Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Day in the Life... explaining the lack of posts in this blog

You may be wondering why there has only been one post this week. Here's a typical day in the life:

7:30am: Wake up, get dressed, and do Korina's hair and make-up for Jhiva
9.30-10.30am: Flyering on the Royal Mile, the busiest high-street where everyone goes to promote their shows with flyers and street theatre. 
10.30-11.30am: Flyering outside our venue
11.30-12.00pm: Set-up for our show
12.00-1.00pm: The Jhiva of Nietzsche
1.00-1.30pm: Clear-up set and put it into storage
1.30-2.30pm: Lunch/Shower 
2.30-4.00pm: See shows
4.00pm: Korina changes into 'Lulu'
4.30-5.30: Flyering on Prince's street for 'Lulu'
5:30-6.00pm: Set-up for 'Lulu'
6.00-6.40pm: Here's What I Know About Humans, by Lulu the Dog
6.40-7.00pm: Clear-up set and put it into storage
7.00pm: Dinner
8pm-10pm: See shows
10pm: Correct 300-400 leaflets for handing out the next day
11pm: SLEEP!

Note: Blogging is NOT EASY to cram into this schedule. 

Not to mention the yoga classes twice a week! Life is madder than ever doing two shows here at the Fringe, but it has also been an unforgettable experience. Like last year, this year taught us so much more about playing this game, and every difficulty has only made us stronger. With just one day left, every bone in our bodies is exhausted, but if you told us to keep going another week... we'd do it. 

This is what we do, it's who we are. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Thick Skin

The experience of the Fringe is one that no one can truly describe... not if you haven't lived it.

It's a constant wave, recognised only in the eyes of performers and crews, standing day after day on the streets, desperately trying to attract spectators. You'll see the same faces, enthusiastic one day, torn down by exhaustion, poor audience numbers or a bad review the next.

And amongst those faces, you'll see us. Constantly shifting between joy and desperation, exhaustion. Never wanting to leave in one instance, desperate to go home the next.

And the only way to get through it, to survive people walking out in the middle of your show, to survive the harshness of a critic, tearing down your hard work with his every word, is to unearth the thickest coat of skin, from the depths of your own tolerance.

We know that we came here with a 'love it or hate it' play, and it was simply bad luck that the critics that came fell into the latter category. Audiences, for the most part, have responded extremely positively, some returning to see it a second time, others bringing friends. Many engaged us in long discussions after the show about where the ideas came from.

'Lulu', which premièred on Sunday, was met with great enthusiasm also, and critics were much kinder with this show. But we knew they would be, 'Lulu' has the power to charm anyone. We are very happy to have had high audience numbers for this show so far, and hope that this continues.

So you take the good with the bad, roll with the punches, and just keep going. With four days to go, who knows what could happen? This is the Fringe, after all.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Snaps [edited]

'Jhiva' out and about again.... this time with a few edits. God bless the iphone.

Black Wednesday

The first Monday and Tuesday of every Fringe Fest are 2 for 1 days, and many people take those days off work to see shows; but after the buzz, people tend to steer away from theatre for a day before it all picks up again - this day has been labelled 'BLACK WEDNESDAY'.

We weren't told. So when we only had one booking, we hit the streets early and leafleted like mad. We talked to everyone we met, desperately trying to convince them to come to our show.

The problem is, you might convince them to come - but it's unlikely you'll convince them to come RIGHT NOW. We only had a couple of hours.

Yet somehow, we got six people through the door. On black Wednesday. Simply by leafleting. And if we got six to come RIGHT NOW, we must have got a lot more than that to come on other days.

So leafleting works.... it just needs, a LOT of time and effort. But isn't that what we're here for? To give it our all. And we've got friends and family slowly coming in to help out, so the team's getting stronger by the day.

We still haven't had any luck with reviews... no word, good or bad has been written about us, but that's not really under our control any more. All we can do now... is leaflet.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Our first Edinburgh Street Venture

We ventured out into the streets today. 

Jhiva on the loose in Edinburgh. 

It was... an interesting morning.

 I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Yoga for Performers

Sunday marked our first 'Yoga for Performers' attempt at Fringe Central. We're very pleased that the classes have proved so popular, selling out weeks in advance, and the staff even commented that we were by far the most popular event this year! Who knew yoga would prove such a trend amongst performers? 

