We’re entering the home stretch with 5 days of fringing left. The Patron Pick shows will be announced and scheduled later tonight, and load out plans are being laid down for the venues. Performers that are moving on are starting to deal with travel confirmations and technical requirements in Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver.
They are also assessing their performances and productions. Did the people like it? Was it critically acclaimed? How many people saw it? Did we make any money? Did we sell out any performances? How many stars did we get?
Is this a successful run?
The professional performers on the Fringe circuit, those who make a living on their shows, surely measure their success in dollars, bums in seats, and stars. A half sold three star show for them, can mean just making their rent and eating No Name brand Raman noodles for the next month.
Their idea of success has to be different in order to survive.
But on the other side of the beer tent wristband are the amateur productions that try their hand at performing just for the experience.
I remember a couple from Minnesota that we had in our venue many years ago. They had made the trip up to Winnipeg, for several years, as patrons and took their time off from work just to participate in this little theatre festival of ours, here in the Great White North. One year, they decided to enter the lottery and try their hand at participating as performers.
Their show was unpolished, was hard to follow at times, and the performances were weak, mostly due to lack of training. The critics gave them single star reviews and I don’t think they ever got over 10 people in their audiences.
A great many of people, performers or not, would consider that a mammoth failure of epic proportions and would leave the performing arts with their tail between their legs and return to their normal life being content to never set foot in a performance space ever again.
But that couple’s demeanour never changed, they were constantly happy just to be a part of the festival. They felt that the reviews and the low house counts were disappointing, but they were over the moon to be in a Fringe in Winnipeg. For them, it was like the olympian who comes in last place, but records a personal best. They tried their hardest, improved, and finished the race… and they can say “I am an olympian! I did it!”.
“We were in the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, and at least 50 people saw our show! Our names were in the paper and on TV, and we got to sit with other performers who we have watched for years, and call them colleagues. We were performers. We did it.”
For them, participation was their mark of success.
I think we all measure it differently, and in all aspects of our lives, but sometimes it makes me a little sad that we have to measure it at all.
So as we enter the closing weekend and some shows struggle with their houses because of a poor review, I would say that we all have to consider what we view as successful. The sky is the limit, and it’s ok to have your head in the clouds; go see that show that had a negative review and maybe measure that production’s worth merely by it’s participation.
And remember that the sky is enormous and has a lot more to offer than just a handful of stars.