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Posts Tagged ‘Ottawa Fringe’

Fringe By The Numbers: My Reactions

September 7, 2013 7 comments
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My last post, A First Fringe Tour: By The Numbers, already has the second most hits of anything I’ve posted onto my blog. Thank you everyone for your responses and for sharing it around. Here are my own thoughts:

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Yes, I lost money. A fair chunk of change. 1,671.16$ , to be precise. But I’ve been spending money on learning experiences for a number of years now, beginning with seven years of university, followed by the National Voice Intensive last year, and now, this tour. Was I hoping to at least break even? Of course! But to take a wider view, I traveled to amazing cities I’d never visited, had grand adventures, even kissed a lady or two, and got to tell a story worth telling to hundreds of people (okay, 534 people + ushers + technicians) across the country.

For my own personal growth, I desperately needed to travel. It was all 100% worth it. Over the course of two and a half short months, I learned a heck of a lot about theatre, life, and myself, and I can’t wait to get back out there next summer (if the Fringe lotteries are willing to let me).

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The Hatter @ Nuit Blanche in London, ON* * * * *

As a former professor once told me as he suffered through the first couple of years of his own theatre company, it’s not at all uncommon for businesses to lose money for their first two or three years of operation. This was my first ever tour. Hopefully now I have a tiny base of fans in each city, who might possibly come out and see a show of mine in the future!

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In each city, to keep this numerical, I think I knew 1 (London), 3 (Ottawa), many (Toronto), and 1 (Saskatoon) people, respectively. No hometown advantage for me.

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Hey Fringe Festival volunteers! You know how you happily exclaim to audience line-ups about how lovely it is that you haven’t raised your ticket price from 10$ for the past fifteen years or so? Well, inflation exists, and what you’re telling artists is that they’ve been earning less and less per ticket for every year for the past decade and a half.

I did not once hear a single complaint on the street or in the theatre about Saskatoon’s 12$/14$ ticket prices. Just sayin’.

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Also, it’s interesting that even with a 2$ administrative fee and GST being factored in somewhere, I still came out earning 11.20$ per ticket in Saskatoon, compared to 9.94$ in London, 9.35$ in Ottawa, and a mere 8.92$ per ticket in Toronto.

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Speaking of which, that shortfall in Toronto exists almost entirely due to the five-pack and ten-pack deals in that city. While I love having frequent fringer packs exist, compare Toronto’s 7.5$ tickets to Vancouver’s frequent fringer packs, which still offer 9$ per ticket to the performer. Seriously consider raising those frequent fringer rates, Toronto. You certainly have a reputation as being a place where performers don’t make any money. I enjoyed my time in the city, but 7.5$ tickets are hurting your reputation and hurting a performer’s chances of being able to break even in your city.

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* * * * *Hatter Poster - Toronto - for printer 2

Every city is so different when trying to figure out the right number of flyers and posters. Before I set out, I pre-printed 25 posters and 500 business card flyers for each city. Rookie mistake, as I learned when I saw other performers in London editing their poster files for upcoming cities so as to include London review quotes. Come Saskatoon I finally began taping quotes onto my posters, but printing posters for each upcoming city as I go seems to be the smarter solution.

So what are the right numbers? Well, 25 posters and 500 business cards felt alright for a sleepy Fringe like London, but I could probably have put up 75 posters in Ottawa, whereas getting 25 posters up in Toronto in anywhere worth looking, proved difficult. Also in Toronto, I ran out of flyers before the fringe was half over – I could probably have handed out 1500. As an experiment, I brought 1000 flyers to Saskatoon, and despite the Fringe’s smaller size, still gave out most of them. So every city is different, and I’ve still more to learn! (It also makes a difference as to how many people you have out there, flyering – being on my lonesome can be a downside when it comes to talking up enough lines to find an audience.)

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I gotta admit, it was disappointing to be one of 36 shows in Toronto not reviewed by Now Magazine. A few ‘N’s might have helped! (For a few more numbers, there were 148 shows in the Toronto Fringe Festival this year. 112 of them received a Now Magazine blurb and set (or lack thereof) of shiny ‘N’s.)

