I tried to go to Breast Friends, but we went in at the last minute and somehow the show had oversold... (first time I've even HEARD of that at a Fringe) So I got scooped up by Brent Hirose and we saw two crazy shows in a row: An Examination of Rapheal Saray's Oeuvre... and Scar Tissue. Then as I was approaching the King's Head everyone was leaving for a dance party in one of the tall warehouses of the Exchange district. We climbed up to the third floor and walked through an enormous dark dusty room with pillars toward the music, and then up a ramp through a small door into what must have been a neighbouring building. LOUD music, fog, nibblies, what looked like a schmancy clothing store behind a curtain, lots of dancing people, a handful of Fringers. The first thing that happened was two young strangers asking whether I was that guy they saw climbing down off a building earlier that night. Which is weird because in 2006 I saw a guy climbing down off a building in that area in the middle of the night. In Winnipeg's exchange district all times are one time. Danced for a while, drove Celeste (local performer friend) home, talked of many things in the parking lot, and I got home just as a robin was announcing the day. I wasn't tired. I wasn't hungry. My bladder didn't care that it hadn't been emptied since my show ended at 8:45. I was satiated.
Today, though, I'm irritably tired. But catching up on some shows. And getting ready to go CAMPING tomorrow. I'll be blogging all that plus photos when I'm able. Like, when there's the The Internet.
Tired Clichés had a great run at the 2010 Winnipeg Fringe, which is wrapping up around me as I write. I sold out part of the run and had big and really responsive houses for the whole thing.
And check out some of these reviews!!
Now it's on to Edmonton Fringe... after a little camping expedition across the southern Canadian prairies!
(aka. FOUR-and-a-HALF STARS)
- Anthony Augustine, Uptown Magazine (Winnipeg)
"[Eddington is] a whiz at the breathless free association that marks Dawe’s observational humour."
- Morley Walker, Winnipeg Free Press
doesn't have Dawe's geeky boyish charm, he does display many admirable
qualities in his own performance style: he's quick, intense (to the
point that he borders on frightening sometimes), and - as you might
expect from a composer - he has a great ear for the rhythm of language.
There's nothing clichéd about his performance or Dawe's writing."
- Joff Schmidt, CBC Manitoba
"As someone once said, you can’t miss with good material, and
this is an absolutely great TJ Dawe script. What I liked best, though,
is the way that Alex Eddington made it his own, by bringing his
physicality and talent for sound to the production. It was a totally
mesmerizing hour. ..."
- Kevin Longfield, the Jenny Review (Winnipeg)
(you can read the full reviews HERE)
Some weird stuff has been going on around here.
First of all, right at the beginning of the festival, my billetmate Harvey forgot about the third lane when he was crossing Portage Ave. and very nearly got hit by a car driven by a teenager who apparently didn't ask himself why the cars in the other two lanes might be stopping. Harvey is from New York and considers himself an expert street-crosser, so this was a shock. Every city has a different driver culture. Apparently lots of people get hit around here, even on the sidestreets. Winnipeg's philosophy is that the east-west streets above and below Portage are actually alternative main streets. So every time I have to cross the one street just south of John and Naomi's house I have to remind myself that the cars are going to shoot through the intersection at about 50 - double that at night. Consider that late at night my reasoning ability is halved, and we are in for trouble.
Ragpickers is haunted. I always suspected this. Venue 13 (I'm not making this up) is the Bring-Your-Own-Venue where I performed Old Growth in 2008. It's a charming place, but wacky beyond belief. The wooden stairs are rickety, there are inexplicably two side-by-side doors into the theatre, the theatre itself is an irregular heptahedron, and the stage is apparently part of the remains of the deck of a Spanish galleon thrown onto the shores of Lake Manitoba in a storm. Including a trapdoor. It was oddly perfect for Old Growth (playing a big forest in a small room actually works well), but for Tired Cliches I knew I had to go somewhere else where I wouldn't get splinters, shards, or entire young trees stuck in my foot.
