Scratch Card Productions

Nowhere But Up (or Bathroom Wall Wisdom)

I've been home for almost two days now and it's taken me a little while to put my thoughts together enough to recap my Winnipeg Adventure.  It seems like such a whirlwind went by and yet, at the same time, I almost felt like we'd been there forever.  I miss it already and a part of me wishes I was in Saskatoon right now, but this is not "the" show.  This was the learning experience. Producing my own fringe show was something else entirely.  All in all, I probably spent as much money on this show as I would have on one year of university tuition.  I can absolutely guarantee you that I worked harder and learned way more out in the field than I ever did striving for a piece of paper with a couple letters attached to it.  I found strength I didn't realize I had, I made friendships that I know will last, and I gained incredible insight about myself as a person and as an artist.  Plus, I noticed that I also have a pretty wicked sense of humour.

Recently, an absolutely beautiful lady said to me that I am the most optomistic person she knows.  At first, I didn't exactly believe her.  Afterall, anyone who knows me intimately knows that I am incredibly moody and swing from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other multiple times on a daily basis.  However, after thinking about it, that doesn't mean I'm not optimistic.

I probably had the most poorly reviewed show at the Winnipeg Fringe (which I've masochistically now linked here in their entirety for your viewing pleasure):

1 Star from CBC Manitoba

1 Star from the Winnipeg Sun

2 Stars from the Winnipeg Free Press (with a nice comment about my performance, but she spoils the ending of the play...)

1 Star from Ignite 107


D+ from Uptown Magazine (scroll all the way to the bottom and wow D+ isn't even a passing grade!)

Personally, I don't think anyone would blame me if I came home licking my wounds, pulling my hair out at my bank balance, moping around for a bit, ect.  But I really don't feel that way.  In fact, if anything, these reviews now give me something to work on.  When the Ottawa Fringe Festival ended, I knew that there were things about this show that I wanted to fix, but I couldn't figure out what.  Though I believe a lot of what was said about my show was bullshit, there were some parts that rang true and now I know where I need to go.  If anything (and this is going to sound a little sick), Ottawa was too nice to me.

As we packed up the set on our last day there, I took a look around the washroom in our venue.  The walls are covered in various forms of graffiti which I typically barely acknowledged, but this one caught my eye:

& if i didn't fall down if i didn't if i didn't i wouldn't know how to get back up.

So, I fell off the ladder in Winnipeg and hit every rung on the way down before smashing into the ground below.  That's ok though, because I've got nowhere else to go now but up.

See you next year, Winnipeg.

Ain't Nothing Gonna Break My Stride

By Tuesday night, we were feeling pretty down and out.  Natasha was kinda sick (both home and physical) and even I, the energizer bunny that I am, needed to recharge.  Say what you will, but no amount of positive outlook can make it any less draining to play to an average of 10 people a night.  So, we took a break and spent most of Wednesday at our billet's home before the show.  Then we hung around for the Secret Midnight Cabaret (which you can read all about here). By Thursday, we had the energy to keep going and it showed.  Last night was our biggest house of the week (Woo 24!) and today I got a call from someone at Radio-Canada to do a TV interview.

Three more shows to go!

Flyer Her? I Hardly Even Know Her!

Since I can't count on the reviews to help bring in the crowds, I am left with two options: flyers and word of mouth.  Now, word of mouth requires having an initial audience to see your show and spreading the word around. When we arrived in Winnipeg, we tried to set up a volunteer appreciation show.  I would have loved to have one early on in order to fill the venue, but unfortunately all they had left was this coming Friday (which, don't get me wrong, is fine because the volunteers need to be appreciated; I just wish it would have been earlier). So, that leaves us with the flyers.

The often undisputed "God" of the Fringe, TJ Dawe wrote a one man show entitled Totem Figures, which he toured on the circuit last year.  I didn't get to see it when it was in Ottawa, but someone was kind enough to point me to a podcast of the piece.  Part 2 has a really great bit about touring the Fringe for the first time and the gruelling task of promoting your show through flyers.  A big thank you to the friend who forwarded this to me.  I find hope in it.

Flyering is an art form in and of itself.  Some veteran performers have mastered the art of the quick pitch.  For example, jem rolls can be heard saying: "I'm British and say things that make you laugh." Wham, bam, thank you, mam.  Others have reviews they can push.  Gemma Wilcox got a double-whammy this year and can simply throw a "5 Stars from the CBC and the Winnipeg Free Press" out with her flyers.

For me, it's a little more difficult.  First of all, no one knows me here, so I am not a familiar face.  Second, my show can't really be summarized in ten words or less (Hell, I had trouble coming up with 60). Third, I don't have a star rating I particularly want to throw out there. And finally, I've never done this before.

So, I sought out professional help.  And who's more professional that a former psych nurse? The affable Rob Gee had these tips for me:

  • Don't flyer people coming out of a show.  They are probably in a rush to go somewhere or still digesting what they just saw.  You will not have time to speak to them and will basically waste a flyer.
  • Do flyer people waiting in lines.  They have nothing better to do than listen to you.
  • Have at least three variations of your pitch so that the people at the back of the line hear something different from the people in front of them.
  • Take a break every once in a while.  Remember, your priority is to your show.  Don't burn yourself out with flyers.

Other good pieces of advice that I picked up:  know which page in the program your show is on, wear sensible shoes, plan which lineups you will attack ahead of time.

My pitch usually turns into a long conversation.  At first I felt guilty about "wasting time."  Then I realized that I actually enjoyed these talks and that people would probably be more likely to remember me by them.  We all have our methods.

