Why you should write a One Man Show.
This past weekend (well, four days) has been incredible. Inspiring. I have learned so much from these people, not just about theatre, but about life off the coast, about why people are drawn to the stage.
The UFV theatre department is a strange creature. Students can’t get a degree in the subject – which leads to more than a few ‘English’ students (quotation marks highly emphasized by those involved). Even for a major in theatre requires traversing the two UFV campuses in Abbotsford and Chilliwack, as Abbotsford holds the theatre history courses, while Chilliwack attempts to contain the theatre itself. There is so much talent, desire, and drive here.
From the other schools as well. My second-hand thoughts about SFU’s theatre department must be sorely out of date, because they put on amazing performances. Same with Capilano. Same with the the lone alumni from VIU. Same with the marvelous people from TRU. Everyone put their hearts and souls into these performances.
It’s amazing the difference between chatting with someone in the lobby before a show, and chatting with them after you’ve seen them act. We see so much of a person’s soul onstage, it seems.
Once I’ve seen you perform, and you’ve seen me perform, there’s no need to work for a connection – it’s already there. A mutual respect. A view into each other. These festivals weave us together far better than simple conversations ever could.
With a one man show, I don’t travel with a blank slate. Well, not after the first performance. Because after that performance, you’ve seen enough of me to feel comfortable saying hello, perhaps establishing a conversation with a compliment.
And once I’ve seen you perform, I’m not that fellow sitting across from the woman with violet hair on the bus – that first step of a connection has already been made. I already have respect for you and the passion you bring to your art.
I am so… proud… of the connections I have made this weekend, be they the married woman I held deeply enjoyable conversations with, the married couple (Christine and Sharkie) who remind me of all the best elements of PAX, the reflected kudos with countless fellow theatre practitioners (including the somewhat intimidating tall man from the opening ceremony), the possibility of a collaboration with my talented doppleganger (Adam), the producer who is setting up a festival in Nanaimo (Jeremy), the excited blossoming young actor who has just decided this is what he wants to pursue in his life (Ben), and the charming and eager people who promised me they’d get in touch if they happened to be in the same town I was in the future (and vis-versa).
I don’t regret coming at all – instead, I regret leaving. I want to play with these amazing people for years to come. But I can’t. From rise to (far too little) sleep, for four days, I have lived and breathed theatre in this city. And now I go. There is a twinge of tragedy to it all.
Is this what Fringe is like, in every city? So many beginnings, so quick to die out unless facebook and travel plans feed them?
But I don’t want to mope like Charlie Brown about this experience. (Oh, and by the way? UFV’s Dog Sees God – second best show of the festival, and the capstone of my weekend. I’ll give top marks to UFV’s completely self-created ‘The Play’s The Thing’, which begins as a fake technical rehearsal for an awful Hamlet production, then splits the audience into two separate groups that tour around the whole building, listening in on interweaving subplots between the actors and crew during a ‘break’… subplots that resemble Othello and Romeo and Juliet for one group, and As You Like It (or Twelfth Night?) and Macbeth for the half of the audience (the side I missed, sadly)… brilliant stuff. Even the actors were amazed they pulled it off, with side-characters quietly conversing on cellphones to keep everyone cued up and on target to ‘happen’ to walk past each group at the right moments in time.)
That was far too many words to go into tangential parentheses.
As for my show? I don’t know if I have ever had to wait on so many laughs in a performance I’ve done. And with so many people asking me where I’m taking this show next… that’s something I should seriously consider.
I originally chose to bring William Fights The World here because it was what I had in my back pocket, and it was a show I was excited to put together. Well, I love this show now, more than ever, and I want to perform it again. And again. And again.
And that is why you should create a one man show. Because with most shows, there is a bittersweet closing night when you know you and your cast of a dozen other actors, or perhaps only four… will never be able to put this show on again.
But I don’t need to say goodbye to William. Hell, I could put the show on right now, in this room, if I had a drizzle of coffee and an energy drink (the consumable props). Twelfth Night will never happen again, but William can rant and rave for years to come.
(Hrmm… I said ‘Hell’ there, instead of ‘Heck’. William is causing my language to falter somewhat when it comes to swear words.)
Well, I can’t make exactly the same show. I’ll never have quite this audience (incredibly supportive as they were), and I’ll need to use a new Chuck the cactus.
Sadly, in our third and final performance at the Festival, his shake-fall to the ground became fatal. Rest in peace, Chuck.
Fortunately, I bought an understudy. And epoxy, in case Chuck broke apart every show. I like to be prepared.
So yes, write a one man show, so you can travel to festivals and build mutual respect for all these amazing artists and audience members. Write a one man show so that the show never needs to die due to cast members moving away.
But know that travelling to a city for a few scant days means creating a whole lot of beginnings, and hoping, wishing, praying that perhaps one or two of those beginnings will grow and prosper. It means planting a whole field of seeds in every city, and hoping for one – even just one – tree to emerge. But the soil is rich, and if I could stick around to water those seeds, who knows what would come of all of them.
As I alluded to in an earlier post, I ran into Graeme Thompson at this weekend – he was filling in for an ill actor from Capilano University. Well, he found me. A few years ago, he had performed as Hullaboo, and found it a difficult task, to try and act a show with so much direct address to the audience. Well, he saw my show, and came up to me afterwards, with kind words: “So that’s how it’s supposed to be done. All your words, everything, just flowed so naturally, like you were really just talking with the audience.” I really appreciated that. An old seed, an old beginning that happened to grow into a meeting this weekend.
Someone compared me to my doppleganger by saying we were “both a level above with our talent.”
When I performed tonight, I was sure I had missed something somewhere, because the 45 minutes between me and my audience flew by so fast.
This post is me celebrating my time at this wonderful festival.
But tomorrow morning I have to leave town, and hope God is a good gardener in my absence, hope that some local farmer will take pity on my field and water it in my stead. And there’s always facebook.
I’ll miss you, Chilliwack.
I hope to see you again next year. If Ian lets me back in. 🙂
- Why not to do a One Man Show. (adewade.wordpress.com)
- Welcome to Chilliwack – UFV Directors’ Festival, Day 2 (adewade.wordpress.com)