Something that the general public probably doesn’t know about the Fringe festival is the amount of work that goes into putting it up. From the time that the 2011 Fringe closed, the staff at MTC was working on the 2012 Fringe, after all, the performer’s lottery is only 3 months away at that point.
After the performer’s lottery, there is a collection of information that has to happen pertaining to their show’s description, graphics, and technical information. This information is collected VERY early in the process because the staff needs to schedule over a thousand performances over twelve days in thirty one different venues. They also have to compile the 92 page program with the descriptions and graphics of over 170 different companies, plus advertising and layout and graphics and other info.
They also have to figure out the technical requirements of each group and assign a venue that can accommodate them… an insanely difficult task.
From the Fringe staff’s point of view, they can’t get this information fast enough, in fact if any of you know what your show is for the 2013 Fringe or beyond, give them a ring, I’m sure they would appreciate it.
The problem with this early collection of information, is that many groups have NO IDEA about what their show is going to be about, let alone if they are bringing a projector screen, confetti canon, or an articulating climbable video wall like the one Cirque du Soleil has in Vegas. Their Uncle Jimmy saw that show and is pretty sure he can build one in his garage over a weekend and a case of Schlitz.
Most groups are really good about their information, and are well prepared, but sometimes, technical questionnaires come back to the Fringe looking something like this:
What is the name of your group?: The Winnipeg Fringe Playerz
What is the name of your show?: The Bestest Show Ewe Will Ever See
Give a brief description of what your show is about: I think it will be about vampires, with a section about menstrual cramps, and involve the colour green.
How many people are in your company?: Well, I work for McDonalds, so there’s a lot of them.
How many lighting cues do you have?: Yes
Do you have any special sound requirements?: OK
Do you have a video projector?: Oh! That’s a good idea, then I don’t have to act!
Do you need a sprung floor?: No, it can be any brand.
What items are you bringing for your set and props? : My grandmother’s living-room set, a bowling ball, a super-soaker full of pigs blood, a life sized nude sculpture of Don Cherry, and a live hamster.
Who is your technical contact: My dad
Where can your technical contact be reached?: His place
Of course I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea.
So when I look at our technical riders before our rehearsals, I usually take them with a grain of salt.
This afternoon’s group, the first for venue two, had an organized, but fairly complex rider that included video, gunshots, and musical instruments. So we were proactive and assembled the necessary cables, musical gear, and even hung a projector perch for them.
We went down to the loading dock at the appointed time to meet the group. This is typically an anxious time, when the loading dock door opens and we pray to the Fringe gods “Please don’t let there be any screaming mimes”.
…but instead we were greeted with…. nothing.
Ok, no big deal… so they are a little late, we’d better radio this in just in case they are lost.
When one of the Site Technicians came by thirty minutes later to talk to us, we knew that it wasn’t going to be good news…
Seems that the version of the show that appeared in the tech rider and program was abandoned several weeks ago, and now the show is an improvisational extravaganza… with no video, musical instruments, or gunshots.
Now I don’t have a problem with a group changing their concept before they open the show, or a last minute change due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, but I do have a problem when communication breaks down, and this is a classic example. The group is at fault for not informing anyone that they had changed concepts, the Fringe is at fault for gathering information so early that artistic juices haven’t had a chance to flow, I’m at fault for assuming that a tech rider filled out 3 months ago is accurate, and Stephen Harper is at fault because… well, I’m not sure how, but I bet he had something to do with it.
So in a few days when you read your program, and decide to see the show that is described as “A slightly surreal, absurdly real and brilliantly genre-defying glimpse into the mind of a neurotic and genius rock star”, don’t be surprised when the guy on the stage, instead, asks you to provde a time of day, a place in England, and an interesting use for mustard.