Over the weekend we drained our first batch of flyers and ordered more.  Fortunately, the fine people at Industry Images had them ready for pick-up by 11am on Monday.  I've pretty much been flyering non-stop from noon to showtime every single day.  I'm starting to run into a lot of the same people now.  I'm tired and it was recommended that I don't do any flyering today.  Personally, I haven't seen it result in higher attendance numbers so far, so I didn't argue.  That said, I've got 5 more shows and a whack of flyers to get through so I will probably jump back into it later tonight.

Un p'tit coup de coeur...

It's Because I'm From Ottawa, Isn't It?

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."

Uh, ok.

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!

I Am A Giant Star

Yesterday, I got my very first review in Winnipeg.  While I wasn't exactly expecting 5 stars, I sure as hell was not prepared for what I got from CBC Manitoba. 1 Star.

According to the CBC website, 1 star means that this show is "a clunker. Don’t go. Unless you have a family member in the show. Even then, think twice."


For those of you who are just dying to read the whole review, by all means, go right ahead.

I'd really like to say that when I read this review I chuckled confidently, shook out my long blond mane and sexily strutted off  as I continued to flyer...  Or that I pulled a Colette Kendall, all middle fingers of artistic justice blazing among the detonation of righteous F-Bombs... but no, I wasn't that strong.  Once the initially shock wore off, I just kind of melted.  Natasha was the real professional.  She took off to flyer another line-up as I took a moment in the ladies lavatory of Red River College.  And I cried.  Yes, that's right, the CBC made me cry because that shit f'n hurts.

When I was done, that's when I became proactive.  I made a phone call to someone who has been doing this a lot longer than I have.  His first piece of advice: Don't change a thing.  Followed by "this may sound a little fucked but you should actually be happier to get 1 star instead of 3." It makes sense.  If there are 150 shows in town, people will probably be skipping the middle ground reviews.

This conversation also made me wonder about how much importance we place on reviews.  Since I got a poor one, many people swear to me that "no one really cares about the CBC reviews."  However, if I had gotten 5 stars, would they still be saying the same thing?  Who really cares about these stars?  (OK, I do. Kinda. A little.) It is all so subjective.

Natasha and I then started planning our next step.  But first, we watched Rob Gee's Fruitcake, a show the CBC gave 2 stars (a review which I can say was absolute bullshit as the show totally deserves 4 stars - though to be fair he is a psychiatrist talking about psychiatry - something the CBC apprently frowns upon).  It was probably the best thing for me to watch at the moment because it included a wonderful little song with a chorus that goes "It could be worse, it could be worse, it's not time for the herse."

We then set off to own our giant star.  You see, something odd started to happen.  I was telling a fellow performer about the review when someone interrupted me:

"What show is this?"

"No Exit Upstage. The CBC gave us 1 star."

"Good.  I'll probably like it then."

Well isn't that interesting?

While we won't be pushing the fact that we got 1 star at every opportunity, we are delving into a bit of a symbolic homage to the CBC.

In case you're wondering, we're only wearing one earing each.

I'll be wearing a single earing in the shape of a star until the end of the festival.  I've even included it to my costume for the show which was absolutely super magic frakkin fantastic last night.  If someone asks about my new accessory, I will gladly tell them about it, but until then I will just kick the flyering up a notch and do what I do best: talk passionately about the theatre (and myself).

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Ugly Tuesday was an off day for both of us.  The festival hadn't started yet, our posters were up, and it was raining which meant we decided to stay in and relax... with our thoughts.  Let me tell you something, it's never really a good idea to leave me alone with my thoughts.  I am a doer.  I like impulses and following them.  I love being around people.  I don't need to be thinking too much.  When I think too much, I dwell; I worry; I get filled with doubt; I create highly preposterous scenarios in my head and somehow manage to make myself believe them as truth.

It wasn't pretty and the less said about that the better.

The Good

Wednesday was much better!  We missed our bus in the morning (I know, this should fall under The Bad, but keep reading).  Lugged down with our set, props and costumes, we started walking when suddenly a horn blares behind us. There he was, our knight in Chevy armour!  Our billet pulls up to the curb and yells: "I'm going downtown, hop in!"

Best. Billet. Ever.

Somehow, we also managed to finish our tech rehearsal in less than three hours as crews were setting up the space around us.  Our technician and stage manager rocks!

Our SM, the lovely Ms Wyman demonstrating the very complicated "house lights" system.  Apparently you must flick this switch "on" or "off" - I don't get it.

We then found out that Industry Images - our printing experts - were located practically next door to the venue.  This is also where we met handsome firemen IN UNIFORM in the elevator.  Sorry ladies, I was too bashful to take pictures.

We went on a trek to the main fringe office, checking out how our posters fared in yesterday's rain.  Of course, all was well.

The secret's in the magic tape.

I also checked in at the Advance Ticket Box Office and found out that we have bums in seats for almost every show during the run!  I was shocked.  As an out-of-town performer who's never been to the Peg before, I never imagined that people would just, you know, show up... in advance.

After setting up a volunteer appreciation show (Go Go Friendly Volunteers!), we ran into some Ottawa locals and headed out to the Towne Cinema 8 to watch the new Harry Potter movie FOR FOUR DOLLARS!  (my review - it's pretty good though they cut a lot out of the book and the ending feels a bit rushed)

I also bought a belt because my pants were falling off (What? That's good right?)

We then had dinner and headed out to watch our first fringe show, Amy Lester's Little White Lies.  It's a very cute show.  Then, on the other end of the spectrum, we saw Colette Kendall's The Cockwhisperer, a damn funny show.  Colette is incredibly sexy and self-confident.  At one point when she lost her place in what she calls a workshop piece, she told any reviewers who might find this unprofessional to fuck off.  I think I'm kind of in love with her.  Oh! Did I just find my first Fringe Crush in Winnipeg?  Cool!

The Bad

I realized late last night that I lost my bus pass.

Have you seen me?

Ah well, today is another day. No Exit Upstage opens tonight at 7 pm in Venue #13 - Ragpickers Theatre. Buy your tickets now!

Thursday, July 16 – 7:00 PM Friday, July 17 – 9:15 PM Saturday, July 18 – 6:00 PM Sunday, July 19 – 8:30 PM Monday, July 20 – 6:00 PM Tuesday, July 21 – 8:45 PM Wednesday, July 22 – 5:30 PM Thursday, July 23 – 7:00 PM Friday, July 24 – 9:15 PM Saturday, July 25 – 7:30 PM Sunday, July 26 – 6:00 PM

On Your Mark, Get Set, TAPE!

Yesterday morning things were off to a bit of a rougher start.  Both Natasha and I slept poorly in our new surroundings.  I woke up feeling disoriented and lost.  Where am I again? Oh yeah, Winnipeg.  Natasha shook the sluggishness off faster than I did and even had breakfast with our billet while I debated such intellectually stimulating life choices as:  Should I take a shower in the morning? Is today a shorts kind of day? Maybe I should just go back to bed? Do I really want yogurt for breakfast? You are all fascinated with the complexities of my life, I'm sure.  I also realized that my face wash had somewhat exploded in my toiletries kit.  This didn't bother me yesterday as it was easy enough to clean up... or so I thought.  Apparently, some of that soapy goodness seeped into my contact lenses' case and I ended up spending half the day looking like I had been crying because Natasha says mean things to me in the middle of the night... which she totally doesn't! Nope, not like her at all... ;) Having put the pull-out couch away, going back to bed was not an option.  So after a blog post, a shower, a skort, some coffee, and some breakfast, we were basking in the Manitoba sun on our way to the bus stop, ready for a busy day of postering.  We were delighted to know that Winnipeg Transit offers weekly passes which now make it a breeze for us to get around.

When we were nearing the festival area, Natasha turned to me and said something that sent chills down my spine: "Did you bring the posters?"


We checked our bus schedule and realized we had about 40 minutes before we could go back, so we went to sign in to the performer services area instead.  Posters were already covering the vast majority of surfaces as we approached the Manitoba Theatre Centre and I ran into one of the first people I recognized: Jonny P from GRIMMER THAN GRIMM.  He also introduced us to the people we would be having beers with later that night: Rob Gee (Fruitcake - Natasha, the Graphic Designer, adores his poster so it's definitely one not to miss!) and Chris Bange (More Bange For Your Buck!)

Being in a rush, we excused ourselves and hurried in to sign in with a very friendly volunteer. We got our beautiful program, our performer and company cards and then ran to catch the bus, waving madly at Dave Dawson (Jayson McDonald's Trashcan Duet which I didn't see in Ottawa last year, but will probably see now) on the way.

Friendly Volunteer!

Finally, we had our posters and were on our way back downtown to check out our venue: Ragpickers Theatre.  This is also where we were to meet our new stage manager, the lovely Anne Wyman (Jayson McDonald's The Last Goddamned Performance Piece).

Our Venue - 216 McDermot Avenue

It was here that I ran into an old acquaintance from London, ON, Jeff Culbert.  He's involved with two shows:  archy and mehitabel, directed by Jayson McDonald and Fall Fair in which he directed Jayson McDonald. For a guy who isn't even in town yet, Mr McDonald is proving to be very pervasive...

After a great lunchbreak/tech meeting at The Fyxx with Ms. Wyman, where we had the pleasure of meeting Jeremy Baumaung (Homeless - which Anne tells me is the greatest piece of theatre she's ever seen, ever!) and Ryan Paulson (Ryan Paulson: I'm Uncomfotable), we headed off, finally, to poster.

Posters! Tape! Posters and Tape!

This is also where we ran into another Ottawa local: Ms. Amy Lester (Little White Lies).

Hey, it's Amy!

Since we were tired from such a busy day of posters and password collecting (check out Emily Pearlman's Ottawa Fringe Festival blog post for the meaning of the password system), we headed over to the King's Head Pub where we ran into, well, pretty much everyone else we saw today, including some newcomers - the ladies from Inviting Desire, the gentlemen from Advanced DnD, and the producer of The Seven Lives of Louis Riel.  This is also where we met Francis, the most awesome barkeep evah!

Wow, what a day, and the festival hasn't even started yet!

Wish you were here!

Nancy's MUST SEE List at the Winnipeg Fringe

Many of you probably remember my MUST SEE List for the Ottawa Fringe Festival. It was, after all, one of my top posts in June. I figured it would be nice to do the same thing for the Winnipeg Fringe. Now, this list won't be as extensive as the Ottawa one for the following reasons: 1) I don't have a VIP pass in Winnipeg which means seeing lots of shows could potentially become an expensive endeavor; 2) If I saw your show at this year's Ottawa Fringe, I probably won't see it again in Winnipeg; 3) I don't know as many companies and their work in Winnipeg - new shows will probably be added to my list, but I might not blog about them all; 4) I'm in a new city and will need to spend a lot of my time promoting my own show.

Speaking of which, if you happen to be in Winnipeg (or know people who will be) between July 16 to 26, 2009, you should definitely come out and see No Exit Upstage. Buy your tickets in advance by clicking the link in order to guarantee a spot!

Why should you see my show? Well, here are some amazing reviews from the Ottawa Fringe to wet your whistle.