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In London, I recall one performer saying that two or three days before the festival opened, they visited Tourism London to ask for Fringe information, and the person there had no idea the festival was even happening. At Nuit Blanche, I (in full Hatter garb) was asked by several people when the Fringe Festival was beginning. That was the second-to-last night of the festival. It seems London is a hard place to get word out about the festival, which was evidenced by my having zero advance ticket sales, compared to 9 in Ottawa, 23 in Toronto, and 15 in Saskatoon. Toronto is very much more of an advance ticket city than the others – perhaps there’s more of a traditional theatre-going habit there? Or is there less financial disincentive to buy advance tickets in Toronto (when compared to additional fees other festivals add onto advance ticket purchases)?

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The Hat* * * * *

I’m honestly impressed with myself that I was able to keep my grocery bills down to size, even while on tour. Chalk it up to a combination of kind billets, hunts for grocery stores, and restraint whenever out and about with fellow performers. You guys feel free to order your meals at the bar; I’ll just wait until I get back to the food I bought with my big grocery trips on the day before each festival began.

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I didn’t have nearly as strong a show at the beginning of June as I did come mid-August. To be honest, it took me until Toronto to figure out the core of what the show was about – a man trying to get home – and so my show pitches for line-ups weren’t great for the first 2/3rds of my tour. Please don’t take any of the above as me making excuses for perhaps not being as financially successful as I would have preferred: I fully accept my tour as it was.

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Which is to say, a brilliant, daring adventure. 🙂

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For another view into my time on the fringe, as well as my original By The Numbers post, I also put up a By The Emotions post which you might enjoy.

As with before, if you think any of this may be helpful to someone out there, please share it on! I hope these posts are worthwhile for someone else out there. And if you have any reactions of your own, please add them to the comments below!

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Happy Fringing!

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Cheers,
Andrew Wade

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A First Fringe Tour: By The Numbers

September 3, 2013 10 comments
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A First Fringe Tour by the Numbers: For my 2013 inaugural tour of The Hatter.

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London audience numbers:
# of performances: 10
# of comps to media in audience: 4
# of comp VIP tickets: 13
# of comp Trouper tickets recorded: 1
# of comp performer tickets: 16
# of paying audience members: 54
Average # of paying ticket holders per show: 5.4
# of audience members (total): 87
Average size of audience: 8.7
# of shows without a single paying audience member: 3
# of advance tickets sold: 0
Average ticket price paid to me: 9.94$

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Ottawa audience numbers:
Number of performances: 9
# of comps to media in audience: 4
# of comp VIP tickets: 2
# of comp Promo tickets: 2
# of comp volunteer tickets: 9
# of comp performer tickets: 3
# of advance tickets sold: 9
# of paying audience members: 81
Average # of paying ticket holders per show: 9
# of audience members (total): 101
Average size of audience: 11.2
Average ticket price paid to me: 9.35$

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Toronto audience numbers:
Number of performances: 7
# of comps to media in audience: 8
# of comps (poor friend): 1
# of comp volunteer tickets: 11
# of comp 10x10x10 tickets: 33
# of comp VIP tickets: 8
# of advance tickets sold: 23
# of paying audience members: 90
Average # of paying audience members: 12.86
# of audience members (total): 151
Average size of audience: 21.57
Average size of audience, not including 10x10x10: 16.71
Average ticket price paid to me: 8.92$

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Saskatoon audience numbers:
Number of performances: 7
# of comps to media in audience: 3
# of comp staff tickets: 1
# of comp company (performers with password) tickets: 27
# of comp volunteer tickets: 20
# of comp promo tickets (???): 16
# of advance tickets sold: 15
# of paying audience members: 118
Average # of paying audience members: 16.86
# of audience members (total): 195
Average size of audience: 27.86
Average ticket price paid to me: 11.20$

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EXPENSES:

Failed Fringe application fees:
Edmonton: -36.75$
CAFF lottery: -25$
Winnipeg: -20$
Vancouver: -50$
Nanaimo: -25$
Victoria: -28$
San Francisco: -35.60$
Total: -220.35$

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Pre-tour expenses:
Photographer for promo shots: ~-100$
New hat: ~-25$
Hot water urn: -68.95$
Pocketwatch: -13.44$
Total: -207.39$

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London Expenses:
Festival fee: -650$
Props/supplies: ~-11.37$
500 Handbills (business cards): -34.47$
25 posters: -20.95$
Stolen bike light (bought for use in London): -20.33$
Beer for my techie: -11.25$
Total: -748.37$

