Sunday, September 18, 2005

The View From Here #100: Vancouver, BC

Wow, it’s the centenary edition of “The View From Here!”

According to the word document that I keep these things in, I am now on page 459, (single spaced), with 237,689 words.

There’s a book in here somewhere.

Perhaps as fascinating as the fact that I have written that much, is the fact that some of you have actually READ that much!

I certainly had no idea, when I wrote my first entry back in September of 2002, that I would still be writing, or touring, or that people would still be reading. Go figure. (The readership of this thing has gradually climbed to over 300 people.)

So, from San Francisco, I drove north. I failed to arrange meet-ups in Northern California, or Southern Oregon, so I plowed on ahead to Portland. Yes, I know, by taking I-5 I missed all of that beautiful coastline along the way.

Sometimes the scenery is just too damn beautiful. Especially when there’s no one to share it with, but my camera. You go to say, “Oh, honey, look at that!” And then realize that there’s no “honey” to report this to, and, well, let me not get maudlin. But if you want to see a photo of scenery, I’ve put a new one of Flaming Gorge up on the front page of my listserv website: .

So I stopped in Portland, visited with my good friend, Tina, and pushed on to Seattle. There, my good friend, and fellow UNL grad, Beth Amsbary, had arranged a barbeque party at David Yeaworth’s place. I had given Beth and David a preview of “Karaoke Knights” about a year ago, on my way to the San Francisco Fringe. This time around, David and Beth made a barbeque event out of it, and hosted a dozen friends on Labor Day, with me as the featured entertainment. I STILL didn’t have the latest DVD in hand, so I performed the first 25 minutes of the version I’d been performing in Boulder.

They were a fantastic audience. Packed in tightly to David’s living room, the laughter was contagious, and there were some great laughers. I did seven numbers, and felt reinvigorated for the shows approaching in Vancouver.

I stayed an extra day in Seattle, so that the discs could catch up with me (caught up on e-mail), and hit the road running. Traffic was backed up at the border, so they waved me through after about two questions, and without even looking at my passport (“What is your quest!?”). I continued in, with just enough time to check in at my billet (Scott, a really nice musical comedy producer who has a ninth-floor apartment with a fantastic view of the ocean … or whatever bay or inlet that is that leads out to the ocean), and head over to the performance space where I would be doing a preview of the show for the sponsor party.

(Scott, by the way, has been reading my blog on-line, and every now and again, I bump into people who already know things about me because they’re reading me on-line. Scott was nervous that I would say nasty things about him in these pages. Scott, you’re a fantastic host and an all-around great guy, and I say that without a trace of irony. And I say that I say that without a trace of irony, without a trace of irony.) (Once you even mention that irony might be possible, it unfortunately begs the question.)

I was up first, and did “Tempted to be Tempted.” It went well, but there were only about 50 people present at the time. (“Tempted” has turned into my new preview song. It somehow seems to stick in people’s heads long after they’ve seen it.)

Thursday was a day of catching up on e-mail, with a “parade” and opening night party that evening at the fringe. The parade was about as lame as you can imagine a parade to be. There may have been 60 of us marching, complete with a terrific New Orleans style band (I was in front holding one end of the Fringe banner), but there were maybe 20 people present along the parade route, and none of them seemed to be there because they had heard that there would be a parade. The media, however, was present with video and photographers, so we assume they got some good shots, albeit tightly cropped.

Friday I had my tech rehearsal and my show at 3:30. I gave away a lot of tickets, or passwords, to get people into the theatre, and there were maybe thirty people there at showtime. In an auditorium that holds 450.

Fortunately, they roped off the further rows, and everybody stayed close and seemed to have a good time. I could eye one woman off to the side with a notebook in hand. Clearly a reviewer.

As planned, I pretended that there had been a “meltdown” with the DVD, and that for some reason the machine wasn’t “reading” the voiceover files, which meant that I would have to do those live.

I was surprised at how smoothly I was able to pull off this lie. Somehow, everyone seemed to accept the notion that my DVD was indeed spontaneously not working, and apparently they couldn’t hear the voice in the back of my head saying, “Ooh, what a stinking LIAR you are!”

Afterwards, at least two people came up to me to say that they really liked the show with me doing the narration live, and that I should think about keeping it that way. (I immediately explained the hoax.)

From then on, I couldn’t bring myself to perpetuate the lie. Instead, I explained that the DVD HAD melted down, back in Saskatoon, and that the audience liked it so much I had decided to keep it in. The audience still appreciated the adventure story, if from a distance, and joined in just as heartily in the sing-along bits, knowing that this new way of performing the show would leave me a bit too out of breath to carry the full load.

On Friday night, I bumped into Jane, my former "Vancouver girlfriend" (from two years ago) at the Fringe Club. She was on the way to a show; I was on the way from a show, so it was just a brief, warm hello, but it was good to get that out of the way and ease some of the tension around being in Vancouver. (I haven't seen her since, and I'm down to one last show.)

On Saturday, I stopped out at the beach for a bit of sun before continuing in to do the show. (The weather has since turned mostly cloudy and cold, though the sun is back out again today.) The second audience was another smallish one, with perhaps 25-30, but the Sunday show, which I thought would be a good slot, was a precipitous drop, down to maybe ten.

