Well, the first weekend of the Winnipeg Fringe Festival has come and gone and I must say I have mixed feelings about the darn thing. There seems to be a bit of a media bias towards some of the Ottawa folks as Amy Lester seems to be in the same boat. You know, they won the Canal Feud, so why are they still picking on us? As a whole, the festival is wonderful. Tons of productions (146 to be precise), lots of interesting people to talk to, plenty of socializing... in fact the touring groups have been absolutely wonderful in making me feel welcome. I feel like the kid sister with her very protective family around her. Yesterday, someone said the nicest thing to me: "You can't end your tour here. We want the two of you to carry on the rest of the run with us." Man, is that ever tempting. I almost wish I could.
You see, all the Winnipeg reviews for the show are now out and they are just terrible. The Winnipeg Free Press was actually kinder than the others, but she totally spoils the ending. If you haven't seen the show yet and were planning on it, don't read the review if you don't want to know what happens. The WFP reviewer also totally got the existential nature of the piece - something the CBC and Sun did not - but I now realize it's because they saw the show on opening night.
(I'm kind of sick of seeing these reviews, so I won't be linking them. That said, you can easily look them up yourself through CBC Manitoba, the Winnipeg Sun and the Winnipeg Free Press.)
Opening night was quite the gong show of technical glitches. In fact, I wouldn't call them glitches, they were outright problems. The entire beginning of the piece had to be reworked on the spot and some key elements were cut out. Of course, there were two reviewers sitting in the audience when this happened.
The reviewers also all seem to have a problem with the show being 30 minutes (or shorter depending on which reviewer you ask). This puzzles me like you would not believe. In Ottawa, as I was marathon fringing I was always thrilled for a 30-45 minute piece. It gave me more of a break in between shows and I had time to digest what I saw. Besides, wouldn't you rather see a quality 30 minute piece instead of a bloated 90 minute one? Apparently not. It seems time equals value for money here. Natasha, while flyering, had this conversation:
"I don't go to Ragpickers (our venue) because it's too hot."
"Oh well, we have air conditioning now. Besides, the show is only 30 minutes..."
"30 minutes! No, I don't think I'm going to go to that."
As of Friday, we had definitely found our groove with the show. Our performances are better than they have ever been and I'm quite pleased with the rapport we've established on stage. Unfortunately, our first review also came out this past weekend which coincided with a 60% drop in our audience. Saturday, only 3 people had paid to see the show; the other 9 were performers and volunteers. Sunday's audience was similar in size, though half of them stuck around after to talk to us. They loved the show. I was also thrilled to notice how young they were and they still understood it.
I guess this is the kind of show you either get or you don't. I thought Winnipeg was a more understanding theatre town, but I guess I was wrong. So far, only two people seem to know who Judith Thompson is. An American woman from Portland and a sweet teenager in a Zombie Prom T-Shirt. Weird.
Next step: more flyers!