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Ottawa Expenses:
Festival fee: -632.80$
Cider: -6$
Stage Manager: -100$
500 Handbills (business cards): -34.47$
25 posters: -20.95$
Props/supplies/tea: -7.94$
New backpack (other one broke in so many ways): -58.76$
Extremely generous BYOV venue fee: -80$
Gift to billets: ~-15$
Total: -955.92$

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Toronto Expenses:
Application fee: -27.50$
Festival fee: -750.00$
Stage manager: -80$
Props/supplies/tape/tea: -20.41$
Timbits offered at last four performances: -13.56$
Beer: -14.60$
500 Handbills (business cards): -34.47$
25 posters: -20.95$
Weekly transit pass: -38.50$
Total: -999.99$

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Saskatoon Expenses:
Application fee: -30$
Festival fee: -670.00$
Stage manager: -100.00$
Props: -11.03$
1000 Handbills (business cards): -51.41$
25 posters: -20.95$
Beer: -23.50$
Gift to billet/volunteers: -7.74$
Total: -914.63$

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Travel costs to each city:
Plane ticket from Vancouver to London, through family friend: -120$
Suitcase-full-of-props as extra bag on Westjet: -21.00$
Greyhound to Ottawa: -59.33$
Cost to take suitcase-full-of-props on greyhound to Ottawa: -16.95$
Gas money to artist for ride to Toronto: -20$
Transit tokens in Toronto while waiting for Saskatoon: -53$
Greyhound (43 hours) Toronto to Saskatoon: -139.56$
Cost to take suitcase-full-of-props on greyhound to Saskatoon: -15$
Greyhound (25 hours) Saskatoon to Vancouver: -110.78$
Cost to take suitcase-full-of-props on greyhound back to Vancouver: -15.75$
Total: -571.37$

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Expenses back home:
Rent/storage costs in Richmond for 2.5 months = ~550$
Total: -550.00$

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INCOME:

London Income:
Donation: 5$
Ticket sales at door: 532.00$
Average ticket price paid to me: 9.94$
Total: 537.00$

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Ottawa Income:
6 two-for-one ticket sales (5$): 30$
17 five/ten show passes (7$): 119$
9 Advance ticket sales (10$): 90$
40 ticket sales at door (10$): 400$
stage managed a show twice: 30$
Average ticket price paid to me: 9.35$
Total: 787.00$

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Toronto Income:
23 advance ticket sales (9$ to me): 207$
41 ticket sales at door (10$): 410$
3 Five-pack (7.5$): 22.50$
17 ten-pack (7.5$): 127.50$
6 performer (6$): 36$
Average ticket price paid to me: 8.92$
Total: 803.00$

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Saskatoon Income:
Ticket breakdown made very complicated with 2$ deducted from each ticket for administrative fees, plus GST removed from payout on each ticket. (Saskatoon is the only Fringe Festival that does this.)
Donation: 47.75$
Paid by drunks for a photo taken with me: 3$
Payout from festival: 1322.11$
Average ticket price paid to me: 11.20$
Total: 1369.86$

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Other numbers:
Hours on greyhound buses: 8+43+25 = 76 hours.
Food not considered: Grocery/food bill, as it was kept to my usual 200$ per month.
Days away: 71
Homes graciously opened to me to stay in: 5
# of stars in London review (London Free Press): 3 (out of five)
# of stars in Saskatoon review (The StarPhoenix): 4.5 (out of five)

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Total Expenses:
Failed Fringe application fees: -220.35
Pre-tour expenses: -207.39$
London expenses: -748.37$
Ottawa expenses: -955.92$
Toronto expenses: -999.99$
Saskatoon expenses: -914.63$
Travel costs to each city: -571.37$
Expenses back home: -550.00$
Total: -5168.02$

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Total Income:
London income: 537.00$
Ottawa income: 787.00$
Toronto income: 803.00$
Saskatoon income: 1369.86$
Total: 3496.86$

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Cost/Tuition for a two and a half month cross-country adventure: 1671.16$

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The numbers are bit surprising. I’ll put my thoughts/reactions in my next post in a few days. Hope this is useful for some of you out there to see as well! Feel free to leave your feedback/advice/comments below. 🙂

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Cheers,
Andrew Wade

The Hatter vs. The Reviews!

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Okay, not so much The Hatter VERSUS The Reviews, given how positive they have been!