Alright, now on to my list, in alphabetical order:

52 Pick Up I saw this show quite a few years ago in Ottawa when it was done by super couple Natalie Joy Quesnel and Stewart Matthews. This time it is performed by the amazing Gemma Wilcox, whose one-woman shows have always been ahit. It is written by Fringe God, TJ Dawe, and the description really says it all - "52 cards. 52 scenes about a relationship. Two actors shuffle, throw, pick up and play all 52 scenes. NO TWO SHOWS THE SAME!" If it's in all caps, you know they are serious. It's a very fun show and I can't wait to see it again... sort of. CRUMBS again for the first time I saw these guys when I was in Toronto for the COMBUSTION festival. They were impressive to watch. A very tight and dynamic improv experience. Plus, like most good improv, it takes place in a bar.

Fall Fair Boat Load was hands down my favorite show at the Ottawa Fringe Festival last year. Jayson McDonald (creator of the Big Comedy Go-To) wasn't in Ottawa this year since it overlapped with the London Fringe Festival, so I'm looking forward to seeing his new offering in Winnipeg.

Jake's Gift Ok, I'm cheating a bit because I did recently see this in Ottawa during the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. However, Jake's Gift represents everything I adore about performance: a compelling story created with love and passion, told through very simple and truthful means. Frankly, it was the only show during the MNTF that I absolutely adored and I would see it again. Scratch that. I will see it again and I'm bringing friends. Spiral Dive: Episode Two Spiral Dive: Episode One was a beautiful show I had the privilege of seeing in Ottawa. It even won an award for Outstanding Drama. I look forward to checking out the second installment of the trilogy in Winnipeg. It may be difficult however, since rumour has it they have already sold out all their advance tickets for the production.

So there are my top 5 picks for the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. Feel free to check out the full show list and let me know what you would see.

Letting Go To Be Good To Go

Ever since my first performance of No Exit Upstage, I knew there were some things that I still wanted to fine tune. Unfortunately, being so involved with the project, I couldn't grasp exactly what it was that I wanted to modify. Since I was in the middle of a run, I decided the best course of action was to, well, stay the current course and worry about it once the run was over. When the Ottawa Fringe Festival came to a close, inspiration still hadn't hit and so I decided to give it a few days. I am less then a week away from my trip to Winnipeg and I can feel that old panicky feeling rising up in my throat. I start feeling doubt and desperation and the pressure of my own high expectations. After all, since I don't believe I currently have a perfect product, so why should I take it off the shelf for all to see? On top of that, I am running out of time...

Today was an interesting day of discussion about the show. It's a hard lesson to learn, but sometimes you just have to let things go, let them breathe on their own and see where they might take you, instead of trying to force your vision upon them.

I consider myself a "do-er" and so I have trouble simply letting things rest. How will anything ever get done if you don't "do" anything about it? I guess we'll just have to see.

The Pitch

Our houses (or attendance) have been great for No Exit Upstage. According to the Ottawa Fringe Festival, we're well above average almost every night. As a local and somewhat well-connected performer, I've been blessed with a leg up on all the touring companies because I have the "friends and family" factor in my favour. That said, we have two shows to go and I really want to pack the place. This is where "The Pitch" comes in. Touring companies are experts in pitch. They have to be. Oftentimes they may be complete unknowns arriving in a city for the very first time. Since media coverage is somewhat lax here in Ottawa (and thanks to Jon P for making a little plea about this after his amazing performance of House last night), they almost solely rely on word of mouth. But how do you get word of mouth if no one is attending your show? Well, you bring a big stack of flyers and you find people at the beer tent, waiting in line to see a show, or coming out of one. And then you pitch. This will be an incredibly important activity once I hit the Winnipeg Fringe Festival in July.

I do consider myself and Arts Marketing person, so this should be a breeze, right? Unfortunately, I actually get a bit tongue-tied. It's much easier to promote someone else's show than my own. I've seen some awesome veteran fringers like Jem Rolls and Gemma Wilcox who have their pitches down to a science. I think Jem's is now down to something like "I'm British and say funny things that make you laugh." Brilliant. Short. Sweet. To the point.

What can I say?

"It's an absurd, existential and somewhat masturbatory comedy about two cohabitating Thespians trapped in their own private version of Sartrian Hell."

"Did you just say your show has masturbating lesbians?"

"... Maybe?"

Seriously though, I'm grateful for the feedback I've been getting from audience members about the show because it's given me the chance to see how others would view the piece. Lots of cool and catchy key words have come out of those discussions. My favorite so far has been "it's kinda like their in the Twilight zone."

If you see me around the Fringe today (and you will), stop and chat for a second. I'd love to test out my pitch on you.

****************************** No Exit Upstage - ONLY TWO PERFORMANCES LEFT! Directed by Ken Godmere Featuring Nancy Kenny & Natasha Jetté

The Ottawa Fringe Festival runs from June 18 to 28, 2009.

All No Exit Upstage performances take place in Venue #3 – Studio Leonard Beaulne Thursday June 18 – 9:30 PM (2 for 1 performance) Saturday June 20 – 11:00 PM Sunday June 21 – 2:00 PM Wednesday June 24 – 6:30 PM Saturday June 27 – 8:00 PM Sunday June 28 – 3:30 PM

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door. You also need the $2 Fringe Pin to get in to all performances. Advanced tickets and discounted multi-show Fringe passes are also available.