So I was at Ragpickers on Monday night for Paul Hutcheson's show "Third Time Lucky". Paul is a comic storyteller whose stories can be intense, lewd, or touching, generally all at once. He opens this show with a story about a dinner party, after which he is violently ill... before he has time to get home. He ends up vomiting very loudly behind an elementary school where has has been supply teaching. I won't say more, you should see the show, but anyway... Paul is doing this impression of loud, intense, seemingly projectile vomiting, and at the climax of the story this really loud, almost painfully loud sound comes over the speakers. It didn't sound like any thing identifiable, except a very distorted bell or something. It definitely wasn't a bad cable connection, or a radio signal (those are much fainter). We all assumed it was an intentional sound effect played accidentally too loud. Paul incorporated it smoothly: "Am I the devil?" He had just mentioned in the story that he had just noticed the cross high on the wall - this was a Catholic elementary school. And then, the sound. About a minute later when the first story was over, Paul stopped for a second to say he had no idea what the heck that was. The technician shrugged. Paul kept going. And about a minute later, one of the two doors going into the theatre, which had been open very slightly, gently closed as though someone was pushing it. I checked with the volunteers afterward - no one had been hanging around in the hallway.
I've told this story to a few people, including my friend Anne Wyman. Apparently in 2008 she was performing "Porn Star" (yes, the Chris Craddock show) at Venue 4 (Onstage at the Playhouse), an undoubtedly spooky place where I coincidentally performed The Fugue Code in 2007, when another weird sonic thing happened. In Venue 4 the audience sits at the back of the stage, the performers perform on the front of the stage facing the back with a black flat behind them, and behind that you can see part of the actual hall where the audience sits for full productions during the year: plush seats and balconies with ornate plaster mouldings. In The Fugue Code we actually used the lights pointed at the balconies to achieve an effect of depth. It's a very cool space... and it means that Anne Wyman and I have performed on the same stage as Louis Armstrong and even earlier stars than that.
So, Anne's show began with a bit of music. It faded out, and she began the show. But for the first FIVE minutes of the show one night, some other music, music she describes as "crackly old French music" came drifting in from the hall behind her. The technician heard it too, and after the show he assured here that there was NO way music could be coming from out there. No speakers. Locked doors. All that.
So all of this (and more! My friend Chris Bange of the excellent "The Excursionists" has been regaling me with spooky stories) - all of this was on my mind when my own Tired Cliches sound went haywire last night about halfway into the show. The speakers sputtered. And then they went BUZZZZZZZZZ. Turned out someone had accidentally kicked the cable at a connection point and it was loose. I thought of stopping the show and saying "ok, everyone on the left side of the room please look down...". It could have been funny, but the sound was LOUD and needed to be ended immediately. And I was already losing momentum in the F-You monologue. So I made an executive decision and turned off the amp, which is conveniently located in a lovely old cabinet on the right side of the stage. And I did the rest of the show without sound. We fixed it in time for "Psycho Bitch".
The Free Press is just going to have to dock me another star for my rickety sound setup! Jeez Louise, when I die I'm going to haunt their library.
Anyway, I sold out again last night! Things are going gangbusters. Let's see if I can fill four more shows. Lets see if I don't collapse in a pile of my own flyers first.
I sold out! I'm a sellout!
This doesn't happen very often. Apparently precisely 94 people attempted to see my show in the 93-seat venue, and one person was left to go sulk. One other person did get to see the show but had to sit behind an enormous statue of an angel with outstretched hands and wings.
Last night I had one of the most fun performances of my life, for the largest and most responsive Tired Cliches crowd yet. I felt so much in control the whole time. I was in the palm of my own hand. It was amazing. There were two reviews there too, so here's hoping.* I like to think the sellout was due to my fine flyering skills, but probably had more to do with the fact that everyone thinks I'm actually TJ Dawe. Oh, and the great CBC review that came out yesterday morning. Four stars!** Seriously, though, Kelly Hughes (the owner/ conversation piece of Aqua Books who finds new ways each night to try to crack me up in his pre-show speech) keeps overhearing people who apparently have only skimmed my program listing (where Dawe's name is mentioned thrice and mine once, but definitively). I've discovered that when I'm flyering, and then mention that TJ Dawe is not in fact performing the piece (after having made it clear that he wears the hat of author), some people say "but you really look like him", while pointing at the photo (of me!) on my flyer. Uh, yes. I have to start all over again. I'm worried someone is going to contact the Better Business Bureau about misleading advertising. It's not my fault! TJ's name, in print, causes momentary blindness.
*this is what I typed! Of course, reviewers do create reviews.
