I must apologize for the lack of blog posts lately, but the Edmonton International Fringe Festival can quickly become all-consuming. First of all, unlike Ottawa or the upcoming Atlantic Fringe Festival, performances begin at noon every single day, which means you often need to be out on the Fringe grounds early if you want to catch a crowd and let them know why they should come and see your show. Somehow with all this work, I also managed to catch 18 shows.
But now that it's over... Gosh. What an experience!
Touring a solo show is, as you might expect, lonely work. Often, I found myself wishing I had a stage manager traveling with me, not because my technicians weren't great (in fact they were stellar!), but both for the company and the extra help. The number of times I've gone rushing off to buy more floor tape or popcorn prop at the last minute because my brain was occupied with other things... Let's be honest, the craziness of opening day never really went away.
Unfortunately, though I made more money at this particular festival than at any other so far, it is definitely not financially viable for me to bring an extra person with me. Not unless it was on someone else's dime.
That said, I love this show and the Fringe so very much. This is hard work for little money and sometimes it does get to the point where I wonder why I am even doing this. But I am living a pretty charmed life. I get to travel and put on shows. I've created a family for myself on this circuit. A rag-tag bunch of people who care for and support each other, often upon the first meeting. We celebrate each other's successes and commiserate in each other's sorrows because we've been there. These are some of the most creative, talented and driven people I have ever met. I love and trust them unconditionally.
I also learned a lot at this festival:
- I am great a flyering line-ups. It's hard, gruelling work at times, but I am really good at talking to people and letting my passion shine through. Oh and it looks pretty awesome when I do it on roller skates. One performer actually stopped me after witnessing me flyer to say "Damn you. Damn you and your charming ways. You just totally charmed that couple. I saw it." I strongly believe that the three hours I spent flyering on the last day of Fringe was a big factor in my sold out show.
- Star ratings matter and the Edmonton Journal review matters the most. I know we all like to think that people are open-minded and reviews don't matter, but when there are over 200 shows at a festival, audiences need some kind of guidance. Unfortunately, although I got 4 star reviews from both Vue Weekly and Global TV, I got 3.5 from the Edmonton Journal. Now 3.5 is not bad and if you actually take the time to read the review, you see that it is incredibly positive (to the point where I wonder how I got 3.5). But there is an abundance of 4, 4.5 & 5 star reviews out there too. 3.5 puts you in the middle of the pack. And every day, the Journal releases a list with just the stars up to that point and no reviews. I've seen many people in line with this list, waiting to get tickets at the box office for the 4 and up stuff with no idea what they were about to see. I've witnessed conversations where folks chose one show above another based solely on the higher star rating. It's not exactly fair, since this is one person's opinion, but there you have it. I guarantee you that that little .5 cost me at least $500 in revenue.
- My new sound design is awesome: It's sexy and polished and really brings the show to another level. A huge thanks to Steven Lafond for that one.
- For someone who has never ever been to the Edmonton Fringe before, I did really well. I have to remember that. My lowest attended show was about 60 people on a Monday at 11pm. Most of the time I averaged 75 and up. I know lots of folks who played to houses of 10 or less.
- I did not budget for taxis. The Edmonton Fringe gives a free bus pass to performers and volunteers. Awesome! Unfortunately, the bus schedule isn't the best during the day and almost non-existant at night. I found myself taking a lot of taxis, which quickly added up.
- The roller derby community really loves this show: I received a ton of great support from the Edmonton roller derby community. They skated with me in the parade, flyered the fringe grounds on roller skates, handed out programs, sold my merch, and came to see the show. I also got reacquainted and received a lot of support from the incredible Hoochie Mama who runs Bad Girlfriend Skates. She sponsored some of my new gear for the show (including outdoor skating wheels), got me some new merch to sell, and made me a mean BBQ dinner. She's actually the reason this show exists in the first place when, way back in 2009, she allowed me to sit in on one of the first Canadian Roller Derby Bootcamps for research purposes. Many of the stories I collected that weekend are still in the show today.
- I need to remember to take breaks and go easy on myself. Often I would get so busy flyering, I would forget to eat. Then I'd eat, but I'd feel guilty if I let a line-up go by. I'd start losing my voice from talking so much, which is terrible when you still have a show to do, and I realized that if I burn out then my entire reason for being here goes out the window.
- Roller Derby Saved My Soul is becoming its own entity. I've hired people to work on a web design, film/edit a new archival video, create a show trailer, ect. Most of my extra money from Edmonton will be going to all these upgrades, which I hope will lead to... what exactly? I need to start making goals/decisions as to what I want to see happen next.
Every festival is different. These are just a couple thoughts that have come to mind while I'm at the airport on my way to Halifax. Who knows what awaits me there?