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- A Story of O’s
As a self-produced performer, I can’t afford to be one of those “oh I never read my reviews” actors. First of all, I’m convinced that 99.99% of people who say that are lying. We can spout our lofty artistic intentions all we want, but the truth is that if we didn’t want to affect people, we’d do skits in our basements for an audience of indifferent cats. I want to reach people, to challenge, inspire, and entertain them. I want to foster dialogue that might never happen otherwise, and to open hearts and minds.
Audience members often approach me after a show to share their own experiences. Somehow me sharing my stories gives them permission to share theirs, and I love that. But critics are able to influence others to see or not see my show, and the producer in me knows I must read all my reviews and use what I can from them to help fill seats.
I’ve gotten pretty good at dealing with poor reviews. I’ve learned that it’s ok to allow them to bother me for a little bit, and I’ve learned how to move past them. I’m able to assess whether the reviewer didn’t “get” it, and I’m also able to determine whether there’s valid, constructive criticism I can use to make my show better. I know that, particularly with A Story of O’s, not everyone is going to like the stories I’m telling. They make people uncomfortable and challenge their assumptions and misconceptions. This is intentional, a huge part of my calling as an artist.
So I won’t lie: it’s gratifying and relieving when I get positive reviews like the ones I linked to above. They help sell tickets, and I’d rather play to more people than less. This year at London Fringe, I’ve been blessed with some glowing reviews, and I wanted to share them with you.
A week from today, I leave on tour. After only doing one festival last year, it feels good to be gearing up for a four festival run. Of course, I had to switch things up. So for the first time ever, I’m performing two different shows in one season. You can find show time and ticket purchase information for all A Story of O’s and Threads by clicking those links, but here’s a basic itinerary…
A Story of O’s at London (Ontario) Fringe Festival
Threads at Ottawa Fringe Festival
Threads at IndyFringe Festival
A Story of O’s at Vancouver Fringe Festival
Just got my venue assignment and show times for A Story of O’s at Edmonton Fringe! I have to confess I’m a little torn about my venue, #2, the Fringe Cabaret Lounge. “Lounge” is a bit of a misnomer, as the room is basically a big warehouse with tables and chairs in front of the stage and row seating on the sides. Cabaret-style, yes, but lacking the small, intimate vibe I prefer. The good news is they serve booze, and I really think a little lubrication will help the audience. Honestly, the show isn’t done yet. I keep adding and editing. But it’s already clear to me that pretty much anybody who comes to see it will have both a moment of “ewww, I really don’t get that” and “oh my god, that’s hot!” Which is of course intentional. Heh.
My show schedule is…not bad. You’re basically guaranteed to get a couple peak show times (i.e., Friday or Saturday night), a couple good times (weekday evening or weekend afternoon), and a couple crappy ones (anything after 9p Sunday-Thursday, weekday matinees). Some festivals will take your input on which non-peak times you prefer, so for example a kid-appropriate show can request an early afternoon slot over a late night one. With Threads, I always requested matinee times. Audiences for that show skewed older, as the subject matter resonated more immediately with people who lived through the Vietnam War era. But A Story of O’s is way more suited to a boozy, night-on-the-town crowd, and I have an awful lot of afternoon shows…
6:00p Saturday 16 August
8:45p Sunday 17 August
2:00p Monday 18 August
4:00p Tuesday 19 August
12:00p Friday 22 August
2:00p Saturday 23 August
6:00p Sunday 24 August
*shrug* Nothing to do about it. Such is the nature of the fringe. And I’m not particularly worried, because after all…Sex sells, right? Heh.
I also booked five shows of A Story of O’s in Portland as a warm-up for Edmonton. Details and ticket purchase link available here. Plus, I’m going to be teaching my Talking Dirty & Roleplay 101 workshop when I’m up in Edmonton. More info here.
I’m going to be a busy lady the next couple months!
It would be difficult for me to think of any two-week span in my lifetime that was more incredible and mind-blowing than my experience at the 2012 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. It really was like getting to be the star of my very own fairy tale.
