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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Tour Whore, April 8, 2012

The Secret of a Broke-ass Artist
Everyone else was going to the ball and I was just the chaperone.
by Cameryn Moore

I want to tell you a secret: I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I went to a theater production and sat in the audience, before I started touring the Fringe circuit as a solo artist in 2010. 

What. … Look, I was broke. I was broke growing up, and I was broke as a grown-up. Outside of the Fringe, broke-ass artists don’t get comped into shows THAT much, unless you know people, or get any kind of deals on ticket prices, especially not in parts of the States that don’t have a Fringe culture and don’t really understand it. Rush tickets? Yeah, half off of $37.50 is still $18.75 that I never had. It got even worse when I started doing phone sex: I was broke, AND I was reluctant to sign off for the evening hours.

All I did was perform and wrangle other performers in my company to make sure they were getting to call on time and coming out and doing promo shifts

So I was creating theater and dance and entertainment, but I didn’t go out to theater hardly at all. I know, I know, this is problematic from a creative point of view. For my performance troupe I wrote and choreographed primarily dance/musical/burlesque revues and stage parodies of movie musicals, because those were my only affordable source of inspiration, and I watched announcements go by for different productions of this or that, and felt like Cinderella on the night of the ball, before her fairy godmother showed up with a twittering flock of fashion-forward birds to help dress her up.

That didn’t change right away, when I first started Fringing. I started bringing my ensemble to the Montreal Fringe in 2006, because we wanted a place to perform, to show our stuff. I thought I’d get to see other people’s stuff, but no. All I did was perform and wrangle other performers in my company to make sure they were getting to call on time and coming out and doing promo shifts, instead of just going to shows and eating poutine all day. Everyone else was going to the ball and I was just the chaperone. I still didn’t get to see any shows; I just got to read all the audience buzz about other people’s shows.

The first solo show I saw on the Fringe, I remember being nervous: I had the performer password, and I couldn’t quite believe that was going to work!

Then, when I started touring solo in 2010 and didn’t have to wrangle anyone except myself anymore, that’s when … well, that’s when I really got to go to the ball. I still had my shows to perform, and promo to cover, all by myself, but if I wanted to see a show, I had a password and could get in for free and I knew for myself whether I had a little bit of time that night, and why the fuck not.

The first solo show I saw on the Fringe, I remember being nervous: I had the performer password, and I couldn’t quite believe that was going to work! It was Rob Gee’s Fruitcake, I think, in Montreal in 2010. I sat in the center of the front row, and watched the lights come up and go down in different places, and he got sweatier and louder, and I leaned forward like a kid at the circus, hell, like a member of the church where the singing is awesome and the potluck dinner is delicious and the preacher is doing some kind of bring-me-home-to-jeezus spoken-word sermons every single Sunday. 

And that’s when I officially started going to theater. It only happens during the Fringe tour, because that’s when I have time and resources to get in. I mostly just go to solo shows, because I specifically want to see what people do with that one parameter. And I don’t get to go as often as I want, I never do. That’s showbiz, I remind myself whenever I’m wavering between a show coming up in a venue five blocks away and a huge line-up to be flyered, right in front of my face. The Fringe is business, and every hour spent watching someone else’s show is an hour that I’m not flyering for mine. But when I started seeing it as graduate studies in performance, with as many courses as I want to take, then I was able to loosen my grip a little. It’s a bargain that I can’t pass up, not anymore. I’m not taking notes, no, but I’m absorbing it all, a sponge that has been dry for so long, and now has been set afloat in a vast ocean of Things People Are Doing in Theater. (I’m also mixing my metaphors, but I’m sure y’all can keep up.)

I mean, I BEGGED the venue supervisor to let me in.

I remember the moment, when I realized how vast that ocean is, too. At the end of my 2010 Fringe tour, I had done Edmonton and then gone straight to Seattle, but some Fringe friends were finishing out their tour in Victoria, so I drove out onto the Ferry and came to visit. Yeah, I missed the Fringe environment so much that I doubled back and paid $110 round-trip to get more of it. I splurged on a night at a hotel, and saw my friends for brunch and got the last seat at the last show of Martin Dockery’s Wanderlust, I mean, I BEGGED the venue supervisor to let me in. And I’m glad I did, because that show turned out to be the real reason that I came all the way back to Victoria. I wasn’t even on the edge of my seat anymore, I floated above it, wrapped and buoyed by these strands of story that Martin reeled out. 

Oh, wow, I thought, in this sort of warm, glowing fog. That’s what can be done. 

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