Guide to Marathon Fringing (7 Steps)

To date, I have seen 22 shows with 4 more schedule on my viewing agenda for the night. I have already beaten my record from last year of 21 (all while being a performer, mind you). My goal for this year's festival is a whopping 40. I have a good coach and a VIP pass, so I think I can make it. Marathon Fringing is not for everyone because it is a very difficult and physically demanding sport. However, for those of you think you have the stamina and are up to the challenge, here are some helpful tips to set you on your way:

1. Know your program schedule - Otherwise known as the Marathon Fringer's Bible, it is your guide to making sense of this very intense time in your life. I know some people go extreme hard-core and use spreadsheets and other such technical marvels. For myself, I'm a bit old fashion - different coloured pens and some highlighters. Review the schedule daily and keep it with you at all times. (The bonus of using a spreadsheet is that you have it on your computer. I am currently on my third Fringe program and had to redo my schedule a few times - ROOKIE MISTAKE!) That said, stay flexible. You never know when I show might run over or under.

2. Pack a bag - The weather in Ottawa has been crazy in the last little while. It can be blisteringly hot during the day and frigidly cold at night. I have now gotten into the habit of packing tights, a scarf and a sweater for those cold evenings in the Beer Tent. You should also consider bringing an umbrella and sunscreen. In addition, don't forget a bottle of water (the aforementioned tent does not have bottled water on the menu) and perhaps a few snacks (the food in the tent is absolutely delicious but pricey!) Other items to take into consideration: a camera (for all Fringe photo contests and flickr group), a watch (or other time piece), your program, Fringe pin, any passes you may have, some pens and note paper, perhaps a book to read in between shows (or when no one is around at the tent because you are insane and showed up incredibly early), and cash. Oh, my bag also includes show flyers and a big roll of tape... and then people wonder why my bag is so heavy.

3. Wear sensible shoes - You will be doing a lot of running around. It's no time to showcase your fancy footwear. Heels will just get demolished in the grassy knoll of the Beer Tent. BONUS: All this running around is great exercise, especially when you are also carrying around a 15 pound sack (see above). 4. Go easy on the beer (or learn to chug) - Guess which one I prefer? You can take the girl out of New Brunswick... Seriously though, you will probably have a very limited time between each shows - time that should not be wasted on such things as "eating" and "drinking". However, if you absolutely insist on being "fed" and "hydrated" learn to chug it back and eat as you run. 5. Know your limits - On Sunday, after performing in one show and then attending 5 more, I was just too tired to attend an 11 pm performance. Watching so many shows in a day gets to be exhausting and, frankly, if I want to make it to 40, I still have to pace myself. I am actually quite thrilled when I find out a show is only 30 to 45 minutes because it gives me a greater rest period in between. It also permits me to forgive a few flaws in presentation because I don't feel like my time was wasted. [SIDE NOTE: In what I have seen so far, cool little short plays include The Squatter Heart, Inclement Weather, The Tribulations of a Failed Vigilante, The Beer Tent (the play not the location), and, of course, No Exit Upstage]

6. Have Fun! - If you are not enjoying yourself and are simply doing it out of some misplaced pride in wanting to "see the most shows" (which granted can be a great motivator for starters) then you're just not going to make it. The Ottawa Fringe Festival is an event that I absolutely look forward to every year because of the incredible people I get to meet (like summer camp!) and the fantastic theatrical presentations I get to witness. It is pure joy for me to be involved. I don't want to be anywhere else right now.

7. Don't try to beat me - Seriously, don't. You'll just hurt yourself. Listen kids, I'm a professional. I've been training all year for this on a steady diet of 4 shows a week for almost a year. You don't have a prayer.

Happy Fringing!

****************************** No Exit Upstage - ONLY TWO PERFORMANCES LEFT! Directed by Ken Godmere Featuring Nancy Kenny & Natasha Jetté

The Ottawa Fringe Festival runs from June 18 to 28, 2009.

All No Exit Upstage performances take place in Venue #3 – Studio Leonard Beaulne Thursday June 18 – 9:30 PM (2 for 1 performance) Saturday June 20 – 11:00 PM Sunday June 21 – 2:00 PM Wednesday June 24 – 6:30 PM Saturday June 27 – 8:00 PM Sunday June 28 – 3:30 PM

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door. You also need the $2 Fringe Pin to get in to all performances. Advanced tickets and discounted multi-show Fringe passes are also available.

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in...

I went to Toronto yesterday morning for an audition which meant that I would be missing all Fringe activities (and giving other people the chance to catch up to my record 19 shows + 3 performances - so technically 22) that night. "That's a good thing," I thought. I needed the break. I realized throughout my marathon viewing schedule that my attention span was waning. Unless an hour-long show was absolutely brilliant, I'd start to lose focus. This did not mean it was a bad show, it just meant I was tired. (Though I give incredibly high-praise to anyone whose shows come in just under the hour mark - Hey! This one does!)

*Side note - I find it interesting that I'm not the only blogger talking about time right now.

Anyway, so I arrive in Toronto at around 1:30pm and grab lunch at this great little sushi place I found on Queen Street W the last time I was in town. By 2:30pm, with 3 hours and 15 minutes to go until my audition, I decided to just find my way over to the venue, the Tarragon Theatre (Look at that, they are doing Scorched again. It's a good show.) Since I was ready to audition, I figured why not ask if I could be seen right away. You see, there's a 5:30pm train that could take me back to Ottawa that night. Since my audition was supposed to be at 5:45pm, I never would have made it, but...

The group from Theatre New Brunswick was wonderful. They squeezed me in early and I had an absolutely amazing audition that lasted about 5 minutes in length.

I headed strait to the Yonge Subway line, arrived at Union Station, exchanged my ticket, went to the LCBO, and boarded the train.

I arrived in Ottawa at about 10:30pm. Plenty of time to... head down to the Fringe tent... for karaoke... which I didn't get to participate in after all due to bylaw restrictions. Hell, if I was ambitious, I might have been able to catch something last night. But no, I needed the break.

I met my billets: two lovely gentlemen from Uncalled For and set them up in my condo.

