Yesterday afternoon “The Last Straight Man In Theatre” officially debuted in front of a paying audience. Now, in my humble opinion, anyone paying their $9 (maximum set Winnipeg Fringe price) more than get their money’s worth with this show!
Director Alison and I arrived at the venue at 3pm, and I warmed up. I don’t have a formal warm up, but I am making somewhat of an effort to stretch and warm up my voice. Not sure if that helps, but it can’t hurt. For this show, there is a DVD player attached to a projector, and we had to go buy cables and adaptors for the audio, since the venue didn’t have that stuff. We had some major technical difficulties about ten minutes before showtime, in which we could not get the audio to play correctly. It sounded screechy and inaudible. We ended up moving the DVD player off the stage and up into the tech booth, which was fine because the DVD plays all the way through anyway. The only adjustment to the show was that I wouldn’t be turning on the DVD player at the top of the show. Now the tech is doing it.
Somehow I remained completely cool while all this was going on, and there was no panic. Just quick problem solving. We also had a volunteer tell us right when we came in that we had three people from the press attending. That’s not something you want to hear BEFORE your first performance. But when I was waiting in the wing at stage left, all that malarky left my body and I was ready, as a clean slate, to perform. That is one thing I enjoy about performing these days. For one hour, I can get completely out of my head and let go of everything else and just connect with the energy. I think it’s taken me some experience to get to that level.
Performing the show is a lot of work, although I will not make that boo-hoo statement to someone who is working in a coal mine. For a performer, it’s a lot of work, what with all the characters and how I have to be so precise to interact with the characters I play in the film. I also, as a stage actor, am competing with myself on screen. It’s the battle of movie vs. stage acting! I have never felt more like a professional performer than I did yesterday doing that show. Sure, there were some (well covered up) mistakes here and there, but I really felt like a pro, and I felt that the show was “money,” as they say in “Swingers.” I could not have been more pleased.
We had a huge crowd, but that was partially because we sold half of the house as discount tickets to help get word-of-mouth out. We also did quite a bit of flyering. Alison and I go our separate ways and flyer different line-ups, especially shows that are doing well, or that may have a similar audience. There are many plays at this Fringe, and therefore a lot of competition as to what to see.
The thing that will bring us audience now, and allow us to sell out, and allow me to eat food instead of sand, like the cellmate in “Raising Arizona,” is if we get a good review. Now, many of you have read or heard about my past experiences with reviews. These days I have a bit of a zen attitude, having been that I have been through good ones and bad ones, often times coming from the same exact performance. You don’t know what you are going to get. There are star ratings from one to five, and if you get below four, you have just lost audience and thousands of dollars. If you continue to tour, your reviews will follow you from city to city.
“The Last Straight Man In Theatre” is a five star show on the Fringe. Is it a five star show by International theater standards? No. But by Fringe Festival standards, “The Last Straight Man In Theatre” is a five star show. I, personally, would give yesterday’s show closer to four stars, being that I can see that there is tightening and ironing that will come as the show continues to be performed. To me, it has the potential to be five stars. And, yeah, sure, I’d rather people didn’t read reviews and took chances, blah, blah, blah. And I have done shows where things were grooving and the audience was laughing the entire time, and the one person in the audience who didn’t like it was the reviewer. Who knows? It’s really all a bunch of malarky, and the real way to gauge the show is how your audience is responding. For me, all the reviews will do is tell me how hard I have to work flyering this coming week. If I get less than four, I need to do a promotional bananza. We will see…