I started counting on the review to save the attendance. Nothing was in the papers by Tuesday, so I figured it would be downhill from Sunday’s show. The house manager had affixed the ribbon blocking off the higher rows a row or two higher than the last show, and I had fears that the five people in attendance would gravitate to the periphery. As they came in I encouraged them to sit closer.

Only one person stayed in the back row, unwilling to sit closer. I’m sure he was a reviewer.

And people kept coming in. Until there were maybe forty in attendance. It was a surprise spontaneous outpouring of presence. I responded by giving one of my better performances.

I had pretty much run out of flyers. There are maybe a half-dozen left that I’m kind of saving as souvenirs, but I’m not planning to print any more up. At least not now that the reviews are out.

On Thursday, both the Georgia Straight and the Vancouver Sun came out with reviews of my show. Both hated it.

Okay, maybe they didn’t hate it, but they clearly liked it a lot less than other shows.

I won’t bother quoting them. There’s nothing salvageable, and they’re indifferently written. And they put me in a bad light, and HEY, this is MY blog!

I can barely call the reviews here “reviews.” Most of them are about a paragraph long. They’re more like “retorts,” and I can’t imagine that the writers spend more than five minutes on the process. Which makes me wonder why they need the notebook.

I look back at the shows that they attended, and am very conscious of the fun that the audience was having. Fun which failed to penetrate the crania of the retorters.

I have decided that if there is any one person in a bad mood at my show, they will be the reviewer.

And, I don’t say that in an angry way. It’s just that somehow the need to write something about my show seems to remove the vulnerable attitude of playfulness, and replace it with the sober sense of responsibility and distaste. And in a way I kind of feel sorry for them for that. But only in a way.

There are two performances left, after which I go back to performing Moliere. The Fringes have left me largely broke, and in more critical need of bookings for the coming season. I’ve responded to that need by blowing off the promotional campaign for “Karaoke Knights” and spending about 8 hours a day at the computer e-mailing with schools. I decided that I needed to save my salesmanship for the big-ticket bookings, rather than chasing down every ten-dollar ticket I might manage to sell.

I organized the three years of notes that I’ve been keeping about schools that are or aren’t able to afford my show in any given year, sorting them by state. Now, when I’m headed to a given area, I can see at a glance (without having to scan 50 pages of notes) other schools in the same area that may be interested.

I also started writing to a new set of teachers. While the last three years I’ve been working from the list of colleges and universities that I’d surfed through (back in the summer of 2002), this year I have opened my surfing up to the list of 2-year and junior college institutions. It’s a long process that took me well over a month in 2002, and I’ll probably be pursuing this up until January sometime.

But I’ve formulated a thesis. Postulated a thesis? Or is it a theory?

For every eight-hour day that I spend working the bookings, I tend to get a couple of bookings coming in. Let’s arbitrarily call it $2000 worth of business. We don’t know if much of that business would have come in anyway, but certainly things are flowing in a better way now than they were a week or two before.

So, what if I set my goals in reverse? Rather than trying to spend time in an arbitrary fashion, running down bookings when I can spare the time, what if I said, taking an entirely outrageous stance: that I wanted to earn a hundred thousand dollars this year (impossible, certainly). BUT, if it were true that eight hours of work brings in $2K of business, then one might be able to suppose that fifty such days of work would result in $100K of business.

It seems impossible, but also, not.

Of course, the only way to prove that it’s impossible would be to spend fifty days on this.

But, hey, for what it’s worth, I put five days in this week, and next week I should have five days in Arizona before my show comes up. Five days here and five days there … ten times …

And, even if I’ve set my ambitions way too high ... what do I lose by playing it out? Much better to articulate a vision and to play within the parameters of that game. Either I will win or … not win as much.

And, somehow, this is becoming more important to me than “fringing.” I love the people on the fringe, and the inspiration from seeing people doing really creative stuff … but what if I actually spent a summer at home one of these years? Or working for a Shakespeare festival somewhere? Or doing voiceovers? Or writing new plays … Of course, give me a month of performing for high schools, and I’ll be dying to get back on the fringe.

So, anyway, that’s what’s been driving me this week. It’s Saturday afternoon now, and I’ve got a show tonight at 8:45. Should be a good time for a show. There aren’t a lot of the mega-popular shows performing at the same time, so perhaps I’ll have a few more than previously. If I don’t, I promise not to kick myself about it. There are other things.

Okay, so now it’s Sunday morning. Not many in the audience last night, and the temperature in the room seemed to have shifted. Colder, more distant. People sitting way off to the side, almost as if they wanted to be able to slip off quickly. (I suspect they read the review.) And yet, several people toward the center were clearly into the show.

One performance left, at 3:00 today. And then I load up the car and drive. Three days down to Arizona, where my fantastic friend April is letting me use her timeshare, which will enable me to relax, get that final suntan of the season, and nibble away at my fifty days of work.

Miles on the Vibe: 149,200 (now: 151,000 in two days)
Music in the player: Eno (yes, still)
Temperature: 15 C
Reading: The Truthout website (
Attendance: 12 + 30 + 20 + 10 + 40 + 20 = 132
Discoveries: The bookings are not the result of luck but the result of time invested. If I put in more time, I’ll earn more money. * I’m a much better liar than I imagined. * What do I lose? I can either win or not win as much. Better to articulate a vision and play within the parameters of that game.
Next performance: September 25 Tempe, AZ (Arizona State)


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