Fringe Diary 6: Fringe Community; or, Life

I've settled into the space as the run has gone on, spreading stuff left and right. Last night, I even stuck a post-card of Saint Sebastian on the wall.

There’s some lentil soup sitting on top of the stove, which I was eating two or three days ago and then neglected to put away in the fridge. I kept looking at it and thinking I should put it away, but then I lost track of time, and days passed, and it’s now sprouting a nice coating of mould. I’m having to individually wash each plate and fork and bowl now, because there are no clean ones, as I haven’t done the dishes in a while (was it Tuesday I did them last?). I’ve just put some laundry in, because I was concerned I might be starting to smell … I’m not entirely sure what day it is anymore.

            It’s going on 1 p.m. right now and I’m still in bed, writing this. I slept for 10½ hours last night. Guess I was tired.

        It’s mid-Fringe time. Actually, we’re heading into the final weekend, but I still have three of my seven shows to go, so it’s mid-Fringe for me.

        A time of reckoning.


* * *


The last time I did the Montreal Fringe, it was 2002. I didn’t really engage with the Fringe at all that year, apart from going to see a few shows. I was staying at a McGill residence, and I would walk down the mountain and across parc Jeanne-Mance to the Portuguese Association and do my show, and then (usually) walk back home.

         I’m sure, at the time, I thought I was doing what I needed to do. I felt I needed to “concentrate on my show” and not get caught up in “distractions” (i.e., engaging with the festival).

         Boy, have I changed.

            What I now understand is that the Fringe is a community. Yes, it’s built on individual shows—they are the reason the festival exists—but on that scaffolding hangs an entire structure of Fringe staff, volunteers, musicians who perform in the park, theatregoers (or, as I called them last night—I couldn’t think of the right word—“normal people”) and, really, the entire neighbour-hood in the Rachel/Saint-Laurent area, the businesses that provide us all with places to eat and drink and relax. It’s a whole little world, in other words, and it includes many people for whom “the shows” are the distraction.

            It’s like real life, in other words.

            Life being something you should probably engage with on some level.


* * *


As an artist, I think it’s a very good thing to be reminded that your show is part of something much, much bigger. Yes, my show is my passion, but it fits into a larger whole, a community.

I did some volunteering this year, as a “greeter” in the Fringe park. Met other volunteers. I bump into them everywhere now, and we chat. I also met some “normal people” and had some pleasant conversations and some deeply weird and even upsetting ones. One guy I chatted to, who was clearly looking for shows to go and see, told me he was so tired of shows about Saint Sebastian and gruffly handed my flyer back to me. (Where are all these shows about Sebastian?)

I’ve gone to a few shows. I’ve hung out in the quartier. I’ve loved walking up and down the pedestrianized boulevard St-Laurent.

I had a mango bubble tea last evening, some pizza, saw the affecting To Jax. Bumped into the dancers from From the Top and told them how great their show was. Talked for a while with the lovely box office lady at my venue. Watched kids trying to climb up the hippopotamuses in the little park around the corner.

       Oh, yeah, and I did my show. It was one of the best shows I’ve done, I think, for a small audience that made me think they were twice as many. (Among them was a critic, who gave me a good review this morning, and that feels nice.)

       So, yeah, it’s not 2002 anymore, and I’m living the Fringe more fully, and hoping this is a metaphor for how I’m living my life.

       It has its ups and downs. The Fringe experience, that is, but also life.

       Unlike life, though, which goes on, the Fringe has a very limited timespan and calls out to be experienced in whatever way you choose.

          In fact, on second thought, not unlike life at all.           

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