Unless you want to make yourself crazy, you have to understand that once you present your art to the world, you have no control over how it is received and interpreted. I won’t lie; validation from audiences, critics, and (most importantly to me) one’s peers feels good. But if you depend on that for motivation, your creativity is subject to the whims of everyone save yourself. I tell stories because I have something to say that I believe needs to be heard. I don’t tell stories so people will pat me on the back and tell me how wonderful and talented I am. Sure, it’s nice to hear, and I appreciate positive feedback as much as anyone. But I tell stories to remind people that we are all connected.
More important to me than critical and financial success, those two weeks in Winnipeg gave me a sense of connectedness with my fellow human beings that I don’t think I’d ever felt before. Me telling my (mother’s) story gave people permission to tell theirs. Complete strangers walked up to me on the street to thank me, and to share their own similar experiences. Gratitude, appreciation, respect. Smiles, hugs, tears. It was simultaneously flattering and humbling.
Hands down, the most memorable of these interactions involved Walt and Jody. They were a charming couple who flagged me down at the King’s Head Pub one afternoon and insisted on buying me a drink. We chatted for a bit, and I was just struck by what delightful people they were. Threads really resonated with Walt, for personal reasons I don’t feel it’s my place to share. We crossed paths a couple of times over the course of the festival and ended up befriending each other on Facebook.
When I returned to Winnipeg in 2013, we made plans to catch up over a lovely dinner, which Jody and Walt, ever generous, insisted on treating me to. They talked up the show to tons of people, and it really kind of felt like they were my champions. They had become an integral part of my Winnipeg experience. They weren’t just a couple who had seen my show; they were my friends. When I didn’t get drawn in the Winnipeg lottery this year, I think they were as bummed out as I was. We were already looking forward to the possibility of 2015.
Last night, I logged into Facebook and was shocked and heart-broken to read the following post on Walt’s wall:
“Dear friends of Walt: Most of you don’t know me, and I don’t know you. I am his girlfriend and life partner of the past 6 years. Rather than have you wonder what happened to his online presence, I wanted to let you know that he passed away very suddenly sometime last night. He was not ill; in fact he was happily looking forward to breakfast with his son. I will keep his facebook page active for a while and check it from time to time in case anyone wishes to post a farewell message here. I hope that all of his family members have heard the news by now and that this is not a shock for you. For those of you who were personal friends and former co-workers, I know that Walt did not really keep in touch very much, but I believe that he valued each and every one of you in his understated way. I will check this page for the next little while. Peace and blessings to all. -Jody”
Sweet, wonderful Jody, my heart goes out to you. Words are not adequate at a time like this, but I am sending my love and sympathy to you across the miles.
And to Walt…Your smile and words of encouragement live on in some of my fondest memories. You are profoundly missed. Winnipeg will not be the same without you.
I’m halfway through my time at the London Fringe Festival and finally feel like I’m hitting a comfortable groove. It takes a while to get into the fringe swing of things. I thought this last year, and London has proved it to me: I really need to start getting in “fringe shape” a month before my first festival of the season. See, life as a touring fringe festival performer is a singularly unique experience, rife with challenges. So if you want to know how my fellow performers and I live when we’re on the road, just follow this simple conditioning plan and you can play along with us…
Pack one suitcase with everything you could possibly need while performing and traveling for weeks on end. Don’t forget anything.
Go to a city you’ve never been to before or don’t know very well. Don’t bother to check the weather report, because no matter what you packed, it’s wrong. The locals will be talking about the “strangely unseasonal, unpredictable” weather while you’re there.
Pick a complete stranger. Move into their house for 14-17 days. This is your billet. They are likely festival staff and/or volunteers, so be a perfect house guest.
Drop 10 random pins on a map. These are the festival venues. Figure out good walking routes between all venues and your billet. Time the routes so you know how long it takes to get to each venue. Walk for so many hours on brutally hard cement that no pair of shoes is comfortable. Do this until you have blisters and shin splints, then do it some more.
Approach strangers on the street with the flyers you designed, printed before you left, and fit into your luggage. Get them to stop and listen to you. Convince them you have something worth paying $10 for, but that they have to meet you at a later date and/or time for the privilege of finding out why it’s worth money. Hope they show up. With cash.
