When people ask you in passing, “So, what are you doing for Fringe this year?” , a performer can either answer enthusiastically or want to run away and hide. It depends on the day. About to bat up for Fringe number seven, Becky Blake has identified the seven different stages a performer goes through when putting on their own show. It’s a bit like the seven stages of accepting death really…
Fringe is a brutal arena and not to be entered into lightly! So, maybe fuelled by a couple of late night Scotches and the promises made by your six best friends to DEFINITELY come and see your show, you press “SEND” on your Fringe application and, mustering all your courage, step bravely into the abyss.
You are in full show preparation. You realise many skills you didn’t know you had, lament many you never realised you didn’t have and bluff your way through everything else. Never written a press release before? Tick. Not sure how to design posters, flyers and logos? You’re now an expert! Need props? You save precious dollars by learning how to use a hot glue gun with startling proficiency and take out shares in a gaff tape company. You find out one of your primary school acquaintance’s neighbour’s aunt has just the prop/costume/computer skills/printing company you need to make your show work. You spend two days tracking them down and offer them 200 tickets to your show for them to give you a 5% discount. You have so got this!
Once the Fringe program is released, you start to realise the enormity of what you’ve done. Over 1000 acts vie for punters’ attention any way they can and this can not only be overwhelming for the public, but also for the small first-time shows. You watch, starry eyed, as veteran performers release their award-winning-studded posters and feel more than a little envy towards those who seem to sell out show after show with minimal effort when you’re begging your mother, grandmother and second cousin once removed to come along and put bums on seats. You may feel small. Very small. And insignificant. But you put on your big girl bloomers and suck it up with determination! You’re faking it until you make it!
When you see your friends, your first sentence is always, “Hi! So, have you got tickets to my Fringe show yet?” When the ticketing link comes out, you check your ticket sale numbers. Every. Five. Minutes. Ok, actually every two. You spend hours. Days. Rehearsing. Promoting. Making elaborate props. Making lists. Checking them twice. You sleep very little and when you do, you dream about your show. You only eat when you’re meeting with someone to talk about your show and even then it’s only a nibble. You are officially walking on a knife’s edge.
THE SHOW’S NOT COMING TOGETHER RIGHT!!! Oh God, I need to rehearse more. But I haven’t finished my promotion! Why aren’t people buying tickets? They say Adelaide buys tickets at last minute, but how late is last minute? Why is everyone buying tickets to Dave Hughes and I’ve got five people for my first performances? Aren’t I funny enough? Have I not done enough promotion? Does my show suck? Oh God, do I suck? Why haven’t my six best friends bought their tickets yet? Why aren’t the reviewers flocking? Should I send them a reminder or will they think I’m annoying and then avoid me? Why did I ever decide to do a show in the first place? Conversations, bargaining and threatening God are common at this stage. So are consuming multiple bottles of anything alcoholic. You may or may not lose control of your sphincter.
The build-up to Fringe is electric. The entire city comes alive with colour, sound and scent. People come out of the woodwork and it becomes damn near impossible to get parking. It’s intoxicating. You walk down the street and there’s so many people you can pretend you’re in Sydney. Venues launch their Fringe programs and there’s parties with free booze and food every night of the week. And YOU ARE PART OF IT ALL!! You’re hobnobbing with all the creatives! Heather Croall ACTUALLY wished you Chookas for your show! You are so very glad you did this, even though you’re nervous and have a bit of a hangover from stage number five.
No matter whether you sold a thousand tickets or ten, there is a triumphant sense of pride as you step out onto the stage. You did it. You accomplished this. You revealed your creative soul to a bunch of people, some of them strangers. You were fearless. And as the curtain closes on your show, you’re filled with an odd mix of elated satisfaction and sheer exhaustion. You swear you’ll never do another Fringe again… Until next year…
Becky’s new cabaret, Girl Power Collective, makes its international debut at the Adelaide Fringe Festival 2019.
In a bit of shameless promotion, you can purchase your tickets here: