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I’m still learning to fringe, and that’s okay

This is me before the storm of Winnipeg hit.

This is me before the storm of Winnipeg hit. (photos by Heather Witherden)

I’m in the middle of my first Canadian Fringe tour in years. I pulled through the Valley of Despair (Winnipeg), and finally broke through the fog with a glowing review and decent houses here in Calgary, and now I’m peering forward at the rest of the summer, at Edmonton, Victoria, and Vancouver, and I’m thinking,…

“God, I miss Edinburgh Fringe.”

What.

I mean, I do and I don’t. Most people who go there experience that same push/pull feeling about it. It’s a disgusting outlay of money for nearly everyone, and as far as soul-crushing performance experiences go, it is PEAK, I tell you. And at the same time there’s a family feeling that emerges—at your venue, on the street, at bars and cafes where everyone goes to let the steam off at the end of the day—that is priceless and everywhere. We get that out here in Canada a little bit, but I think the extreme pressure in Edinburgh makes it inevitable and intense. I miss that.

It doesn’t help that a vocal minority of my friend list on Facebook is currently there and posting madly about it. I know that the posting ramps down considerably after the initial shock and flurry of opening week, but for right now, my feed is flooded with pleas to fill a house where a reviewer will be and requests for yoga studios and healthy salads in the Grassmarket. Hah! Good intentions, captured forever on the internet.

Basically, I’m living Fringe and listening to it at the same time. It’s the Fringe total immersive experience. Stereo surround sound, Technicolor livestream… It’s pretty trippy up in my head right now. Trippy, but good.

Because even while I’m doing the hustle ‘n’ grind heading west in Canada, I’m feeling echoes of this work in the UK that informs my responses here. I have learned some things, y’all. I learned quite a few things, and am still learning things here that I will be able to take with me over to Edinburgh. It’s a sort of feedback loop of self-awareness and perspective, and holy shit, no matter where you are fringing, self-awareness and perspective are ESSENTIAL. I am LEARNING, let me tell you.

  • I am learning how to keep my inner sense of human and creative worth alive on nothing but air and coffee and regular breakfasts.
  • I am discovering strength in the vulnerability of asking fellow artists for emotional support.
  • I am finding, yet again, that it really is okay to cry out here; you just gotta put a time limit on it.
  • I am testing the hypothesis, and finding it solid, that I should follow my own advice to patrons, about trying something new.
  • I am recognizing that very few performers are impervious to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. On the one hand, that means I will probably never find proper security in pursuit of my performance career; on the other, well, we’re all in this together (even if some of us are more in it that others).
  • I am seeing extraordinary value in lowered expectations for audience size (thank you, Edinburgh).
  • I am studying how to pace my promotional efforts carefully, and find the right ones for the environment that I’m in.

I am especially learning that I have a long way to go before I reach any kind of intrinsic calm out here on the Fringe, whatever fringe. Maybe I’ll never get there. But the more I do it, the more I realize I’ve done it, and still doing it. Still standing, still flyering, still pulling my show out of my heart every night. There is a sort of serenity in knowing that I'm still here.

So yeah, I miss Edinburgh Fringe. But I’ll be there next year, and when I am, I’ll have everything from this summer stored up in my emotional/psychological tool kit. It’s a slog, both here and in the UK, but it’s not wasted energy. Oh man, I am learning so much.

*****

Keepin' up with the hustle, and you can help, by becoming a patron of mine on Patreon!

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