Ah, opening night! The butterflies are flopping around in my stomach. My scene partner and I hug and randomly giggle at the identical looks on our faces: part terror, part adrenaline, part I-so-want-to-puke right now. It’s like slowly going up the first hill of a roller coaster when you know that big drop is coming up. Whatever happens now, you’re strapped in for the long haul.
We are prepared though. We’ve done everything we could. We’ve done this show before, so we know we can handle whatever gets thrown at us in this crazy little business called “theatre”.
Honestly, I thought the worse thing that could happen would be no one showing up.
But they did show up! 31 people to be exact. And if you are not familiar with the logistics of Fringe, having 31 people for our first show at a small festival where no one knows us and we’ve received no advanced press? That’s really really good.
(And on a positive side note, I was proud to notice that a good half-dozen of the people in attendance, maybe more, were people I had flyered earlier that day.)
So if the worse thing that could possibly happen didn’t happen, everything else is just gravy, right?
Though I never could have predicted what happened next:
The lights went out.
All of them.
It was weird because at first I didn’t notice. I did notice that a lighting cue seemed a little off, but I shrugged it off as an opening night jitters thing in the booth. But then, a lighting tower flickered out. And then the other. Two minutes into the show and we are entirely in the dark.
Well, we weren’t ENTIRELY in the dark. The venue is a converted gym that has garbage bags on the windows. Since the sun never seems to set in Calgary, trickles of light were coming in.
So we kept going. I managed to comment on the lights at one point in the text. I thought a guy in the front row was going to piss himself at that one. There was one beautiful moment too when my scene partner delivers a “message from God” when one single light just flashed back on. You seriously cannot write that shit.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but we’d been handed a gift. The show is about a performance piece where everything is just going wrong. Heck, when things do go “wrong” in the script, we flat out tell the audience it’s part of the show. Even as our technician is running around trying to fix the lights during the performance and turning the fluorescents on so that people can at least see what we are doing, most people in the audience thought it was all part of the show.
At some point the lights did come back on properly but it didn’t matter anymore. We’re still not sure what happened. Rebooting the whole building seemed to have reset everything back to normal. I wondered if maybe I was cursed since my opening night in Winnipeg last year was also plagued by massive technical failures. Our technicians felt bad, but honestly, unless they took a giant knife to the lighting board, this was not their fault. My scene partner ate a fortune cookie earlier in the day which predicted that things would not go as planned, so personally, I blame the cookie.
The audience was incredibly lovely and supportive. They were with us the whole way. Even with all of this happening, I don’t have a single complaint about the Calgary Fringe Festival. It is well run, well organized, well appreciated by the patrons and I couldn’t be happier.
Or so I thought. Last night, I discovered the Fringe Club – more on that in my next post.
Oh and guess what? The Last Goddamned Performance Piece is now OPEN!