** out of how many? Four? Five? Twelve thousand? It's like the Two Scoops of Raisins. How big are the scoops?
Winnipeg Fringe is generally off to a bit of a slow start, though. There weren't many big lines, generally, in the last few days... but then suddenly Rob Gee (Smartarse) sold out a noon show, Laura Anne Harris (the director of Tired Cliches and Psycho Bitch) sold out her 5:15 opening of Pitch Blond with no known buzz. Of course, there were fifty trillion people to see the anticipated comback of Die Roten Punkte at 11:45pm last night (I didn't stay... I had a headache after I put so much into my sellout show). But generally slower than expected.
Shows I've seen:
A Day in the Life of Miss Hiccup (beautiful, silly, oddly logical but always full of whimsy... this is a lady who cries bells!)
The Fugitives: Eccentrically We Love. Of course I'm a fan. I discovered The Fugutives (an acoustic/spoken word band) AT Winnipeg Fringe in 2007, and they're back with a much differently-toned show. Everything is a competition for them now. I bought a Team Accordion t-shirt. And their new album, of course.
Company Man: I caught the world premiere of Nile Seguin's latest standup show. Awesome material that he was trying out for the first time. Nile decided to read up on business and economics and discovered what I've always suspected to be true: a pair of dogs owned by your theatre friend are better investors than any expert.
Billy Stutter: an Irish Play Intriguiging drama with some really funny meta-moments including some deliberately over-the-top jokes about Lucky Charms etc. But it's truly an Irish play because it opens with a grave being dug. And there's a ghost with a guitar!
Raining in Barcelona: *amazing* performance from some Saskatoon friends. I'd never seen them do this kind of dramatic character work, and loved it. The script is odd. Laura and I agreed that it's European, and accepted it at that. However, the sound effect for the seagull was clearly a crow. And anyone who thinks they know the gender of a seagull is deluded, unless they are a seagull. Trust me, I'vebeen to Victoria.
Psycho Bitch: finally! Of course, I did the music/sound for this one and know it well, but I finally got to see the whole thing fully staged with an audience. And I teared up at stuff I knew was coming! Please check this out, it's a very funny/moving show.
Today... The Excursionists: a Matter of Seconds. A much-anticipated sequel to Jonah and Chris' 2006 Fringe hit!
And some other stuff.
Non-fringe activities that I will be accomplishing are few, but include a G20-WTF-police-response-related rally (oddly near the Fringe site) this afternoon, and possibly a visit to John and Naomi's church tomorrow (it's sundae sunday! The tastiest pun ever!). I missed Omi night on Thursday - although it wasn't for me - that's what their adorable grandkids call Grandma (Na)omi, and their evening with the G-parents (who live just up the street!). At Folk Fest one of them mistook me for his uncle Chris. Close enough: Long blond hair, check. Dorky hat, check. From Toronto, check. Helped Kristin and Ben move into their new house: check (please see my ealier post about that astounding coincidence)!
Don't you think the word "deluge" looks like "beluga"?
I just noticed that.
Baby Deluge in the Deep Blue Sea...
I was always more of a Fred Penner fan anyhow. Which is fitting, because I'm in Winnipeg. Last time I was at Winnipeg Fringe (in 2008) I saw Fred Penner playing an outdoor show at Market Square (this was back when Ol' Market Square had a stage an not a cubic zirconium). To me, Fred Penner is a childhood hero, a TV star, the Canadian Raffi. The Cat Came Back! But there he was in Ol' Timey Market Square, playing for an audience of about eight quiet children in the pouring rain. In Winnipeg they take Fred Penner for granted. They also yawn when Guy Madden releases a new film into the eager hands of the rest of the world. I have yet to meet a Winnipegger who has seen "My Winnipeg". And I ask them all, sooner or later. So I end up telling them about all the crazy whimsical things that Madden has concocted about the city that will not let him out of its clutches, like how there are two cab companies - one for the named streets, one for the unnamed alleyways in equal quantity - and then they're like, oh yeah, the Alley Cabs are cheaper but you can't book ahead. And there really are horse heads frozen in the river. Winnipeg is so much weirder than it seems.
One of the first people I ran into here once I got into Fringe mode (I shook off the Folk Fest with great difficulty over most of Monday) was Leila, whom I talked to quite a bit in 2008. She moved here from New Orleans and considers Winnipeg to be the N.O. of the north. I think she's right: it's spooky as all get-out in the Exchange district, there's a lot of petty theft, and the city is prone to flooding.