The first class went extremely well, and proved a useful platform for meeting some very interesting individuals. We hope that the rest of the classes continue in this fashion.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Turnaround

When things carried on going terribly wrong for us two days in a row, there wasn't much we could do except pray for a turnaround. We had the WORST tech rehearsal in the HISTORY of all tech rehearsals. I mean.... it should have got an award for being so bad.

As we entered the theatre for the first time, we were thrilled with the space. It looked perfect, much more elegant and suitable than the stage we had the previous year. But there was one key thing missing.... the projector. We'd arranged to rent a projector off another company who were buying one, and as they do not arrive until the week we leave, they had the projector delivered to the venue 2 days before our arrival.

Now you'd think, with an entire professional tech team, you might have the genius idea of actually opening the boxes, putting it all together and having it ready for us to use. But, alas, they chose to do this in the mere 1 1/2 hours we had to set up lighting, sound, and do a rehearsal. And it took them 95% of that time, to lay out the hundreds of screws and bolts involved in setting up the mount for the projector, and to inform us that 'unfortunately, it just doesn't fit. Sorry, nothing we can do.'

Ah, okay... well since there's nothing they can do....

In a whirl of panic, with only 5-10 minutes left, we set up the projector on a DESK in the audience. I quickly programmed the lights, and we left. Without running ANY scenes.

Award-worthy, I know.

But there HAD to be a turnaround. What goes down must go up.

The next day was a big one. Saturday was 'meet the media' day, and our very first preview show, where we would go on un-rehearsed. The small glimmer of hope was that the group going on before us hadn't started their run yet, which gave us a teensy bit of extra time before going on to run a couple of short scenes.

At 9am we got in the queue to meet the media. People normally start showing up around 11am, but you're only allowed in at 2pm. The queue by then goes right round the block and down the street. We were determined to be FIRST in line, and we were. I did Korina's hair and she did her make-up while we were in line, and then some friends kindly took our place in line while we went off to do our show and come back.

And that was the moment of truth. The show had every potential to be a complete disaster, yet there was a quiet cool in both of us that told us everything would somehow just magically work itself out.

And boy, did it. The show, with its 69 unrehearsed technical queues, went off without a single glitch. We had an audience of 14 people, which is pretty impressive for a preview show, and they all seemed to be enjoying it. A few people came to us at the end, very enthusiastic about what they had just seen.

A huge weight was lifted. Because we didn't know if it could work. Not just technically... but if a fringe audience would respond positively to this work. It's so different. It's like nothing else out there. How would people see it??

Glowing with the success, we hurried back to reclaim our first place in the never-ending queue. And then the lovely people from 'soundcloud' gave us free t-shirts, bags and an interview for being first in line! I'm not one who's usually excited to do interviews... but I took that one on with a huge grin on my face, and proudly told them we'd got here at 9am!

At 2pm they opened the doors, and chaos reigned. We now had to re-queue for each reviewer, and this totalled up to another 4 hours of queueing. The amount of people, the heat and noise in the building was overwhelming, but the atmosphere buzzed with the energy of so many actors, performers, directors and musicians, desperately trying to make their show stand out.

 And some... really tried. (see photo)

Overall I do believe we did well here too, with several reviewers confidently stating they would attend and provide a review. We left the building starving and exhausted, but extremely content. We'd done it. The day could not have gone any better. Oh, and we bumped into Korinna McRobert, an old friend from Theatre Antidote who came to our show and loved it, and promised to come and film us on Monday, which is fantastic, as we really needed someone to do that!

Today is Sunday, and the first of our 'Yoga for Performers' workshops kicks off at 11am. We're entirely sold out for the yoga sessions, which is very promising. The program is a new, experimental program devised by Korina, and we hope that if it goes well it's something we'll be able to expand in various ways.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The quiet before the storm

Despite a deeply exhausting 19 hours of travel, our arrival in Edinburgh was met with a tranquil familiarity, an 'ah yes... I remember how to do this.' We immediately kicked into gear, and saw our first show within just a couple of hours of getting here.

