RUSH’IN UNDIES Productions Presents
SHOTGUN: The cramped, comic, and cathartic culture of four commuters. Spending two hours a day with work colleagues in a vehicle can take its toll. Four private school teachers commute everyday to their school in the Lower Mainland. The cozy quarters of the carpool force them to unwillingly reveal deep, personal and private information that their close friends and family members may not even know about them. Is the small amount of money they save on gas worth dramas they endure on a daily basis?
- A 45-minute comedy for the Vancouver Fringe Festival seeks a male actor (late 20’s-late 30’s)
- The play is based on the experiences of four teachers in a carpool.
- Performance Location/dates: Pacific Theatre (Sept. 11–20th, 2009)
- Rehearsal dates: July/August, evenings & some weekends (specific schedule TBD by cast)
Jody Parasiers & Kari Marken (Russian Undies Theatre Co.)
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible to arrange a one-on-one audition.
And so, with the announcement of the 2008 Pick of the Fringe, the curtains fall on yet another Fringe season, and the overarching humor in the air seems to indicate a general feeling of success amongst its perpetrators. Just how successful was it? How do we measure the success of this festival in today’s theatrical climate? This, of course, depends entirely on what you consider the purpose of the Fringe to be, and what you hope to get out of it.
According to the party line, most Fringe artists are innovators who want to throw some new stuff against a black box wall to see if it sticks. This is the value most commonly touted by its defendants as the core ideology behind the invention of the thing when someone dares to criticize performance quality at the Fest. While this is certainly true for some of the artists that got served first because they came first, there is no large body of evidence to support the thesis that much of the fare on offer is edge-cutting, out-on-a-limb theatre being taken out for a low-risk test drive. Pity.
Most of what is on offer these days is a) solid, tried-and-true material that is proven to be road worthy – and indeed is out there on the road making a tidy living for its Fringe-pro neo-minstrels. Or b) small-cast shows that have some material they want to do but are without time, money or an administrative team to handle the workload involved in mounting their piece outside of the finance-friendly production machine that is the Fringe organization. Which is great, it really is, it makes for an interesting enough menu to choose from, but how does this affect our indie theatre scene the rest of the year? Does the Fringe, with its soft cushion of low fiscal risk, actually hurt the city’s theatre scene in the broad view?
Short answer, of course, is no. That’s ridiculous. Any vehicle that raises theatre in the public consciousness and celebrates the form is a positive force on the industry as a whole. But how much potential from that annual high-profile are we squandering? How can we be better using the Fringe as a springboard to bounce the medium deeper into the collective consciousness of a city that just doesn’t think about us that much, if at all?
Like it or not, there is a large percentage of the Fringe audience (not counting the artists supporting each other in said audience, who make up a mighty big percentage themselves) that only see live theatre during Fringe time. They are secretaries and baristas and accountants who love to be part of the buzzy ‘scene’ of the thing, then brush their hands together, say ‘that’s that’ and put theatre out of their mind for the rest of the year. (It’s easy to do, indie theatre hasn’t exactly perfected ‘in-yer-face’ marketing yet.) This condition is directly proportional to our du Maurier Jazz festival here in Vancouver, can’t get tickets to the big shows, gotta stand in line for most of the rest, but when that circus ships out, how many rooms here sustain year-round live Jazz? Two? Three if you count that one Robson hotel lounge on the weekends? Those Fringers are our target audience, and they just need to be finessed, coaxed back out into a black box every other month or so, with an uninitiated frind in tow. Did we talk to them? Or more importantly, listen to them? Did we get some contact info from them to keep in touch? Give them something to remember us by? Did we make them feel like they were part of something, as opposed to making them feel like they were watching some people who are a part of something?
Now, if you’re entered into the Fringe as an exercise, as something to do to feel artisty between Battlestar auditions, then none of this applies to you. Likewise if you’re a performer who has chosen to parlay the Fringe experience into a steady touring income. (Both of these, I would like to note, are fine objectives, and I do not deride you for them nor ask you to reconsider.) But if you’re a theatre artist with any aspirations towards developing a self-sustaining and local industry around your craft, I ask you this: are you taking full advantage of the little bit of hip that the Fringe Festival generates in town every year? And this is directed at the indie companies that have moved beyond the need to Fringe their work as well. Should the Fringe simply exist to give a leg up to a few artists who managed to make the cut that year? Or can we, with a little bit more effort, transform it into an Expo for selling ourselves as the must-have accessory to the urban lifestyle?
I think we can. We will, however, have to do it as a community. And we’ll have to make a little more noise.
As we roll into the last weekend of the Van Fringe, I’m proud to say that the Plank review team managed to tuck 60 reviews under our belts, which is actually way better than I’d hoped for. Congratulations gang, you done good, reviewed from the gut, and did it all for the sheer love of theatre. I’m proud of all of you.
I’m also proud of the legion of Vancouverites that have raided the public reviews section of the site, the response to that little experiment was way beyond my wildest expectations. You’ve done it now Van City, you’ve exposed yourself as a scrappy little opinionated theatre town. Don’t even think about pretending that you don’t care about your theatre after all that. Some of you even aroused the ire of mild-mannered plank editor Andrew Templeton, not an easy task, believe me.
Keep ’em coming everyone. And if you have some opinions on shows that you’ve seen so far, please add your voice to the chorus. And don’t just stop at “this show blew” or “this show rocks!”, tell us why you thought it blew or rocked. I’ve still got a weekend of Fringing left, and I could use your help…
I have a Fringe question. I’ve just spent the weekend rolling around Granville Island – the epicentre of our Fringe – and I’m struck by the distinct absence of any kind of carnival atmosphere down there, of any indication of ‘fest’ from this festival. Yes, there’s a few performers doing the traditional line-up flyer-and-pitch, some costumed volunteers selling lil’ chocolates to raise money for, well, themselves (do not get me wrong, I think this is a great idea. I put in enough cash to get me 4 lil’ chocolates), and there’s the neatly organized designated poster areas, but I can’t help thinking that if I happened to be on the Island unawares of the occasion that there’s really nothing for me to get swept up in, as it were. No fanfare or weirdness or, heaven forbid, anyone acting out.
I realize that the Fringe organization itself is hamstrung by the rules of good behaviour imposed by its Granville Island hosts, and that they can’t organize or sanction any illicit craziness outside of the specific venues. What I’m curious about is the lack of perfomative presence from the performers themselves. What’s stopping them from turning their two-week performing arts neighbourhood into a big ol’ marketing bazarre? What about making a scene? I mean literally, like, thrusting their wares onto the laps of the unsuspecting and uninitiated public. Are we as an art form really that polite? Are we too into our own thing to come together as a loud, proud community? Is the Fringe really just an opportunity to rent some cheap theatre space and show up six times for an hour and a half?
Do other Canadian Fringes feel more celebratory as you walk around them, outside of the shows themselves? Have you experienced any incidents here in Vancouver of creative marketing ambushes? We’d love to hear any stories you may have of being assaulted by theatre when you weren’t expecting it. The Fringe is the one time out of the year that we get some pretty high profile advertising, how can we make the most of it?