Well, Fred Penner or not, it was raining buckets in Winnipeg last evening. I left Aqua Books after a lazy five-hour rehearsal (one of the advantages of performing in a BYOV) and walked through pleasant drizzle that really didn't make me feel any need to hurry... but the drizzle became a shower became a cat-a-dog and by the time I'd walked/run/splooshed the five minutes to Mondragon I was soaked! The rain came off and on all evening, so when I left the King's Head pub at 10:30 (I was there for director/friend/performer Laura's birthday, and also because that's where performers go by default) I walked over to the MTC building (Fringe central) to check on the poster situation. Carnage! The good news is my ink doesn't run. But my highest posters were peeling off the wall, pulling down the posters below them as a big taped mass. My posters in the middle of things were fine, but by this morning I'm sure the whole meta-poster is on the ground. Keep in mind that these posters cost near a dollar each. There are going to be a lot of unhappy people around. I also had a laminated poster ripped off my sandwich board yesterday by a more human force. I woke up at 6:30 this morning, still sweating from a bad dream that underlined the human costs of the Winnipeg poster wars.
Plus, I'm nervous. I guess I knew I would be. This is the first time I'll be performing this show in one of the BIG festivals. Where TJ Dawe's work is already well-established. Where people have expectations of what a TJ Dawe show look like. I'm also in a peculiar venue, in both good ways (quirky decor including books to use as impromptu props!) and bad (odd acoustics that will probably mean that I strain my voice a bit). On the whole I'm really happy with Aqua Books though. Great vibe, neat place, friendly/helpful/hilarious owner, and really close to Market Square... which, because of construction, has actually pushed the tendrils of Fringe down along the wiggly streets as though they are reaching for the nourishing rays of Aqua Books.
Right. I'm going to Do Something. Then I'm going to go chalk the carp out of the Fringe grounds. The rain is done... the Acky chalk returns to the Fringe for its fourth year!
I never thought I'd say this, but I'm blogging from the Winnipeg Folk Festival. As if Sarah Harmer, the Wailin' Jennys, Emmylou Harris and assorted amazing musical surprises (Pura Fé!) weren't enough, this festival has wi-fi. Keep in mind that it is held outdoors, over an enormous area, in Bird Hill provincial park. That big thing over there that you thought was a subwoofer? It's a wireless router.
It's Night Two of Folk Fest, which means I got into Winnipeg yesterday. I wanted to write that out as much for me as for you. The last week has passed rather swiftly and I'm not always sure what's going on.
The weather here in Winnipeg is fantastic. As I write, things are actually, precisely, perfect. There's a gorgeous sunset beginning immediately behind me. The temperature is momentarily excellent. When I look up, I see about six different kinds of clouds lit by evening sun. Dragonflies are zipping overhead. There are bubbles wafting among the colourful stuffed animals, flags, streamers, silk sunflowers, duck-shaped watering cans etc. that people have foisted on poles so that they can find their way back to their tarps when they stagger back from the vegan food stalls, reusable orange plastic plates in hand. The group in front of me is eating cinnamon buns culled from the granola belt of Winnipeg. We are eating homemade chickpea curry and un-home-makeable Indian sweets. Pete Seeger's grandson is rocking it about 150 meters from me past a sea of chairs that lift people's butts precisely 1.3 inches above the ground. At 11 o'clock there are two chairs that exceed regulation height and are probably partially blocking the view of approximately 750 people from whom you could draw a straight line, through the offending chairs, to Tao Seeger. I'm told that the snipers will take care of this before long. I just put on my wide-brimmed hat, and I don't feel like any of the thousands of people here care that I look like a dork. Nay, that I am a dork.
And I take it back about the wi-fi. Maybe the signal is blocked by Bird Hill. Which is invisible, or at least fleeting.
There's not much to report about Winnipeg Fringe except that I put up posters (I was apparently the fourth person to do so) and for the first time ever was able to place a sandwich board in front of the Manitoba Theatre Centre, aka. Fringe HQ where the box office is and where people are oddly susceptible to messages conveyed to them by sandwich boards. Mine (the second placed there) only has a poster on it, and some postcards to pick up, but these speak volumes. Some guy already took one. I'm doing well. I don't feel like I'm quite at Fringe yet, even though I've checked in and taped up some full-colour buzz-generators. Yesterday, I raced (well, drove) from Regina to Winnipeg with poor Martin Dockery in tow, because if I didn't make it to my billets' house by 5:00pm, I would have to drive myself to Folk Fest. (a couple of points of information: 1) I got a group ticket to FF from/on the suggestion of the people I have stayed with several times in Winnipeg since 2007, and 2) FF is held in a provincial park about an hour's drive to the northwest of the 'Peg) Old Market Square (the other WPEG Fringe HQ) is under various constructions this year, which is apparently going to push the vendors down toward Aqua Books, which is totally fine with me because that's my venue.
