Saturday, June 22, 2013

creating a/broad, June 22, 2013

Survival Guide to the Fringe
by Cameryn Moore

I’ve waxed lyrical about the emotional feeling of home, my need for relationships and interconnectedness out here on the road, my burning desire to seek out peers who are also wrestling with the tough issues of life and art and the intersection thereof. I’ve written about all that stuff at length, and I will do so again. Those things are no less important for being intangible.

But today I want to get physical. 

Rather, I don’t want to get physical, but I have to. It is the beginning of a new Fringe for me, here in Ottawa, and I am morbidly surprised to remember how very physical this business can be. My body aches from the weird buoyancy of a low-slung air mattress, and the bottoms of my feet hurt because I need to get some Dr. Scholl’s inserts for my trademark cowboy boots, and my eyes sting because I forgot to close the blinds in the east-facing room I’m billeting in and I didn’t get quite enough sleep, and my stomach is starting to get a little whiny about breakfast, because eating dinner at midnight after coming home from the beer tent means I’m not hungry upon waking, but three hours later I’m getting there.

this shit, if you’re doing it right, is actual physical work

It is this part of Fringing that I forget from year to year. I think audiences aren’t really thinking about it, either. They see us out there, drinking beer and being sunny and cheerful while chatting up the lines and wearing cool costumes, and yes, from the outside it looks like a non-stop parade of fun. But this shit, if you’re doing it right, is actual physical work, and we artists are never quite able to catch up, in spite of our best efforts and intentions.

Take the whole food/drink thing. I know some Fringers who are very good about packing the power bars and the apples; I personally take pride in how much water I go through in any given day (a couple of litres, at least), and this year I’m ready with my Folger’s and my drip filter to make and drink enough coffee at home in the morning to get through the rest of the day. But it’s tough to pack a lunch in the morning and carry it around all day, and even if you plan ahead and get groceries upon your arrival, at some point you will run out of apples or half-and-half or bread, and good luck getting to a grocery store in the middle of a Fringe.

That’s when we go to beer and expensive chain coffee and whatever quick, fast food-truck items are headlining at the beer tent, and goodbye food budget. I don’t even want to talk about dinner. That happens after I get back from Fringe, if it happens at all. Last night I baked up an entire nine-piece package of chicken thighs and two sweet potatoes—I have two more in the grocery bag—and that’ll last me for a few days, but no more, and then cheap delivery pizza will start to sound really good.

That’s what sleep deprivation will do to you.

At two in the morning lots of things sound good. That’s what sleep deprivation will do to you. Thank god that most Canadian Fringe festivals AREN’T like Montreal, where the after-hours party starts at 1am, every fucking night. Thank god that most Fringe festivals have a few breather days in between, so that yes, you can arrive at the next Fringe and put up your posters, but you will actually have a couple of days when you can just sleep. And I bitch about having to be on call while I tour, but THANK GOD FOR THAT, because since there aren’t usually many calls coming in between 10am and 3pm Eastern time, that means that, if I really have to, I can close my eyes for a bit with the phone by my head. It is externally enforced nap time. We need it, every now and then. 

You know what else we need? Foot rubs. I’m seriously thinking about putting up a foot rub exchange spot at the beer tent; get me some sanitary wipes and decent foot lotion and hang up my shingle, because these dogs are barking. Hell, they are making enough noise to keep the neighbours awake. I have to acknowledge that my weight plays some part in it—all the Dr. Scholls’ padding in the world will not protect the bottoms of my feet from the pressure of 290 pounds against the earth—but I know that other artists feel it, too. The cement sidewalks are high-impact, and gravel paths are treacherous and poke uncomfortably up against the balls of the feet, unless you’re wearing Doc Martens, in which case, ew, sweaty feet! And we are walking all the time, to and from performances, around to venues to flyer lines, to and from billets, in some cases. This week I’m going to try walking from my billet at least two or three times—that’s slightly over a mile walk--just to get trained up for the walking of Edinburgh Fringe.

All of this adds up, see? Even if you’re doing a monologue show where you’re sitting in a chair for the entire 60 minutes, the rest of Fringing ends up being very, very physical.

So we take steps, we do what we can, and try to anticipate what we might need. Tomorrow, for example, that is, the day that this piece appears online, is a Very Very Challenging Day for me. Owing to the vagaries of getting into the Ottawa Fringe at the last minute, after getting a double-header gig four months ago for tomorrow night, I am close to being double booked: Fringe show at 5, non-Fringe shows in another location at 7:30 and 9, followed by a non-Fringe Q and A. That is three shows in two locations between 5pm and 10, not counting the hurried tech rehearsal in between. However my shows go, I know for a fact that my feet will hurt, and my head will hurt, and I will be hungry. 

But I have already secured someone to rub my feet, and I’ll be asking around for company at the beer tent at night. That’s something, right?
Cameryn Moore's slut (r)evolution is at the Ottawa Fringe

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