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 I thought I would post my response to it now, as I wrote it a few days ago, and it is already a little out of date, as Ottawa Fringe has just come to a close.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!


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?


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.


Andrew Wade,
The Hatter

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Hatter National Tour – Ottawa Edition


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.

Andrew Wade,

The Hatter.

(P.S.: You can buy tickets to my show here!: )