Today, I get right back into the swing of things. No Exit Upstage is back on again at 6:30pm in the Studio Leonard Beaulne. As I mentioned in my previous post, the reviews have been fantastic. Then I will spend the evening catching up on shows.

See you on the Fringe!

No Exit Upstage Reviews

Well, after three solid performances, the reviews for No Exit Upstage have started pouring in and I'm thrilled to say they are all very positive! First up we have Patrick Langston from the Ottawa Citizen who calls it a "funny show" and "we find ourselves drawn to these two characters". You can read the whole review here.

Wayne Current at (Cult)ure magazine says it's a "solid script with many funny moments, has "compelling actors," and "Ken Godmere’s direction is also solid, especially his effective use of the stage. One scene in particular – where both characters are speaking in a simultaneous monologue – is quite powerful. It’s a beautiful piece of poetry inserted into the performance, and the play is worth seeing for that moment alone." You can read his entire review (which I am gleeful to note includes a link to my blog!) here.

There's also a charming review topically done through a split personality interview between Brian Carroll and himself on the Ottawa Fringe Festival website which includes this gem: "So why don’t more directors cast Nancy?" - His review can be seen here.

Finally, some Adorkable Thespian left a comment saying "It’s weird. It’s funny. It’s worth seeing." Thank you, whomever you are! You can read his (or her) comments here.

Only three more shows are left for No Exit Upstage! Our next performance is Wednesday, June 24 at 6:30 p.m.

******************************* I've been cleaning my apartment all day since my billets, the comedy group Uncalled For from Montreal, arrive tomorrow. Unfortunately I will not be around to great them since I will be in Toronto for an audition.

Can I just say how much I love my life right now?

Silencing the Inner Critic

I see a lot of theatre. Seriously, a ridiculous amount. I average about 4 shows a week. (The incredible thing about this news means that you CAN see 4 shows a week in Ottawa!) Like anything, these are not necessarily 4 good shows a week. In fact, most of the time, they're not. I hate a lot of the stuff I see. OK, maybe hate is a bit too strong a word... I'm disappointed by a lot of the stuff I see. You might be thinking then why keep going? Well, every once in a while I see something absolutely spectacular and/or moving. It kind of feels like meeting your soul mate, briefly, at a party and then spending the rest of your life looking for them again. You just know they're out there somewhere.

Anyway, all this to say I know what I think is good and I know what I think is shitty. Unfortunately, that (very loud) critic's voice inside my head often likes to come out to play when I'm creating a show. This is bad! Very bad! Because that critic likes to forget where I currently am at in my development as an artist (and I'd like to rephrase a previous post from the negative sounding I Have Limits to the much nicer Where I Am in my Development as an Artist). You see, it likes to tell me how great a show like Tempting Providence was without mentioning little unimportant details like it's been around for 7 years and played over 400 performances. Talk about putting too much pressure on yourself.

Last night we opened No Exit Upstage to a very full house and instead of feeling "Wow, I did it. I wrote a play, produced it, and presented it in front of a large audience. That is amazing! Way to go me!" I was thinking "Oh my God, I was shaking, I missed a blocking cue, wah wah wah! Nobody talk to me, I need a drink!"

And yet, when I stopped avoiding eye contact with everyone because "I suck so much", all I received were incredibly positive and glowing recommendations, including this very touching one this morning on Facebook from this guy, who I think is kind of a big deal and should know what he is talking about: "Pierre Brault was very impressed with Nancy Kenny's show, "No Exit Upstage" at the Ottawa fringe. Smartly written. Well performed. Go see it. More fringing tonight!"

I should really take the advice in this article more to heart.

So thank you everyone who came out to see the show. I can't believe 8 of you actually bought advanced tickets! I am grateful and truly blessed for your support and encouragement and I look forward to entertaining you throughout at least 5 more shows.

If you haven't seen No Exit Upstage yet, well what are you waiting for?

****************************** No Exit Upstage Directed by Ken Godmere Staring Nancy Kenny & Natasha Jetté

The Ottawa Fringe Festival runs from June 18 to 28, 2009.

All No Exit Upstage performances take place in Venue #3 – Studio Leonard Beaulne Thursday June 18 – 9:30 PM (2 for 1 performance) Saturday June 20 – 11:00 PM Sunday June 21 – 2:00 PM Wednesday June 24 – 6:30 PM Saturday June 27 – 8:00 PM Sunday June 28 – 3:30 PM

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door. You also need the $2 Fringe Pin to get in to all performances. Advanced tickets and discounted multi-show Fringe passes are also available.

Nancy's MUST SEE List at the Ottawa Fringe

Lots of lists are popping up all over the place on what you absolutely should see at the Ottawa Fringe Festival. Having been around the Fringe for a while now, I also know what I absolutely cannot miss. Since I expect to see approximately 40 shows this year (a new personal best, beating my lousy 21, albeit while performing in 12 shows, from last year), please don't be offended if you are not on my "Must See" list. Chances are I will probably be seeing your show, but I just don't have enough time to talk about them all. Well, first up, the cheap plug. You should definitely see No Exit Upstage. In fact, I suggest you see it twice. It's very layered so you're sure to discover something new each time ;)

Ok, on to the list. First up, the LOCALS. I always make it a habit each year to see as many local productions as I can. These are, after all, the people I will most likely be working with in the future (if I haven't already) and so it's good to know what they are doing.

OREO Nadine Thornhill is one of the smartest and funniest writers I know. Some kind of Norm Foster meets Gilmore Girls. She also won last year's Best in Venue award for her play The Wedding Night, so you know she can bring the goods.

...Comes Around An all-star team of Ottawa's best and brightest artists with more award wins and nominations among them than there are people in the cast. Plus, explicit sexuality! They have two 11 p.m. time slots for all us skeevy pervs in the audience. Guess when I'll be in attendance?