Let’s look at how The Hatter has fared with more write-ups from Ottawa and Toronto!

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The HatFirst, a late review from Meaghan Flaherty at New Ottawa Critics:

The script is well written and interesting, as Wade jumps from one creative medium to the next: songs, to poetry, to monologues, to audience participation. He manages to keep the audience guessing about what exactly it is that he’ll do next.

Wade also successfully plays many of the most beloved characters from Wonderland. He gives each one just enough of its designated personality so that the audience is able to recognize each one without the Hatter having to tell us.

She admittedly does mention the limited technical side of the show, but that’s what happens when you perform in a church gymnasium without a lighting rig!

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Post-show eyes.

Post-show eyes.

Next up, the lovely Charlebois Post’s Lisa McKeown had this to say:

The Hatter is a kind of sad clown – trying to befriend the audience but clearly suffering from some kind of internal conflict that he’s attempting to avoid.

The writing is clever and Andrew Wade’s performance is comedic but containing a depth that allows the audience to identify with him despite the clownish façade.

Definitely a good one to catch, especially if you’re feeling whimsical or are in the mood for a little audience participation.

Personally, I LOVE that she called me a sad clown! I’ve never gotten to be a clown before! I mean, sure, I have played physically over-the-top characters before, but to be called a clown fills me with an illogically grand amount of glee. Been spending too much time with actual trained-as-clowns performers like Aji from Geek Life and Ask Aggie’s Christine Lesiak, clearly. 🙂

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The Visitorium didn’t write up a full review, but he sent me this kind twitter comment:

@AndrewActs ‘ HATTER is a good time indeed…great storytelling, fantasy, and a lovely cuppa tea. #ottfringe

So that was kind of him.

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Hatter Poster - Saskatoon - for printerAnd finally, Mike Anderson at Mooney on Theatre wrote me an appropriately strange and wonderful review, written as a personal letter to me:

Did you notice how, any time you got to improvise, the audience would involuntarily lean forward in their seats? I know actors who would kill their own mothers to have an audience do that for them. It’s great!

We want to ride that wave with you, Andrew. We want to share in the joy you clearly take from working with a lively audience, from the unpredictability of live theatre, from the freedom you have when you aren’t dependent on light and sound cues to convey your message. When you get out there and act freely, the effect is phenomenal.

Seriously, possibly my favourite review I have ever received. I even took it as constructive criticism and used it to improve my run in Toronto! Heresy, I know! But that’ll have to wait for another blog post (possibly in a few days time!)

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Thank you everyone for all your support; this tour has been a wild and crazy ride thus far! Only Saskatoon remains! Bring on the 43 hour long greyhound trip.

Wait, HOW LONG DID I SAY THAT WAS? Really wishing I could have afforded that train-ride or plane ticket right about now.

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Cheers,
Andrew Wade

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Andrew Wade answers The Question (London+Ottawa Fringe)

This week I was asked by The Charlebois Post to answer a question. I thought I would post my response to it now, as I wrote it a few days ago, and it is already a little out of date, as Ottawa Fringe has just come to a close. Enjoy!

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The Question:
Since you’re half-way through touring The Hatter, how would you describe the overall experience of presenting it in London and Ottawa. Any differences in audience reaction or in any other way?

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It’s hard for me to separate my experiences of performing in each city from my feelings towards being on a Fringe tour overall. London Fringe, as my first stop, was all about getting my bearings. I haven’t travelled much, and I fell ill for three days right off the plane, including passing out, naked, on the floor of my billet’s bathroom. Not only that, but it was a new show! My first London performance was the first time I had ever performed The Hatter. I was memorizing lines up until showtime, with scenes jumping around and switching places for the first few performances.

Hatter Poster - Toronto - for printer 2That being the first time I had presented the material, during my time in London I was also feeling out the character of The Hatter and his personal arc. Some of the aforementioned accidental scene switch-ups, I decided I liked, so I have since implemented them. I also found a slew of other lines which I didn’t really need to say, managed to reintroduce an old scene, and occasionally enjoyed my on-the-spot paraphrasings so much that I’ve edited them into the play. So everything onstage evolved rapidly in London.