WAIT! WAIT!!! I somehow, just now, realised that not only does my billets' son (who is here on our Folk Fest tarp) live in Toronto, and that he knows my friends Kristin and Ben, but that he helped them move. Point of information: I also helped them move. On the same day. And there were only about 6 of us helping. All day. And when I met Chris yesterday, and when I started talking to him earlier this evening, neither of us had any idea. Apparently we are both that unremarkable. Isn't that bizarre?
Okay, though, let's talk about Regina. Regina Fringe, as far as I am concerned, is very much On the Map. My audiences were great both in terms of size and appreciation. My last crowd, on Tuesday night, was twice as large as any I've previously had for Tired Clichés (Montreal Fringe, Gord bless it, is subtly attended at times). At that same performance I had a group of 24 disabled young adults and 6 volunteers from the SaskAbilities council, who were so excited before the show that their chatter wafted into the theatre from the lobby, and who swarmed me with questions afterward. One young man went on stage (after the show) and hammed it up for his friends. Eventually we all got shooed out by Sharon Nowlan, who had to take the stage for Burlesque Unzipped. In the end, I did better financially in Regina than have have in many previous festivals, had a great time, got to have some fun times with my old band camp friend Tracey, came to appreciate two entire cats, shared a hot-tub with performance poet Jem Rolls (a lifelong dream), met another cat whose angry meoarls sounded exactly like Jeff Culbert's portrayal of a cat ambushing a robin (in his show Archy and Mehitabel), and saw my first rock band made of a ninja, a slave, a mime, and an island tribal dancer (Moose Jaw's Brainsauce in Farmer Vision).
I only got to go to Bushwakker twice, both times on a tuesday, but I stocked up for the road.
No, you know what, this evening isn't quite perfect: for that I would need an icy Bushwakker Summer Wheat by my side. I could probably sneak one in - the security at the gate is rather lax. But maybe this is because the snipers like to practice...
I will report back when I am again filled up with culture and randomness and need somewhere to put it.
Alright, so I was going to annotate this list with substantial and well-argued reasons why you should attend these shows, but I'm too tired, busy, and shaken up by both being about to start my own Fringe tour (in Regina) and by everything I'm reading/seeing about the G20.
But here's what it is. Some of these are shows I've seen, some of them are performers I know and trust. No one could possibly like everything on this list except me - it's up to you to tailor-make your own Fringe. So check out the show descriptions in the Fringe program, read reviews, listen for buzz, and decide for yourself...
At $10 a show, you can take some risks. That's what the Fringe is all about.
Big in Germany - Rob Salerno
Cactus: the Seduction... Jonno Katz
Dance Animal from Montreal. AMAZING dance/comedy/thing.
Die Roten Punkte: KUNST ROCK (ART ROCK) the third show by Australia/Germany's brother-and-sister comical musical duo
Evelyn Reese's Walking Tour Susan Fischer's hilarious character unleashed on the outdoors!
FRUITCAKE - ten commandments from the psych ward Rob Gee from the U.K. - a performance poet with a background of working in mental health
Lucky 9 TJ Dawe's latest show! (he is the playwright of Tired Clichés, which I am touring this summer)
MAL various clown characters by Rachelle Elie
Me, My Stuff, and I: a Multimedia Comedy Barry Smith's latest
Morro and Jasp GONE WILD adorable clown duo from Toronto!
ONEymoon (Honeymoon for One)
Poison the Well Written by Andrew Connor of Cody Rivers Show fame! A drama starring Andrew and the brilliant Elison Zasko
Psycho Bitch (I created the music/sound!) Tamara Lynn Robert. Funny, bold, timely.
PUBLIC SPEAKING by Chris Craddock - everything he does is awesome
Raven for a Lark life imitates art for Shakespearian actors. Very dark.
The Shakespeare Show: Or, how an illiterate
son of a Glover became the Greatest Playwright in the World Monster Theatre. Very funny show.
Teaching Shakespeare Keir Cutler's classic.
unADULTeRATED me Clown show from Winnipeg - Rachelle Fordyce.