 'After the Rainfall', a multidimensional production utilising multimedia to juxtapose the life of ants against the aftermath of the British Empire. A very powerful show that I would highly recommend. 

But despite jumping in the deep end and heading for a show almost instantly on arrival, this year we have succeeded in shedding the hunger to see as MANY shows as possible, and replaced it with a much more cautious 'let's dig out the quality in these 2000+ shows.' It won't be easy, and we're bound to end up seeing things we don't like, but 3-4 shows a day simply isn't an option for us this year. We've simply put too much on our plates. 

And, having corrected 700 of our 5000 leaflets, we're feeling the pressure already. There is not a moment that is not filled with a minimum of 10 things that need doing. Oh, and we missed our technical rehearsal... did I mention that?

That might be the single most important thing NOT to miss.... and we missed it. Despite having double checked the date, I was certain it was on Thursday evening. According to the email I received Thursday morning, it was on the Wednesday. I think I saw my life flash before my eyes when I opened that email...

However, we are firmly of the belief that every wrong turn is simply a re-direction to something better. Every cloud has a silver lining, and I am even now considering that at the very back of my mind, I may have sabotaged this on purpose. 

Firstly, to put your minds at ease - we've solved the problem by cancelling our first preview performance, and using this time for rehearsal instead. So... in an hour we'll do our tech.

Why is this a good thing? Well... as I mentioned already, the technical is kind of important. Especially for a play like 'The Jhiva of Nietzsche'. The technical is kind of 50% of the show. And, being the one who runs it all, it's kind of important for me to be at the top of my game in this (very, very short) rehearsal. So, running this vital rehearsal after 48 hours of no sleep, after having spent the last 24 hours lugging around suitcases and waiting in endless queues.... maybe that's not the best way to kick off the show?

So, the disaster did indeed serve in our favour, and we await what good might come of the fact that our dates were changed and we have to correct 5000 LEAFLETS BY HAND.... I guess if nothing else, we're definitely burning some karma doing this!

But even with these disasters the quiet still reigns - the storm itself will hit only once the performances begin. That's when the game starts, when leafleting becomes a necessity, a way of life. 

But the wind is certainly blowing, and we welcome it. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Roots and Wings

Perspective is a funny thing. It has this nasty habit of altering itself based on where you're standing.

For example, if you're two women, standing on a little island, about to fly across the seas to visit the world's largest arts festival...alone... that's BIG... right? 

BUT, if you're two women standing in the world's largest arts festival, trying to make yourselves heard amongst millions of others doing exactly the same thing... well, that's... small, right?

That's kind of how I remember it last year. Like this really big thing we were about to leap into, and, once we took the leap, we felt very...well, small. Because suddenly everything around us was so big. And loud. And fantastic. We kind of faded into the grey a little bit; the colours were just too bright.

But if it's all about where you're standing, maybe the trick is to learn to fly without uprooting your feet. To have roots and wings. To never lose sight of how big you think you are, no matter how much bigger those around you might get. To glide amongst them, fitting in perfectly, yet always holding on to what you know yourself to be. 

It's not about being the loudest or the best. You need to be heard, for sure, and every positive review with four or five stars gleaming off the page is a HUGE blessing. It's why we go. That's what gives us wings. (By the way, anyone who wants to exercise their powers of mental attraction is more than welcome to visualise stars for us. Really. Feel free. Five's a good number. Here's the image, to help you out: "The Jhiva of Nietzsche" ***** Now just picture it.....)

But, stars aside, retaining our roots in the midst of complete chaos, is possibly the biggest achievement of all. Believing in ourselves, and in what we're doing, in the work we're taking there, without even the slightest intimidation on account of our surroundings, without ever once feeling like ants amongst giants... Well, I think that's what the Fringe is about really. 

It is after all, the only festival that doesn't have any kind of selection process for its participants. You take yourself there, and no one promises you anything. If you're going to take that kind of risk... you'd better make sure your roots are as firmly implanted as possible. 


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A bump in the road

It doesn't matter how psychotically organized you are for a project, there's always gonna be those few pesky things that are simply out of your control. You do everything to ignore their existence as they bubble under the surface... but then, one erupts.