Due to being given a small venue, they also allotted me more showtimes, which meant I was performing essentially almost every single day – only one day off – so most of my time was spent in pre-show prep/flyering and post-show recovery. While I did once manage to meet up with an old friend, but there was far less downtime to this whole ‘performing in Fringe Festivals’ thing than I had previously anticipated.

Other than my lovely billets, I also didn’t interact much with the locals. A few nice conversations, but mostly I hung around with a handful of other performers who I knew or was getting to know. Quite a lot of solitary time – which I didn’t really mind, surprisingly.

By now, with only a few days left in Ottawa, I think I am finally adopting the necessary mindset towards socializing while touring – something I’d been missing in London. Ordinarily at the back of my mind with every conversation I’m having is a radar scanning along, looking for hooks, ways to continue the relationship between myself and the other person. How can this association, this friendship, this relationship, be maintained, continued into the future? But that doesn’t work so well when you know you’re leaving town in a week’s time, and aren’t sure you’re ever coming back.

Hattersquare600x600So instead, Fringe is making me be more present than before. This conversation with a local which I am having right now, this conversation is its own encapsulated moment, never to be repeated. It can only be enjoyed now for what it is, because it isn’t the precursor to something else down the road. It just is what it is, straight up, hold the ice. And it’s the same for them! I am just a travelling performer, rushing through their town, and yet they still want to talk to me. I guess that makes me interesting.

Being in a BYOV, I am still performing almost every day here in Ottawa, moving from ten performances in London to nine here, to seven in each of Toronto and Saskatoon. One big personal goal of my fringe tour was to allow myself to enjoy travelling, and while I’ve gone to the house of commons and the supreme court, I’m finding I’m more engaged by chatting with people and asking them what they think of their city. Ottawa’s winters are too long but they couldn’t imagine a life without snow. The only jobs are government jobs, but the place throws great parties and is kept young by all the universities. I’ve never seen a city with so many police cars, but I suppose that makes sense.

As to the show itself, adapting it from a tiny room to a church auditorium had its share of surprising elements. I still find myself occasionally waiting for lighting cues which existed in London, but couldn’t be done in Ottawa, and due to the resonating echoes of the room, I actually need to perform more quietly in the auditorium than I ever did in London.

The Hatter @ Nuit Blanche in London, ONAs for the audiences… to be honest, I am just over-the-moon thankful that I have audiences. My first two performances in London, the only people coming to the show were volunteers, fellow performers, and media. Not a single ticket sale. Great for workshopping, not so great for not-becoming-financially-destitute. Then on the third day, fifteen paying audience members. I can’t say I kept up the third day’s numbers for the rest of the run, but until then, I admit my worries were getting the best of me. Ottawa’s audiences, hopefully due to the generally positive press I’ve been receiving, have been slightly more numerous. With BYOV venue fees, I won’t break even on this stop, but this trip was always designed as my ‘tuition’ for learning how to tour with a show. Next year I’ll earn my profits. 🙂

I love meeting people on the street in Ottawa. London-folk are lovely, but the number of times Ottawans have asked if they can have a picture with me (in full Hatter garb) really brings a smile to my face. Yet for all that gregariousness, Ottawa audiences are also far less willing to sing along with The Unbirthday Song. Interesting divide, there. (NOTE FROM FUTURE ANDREW: My final audience in Ottawa was LOVING singing that song. Go figure.)

In both cities, I have made fans of my work, and with every other performers’ shows I see, I get little glints of inspiration, ways to continue to explore this play, tweak it, refine it. Watching Nancy Kenny‘s excellent Delores reminded me to pay attention to the main relationship within The Hatter, while Kurt Fitzpatrick’s Cathedral City and Bruce Horak’s Assassinating Thomson have a new show slowly building itself in the sunshine nook of my mind.

Which I suppose means I’ll need to do this crazy Fringe Festival thing again next year. What a daunting, exciting, intimidating, and thrilling notion.

Before then, however, I have seventeen performances in two and a bit Fringe Festivals (FUTURE ANDREW: Okay, two festivals. Plus possibly Nanaimo now?), one theatresports performance on Canada Day (FUTURE ANDREW: Which was AWESOME), at least fifty-five dreaded hours on greyhounds, and whatever else crops up (Nanaimo?) before this summer ends.

Hope to see you in Toronto or Saskatoon.

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Cheers,
Andrew Wade,
The Hatter

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Andrew Wade’s The Hatter – More Reviews!