Wisdom: Part One by Jimmy Hogg
You & Me and Me & You
by Kirsten Marie Rasmussen and Dan Jeannotte
I'm on tour!
My new/old silver Volvo station wagon is loaded down with a wide spectrum of Things: costume and props, posters and flyers, various tapes and staple guns, a LOT of clothes for all weathers, two computers (my scanner won't work with my new laptop right now!), a paper cutter, an accordion with which to woo potential audients (this may backfire), various woodwind instruments to play at over the summer and accompanying pedagogical texts (to get me in the headspace to teach Grade 7 music in September), camping things (for my two-week trip across Saskatchewan between Winnipeg and Edmonton Fringe festivals), recording equipment (to record the sounds of the aforementioned Saskatchewan), my fabulous bicycle Kilda (yes, the same one I rode in Scotland in the summer of '03, and the same one that joined me onstage in WOOL in '06, but newly refurbished!) - and possibly other things yet to be discovered.
I'm not overpacked - I swear. I'm away for two months, during which time anything can happen. And somehow I have ended up embarking on a summer trip where I have to (and/or want to) perform and publicize my Fringe show, do some business for the next season of the community orchestra I work for, get ready to teach, collect audio material, compose, write, and camp... all at the exact same time.
I'm on several simultaneous tours.
Last night I gave a preview of Tired Clichés for an audience of circa twelve, while in a conjoining rehearsal room a troupe of actors rehearsed what may be the loudest show at this year's Toronto Fringe. It was nice to get that type of run over with. (I doubt that problem will come up again, especially in my library venue in Edmonton.)
And tonight, somehow, I'm in Grand Rapids MI. Well, I'll tell you how. I left Toronto worried about G-20 traffic, and encountered none... then sat around for 2 hours at the Sarnia border crossing. During which time I noticed many amusing trucks. One of them had "Do Not Push" stenciled on the back of the trailer. Everything I need to know, I learned in trucker Kindergarten. Another had at least two plaques on it that said "Heil". Yikes! I spent the afternoon leapfrogging with a car trailer that held what looked like eight embryonic state trooper cars - either that, or eight black cars that all had run-ins with their rear doors and only found white doors to replace them. I find a grouping of eight cars funny at the best of times, but I'm just going to let a handful of people around the globe chortle silently at their memories of that and not bother to explain what might be a complete non-joke when written out in blog form.
Most intriguing of all were the bright flashing yellow LED signs imploring me to prepare my ID for inspection. In the right, tired, bridged-out mood, it matters that it says ID and not I.D. Don't worry, my ID is ready for anything. It's day one of a two-month road trip and my primal impulses are primed.
The bridge spat me out into Michigan at 4:00pm and I drove with intense steadiness to Grand Rapids, where there was dinner with fresh garden vegetables, local strawberries, a walk in the woods, a tiny toad, a sanctuary for injured birds, chickens, fireflies, an amazingly large and detailed model train world, an aunt, an uncle, and until a little while ago, cousins and cousins-once-removed. It's been a busy day.
Tomorrow I'm off around the lake to Madison WI, then a couple more stops before I swing into Regina for my first Fringe festival of the summer.
The plan is to blog every day. I don't quite know why this is. But it is the plan.
I'm a bit on the over-tired side, from staying up working on... no, I'm a lot on the over-tired side. This is a two-edged coin.* In the "pro" column is that my posters and flyers are going to look MUCH awesomer than previously. What's sad about this is that I put a lot of time into the posters and flyers for the last two runs of Tired Clichés, and that I have designed good flyers and posters at other times in the past. But my posters from 2009's Montreal Fringe run, in which I painstakingly integrated stars and quotes into all the crooks and nannies of a large image of myself and a yellow traffic button - and which looked fabulous up close - seemed to actually vanish immediately once placed onto a wall decorated with other, better designed, Fringe posters. Last November's Toronto run had a publicity décor of black backgrounds and strange production photos, which I got tired of pretty quickly. I have about 20 of those leftover postcards sitting on my desk right now, taunting me with that finger-on-kazoo kind of taunt. I like my production photos, but not on a postcard. No. Stop.
