Montreal Fringe Festival Bound…

I leave tomorrow for the Montreal Fringe Festival, where I'll be doing 6 performances of "Jesus In Montana."

As a Fringe Festival, this will be very different from my recent Uno Festival experience, though in no way lesser. At Uno they flew me out, put me up, did all of the PR, scheduled interviews for me, printed my programs, etc…very cool. A Fringe Fest is full on guerrilla theatre – well, almost. They provide me with a venue, a tech, front of house services (ticket takers, ushers, whatnot) and advertise the existence of the festival. I do all the rest – hanging posters, handing out flyers (I have 2000 of them), and generally drumming up interest for my show, which is one of about 90 happening at the 10-day festival.

So, as the days approach, everything is falling into place – my posters and flyers arrived on time from the printer (phew), I feel good about my show, having just done it in Victoria, the Fest arranged for a place for me to stay in Montreal (crashing on someone's couch – cool), and so on.

Except for one thing – a screen.

My show is multi-media, meaning I have a PowerPoint-like slide/video show (actually it's on Keynote, but let's not get bogged down in such Mac geek details) which I project, via my own video projector, onto a screen.

The only thing is, I don't own a screen. I've always been able to borrow or rent one up to this point, so have never needed to buy my own. The days are counting down to Montreal, and I recently found out that the venue has two screens available. This is great news, except that one is too big, as I only have 15 minutes to set my whole show up by myself, and this screen alone would take me 20, and the other is too small – half of my show happens on screen, so it won't work for it to be the size of a postage stamp.

If Goldilocks had wandered into an Audio/Visual rental house instead of the strolling bear's place, well, then I would be her. Or she would be me. I don't want to take that analogy too much farther…

I emailed the Fringe tech director, again, and asked if he could direct me to a local A/V rental place that might offer a Fringe artist discount. This was my third such request, but let's face it, there are 90 other acts emailing them about stuff, so I suspect they are busy.

He replied: "I've got two words for you – Bed Sheet." He then went on to direct me to a place that rents stuff.

My immediate thought was, hey, I've got two words, too: "Fuck You!"

This was a knee-jerk reaction. I used to be an A/V Guy, and I've worked really hard on this slide show, so there's no fucking way I'm going to show it on a bed sheet. What am I, in third grade?

Then, after a very short time, like 30 seconds, I though, "You know…a bed sheet could really work. Hmmm…"

And as the minutes went by I grew to love the idea. I even know how I could make it work – with some dowels and duct tape and the existing "too small" screen. Brilliant. And so very "Fringe." Soon I had fully embraced the idea, and that was that – final piece of the puzzle solved. Now I can relax.

This bed sheet solution happened on a Thursday. On Saturday my wife called me from the local Thrift Shop where she volunteers.

"There's a screen here by the dumpster. Do you want it?"

Sure, why not. Bring it home and I'll take a look.

Well, friends, this was not just a screen, it was a BRAND NEW screen, still in the box. And it was the PERFECT size for traveling with and for the intimate venue I'll be in at Montreal.

Look at this:



I mean, come on! This screen, though obviously a few years old, had, as far as I could tell, never even been set up before! And someone was going to throw it away!



So, this bodes well for my overall experience in Montreal, don't you think? Sheesh…


One response to “Montreal Fringe Festival Bound…

  1. One of the problems with the Montreal Fringe is that it’s not “open
    source”. It took five years from the time I first explicitly said
    that the company websites should be at the Fringe site early to the
    time when it actually happened, and I was doing things like deep
    searches to find who was coming and telling the Fringe, even
    telling the artists they should demand it.

    Besides any potential advance publicity, it being a small
    festival on the cheap it’s easier to get things out earlier
    than wait for a Big Launch, the troupes suffer from not
    interacting with the locals ahead of time.

    For instance, I was at a Rotary Club “garage sale” yesterday,
    and that would have been a place to check for cheap screens.
    For some reason, there were half a dozen film projectors
    up for grabs this year. But since the community at large
    isn’t interacting, I had no idea that you needed a screen
    (or know what the other troupes might need), and you’re
    forced to ask the Fringe staff, who obviously are busy.

    I’ve long said that the thing to do is for the troupes
    to offer up their poster on their website, so anyone
    interested could print it up and put some up. As it
    is, the area around the Beer Tent will be saturated
    with posters, but even a few blocks away, nothing. A
    tv ad for the Festival at 2am in the morning isn’t
    likely to be effective, though having them makes
    the Fringe look big. But if you aren’t reaching
    an audience, then however good the show is, there’s
    no audience. And by the time the troupes arrive in
    town, there is little time to get those posters up
    in the laundrymats and the ice cream parlors and
    the other places where a whole bunch of people could
    put up a few.

    A decade ago, few were online, but we were in one
    place. We could see the Acme Flea Circus press release,
    because it was posted along talk of the Festival and
    reviews of shows that had been seen. Now, everyone
    has internet access, but even if they have webpages,
    they aren’t talking with each other, and they
    aren’t talking with the potential audience. A blog
    is a fine solution to rapid update, allowing for
    announcing reviews and even offering ticket giveaways
    if the audience isn’t happening (getting that audience
    in early is important, because then talk can take over
    if the show is interesting) and whatever, but too often
    it’s not reaching the new audience but some segment
    of the population that’s already following you.

    One of the things about the Fringe is the closeness between
    the performers and the audience, if you aren’t out working
    the crowd then you likely won’t have an audience, yet that
    hasn’t really been transferred to the internet, though it
    could have a long time ago.

    Don’t forget, the troupes line up to poster the Beer Tent.
    If you aren’t there when it’s first possible, then there
    may be no space left. And I gather the Beer Tent isn’t
    going up till Friday, a day later than usual.


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