June 26, 2013 4 comments
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The Hatter @ Nuit Blanche in London, ONNow that my run in Ottawa is more than halfway done, a look at a couple more reviews for THE HATTER:

Allison Vanek at Apartment613 didn’t love everything about the show, but they did enjoy quite a bit of it:

“Inevitably, solo shows live or die on the abilities of their performers, and The Hatter is no exception. In that department, writer and performer Andrew Wade doesn’t disappoint.

Wade embodies the character of the Mad Hatter perfectly. He’s high-energy, even with a pretty low-energy audience, he never breaks character, and his impressions of the Caterpillar and the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland are fantastic. He’s also really wonderful at improvisation.

The themes are dark, powerful, and frighteningly mundane.

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And Josh Chenoweth at Production Ottawa loved the show, but didn’t care for the venue. Widely varying venues is always a danger of Fringe.

Despite suffering from an overly large venue, Wade’s heartfelt performance shines through.

Andrew Wade’s The Hatter takes the titular character… and humanizes him right before the audience’s eyes.

From the start, the appreciation Wade has for the character and the source material is very apparent… You honestly feel for him as his sanity begins reconstructing itself.

It’s a fun journey and Wade’s charm is undeniable.

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I look forward to seeing what Toronto and Saskatoon have to say!

Cheers,
Andrew Wade,
The Hatter

Andrew Wade’s The Hatter – Reviews!

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And now, a quick look at some of the kind comments I’ve received about The Hatter.

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At the preview in London:

The Hatter drew an enthusiastic applause at the showcase.

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Yes, well, that’s all good, but what about the show itself? Well, according to Susannah Joyce at Beat Magazine, who gave the show three out of four stars…:

Much of the writing is… clever and funny, with a polished, lyrical style. An invitation to sing “A Very Merry UnBirthday”, with words thoughtfully printed out in the Program, was well received by everyone.

Story is important to the Hatter.

The battle with The Jabberwocky is enjoyable theatre, with very good use of audience participation and well designed costumes and props to enhance the visual effect.

The Hatter is an admirable effort and a worthwhile visit inside the mad workings of Wonderland.

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The London Free Press and Joe Belanger later followed up with a review of their own:

Wade’s performance as the jaded, lonely Hatter is a delight, convincing and poignant, not quite what one would expect, which is perfect for a Fringe festival.

The Hatter is a fun show that children might find entertaining, although their parents are sure to feel a little on edge from the tea party upon their arrival through to the opening scene and the show’s poignant conclusion.

You quickly learn to expect the unexpected, which can only be attributed to Wade’s fine acting skills. To maintain that tension for 50 minutes is no easy feat.

The Hatter is a show well worth catching.

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During the run, perhaps my favourite comment which I personally received was:

At the end there, it really got me in the feels.

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And finally (for now), I received a lovely email after my last performance in London:

Hi Andrew or Hatter or Ernest.
My boys (one of whom put ketchup in his tea by choice) and I really enjoyed your show at The London Fringe.
You have a great voice, a terrific imagination, good tea and hilarious songs.
We loved your impromptu song about trying to get elephants to fly.
Thank you for the story about the Albatross. It gave me an opportunity to tell my boys about The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Hope you enjoyed your time here in London and made some good dough.
And we hope you continue to act and sing and create.
Come back to London next year.

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Makes all the hard work worthwhile. I look forward to seeing how Ottawa receives the show! Thursday beckons! (Tickets available here!)

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Cheers,
Andrew Wade

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Hatter National Tour – Ottawa Edition

June 17, 2013 1 comment
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Nine hours of Greyhounds later, I arrive in Ottawa, lugging my two giant suitcases out of the bus, wishing I hadn’t packed such a props heavy show. But it’s a good show.

Hatter Poster - Ottawa - for printer 2The bus was an hour late, but my billets only live what should be a half-hour walk away. Outside the bus depot, I stop and put on an extra shirt to cover up from the chill night air, an hour chillier than I was expecting. While there, a taxi driver offers a lift. At a cost, of course, but as a minimum wage worker who expects to lose money during his stay in this town (due to Bring-Your-Own-Venue fees), eh, I’ll save the money and walk with all my gear.

I forget in that moment how uncomfortable it is to have a backpack heavily laden with a huge brick of a laptop. A backpack whose straps have each broken earlier in my tour, and so now are held on by uncompromising, unextendable duct-tape, so that one strap is longer than the other, creating quite a lot of strain on my left shoulder.