So the current poster - which, remember, has to keep me happy for two whole months - sat on my computer screen with a dull solid navy background until I became so disgusted with its dullness that work ground to a halt. Then I stumbled across the secret: texture! I gave the background a fibrous texture and suddenly everything else makes sense. If the background is given an identity as a fabric, or fibrous paper, or brick wall, or asphalt pavement, then everything on top of it becomes collage - especially if you give those things drop shadows. Suddenly my poster had an aesthetic! Follow that up with a cute little asphalt-backed flyer, and suddenly it's been a bunch of late nights and an obsessive search for the printing company with just the right balance of eco, affordable, and a turnaround time that will still work if I find out my confirmed Edmonton performance dates less than 3 days before I drive to Regina!
Going back to the pros and cons of my Tirednesse, the other side of the sword is that I'm too tired to be certain whether I had a dream last night in which John Malkovich, dressed in a white suit and Austrian accent, repeatedly strangled two young women as they sang arias while accompanied by a Baroque orchestra. Complicating everything is that there is a show that played this weekend at the Luminato festival in which that exact thing happens. And, as far as I can tell, yesterday a pair of comps for that show fell into my exhausted hands, and I went to see Malkovich do his thing. Which he did, amazingly. But what a strange piece!
Malkovich. Malkovich, Malkovich? Malkovich!
I mean, it worked. We liked it. The hour and forty-five minutes without intermission slid by. His stage presence was casual but totally seductive, and his interaction with the sopranos was electric. It was weird to have a conductor for a Baroque orchestra, but I accepted him as a kind of persona for the group, and his finger-flicky conducting was pretty adorable. The first thing that happened in the show was one of the horn players dropping his crooks (extra tubing to change the key of natural horns). I'm pretty sure it was not deliberate - brass repairs would add up - but it sure it set up a kind of casually menacing atmosphere in which anything can happen. The show definitely had a plot, and an arc, and some gorgeous singing, but what I remember most is that each soprano got strangled about 25 times in hyper-realistic ways. It's hard not to feel a bit uncomfortable watching something like that.
(A friend just called as I was writing this. I tried to describe the story of The Infernal Comedy (oh, that's what it was called) and failed. He is a singer. He thought the idea of strangling sopranos - repeatedly- was not only funny, but every music director's secret wish. His words.)
Anyway, I can't mention John Malkovich without bringing this to the table:
On Friday night we saw "Dark Star Requiem", an oratorio about the AIDS epidemic by my old U of T colleague and friend Andrew Staniland, who is doing really well for himself. So well, in fact, that he can get The Gryphon Trio to do somewhat embarrassing things. At one point, pianist Jamie Parker got slapped by a nun. I'm not kidding.
The music was great: restrained but powerful, lots of tonal centre to hang onto but always skirting the obvious. I suspect most of the audience liked and appreciated the music, especially since they had a strong context to put it in. But it was hard to gauge what people thought, for the reason that they were never given a chance to fully applaud the piece.
The piece just eased into an ending, everybody left the stage, the house lights had already come up... and our applause never brought the performers back on to take a bow. I loved it! I've wanted to see something that edgy in a concert hall for a *long* time. It was sort of like the gut-punch at the end of the modern production of "Cabaret" when the orchestra is missing from the pit and turns up in striped concentration camp clothes. It was also sort of like the time I asked people not to clap at the end of my first Fringe show (WOOL), which made for some interesting confrontations with irate audience members who clearly needed to vent their feeling through applause lest they explode. This included a strange encounter with the brother of a friend who subsequently became my director.
There was other edgy stuff too: a black man played a chimpanzee (didn't bother me, but my companion never trusted the piece after that. The HIV virus was personified - brilliantly - both as a black woman and a gay man. There were extended sections of awful nicknames for the disease (like "gay plague") that left it to us to re-humanize its victims. There was a section called "Every 14 seconds" where a projected stopwatch ran in time to Gryphon Trio music, and every fourteen seconds a slash mark and a tasteful accent in the music marked the death of someone in the world from AIDS. I quite seriously enjoy the opportunity to feel emotion about a piece itself, and about myself. It made me angry at the piece (how delicious!) for having to sit through something so obvious for nearly 4 minutes; it made me angry at myself for paying a fair amount of money to enjoy some really great music while noting a series of human deaths - and THAT is the most I would do that day, or any day, to help the problem.
I really love getting het up like that - but I'm not entirely sure I *enjoyed* the oratorio as a whole, if whether I was really supposed to. I felt a little bit like I was being kept at arm's length by a sometimes obscure libretto that was more about viruses than people. But intriguing, very intriguing.
Holy carp, I'd forgotten how long blogging can take!
* Quick as a nimble whip! Let's make haste to check whether this expression has yet been submitted to Conflations.com!