Day 202-205 – My Vacation (Part 1)

Day 202 – Being plan-less and clock-less is enough to drive me insane.  I try to know where my iPhone is at all times so I can instantly access information that will keep me on track, focussed and on deadline.  It makes me feel safe.

But there’s something about being on holiday that changes all of that.  Other than making sure I was on the right flight at the right time, I barely looked at my watch.  I didn’t care where I went.  I wasn’t bothered by what I saw or didn’t see.  I went where the Manitoba breeze (or lack thereof) took me.  It was great.  Nobody depending on me.  No one to answer to.  No commitments.  Proper ME time.  Bliss.

 

Day 203 – Have you ever been to a restaurant and had a meal so good that you remember is vividly years later?  Almost like you can taste it?  The Mondragon in Winnipeg is that place for me.  So needless to say I was keen on going back there after a four year hiatus.  I was pleased to notice that not much had changed.   It still had the same quirky, mismatched decor.  The menus were still printed on recycled paper.  The menu items themselves hadn’t changed much, but they did expand their book/bulk foods/fresh foods section which looked amazing.

I ate there twice while at the Winnipeg Fringe.  The veggie burger (packed with flavour) and Twister wrap (with beautifully seasoned tofu) were just as amazing as I remembered.  Super fresh.  Great service.  Excellent value for money. 

 

Day 204 – One of the perks of going to a Fringe Festival is that there’s so much going on and you have a huge selection of plays to choose from.  I was only there for 2.5 days (plus travel time) so it was difficult for me to plan what I was going to see, which left me wide open.  I had many dates with (my now even better friend than before) Cat who had heard lots of buzz about shows having arrived at the festival much earlier than me.  She suggested we check out The Bike Trip, because she’d heard good things about it.  I knew absolutely nothing going into it.  Not the performing company.  Not the running time.  Not the genre.  Nothing. 

It was a trip all right.  Martin Dockery has got a performance style all his own, with rapid fire delivery combined with crystal clear storytelling skills and an organic, simple-yet-effective, way of inhabiting the stage space.  The show is a series of short monologue recounting important moments in his experimentation with LSD.  There are no frat-boy or adolescent “easy” jokes here, but more an honest and often hilarious series of observations on the human mind’s dance with drugs and how it can bring enlightenment in ways you least expect.    I thoroughly enjoyed my trip… and I didn’t have to destroy any brain cells in the process!

 

Day 205 – For those of you who have never toured the Fringe circuit, I’d like to introduce you to the Fringe Family Phenomenon.  If you wish to truly turn your show into a tour, the Fringe Festivals in Canada are (for the most part) schedule so you can go across the country from June to September.  One version of it could include Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Victoria and Vancouver.  You’re on the road for 5 months and even though you’re moving from Fringe to Fringe, it’s like starting anew in each city.  What works for an Ontario audience might not read in the Prairies.  You can get 4 stars reviews in one place and 2 star reviews the next.  There’s all of the media calls, postering, flyering, publicising, re-rehearsing… it goes on and on.  But there’s one constant – Your Fringe Family.  Touring artists have a way of becoming really close.  They give you a shoulder to cry on when your van gets broken into in Winnipeg.  They buy you a drink when you forget your wallet at home.  They do brunch, go to movies, promo your show, come see your performance at your crappy timeslot.  These people become your sisters, your brothers, your collaborators and, in some cases, your lovers or best friends. 

I had the pleasure of touring from 2003-2006 in various capacities.  It was always with known companies which meant they had a built-in Fringe Family.  They wouldn’t see each other or even send an email for the other 7 months of the year, but once the tour started it’s like it had never ended. 

I was a bit nervous to come to Winnipeg because I felt that my Fringe Family was gone.  Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  I was looking forward to some alone time.  But I wasn’t looking forward to that “Hey super-cool person I had martinis with all of the time four summers ago, remember me? No?  Ok.  That’s cool.  … walk away crying” moment. 

As it turns out, I was worrying for nothing.  Every single person I saw from my past Fringe Family greeted me with open arms.  Some even carried on our conversation from where we left off.  Many assumed I had a show in the Festival and wanted to see it.  Others were just tickled at my surprise appearance.  Even at my favourite local haunt, the King’s Head’s bartender recognised me and threw his arms around me like I was his long lost daughter.  It was amazing to feel so connected to that again. 

The only problem with it all though is that the Fringe Family Phenomenon is a fantasy (and also a serious alliteration I’ve just realised).  It feels very real in the moment, but it’s not actually real.  If you’d move all of us into the same town, we might find each other terribly boring/obnoxious/exhausting/etcetcetc,  Very few Fringe friends truly translate into future project collaborators or year-long friends.  Very few Fringe romances look so idyllic when all is said and done.  The 9-5 grind comes back into the play.  The bills still have to be paid.  And everyone looks drabber in the fall and winter months without the summer flush and glow. 

But still, I got to feel it again… The Fringe Family Love.  So to all of my friends from Vancouver, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Toronto, Australia, England, Winnipeg and Seattle, thank you for taking such good care of me and making me feel like I was home.  I will miss you.

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3 thoughts on “Day 202-205 – My Vacation (Part 1)

  1. Natalie,

    Your analysis of the lack of collaboration among the Fringe Family is mostly true.

    But there are a few important exceptions:

    TJ Dawe typically has about 4 projects running on the circuit each year, only one of which is his own performance. He’s usually directing someone else (eg Keir Cutler).

    Jason MacDonald typically has his fingers in about 3 pies each year.

    Jonno also directs some other people each year (including Die Roten Punkte videos).

    Ken Brown and Jon Paterson collaborate on 2 or 3 productions each year.

    Jem Rolls encouraged Rob Gee to join the Fringe circuit, and Rob directed Jem’s show this year.

    TJ is having a script made into a movie.

    Keir has sold 5(?) shows to Bravo.

    Maybe collaboration will help break through the “cardboard ceiling”.

  2. Natalie,

    There’s one other aspect of the Fringe Family that deserves attention. I like the way veteran Fringe folks take newbee tourers under their wing. Rob Gee gave Nancy Kenny lots of good advice last year. The Rots chummed with Emily Pearlman and Nick DiGaetano. Jem Rolls guided Rob Gee his first year. Jon Alexander gave Ryan Paulson help his first year. I’m sure there are other examples.

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