Dealing with fringe uncertainty

I had a blog post all ready to go, talking about the breakthrough I had last week, and how happy I was with the progress of I Made an Adult. And I wanted to talk especially about how important it has been to have a director, someone to help me bring things out in the script. Maggie and I had a fantastic rehearsal yesterday where we really felt things falling into place. So that’s what I was writing about. But as I was finishing the blog post, the news was coming through about the emerging COVID situation in Perth, the snap five-day lockdown and, as a result, the cancellation of five days’ of Perth Fringe shows. 

Over the years, fringe festivals and the fringe circuit have become an integral part of many artists’ creative cycles. (For better or for worse), the fringe circuit is now an integral piece of infrastructure. It provides the framework around which many artists build a body of work and at their best provide a source of income for that work. Fringe festivals are not only an opportunity to share our work with audiences but also to put our work in front of producers and tour managers, to potentially take our work to new places and new audiences.

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling vulnerable in the lead up to a fringe festival. Sharing new work is nerve-wracking, because of course we are not only sharing ourselves but often some of our deepest thoughts or examining our flaws. Sometimes we are experimenting with new forms or trying new techniques. Will anyone come? Will the reviewers see what I want them to see?

Then, there is the financial vulnerability. My show is very low-impact with limited resources, but it’s still a significant financial investment all paid upfront, only to be recouped if enough people come.

So yesterday afternoon, as I thought about the artists who have sunk that time, that emotional energy and that money and I felt quite overwhelmed for them. I’m sure I’m not the only person who has walked along the beach the week before opening night thinking, ‘If only it all got cancelled.’ But when it does actually happen …

We’ve been living with COVID for a year now, so it is a bit different. We know going in that there is uncertainty. We need to reserve a bit of the energy we put into the show for COVID’s curveballs. This is my fourth year of putting on a new show at the Adelaide Fringe, so I think I know how to do that. I also feel really fortunate that the venue where I’m staging Pearls has livestreaming thanks to the very hard work of Joanne and Tom. But just as it is in so many industries and for so many people, it’s unsettling.

But I did do another good day of rehearsing today, and I’m enjoying my script more and more all the time, just as I always do as I come to know it even better. It always takes me by surprise that even though I’ve written it, I’ve chosen every word, there are always things in there I didn’t realise or wasn’t expecting. 

I’ve been especially grateful to Maggie this year, for helping me to get to the core of what I want to say this year about parenting–about being a parent, about having a parent. I will write more about that next week, but for now, I’d better get back to my script. Three weeks until opening night (touch wood) and those lines won’t learn themselves. (And the obligatory shameless reminder that you can get your tickets here).