I'm talking about a slight bump we're currently facing, in our otherwise perfectly laid out road to a successful Fringe Fest. The venue we had lined up for 'Lulu the dog' has fallen through, and we've been given another venue (in the same building, luckily), but - and here's the real disaster - we've had to shift our dates slightly, so we're now performing 12th-18th rather than 11th-17th. Didn't sound too bad at first. What difference does one day make? And then it hit us. The bomb. In the form of 5000 already printed leaflets, with the WRONG dates, neatly packed and waiting for our arrival in Edinburgh. Yep... 5000 leaflets that we will need to hand-correct. One by one. Just the two of us, cramped in our tiny hostel room, just us and 5000 leaflets with the WRONG dates. My hand hurts already...

Unfortunately, all that we can do right now is e-mail the 200 journalists that we had sent the WRONG press release to, with the corrected dates. And ask the Fringe to kindly correct the dates on their website and phone app. With those slightly more manageable tasks under-way, we're back on track with the rest of our preparations.

Which at the moment include endless arguments about the corrections that need to be made in order to adapt the productions themselves for a Fringe audience (one activity that makes me eternally grateful there are only two of us), building new travel-sized sets and attempting to pack the sets of two shows into one suitcase weighing no more than 20kg (yep... how's that for a challenge?), fireproofing everything with a spray that cost us around 30 euros just for delivery (nothing I love more than UK fire safety regulations...), applying for awards (you never know!) and writing and sending constant press releases to journalists.

Luckily, the "boring stuff" is now officially over. We've dealt with taxes, vat, insurance, international forms, safety forms, contracts, accommodation, flights, registrations, music licensing... and now our main job is to perform and to get people through the door EVERY DAY.

Our 'Yoga for Performers' classes are almost fully booked, so that's a great start. With the right promotion and a little bit of good luck with reviewers, we'll hopefully be in for a great year at the Fringe. Even with a few bumps in the road.

Even with 5000 leaflets... with the wrong dates....


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Here we go again...! Yep.

Another year another Fringe! I seriously can't believe we're embarking on this journey a second time, but there's no doubt that this time round we've got our heads much more firmly screwed on, and geared in the right direction. We know where we're going. We know what we're doing. And because of this boundless certainty and confidence, we've allowed the madness to sway us towards taking yet another thoughtless leap - this year we're returning not with one, but with TWO shows, AND we're running a specialised yoga for performers workshop at Fringe Central! That's THREE things. Please note: the number of events we're taking to the Fringe Fest 2012 does indeed exceed the number of nutters running them, as this year, it's just me and Korina. Yep. Ratio - 3:2. We're outnumbered.

Of course, I'm on an organisational high at the moment to actually make it all happen; the only way to handle this kind of pressure is to create as many charts and lists as humanly possible. To be honest I think this part might just be more fun than actually going. Helps if you're a Virgo though.

This year has really been a fantastic one for us; we've managed to stage two shows, as well as our very first workshop production with both adults and kids. Our workshop groups are constantly growing, and we're so happy to be attracting such wonderful, creative individuals to work with.

We took a big leap with our show, 'Here's what I know about Humans, by Lulu the Dog', by not charging an entrance fee and allowing audiences to donate whatever they wanted. And the leap undoubtedly paid off; we were overwhelmed by the number of people willingly supporting us, and the generous amounts they were giving.

Furthermore, while we'd originally written this production solely for the purpose of raising money, 'lulu' quickly proved herself a powerful gem in its own right, and one that we believe could do very well as part of the festival. Especially as we had the extraordinary luck of meeting Angeliki Kouali, who coloured the production with her original music score. 

As a last-minute decision, we signed it up for the 'Free Fringe', a program which gives you a space for free, provided that you don't charge a ticket. (You're allowed to hold a bucket and ask for donations though). The rent we pay for a venue is one of our biggest expenses, and it is unlikely that the amount of tickets we sell will cover this expense, let alone allow us to make a profit. Therefore (theoretically, but we'll let you know in a couple of months), 'Lulu' probably has more chances of making money than 'Jhiva'.

But in any case, we were well warned that Fringe is not the place to go and make money, and that's not why we're going. Something about expanding horizons, gathering inspirations, that's much more up our alley. We're artists, what can I say?

And health-freaks too, so when we're stone-broke.... we'll live off sprouts!