I've committed the cardinal sin of blogging-- or of writing in general for that matter-- by not posting anything in far too long. There is no excuse, but if I were to give you one, it would be that this year marks my playwriting debut with the opening of my show Desperately Seeking Something at the Toronto Fringe Festival. The show opens July 3rd at Trinity St Paul's United Church (427 Bloor St W) and I've been so busy writing and producing this thing that I've shamefully neglected all sorts of other projects. Want to see what all the fuss is about? Check out the poster below for show details and ticket info.
As crazy as my first forays into producing and writing a full-length play have been, I've learned a LOT in the last few months, so here it is: 5 Things I've Learned About The Toronto Fringe.
1. Assemble a Team ASAP
I applied for the Toronto Fringe alone in my apartment one cold November day. I didn't have a script, let alone anyone to help me pull off a full-scale theatrical production. Producing a show seemed like a manageable goal when I was sitting alone at my computer in my pyjamas eating potato chips. "After all", I thought, "I have an honours degree in Theatre, isn't this what I've been working toward for years?" "How hard can it really be?" Turns out: Very. There is more to do to put on a show than I could have imagined, and I've been involved in theatre in all sorts of different capacities for nearly ten years. But, I'd never been a producer before, and getting hired to work on someone else's production is very different from Captaining your own. The difference with Fringe is that, ultimately, I'm the person who signed up for this adventure, and I'm responsible for the show as a whole. I very quickly realized that it would be impossible to do everything and was lucky enough to find an amazing director/dramaturg and stage manager. Without them, I would be back on the sofa eating potato chips instead of getting ready for my playwriting debut. Even so, if I were to do it over again, I would hire a production assistant to pick of some of the slack and help out as needed; there really more than enough work for such a small team!
2. Everything Takes Longer Than Planned
Things will go wrong. Lots of things. Rehearsals will need to be rescheduled, lights will malfunction, printers will be unable to get you your posters, it will rain on photo-shoot day, you will have an unrelated personal crises three weeks before opening. All of these things and more happened to me, and because of these unexpected adventures, it will take longer than you think to get things done. Good news is that they will get done eventually. They have to. Opening Night is non-negotiable. But over-budget your time and set early deadlines. Earlier than you think. Seriously.
3. Take it Step-by-Step
Getting into Fringe is overwhelming. The very first email they send you is full of more deadlines, forms, and information than you could have imagined. It's impossible to think about them all at once. I had to work on a week-by-week basis. I was constantly asking myself what needs to get done TODAY? What needs to get done THIS WEEK? It's a fine balance between looking ahead since everything takes longer than planned, and compartmentalizing so you don't get overwhelmed. Tackling the show one step at a time and compartmentalizing the rest was crucial for me. Fringe does a great job of outlining all the things that need to get done before the festival and spacing out their deadlines so you can focus on one thing at a time. Take everything step-by-step and don't get too far ahead of yourself!
4. The Script is Never Finished
I set myself this beautiful playwriting deadline when I dreamed the script would be perfect and beautiful and I could focus solely on producing, and fundraising, and costume shopping... but that day came and went and I was still glued to my computer. I sent draft after draft off to rehearsal thinking that maybe I would be satisfied, that the director would have no notes, and that I would win some type of genius-writer award. But, after every rehearsal, there are always things I want to change, important notes from the director, and/or questions from the actors that have me revising over and over again. I wrote fourteen drafts after rehearsals started, and I don't even know how many I wrote before then. The script will never be perfect, and I'm trying to accept it. And I'm accepting that, when you're both writing and producing, there will never be a time when you're not wearing both hats.
5. Fringe is Family
Fringe is an amazing community and such a great opportunity to meet and work with other artists. Like any family, you'll get emails and Facebook notifications at all hours, people will be both looking for help and offering it. There may be little miscommunications or different opinions, but ultimately the Fringe community supports each other, and with artists from such diverse backgrounds and experience levels it's an amazing opportunity to learn from other participants and to see who else is out there in our little Toronto-theatre world. Take advantages of as many Fringe resources as you can and maybe even make some friends along the way!
Can't wait to see you all at the Fringe!
For more info about the festival and to purchase tickets visit: www.fringetoronto.com
To become a patron of the arts visit: https://fwyc.ca/campaigns/desperately-seeking-something