Letter from the Fringe, 2019: Up and Running!
Updated: Aug 25, 2019
Having experienced them for the first time this week, I can now say I’m a big fan of the “Preview” show. In the musical world there’s the “dress rehearsal,” but that is usually a private event and may still involve a stop to fix something that goes awry (especially at the Theatre of Music, where there are so many moving parts). But here at the Fringe there are also a couple of “Previews.” Think of a “soft opening” for a restaurant: open to the public, but still shaking out a few wrinkles.
Our previews were not especially wrinkle-ridden, but I was glad for them nonetheless: they helped us ease into the idea that we were playing at the most prominent venue of the world’s largest arts festival, presented by one of the Fringe’s most respected companies, Civil Disobedience.
Am I talking about nerves? Well, not really. Everyone in the group is a seasoned performer, a consummate professional. Even I, taking on a speaking role which is outside my own history as a composer and singer, didn’t feel especially nervous as the clock approached “Places!” Nerves are about being distracted, and I think we were all very much focused.
But adrenaline? That’s another story. I don’t know about any of my colleagues, but for my part, the slips I made during those two previews were entirely fueled by adrenaline, and the odd short-circuiting effect it can have on one’s brain. You know your material cold, yet somehow, in a split second, your tongue gets tied up and all your mental screens go blank.
This all sounds more dramatic than I suspect it appeared to the audience who, of course, doesn’t know what is supposed to happen. It’s something I’ve learned from being a composer: when the performer plays a wrong note, or the ensemble gets out of sync, nobody in the audience knows it was wrong. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been disappointed by a performance of my work and members of the audience will come up to me afterwards in tears because they were touched so deeply. Knowing this has always been a great comfort to me!
There’s the other thing, too, of course: experience and professionalism means you know how to cover your slips, to keep going, to not let them throw you completely off your game: the athlete who missteps keeps going.
And so once it came time to open yesterday, I think we all felt that we were ready. All of the hard work with the tech, having two previews to get our feet wet…now we were ready to throw down.
So we did.
Here are a few pictures from our tech & opening shows:
That afternoon the skies cleared off and we had the first truly nice weather since arriving in Scotland. In fact, it was perfection. So of course we had to have a celebratory drink at the Assembly George Square Gardens, a lovely sort of combo biergarten, park, food court, and collection of performing spaces. Here’s a pic with part of the crew:
Word is beginning to spread, too. Thursday afternoon we appeared at the Scottish Arts Club, which as far as I can tell is a club of Edinburgh arts-lovers who are all seasoned Fringe patrons. The club itself is an old house in a tony part of town – with a full bar upstairs, of course. There were tea sandwiches and glasses of wine (or gin), and the whole thing was very British and very much in the great tradition of salons. It was cool to see that such establishments still exist (in Europe, anyway). We only had a 15-minute slot, so it was a challenge to share just the right bits of the show to give folks enough sense of what it was like to want to come check it out.
Some of the folks in the audience had already heard about us, and one had even been to the first preview show. It was she who paid me the best compliment: “We’ve been coming to the Fringe for 20 years, and there’s only one measure in our house that matters: Will this be a show we remember, or one we forget? And I can already say that this is a show we will never forget.” And in a city where there are folks shoving flyers for their show in your face everywhere you go, there were folks asking for a flyer – so many that we ran out.
Here are a few pics from the Scottish Arts Club:
Then this morning we did an even quicker set – 10 minutes! – at the Best of the Fringe, an exclusive sort of showcase for top acts. Another one of those “How did we get into this?!?” moments for us! It was quite the hectic schedule, too, since we kicked off Best of the Fringe at 1:05 and had to be back at our venue to set up at 1:20…for a 2:05 curtain. But we did it (thanks to all the practice we’ve put in for our set-up routine)! Here we are at Best of the Fringe, first as we did a sound-check and got "wired up," then as we performed to a packed circus tent in Assembly’s St. George Square Gardens. Apologies for the light: those LED spotlights were shining right at us!
Next up: some reviews! There was at least one critic at our opening (and several others who were looking the part, if their note-taking is any indication), so now we just have to wait for them to be released. Meanwhile, more poster sightings!