Pick a different random hour every day to be “show time” and make sure you eat exactly 2.5 hours before curtain. Time it perfectly so you don’t feel gross and bloated on stage, but still have access to the energy/fuel from your meal. (Seriously. This is a conversation I’ve had at least ten times so far this festival with other artists. You wouldn’t believe how big of a challenge simply feeding yourself becomes.) Look for fresh, healthy options on your walking routes, and hope you can afford them on your $30 daily budget. Decide that coffee qualifies as breakfast.
For each “show”, go somewhere public, strip down to your underwear, and demand people pay attention to you for a full hour. Beg them to share their feedback on every social media outlet in the known universe. Your sold-out show will be harshly panned by a critic who doesn’t mention you got a standing ovation that night. Your show with five people in the audience is the one that will be reviewed by the biggest paper in town.
Smoke too many cigarettes late at night, even if you “quit” years ago and never smoke at home. Do not lose your voice. (Fringe tip: it’s good form to buy a pack of smokes for the person(s) you always bum from.)
Drink whatever beer is cheapest at any given bar and learn to like it. You cannot afford wine or hard liquor, especially not in Canada. If you prefer pot, pray that a generous stoner comes to your show and likes it enough to smoke you out afterward. If you have any other vices, give them up. Your wallet and body will thank you.
Spend all your free time with talented, amazing, sexy, creative artists, but do not hook up with anyone until the last couple days of the festival. If it’s awesome, they won’t be at any other festivals you’re doing. If it’s awful, they will be at every other festival you’re doing.
Remember that you are never off work. Every person is a potential audience member, so use every opening you can to start conversations with total strangers and sell yourself. If you are rude, abrasive, or otherwise inappropriate, it reflects on your show and affects your bottom line. If anyone overhears you complaining about your venue, techs, festival staff, volunteers, showtimes, audience sizes, other shows, other performers, the weather, host city, or anything at all, no matter how valid the complaint, it reflects on your show and affects your bottom line. If you cough while trying to pitch your show to someone and don’t cover your mouth, it reflects on your show and affects your bottom line. If you get drunk and make an ass of yourself at the late-night cabaret, it reflects on your show and affects your bottom line.
Everything you do reflects on your show and affects your bottom line.
Pray enough people come to see you that you can pay off the credit card you used to cover the costs of your festival application, production fee, travel expenses and promotional materials. Do not count on breaking even. Given the 24/7 nature of the gig, know that you would probably make a higher hourly wage slinging fast food.
Do things that you don’t do at home, like go to a nightclub filled with kids half your age for retro dance party night. Stay up later than normal. Be exhausted no matter how much sleep you get.
So. Why do we do it?
I wouldn’t presume to speak for my fellow fringe performers, but my answer is simple: it’s worth it. Getting to tell my story, to entertain, to touch people and leave them somehow changed, to get them talking…Being able to call some of the most talented people I have ever known my friends and colleagues…Seeing the world, one theatre-loving city at a time…Meeting people- performers, audience members, volunteers- whose passion for live performance is on par with my own…Being reminded that one-on-one, face-to-face human connection is still the most powerful kind of communication…There is no more gratifying feeling in my world.
Also, it’s summer camp for grown ups who still haven’t grown up. You must hold onto a bit of childlike wonder and appreciation for the surreal insanity of it all, or the fringe circuit will chew you up and vomit you back out in a spray of Lofty-But-Misguided Artistic Intention. It’s work. Hard work. Oh my god, sometimes it’s such hard work. But if just one person leaves my show feeling more informed, invigorated, or inspired than they did when they sat down, I’ve done my job.
No, the fringe life is not for everyone. But some of us find the festival circuit and know we are home. This one’s for you, fringe family.
2013. I’m feeling very optimistic about this year. Lots of irons in the fire, a brand new partner to help me at Bay City Blues phone sex, and what is shaping up to a be a lovely round of fringe festivals. So far, I’ve gotten into London, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver. Still waiting to hear about Victoria, and that will determine whether I submit for Indianapolis and/or Boulder. And yes, getting into Winnipeg means I have to finish my new show. Which is so not a show yet, but it will be.