I immediately regret my decision not to just take the taxi.

Three or four short but-oh-so-long blocks later, I am passing by a Subway sandwiches restaurant when a woman in the parking lot, a propos of anything, offers me a ride to wherever it is I’m going. Clearly she could see my Sisyphian struggle rolling my body’s weight across the pavement, and took in my Mad Hatter’s hat, perceiving that I wasn’t a threat to her or her daughter.

I swear, traveling is just improving my already high opinion of strangers, tenfold. Just so gosh darn nice.

We stop at my new billet’s place, where the couple I am staying with, Dean and Ruth, are waiting outside on the porch to greet me. Them and their giant black dog. I thank my ride and leave them with a business card and promise to offer them comps, but they want to pay for tickets to support me. Hopefully I hear from them.

At this point, all I know about my billets are that they have a giant dog, that they don’t own a vehicle, and… and that the man looks and dresses like the prototypical Amish gentleman. Like someone who would be right at home at a barn-raising, right down to the impressive and impressively sculpted facial hair. I have an immediate wonder as to whether or not their home will have electricity.

Half an hour of conversation later (in the well-lit, not-at-all-a-barn home), I discover that my billet is a storyteller who will be performing a version of Moby Dick. Which explains the facial hair somewhat. (Though his wifi internet password DOES relate to Amish communities, not to be any more specific about it.)

(He is clearly a complex man.)

But here I am, in the nation’s capital, eager and ready to take in a new environment. I mean, London was nice, but if you had told me I was off in a corner of Victoria or somewhere slightly inland from Abbotsford, I might have believed you.

Jervis Tetch/The Mad Hatter as depicted in Bat...

Jervis Tetch (Wikipedia)

Thus far, I’m finding that people are genuine and kind to me wherever I go, and that most of the stores are the same across the country, or have near to identical analogues, anyhow. Far more similarities than differences, in all but the wildlife. Which makes sense. With the ready ease at which people can travel across this country, similarities and homogenous communities are bound to emerge. But the porcupine crossing the road outside Ottawa won’t make his way into Richmond any time soon, nor the beautiful magpie stuck in the Calgary airport terminal, or the large turtle outside the rest-stop midway between Toronto and Ottawa, unwilling to decide whether or not he dare try to cross the highway.

I’ve got a startling two more months left in my own migration pattern this summer. The odds of me actually going Mad doing all this traveling by myself are still rather high, for those of you taking bets. And this is apparently an absolutely no gluten household, which also doesn’t have a blender, so there goes essentially how I make all of my meals. SO! Got to figure out how to survive on more than apples and bananas. Hrmm.

This should be quite an interesting two weeks! With all that’s ahead of me, I really am looking forward to sharing The Hatter with this city, the capital.

In London, I was visiting a small city solely for Fringing purposes. In Toronto, I will be exploring the city where most of my classmates moved to, post-graduation, seeking a world of greater performing opportunities (both stage and film, nowadays) and greater government funding and support. (My beloved BC has more artists per capita than any other province, but by FAR the least amount of funding per capita for the arts.)

But Ottawa is different.

I don’t have a lot of childhood memories, I don’t think. But I do remember with some details my father’s ill-fated run for office with the Reform Party, back in, oh, 1994 or so. It’s only natural for boys to admire their fathers, but I had good reason to – he really wanted to be a public servant, to represent and help his constituents on the national stage, and while he may not have achieved that dream, that noble goal still resonates with me. In the background of my life I find myself quietly, slowly, training. A few years on Senate at UVic. A leadership role with Peer Helping. Studying political blogs and current affairs. All awaiting for that day when I’m in my 40’s when I may very well aim to be public servant in some capacity, at some level, myself. So, to find myself in Ottawa! Time for a little exploration, another building block to mount atop another.

But that goal is some sixteen years away. Let’s get back to the present. Back to a tea party. Back to a bed lined with giant dog hairs, my kind, not-Amish hosts, two overflowing suitcases, and three fringe festivals to prep for.

Hello, Ottawa! I have so looked forward to meeting you.

Cheers,
Andrew Wade,

The Hatter.

(P.S.: You can buy tickets to my show here!: http://ottawafringe.com/tickets/the-hatter )