Saturday, April 13, 2013

creating a/broad, April 13, 2013

I'm Here!
by Cameryn Moore

I’ve been living in Montreal a little over four months, but people are only now starting to realize that I’m here. Like, they think of course Cameryn lives here, but it took them a little bit of lag time to realize that my presence is seasonally inappropriate. I don’t really get out much, either, so there’s been a bit of lag-time, a big of conversational Doppleganger. I continue to have the just-moved-here conversations, which invariably start with “Whoa, when did you move here?” and inexorably lead to “Why did you move here?”

Now here we are smack in the middle of Exotic Other territory, I think. Or maybe it’s the Big City mindset. Not sure. All I know is, however much my conversational partner has travelled to the United States, however much time they’ve spent south of the border, they imagine, they think they know that Boston (my most recent stateside home) is a big city, with all the big-city amenities that they know from Montreal: metropolitan fashion, 24-hour poutine, and theatre so thick on the ground that you can’t swing a cat and hit some production somewhere.

Ahem. Not so.

“Hey, I’m looking for X and maybe Y”/ “We’ve got X and Y, you just have to come pick it/them up”

Not only not so, but in the case of the latter, SO NOT SO. Because Boston doesn’t have a Fringe festival, and that makes all the difference. 

It’s not yet Fringe season in Canada—hell, even as I type this they’re forecasting six inches of snow tomorrow for Montréal FOR FUCK’S SAKE IT’S APRIL—but Fringe season is coming, and I want y’all to really, really understand the good thing you’ve got going here, why it’s so important, and therefore why it’s at the core of determining where my creative soul wants to be. I am in Montréal because it is a Fringe town. That’s at the base of everything.

For artists, Fringe means solo artists and small companies get to meet, get to mash up all sweaty against each other in a highly concentrated environment and drink lots of beer. This is Fringe networking, and it inevitably results in Facebook friendings, hook-ups, prop sharing, planned and unplanned collaborations six months later, and all around a sort of underground information cloud for rehearsal spaces, possible venues, easy-going technicians, best places to print posters, which journalists are complete shit, and lots of “Hey, I’m looking for X and maybe Y”/ “We’ve got X and Y, you just have to come pick it/them up”. 

This happens so much more easily in Fringe towns than non-Fringe ones. You have no idea, if you’ve never been a performer in a non-Fringe town. It’s not that there’s not performer community in such places, but it has not been forged and torn apart and put back together and shaken up and polished, over and over, every year, in the rough-and-tumble, stake-it-all-on-12-days space of a Fringe. That is some powerful alchemy there, is my point.

And that alchemy fucking SPREADS, like glitter on a burlesque stage, like fire in a well-laid barbecue pit, like… uh, I was going to say like herpes somewhere, but I couldn’t think of anywhere nice. Anyway, this Fringe alchemy doesn’t stop with the city you’re in, because Fringe artists come from everywhere, so you are meeting people from all over the country and world, which means that same sense of sharing and collaboration and we are all in this together, that is something that you have access to on a global scale. That stuff didn’t really happen for me in Boston, not on that scale. Without a Fringe, the conditions just aren’t right.

For Fringe audiences, WELL. You get to have some of this, too. You get the product, which can be messy and loud and misdirected and honestly, sometimes, it stinks. This is the way alchemy always has been. Fringe is the fucking LABORATORY, and y’all at least get to stand outside and look through the window and watch the magic unfold or maybe explode and hit the other wall, but I assure you, whatever happens, you do not get it in a non-Fringe town. Not regularly, not in large quantities. It’s too risky for theatres and other producing entities.

And again, it’s not that there aren’t festivals in non-Fringe towns. A few theatres in Boston ran playwright festivals and 10-minute-play festivals and different themed festivals. But they were all curated, and so even if you didn’t know exactly what you were getting into when you sat in your seat, you could rest a little easier knowing that someone, at least, had vetted this thing, so you could have someone else to blame for a weird, uncomfortable, and/or shitty audience experience, rather than relying solely on your own curatorial judgment.

Cities with Fringes tend to have Fringe audiences, who understand the element of risk, who want to see what performance might look like raw, who are willing to take a chance on something new or from elsewhere or a non-traditional performance environment. Such theatregoers exist in non-Fringe cities, but they are much, much harder to find.

Do you understand me by now? This combination of free-range artists and adventurous audiences, it is special. I would say, it is unique to Fringe towns. Boston is not a Fringe town—very few places in the US are—whereas Montréal most definitely is. I can live with snow in April. Can’t live without the Fringe.

(Or 24-hour poutine.)

Release has one more show this evening

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