The Royal Mile: Performing for Edinburgh
Today, I arrived at the Royal Mile, which is the main drag (essentially “Broadway,” during the Fringe, for those USA-ers and NY-ers and probably people from all over the world). During the Fringe Festival, there are Verizon-sponsored small stages that people and production companies are given slots to. This allows the performers to draw crowds to their shows, essentially a teaser to the performance, by performing in front of passing audiences — everyone hoping to draw a crowd.
I am helping out with American Gun Show, Chris Harcum’s solo comedy about gun control and gun issues in the U.S. While we spent some time together at the Gryphon Venue Launch Party, all I knew for today was that I was going to meet them at the “Upper Stage,” right across from the Fringe Central Box Office, and I would be at least helping flyer for the show while Chris performed for the 2:40 – 3:10 performance slot.
Now, some things to mention:
1_ You can’t use amplification of any kind while on stage!
2_ It is LOUD.
The idea of performing on the stages are very daunting because most shows aren’t built for crowd-drawing performances. Even comedians struggle with the fact that unless they are yelling they can barely be heard.
Chris, Aimee, the director, and Heather, the stage manager, met me. I was given a large, red styrofoam hat, which I’ll upload a picture of once I have one. I was also given a stack of flyers, which I passed out till it became our time to go up on stage. The act before us has been a crazy, striking duo of two Japanese men with bright yellow and orange mohawks, wearing identical suits, whose act consisted of shouting, making faces, and banging on things — think mime meets Japanese game show meets Blue Man Group, except a bit more amateur, though by no means bad.
Chris began by starting with some trivia, which didn’t go so well. It wasn’t super easy because people often gave the stage a wide berth, so there wasn’t the feeling of intimacy that usually come into normal conversation. We did have people participate, but it didn’t seem clear to the audience what they were playing for — and we gave out candy, which ended up drawing kids (who probably shouldn’t be attending the show).
Attempt #2 was to have Katelin and I “quick draw” and die publicly on stage – not what I was expecting, in pantyhose and a leopard print dress – but I managed, after being “shot” by Katelin, and then by Chris. After dying in Chris’ arms — which I’m sure made for a good photo, we had drawn a better crowd.
Then, attempt #3 was the closest thing to non-dancing dancing I’d done: Chris played harmonic while Katelin and I stomped and clapped to the music. This tended to draw the best crowd, though we learned that the harmonica wasn’t too well amplified. I also offered to take pictures in the large styrofoam red cowboy hat, and several people (mostly men) took photos of me, while one woman came up with her daughter to take a picture in the red hat.
Overall, performing up there — even when it isn’t “my” show I’m performing — was much more intimidating than I’d expected, even if I consider myself a performer.