Day 11 – Herding Cats.

We’ve just passed the halfway mark of the festival and everything at Venue 2 has settled in to operating like a well oiled machine… well, a machine anyway… sometimes the oil catches on fire. Let’s just say that the venue is like a machine and sometimes we have to put out fires.

By the halfway mark, groups have settled into a routine with their setups, shows, and tear-downs. All the groups (in the core venues) have fifteen minutes to set up, fifteen minutes to let their audience in, do their show within their allotted time, and then fifteen minutes to teardown (or strike) their set, get out of costume, and clear the venue. That pattern repeats itself seven times, everyday, for ten days of the festival. On the opening Wednesday there were only three shows because we start at 6pm, and on the final Sunday we have five shows to give us a head start on tearing down the venue (some venues do their entire strike on the final Sunday). This year, Venue 2 is tied with Venue 4, Venue 8, and Venue 9, for the most performances in a venue at 78 which means we do the fifteen minute thing 78 times in 12 days.

I’m happy to say, that this year, most of our groups are well organised and proactive about keeping to their schedules right from their first performances. Most times, if they do get off schedule after the first performance, it only takes a gentle nudging or an examination of their processes, to get the schedule back on track.

Large groups that have never done a Fringe before can get a little chaotic, but they usually understand what’s happening after their first performances and by mid festival it’s all running smoothed like a machine not on fire…

But sometimes…. on very rare occasions… it can be like herding cats…

Me: “Hi everybody, you can go on in now and start setting up”

10 performers all at once: “Thanks JBJ how are you today how are the shows doing in here can I park my car in front of the venue I don’t know where my purse is oh there it is has anybody seen my teeth which colour is our spike marks I need to iron my costume do you have an iron in the venue how come we only have fifteen minutes today when we had more time to setup during our tech rehearsal the stage manager is sick today so he won’t be coming in for this performance is that going to be a problem?”

Me: “Good, good, no, over there, in your mouth, yellow, no, because the technical rehearsal was the first time, and yes that is going to be a big problem. Ten minutes until house.”

10 performers all at once: “Ten minutes OH MY GOD I’m not going to be ready can my 2 year old granddaughter stay in the dressing room while the play is running I gave her an ice cream cone is it ok to use this table from this other groups set nope my teeth are not in my mouth I must have dropped them at the beer tent I’ll be right back.”

Radio: “Venue 2 team leader to Venue 2 tech”

Me into radio: “Go for Venue 2 tech”

Radio: “We have a group of 22 seniors here to see the show that will need to use the elevator in the MTC lobby, but they are going over to the outdoor site first to get something to eat. They’ll be back in about half an hour.”

Me into radio: “The doors will be closed and the show will have started before then.”

Radio: “I told them that, but they don’t seem to understand.”

Me into radio: “I’ll be right down.”

Me to performers: “Five minutes to house.”

10 performers at once: “Where are you going oh my god five minutes I’ll never be ready my mother in law is in that group of seniors can you tell her to bring me back some mini donuts I just broke the set do you have some scotch tape the stage manager just texted me and realised that he brought his script home with him after the last show how will you do our 80 lighting cues without it can we use this llama from the dutch group to sit on while we wait for our entrances?”

Me: “No to all of that, and you’re doing your show in a full wash unless the stage manager shows up in five minutes.”

Performers: “Hiss… Meow.”

It can be chaos, and it’s rare when it gets that bad. But when it does, all you need is some patience, a little yarn, and a laser pointer, and the felines will follow the schedule.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find an iron, some scotch tape, and some chairs for my next show… and maybe a cattle prod…

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About JBJ

John lives in an abandoned toolshed behind a fake rubber vomit warehouse in Winnipeg Manitoba Canada with a squirrel named Peanut Hoarder, where he steals an internet signal from the Kung Fu school next door. He is a little "off". View all posts by JBJ

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