One of the things that keeps performers slogging away at careers that sometimes feel like a curse, rather than a calling, is the idea that your big break, is just around the corner. That an important person will see your show, recognize your genius and further your career. Is that a myth or a reality? Ever since Lana Turner was discovered sitting on a stool at Schwab's drugstore, (which was a total fabrication by a studio publicity machine by the way), hopeful performers with stars in their eyes head to stages to give it their all, secretly believing that if they're good enough, they will be offered another gig. The next gig, that will lead to the next gig, and then instead of pushing their career up a hill, they'll be able to steer it down a hill.
Nice thought, but how much is wishful thinking and how much is self delusion?
There is no place on earth that harbors more hope than Edinburgh, at the beginning of the Fringe Festival. It's only after the shows open that reality sets in. The fierce competition for audience members, the reality of sharing a small theatre with 10 other companies on a daily basis, and the emotional weight of reviews. If the reviews are good, you can breathe a sigh of relief, but you still need to market your show because a good review does not guarantee a full house. Many nights I shivered in my bridal dress on the Royal Mile, handing out Macaroni on a Hotdog flyers with two five-star reviews pasted on them, because the Space at Surgeon's Hall box office had told me we had only sold two tickets for the following day. Bad reviews can wound your psyche and you flyer anyway, and cherry pick a complement in the review (to paste on), rather than put the three stars on your flyer, or two stars if the reviewer was in a particularly bad mood that day, and you just happen to remind him of his least favorite cousin.
I should mention the reviewers. Many of the reviewers are respected journalists who've been covering the Fringe for decades. Lucky you if one of those people review your show. With 3,500 shows debuting, there is no way that even a fraction of those shows can be reviewed without including temporary (hired for the Fringe only) writers. Lucky you if you get a reviewer who specializes in the type of show you're putting up. I have overheard many conversations with people wearing orange lanyards. (the orange lanyard signifies that they are members of the Press). Let's just say that some people's areas of expertise did not include theatre, dance, or puppetry, but they still were tasked to review those types of shows. I guess what I'm trying to say is, reviews are subjective. The good ones can make you feel validated as an artist, and the bad ones might point out something in your show you need to address or fix, but don't let your hopes and dreams hinge on reviews, because reviews are out of your control.
Why would I bring a show to Edinburgh? I'm asking you and I hope you'll tell me, because now that I'm home I sometimes wonder if it was worth it. It was crazy expensive (I'll be saving for another three years to be able to afford to go again), and no one in Minnesota cares whether I've gotten five-star reviews. In fact, most people in the Twin Cities don't even know what the Edinburgh Fringe is. People are pretty indifferent to the arts. You need to bring up abortion or sports to pique anyones interest here. Or pets. Pets are important.
Would I trade a minute of the 2015 Fringe Festival? Hell no. It was the best month of my life (so far). I took interesting classes, saw amazing theatre, met wonderful people, had some excellent libations, and had a whole month to focus on improving and tweaking Macaroni on a Hotdog. It was like taking my soul to a spa. There were ego massages, special food, guided workshops and occasionally time for reflection.
Opening day of Macaroni on a Hotdog, I met a very nice man named Michael Longhi. His performance of Wild Bill Sonnet of a Bardsterd followed mine, in Theatre 3 at theSpace at Surgeon's Hall. He had to cancel his first performance (opening day) because no one had shown up. No one.
I went the next day, so he'd have an audience, and there were 3 other people too. He gave a passionate, interesting performance. He portrayed William Shakespeare, as an artistic, egomaniacal, deity. Michael would transform into other characters, and his ability to recite Shakespearean quotes and instantly change dialects and personae was thrilling.
I knew my mom would appreciate the show, so the final day of the Fringe I took my mother to see Wild Bill, Son of a Bardsterd and we were not disappointed. The show had only gotten better and the nearly full house rose to it's feet for a standing ovation at the end. Michael Longhi made a brief speech and told us that someone had seen his show and the very next week he would be bringing his self-penned one man show to London. He was booked for 4 nights at a theatre in the West End, near the half-price ticket booth in Leicester Square.
He had worked very hard for his success, and I'm hoping he will be steering his career down the hill in the future. Cinderella (or Cinderfella) story? Not really, even after the slipper fits there's going to be a lot of work ahead. Cinderella ends up in the palace, but she's still responsible for a heckuva lot, because it's a big palace. That's as it should be. Eating bon bons and gazing out windows grows tiresome.