This year at the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival (hereafter referred to as The Fringe, Work, or The Insanity Vortex) there are thirty one venues. Thirteen venues (Venues 1 through 12 plus the Kids Venue), are outfitted and operated by the Insanity Vortex, and the rest are referred to as BYOVs (Bring your own venue).
Performers who “won” in the performer’s lottery are assigned to one of the 13 official venues. Each official venue has 10 groups, or companies assigned, except for the Kids Venue which has seven, for a total of 127.
If you didn’t “win” anything at the performers lottery, you can still participate by bringing your own venue. Basically you just need a space, and the Fringe will put your show in the program and assign ticket sellers and other basic services, but you are responsible for a sound and lighting system and any technicians that you need. Some groups get together and split the cost of a system and share the space, and other spaces, like the Kings Head pub and Johnny G’s restaurant and bar supply the system and use the groups to drum up business.
In the Insanity Vortex’s Venue Number Two, there are 10 groups. I am the technician for 5 and my partner is the technician for the other 5. Each group gets a three hour technical rehearsal to set the lighting and sound and then, in a perfect world, run the show so the technician can get a feel for the show and know when lighting changes happen and when to play the sound effect of the pregnant yak giving birth to a Bolivian rap singer.
If the group is smart, they will bring a stage manager who knows their show and can tell the technician to “go” on lighting or sound cues or the yak.
Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect world… and being smart and having a stage manager can cost a group money, so about 9 times out of ten, the first time a technician gets to see a full run of a show is with the first audience with no help.
If you like heart pounding terror, sweating profusely, and being so confused that you feel like a complete idiot, try running lights and sound in front of 120 people having never seen the show or know what is about. Try being a Fringe technician on opening week.
So far, I’ve had tech rehearsals for three of my shows, and I didn’t get to run any of them. All three will have that heart pounding terror on opening day… Which will be Thursday… I open all five of my shows on Thursday.
And inevitably one of the opening shows will be the show where instead of playing the sound effect of the pregnant yak giving birth to the Bolivian rap singer in the first scene, you had the unlabeled compact disc on the wrong track and played the exploding cantaloupe inside an out of tune calliope.
Later you will overhear your performer talking in the beer tent, telling a different performer how her show was ruined because the cantaloupe sound cue came way too early and now her show made no sense whatsoever. The world has come to an end because the press might have been there and the Yak cue was the centerpiece of the entire show.
The other performer replies “Oh my God! I have the same technician, and I open my show in a few hours! He better not screw up any of my 165 sound cues and 324 lighting cues that we never got a chance to run, because I would just die!”
I think I’ll need some blood pressure medicine.