Saturday, July 18, 2015

Reflections on Opening Night(s)

First of all, I'd like to thank my doctor and modern medicine. This has been the most manageable tech week ever for me, and I opened THREE shows last night.

"Silver: A Noir Ballet" opened at 6:00. We had to hold the house for ten minutes, because there were so many people buying tickets. Fringe necessarily keeps a very tight schedule, but I knew the running time of the show gave us a little wiggle room.

The way Fringe tech works is this: Every company gets exactly three hours in their performance space to get everything technically ironed out. Considering most theatre companies, who don't share a venue with seven other shows running in rep, have at least four or five days, and sometimes even weeks, in the space to make sure everything goes smoothly on opening night, this is virtually no time at all for anyone to create a well-oiled machine.

But that's part of the charm of Fringe. The audience knows it's different than anything else they're likely to experience, and there's a hectic party atmosphere to the entire Festival. It's really as if the audiences are part of the team. Everyone is very supportive, and everyone's ready to have a good time.

I've never done any show EVER that didn't have some hiccups on opening night - or even, every night; it's live theatre, ladies and gentlemen!

The house for "Silver" was packed. I didn't get a house count, but this is my eighth year doing Fringe, and I've never seen an opening night that full. Composer Christian Hankel has poured everything into this show, and I was so happy for him, to have such a large audience on Day One.

After the show, I packed up props as quickly as possible (remember, each company shares the space with several other companies, so there's no leaving things out for tomorrow's show), and ran across the hall to the planetarium for the "Voyage to Voyager" opening at 8:00.

NASA confirmed that Voyager 1 has left the solar system. Voyager 2 is on the cusp.

I was rather scattered at this point, to be honest. Words were hard for me to find, and I felt frantic and awkward before the show. I'm very grateful that the "Voyager" team is extremely capable, and so I could be a blathering idiot without fear of the entire thing falling apart.

And again, I was shocked at the turnout. Audience members were in line before I even got there! I had to ask the audience to move toward the center of the aisles, so the people who hadn't found seats yet could actually sit with the people they came with. What a great problem to have. It was very close to being a sold-out performance. I'm still reeling with gratitude.

Tara Varney's photo.
I celebrated opening night with some fun, sent to me by a secret admirer, who obviously knows me extremely well.
Afterward, I had about 30-45 minutes of downtime, which I chose to spend eating the crackers, cheese, and tomatoes I had packed. And then, I was off to City Stage again - this time to perform in "Badder Auditions" at 10:30pm.

Except for the getting-pretty-for-the-stage-after-hours-of-sweating part, I was pretty relaxed. The show is mostly improv; each actor in the revolving cast (I'm doing all of the performances though) has the barest outline for what might happen during their "audition" onstage. There aren't lines or blocking to memorize, there are no tech cues, you just have to go with the flow. As with all improv, sometimes a joke just doesn't land. Last night, I estimate 90% landed. And that is a pretty darned good percentage. I laughed out loud very many times, and my jaw dropped more than once at the sometimes-R-rated antics onstage. I like to see envelopes genuinely being pushed.

And then, it was over. The night I was so stressed about. History. On to the next.

Today, "Badder Auditions" is at 3:00. Director Kevin King and I have some sort of interview with Channel 41 before that, but I don't know when it'll air or anything. "Silver" is right after, at 4:30. Then I get to actually SEE a show or two before "Voyager" at 9:30.

I don't know. Maybe I'll have dinner too. We'll see.

The Fringe website has all the info you could want, or ever need, about the festivities. This year, there are 116 performing groups presenting over 480 shows at 20 different venues. You WILL find something you like, for sure. Unless you only like naps and bratwurst. I don't think you'll find those there. But you never know.

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