Une nuit arabe The only French play at the festival and one that Evolution Theatre will be mounting in October (in English). I am very curious to see how they will be doing it in the tiny and workout inducing Studio 311.

Inclement Weather and Country Shaped Like Stars At the very least see one of them, but preferably see both. Emily Pearlman and Nick Di Gaetano are hands-down the most interesting and creative artists working in Ottawa today. I am in absolute awe when in their presence and still find it incredible they let me hang around. Both these shows fall under their new !MI CASA! banner. I expect lots of amazing things in the future from them both so I figure it best to get in on the ground floor now. Oh and in my book, Miss Pearlman gets 5 stars for every show.

The Squatter Heart By Annie Lefebvre / Directed by Andy Massingham Her preview performance at the Festival Tent last night sold this one for me. A beautiful poetic movement piece. Annie was simply stunning. I can't wait to see more!

The Beer Tent It doesn't take place at the tent, but in the Royal Oak basement on Laurier. I think I get a shout-out in the show. I want to go check. I'm vain like that. We Never Clothed Boobies. Kate Smith. I think there's a musical number too. But mostly I'm going for the boobies.

Now, for the OUT OF TOWNERS!

Like a Virgin I saw Jimmy Hogg's show in London a few months ago and you can read the review here. It was great and I will be going back to see how it's come along since then.

On Second Thought Another performer I saw a few months ago and you can read my thoughts on him here. His festival preview last night included a strip tease to MmmmBop, just to give you an idea what you're in for.

Is Shakespeare's Dead? I am not proud to say that in the seven years I've been at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, and in the seven years he's been there, I have never seen a Keir Cutler show. I plan on fixing that this year. Grandpa Sol and Grandma Rosie Watch this video and tell me it does not make you want to see this show?

Ok, so I was trying to keep this list at 10, but Annie Lefebvre made it impossible to do so.

Happy Fringing!

Nancy Kenny's No Exit Upstage, opens with a 2-for-1 admission price Thursday, June 18 at 9:30 pm and plays in Venue #3 - Studio Leonard-Beaulne.

Why See No Exit Upstage?

Listen to this glowing recommendation from Brian Carroll, a man who knows his way around a Fringe Festival: No Exit Upstage

"Nancy Kenny flies under director's radar for reasons I don't understand. She won an Ottawa Fringe award for her performance in Tuesdays and Sundays. And she was in the sold out and remounted Evolution Theatre production of This is a Play. And try to tell me that that photo of her in a hair-pulling catfight with Natasha Jetté isn't hot! I'll try this one on spec."

Here's the picture he's talking about:

Natasha Jette and Nancy Kenny   Photo by Marcel Leger

We open tomorrow night and run throughout the entire festival!

No Exit Upstage Writer/Creator: Nancy Kenny Director: Ken Godmere

What’s worse than a job interview? Being stuck in the same room as the competition. Two roommates. One audition. Hell hath no catfight like an actress scorned.

A new comedy written and performed by Nancy Kenny (Best in Venue/Outstanding Performance Winner, Tuesdays & Sundays, and the sold-out run of Daniel MacIvor’s This Is A Play - Ottawa Fringe) Shows

* Show: No Exit Upstage * Date: Thursday, June 18th 2009 * Time: 9:30pm * City: in Ottawa, ON * Venue: Venue #3- Studio Leonard Beaulne * Address: 135 Séraphin-Marion * Country: CA * Admission: 10.00 * Age restrictions: PG13 * Buy tickets. * Notes: 2 for 1 opening night

Chill Out, Virginia, It Can Be This Easy

I woke up a little earlier than 5:00 a.m. with the sun barely creeping through my blinds. I was ok with that since I was going to head out for some early morning yoga, but I couldn't figure out if I had slept. If I did sleep, I spent the entire night dreaming about THE SHOW and my tossing and turning was based on all of my blocking, or I didn't sleep and I just thought about the show all night... Ah well, being up that early reminded me that I needed to do laundry, since my costume top was in the basket and we were teching at 9:30 a.m. I also filled out an application for what will surely be another cool festival for No Exit Upstage in September. Yes, the application deadline is way beyond past, but the fine folks in Kitchener-Waterloo have been kind enough to grant me one massive extension.

All in all, with the working out and an impromptu coffee meeting with theatre friends post-yoga, I had a very productive morning before heading out to our venue in Studio Leonard Beaulne on the University of Ottawa campus.

The reality of the situation finally hit me when I got there. We open in LESS THAN TWO DAYS! While on the bus my director/stage manager called to say his own bus hadn't shown up and he would be late. I arrived at the venue and couldn't find either the technician or my fellow actor. I wanted to panic! Where was the Fringe office phone number? Where was everyone? What the hell is going on!?!

Then I looked at my phone. It wasn't even 9:30 yet...

Needless to say, everyone arrived and things went as smoothly as they possibly could. I worried a bit, some more, that I wouldn't be able to get the timing for some of my cues, but we just kept working them until we got it right. I also had to keep telling myself that a cue-to-cue was not a place to be worried about character development. An excellent technical rehearsal later (Vincent is awesome!), we were having lunch on the grass before tidying up a few bits of the story arc. It was wonderful. Post-rehearsal I went to tape up posters around the venues.

Two days before opening and I am confident we have a solid show. It is an incredibly uplifting feeling to know that we won't simply be running on adrenaline to pull this all together. I can't thank the gang enough for making my life so incredibly easy. I sincerely hope to see you all out there throughout the run!

Nancy Kenny's No Exit Upstage, opens with a 2-for-1 admission price Thursday, June 18 at 9:30 pm and plays in Venue #3 - Studio Leonard-Beaulne.


