I get asked that question a lot. Why in the hell would you put yourself through the long, sweaty, dirty, stinky, hours that are involved with being a Fringe venue technician. Very long, sweaty, dirty, stinky… wait, did I say that already? I don’t know, I’m just so tired.
I remember in the old days, back when fire was invented, and I was a much younger person, I used to go to Theatre Calgary with my mother in the old QR centre in Calgary’s downtown core.
In the 70’s, the Fringe didn’t exist yet, so the only theatre I saw was the professional productions my Mom took me to. It’s probably a good thing too, because I would have entered the Fringe with my one man Brady Bunch show… the one where Jan gets braces.
I was mesmerized by the theatre when I was younger. I would see some productions three or four times, wide eyed with wonder at the live performances. I knew very early that I wanted to be involved. I went to university to get a theatre degree, and in the summer of my first year I worked my first Fringe festival in Edmonton with a ghetto blaster that ate tapes and a couple of lamps on stands set up in a parking lot. It was awesome, because it was new, and I had an endless amount of energy when I was twenty.
I became Head of Sound at Alberta Theatre Projects in 1992, twenty years ago, and have been Head of Sound at a professional theatre ever since. I’ve been involved in some amazing productions over those years and don’t regret the time spent.
But this profession can wear on you. I do over three hundred performances every year here in Winnipeg, and I did more than that in some years in Calgary. That’s over six thousand performances in twenty years.
I started to get sick of professional theatre, and I tend to be jaded and cynical through the season, especially the last few years.
I end up hating the thing that I once loved.
I really like bananas… but if I ate six thousand of them… I think I’d barf.
But the Fringe festival tends to reverse some of those feelings, mostly from the young amateur groups. During one of my shows today, a seasoned veteran was performing her one woman show. I looked in the audience while I was running it and spotted a young woman who is in a different show. It’s her first Fringe, and I see her everywhere taking in the festival experience with gusto. Her eyes are glued to the stage. You can see her making mental notes, what she likes and what she doesn’t, but she is transfixed by the show and she’s taking everything in like a sponge.
It brings me back to my beginnings, of why I got into this horribly taxing profession in the first place. The wonder of it all.
There is usually at least one young thespian every year that is like that, and when I watch them, it refuels my batteries in preparation for the onslaught of theatrical action that takes place over the regular MTC season.
That’s why I do it. That’s why I keep coming back, because I need to be refueled by the enthusiasm of the young, before I spend another season as a booth monkey for MTC, pushing buttons while they feed me bananas.
So as these last performances take place, I’d like to thank the young performers who show us their souls on the stage.
For them, this is the last day. Farewell, and remember what you learned.