And I love love LOVE my new home. It’s just the place I need for a fresh start, plenty of room to move, even with two roomies. The view from my bedroom window defies description, so I’ll have to snap a photo of it one of these evenings with a killer sunset. The cats are adjusting to staying indoors- as much as I hate keeping them inside, the park across the street is an off-leash area for dogs and I’m really scared to risk it. We’ll see how I hold out after a couple months of kitten cabin fever.
I have so many projects in the works that I actually had to make a schedule, or time budget. Otherwise, I just get bogged down in minutiae and distracted and don’t finish everything I need to. Well, it seems like I’ll NEVER finish everything on my plate, but at least now I’m not trying to get it all done today. Lol.
Oh, did I mention I’m teaching at Westcoast Bound this year? A basic “101” talking dirty version, plus a more advanced version for those willing to experiment/practice publicly and get feedback. Please pass on that link to any BC friends who might be planning to attend the conference- I can always use more friendly faces in class, and I am looking to arrange one or two scenes in advance for each of the play parties…
Mmm, it has been too long since I’ve been to an immersive kink event- I can’t wait for the first week of February! Until then, perhaps the phone sex perverts among you will keep me company? 😉
So far, I’ve gotten into the London (Ontario Canada, not UK), Toronto, and Vancouver BC fringe festivals. I will likely BYOV (bring your own venue, or self-produce as a part of the festival) in Ottawa, since that festival falls between London and Toronto, and all three cities are within an eight-hour drive of each other.
Toronto friends, I hear it’s difficult to get billeted there, so I will probably be needing a place to stay from July 1-15. If you can host me for any/all of that time, please email me! I can’t really offer much in the way of compensation other than my undying appreciation, comps to Threads, and a few stellar home-cooked meals. Plus a whole metric fuckload of stories to tell your grandchildren. Heh.
Looks like I’m going to be writing a review for Tits and Sass of For a Good Time Call, the movie I wrote about in my last post. Apparently, they had someone else all set to review it but that never happened. They thought of me, came to this blog to get my email, and lo-and-behold, there’s me mouthing off about how much I’m dreading the flick. Lol. I’ll make sure I link to my take on the flick here when it goes up. Also have a couple of possible film/tv documentary appearances in the works- you’ll know more when I do.
But my big news is that I’m moving! Not far from where I live now, still in Portland, but to a gorgeous “Old Portland” home across the street from a park and with a stellar view of Portland’s West Hills and downtown. The next week or two I’ll be running loads of stuff over to the new place, unpacking, and getting settled in. If I’m difficult to reach, I apologize in advance. I won’t be at my computer, even if it says I’m logged into IM, so either email me or just call if you see I’m available.
Speaking of moving, can I just say that the rental market in Portland is ridiculous? If you’re looking for a certain price range, size, and neighborhood, there are a couple combinations that make for BRUTAL competition. No joke. They have open houses for rental properties here. And if you don’t show up with the application pre-completed and deposit check in hand, too bad if you like the place. In the time it takes you to fill out the paperwork on site, five people will have turned in applications before you. I have seen little old ladies elbowed out of the way and near-physical altercations between potential tenants. It’s fucking crazy.
I kind of can’t believe none of the tv shows that film in town have mined this particular Portland peculiarity. So without further ado, here are my suggestions to their writers and producers about possible plotlines…
Leverage…The team puts a stop to a rental scam that bilks unsuspecting low-income housing applicants of their application fees and deposits but leaves them homeless.
Portlandia…An over-aggressive Alpha couple camps out overnight on the porch in order to be the first ones at an open house for a cool Hawthorne bungalow.
Grimm…After the gruesome death of an elderly wiesen, Detectives Burkhardt and Griffin discover she was murdered by relatives who couldn’t find affordable rental housing and hoped to inherit her house.
Does that give you some idea of how competitive the Portland rental market is? I looked at over 20 places in the span of a month and was getting really close to a complete mental breakdown when I found the PERFECT PLACE. Pictures will follow once I’m settled in…