As an added bonus, while we were finishing up our rehearsal, I received a call from Theatre New Brunswick. I guess I haven't simply been killing trees after all! I'll be heading to Toronto on June 23rd (a day we are not schedule to perform on - thank you Universe!) to audition for their TYA Touring Company.

So You Want To Produce A Fringe Show? Money Saving Tips

I unfortunately did not get selected to be one of the frequent bloggers throughout the Ottawa Fringe (though some other cool people were), but I figured that does not stop me from commenting on my own site (and perhaps showing a certain someone that he totally should have picked me! :p). An article this morning in the Ottawa Citizen (with quotes from yours truly) gave me the perfect amount of motivation to elaborate on a related topic that's been running through my head: How to afford your Fringe Festival Experience.

So you want to produce a Fringe show? Congratulations! You've now joined the ranks of the awesome. For those of you out there who want to self-produce, the Fringe offers one of the most safe and inexpensive opportunities to do so. That said, just because it is inexpensive does not mean that it is cheap. There are a lot of upfront costs that need to be factored before the ticket sales (often your only source of revenue) come pouring in.

First up, the main expense that you simply cannot avoid: the Fringe Festival fee. This can range anywhere from $500 to $800 per festival and are due at various times at the end of the year (between September to January in the year prior to the festival). This gets you your venue, box office staff, technical personnel, and fringe publicity. However, having this money up front does not guarantee you a spot in your festival since the selection process is by lottery. If you don't get in, you can still participate if you Bring Your Own Venue (BYOV), but on top of the festival fee, you'd also have to rent a venue and pay for your own technical staff.

Now, let's say you were lucky and won a spot through the lottery. How else can you save money? Well, my first suggestion would be to write your own show. Through producing with Evolution Theatre, I have found that our largest expenses come in the form of venue rentals and playwrights royalties.

Second, keep it small. I'm not saying you will make a lot (if any money) off of the Fringe, but the least number of hands you have in your pie the less cherries you have to hand out... or something like that. It also helps if everyone wears many hats (because frankly hats are cool). I'm the producer, the writer, an actor in the show and I handle all our media efforts. My director is also the stage manager, the production designer, and has done an awful lot to help me dramaturgically. My fellow actor handles all our design work and our company website. Oh and we also managed to get her photographer husband to do some awesome publicity photos.

Natasha Jetté and Nancy Kenny - Photo by Marcel Léger

Third, and I'm not sure I even need to mention this, but get everything you can for free. All rehearsals for my show have taken place in my living room. It helps that I have no furniture. The majority of our set pieces belong to Natasha, but for the rest we've discovered that many big box stores have customer satisfaction policies... What I'm basically saying is buy, don't break, return, travel to your next touring destination (which, would you look at that, also has the same big box store with the same customer satisfaction policy), and repeat. Just don't lose the receipt, ok? Also, Value Village and the Dollar Store are your best friends.

Fourth, traveling your show will probably take up the biggest chunk of your budget. Fortunately, most Fringe cities will help you find a billet to accommodate you for free throughout the festival. You have no clue where you might end up, but at least you didn't have to pay for it. I can't really assist you with cheap ways to travel since it depends on the destination, but I can tell you it helps if your old roommate (the one who still likes you) works for any of the major aviation organizations in the country.

Fifth, try and budget how much money you are going to spend on other people's shows at the Fringe. A lot of touring companies work on a password system and may be willing to exchange complimentary tickets to their show if you offer them some to yours. I know that I, especially if I happen to be in one of the bigger venues at the festival, prefer having bums in seats rather than play to a half-empty house. Or you can decide to billet a fellow performer and receive a VIP pass which gives you access to all the shows. Now that the set is finally moved out of my living room, I am more than happy to offer someone my pull-out couch. Besides, this way I get to meet like-minded individuals from across the country.

Finally (and this is a tough one for me), when the money actually does start coming in, try not to spend it all at the beer tent on hookers and beer... wait, what? What do you mean the Ottawa Fringe Festival didn't get the hookers this year? Oh fer cryin' out loud! Sigh... alright, well don't spend all your money on beer at the beer tent. Though spending money on this Beer Tent is quite acceptable.

If you have any other money saving tips that I have not elaborated on here, please feel free to leave them in the comment section. See you at the Fringe!

Nancy Kenny's No Exit Upstage, opens with a 2-for-1 admission price Thursday, June 18 at 9:30 pm and plays in Venue #3 - Studio Leonard-Beaulne.

The Struggling Artist

I've never really loved the term struggling artist because honestly, does the artist really have to be struggling? But currently, I find my situation to be just that. As I just previously mentioned, I have not gotten work since last November. Incidentally, that was also voluntary work, so in all honesty, I have not gotten paid work since last October. I've been getting by on savings and the help of a certain government program, but those savings have now dried up and my ability to use this government program ends in August. While looking for work I've had many marvelous opportunities to develop and grow as an artist. Growth that I do not think would have been possible had I been working full-time. I am grateful for the time that has been allocated to me. I've written three plays, one of which I am producing myself for the Ottawa and Winnipeg Fringe Festivals, taken a multitude of workshops, traveled all over the province, and met some amazing new people. But now? I'm scared. I'm really f'n scared. For a little while today, I thought I wouldn't be able to breathe anymore. It felt like someone dropped a rock on my chest and added three sumo wrestlers on top for good measure.

The thoughts that keep running through my mind all involve desk jobs, condo sales, and community theatre... not exactly where I thought I would be.

I'm not looking for sympathy or answers right now. I know that the answers can't come from anyone but me. Still, I wish my mind would stop racing long enough for me to figure it out.