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Fringeopolis

by Paul (Sparky) Johnson on 08/09/11

Well the much anticipated Edmonton International Fringe Festival is upon us and I am getting anxious to present "Back to Borneo" to the Edmonton Fringe audience. This is Edmonton Fringe's 30th year. The last time I was part of a Fringe show was in 1984 (year 3).

I've been given a nice venue that is air conditioned and close to the hub (Gazebo Park). It is a corner stage that seats 98: an intimate space for an intimate show.

Getting the show up and running (with full lights and sound) in this venue is only one of the many challenges. Now we have to get the publicity out and try and bring in the audience. Word of mouth is the best way to fill a house but you need to first get bums in seats so that they can tell others about it. Here's hoping we get decent houses for our first couple of shows (Friday and Saturday). I'm confident that if people see the show they will like it and will tell their friends.

Keep posted here to see how things go.

Twin Cities: March 11-12, 2011

by Paul (Sparky) Johnson on 03/14/11

It was interesting to travel (over two days) from Cincinnati to St. Paul and witness the gradual return to winter. They've had a ton of snow in Minnesota this year with snow piles in parking lots reaching the tops of the light standards. We timed our arrival with a renewed cold snap and the strong wind added to the icy chill.

Kelly, at Play by Play Bookstore, had done an excellent job of promotion for the show. Still, we had a difficult time pulling together an audience. Maybe the weather had something to do with it. Also, the publicity went out, primarilly, to the theater community and many of the people interested in seeing the show were, themselves, performing on those weekend nights.

The show fit nicely into the intimate Nautilus Music Theater space. There was seating enough for around thirty people but we only had to use less than a quarter of those chairs each night. That said, the audiences were very enthusiastic about the show and it was a pleasure to perform it each night. Saturday night, there were at least two writers in the audience and they both told me the show had inspired them. One said she had been in a bit of a funk, but seeing Back to Borneo had pulled her out of it.

Kelly opened up her shop for post-show receptions, providing a relaxing atmosphere for sharing stories and experiences. There was a considerable buzz about bringing my show back to the Twin Cities for next summer's Fringe Festival. That would be the summer of 2012 and a lot can happen in the mean time, but it would be wonderful to come back and play the show to a wider audience.

Cincinnati, Ohio (March 8, 2011)

by Paul (Sparky) Johnson on 03/09/11

My good friend, Laura Kristal, said she could get an audience -- even though she had but three days to do it -- and she was true to her word. Close to 50 people showed up to see the show. Good job, Laura. Well done, Cincinnati! It is a testiment to your strong support of each other as a community of artists: writers, visual artists, dancers, musicians, actors...

The room -- the upstairs hall of a former Masonic Lodge -- was warm (literally) and intimate. The strange thing about the space was that it had a series of pillars running down the middle of the hall, and the stage had a slight rake. I found, as I performed, that if I moved too much to the left or right of center, I would be blocked from view (for at least someone in the audience) by one of these big pillars. Also, my swivel chair -- because of the rake -- would spin, on its own, whenever I stood up from it or kneeled on it. Riding the bike was a major challenge!

Still, it was an excellent show: I felt the audience was with me from the outset and I was rewarded with a warm and enthusiastic ovation. Many people stayed around, post production, to ask questions and offer comments.

Thanks so much, Laura, for your tenacious and persistent resolve to make this happen. You pulled it off with panache!

 

Williamsburg (March 4, 2011)

by Paul (Sparky) Johnson on 03/04/11

We had an early morning show at Bruton High School, School of the Arts. The audience arrived by bus and consisted of middle-school aged drama students who are bussed to the School of the Arts to get their arts related courses. They were an excellent audience and they had so many perceptive questions in the limited "post-show" discussion time we were allotted. It was especially informative to see what this younger age group got out of the show. They were totally wrapped up in the stories and their questions all focussed on the characters in those stories and their interest in what happened to those characters. They might have found the non-linear structure confusing at first, but they quickly connected with the stories and were amazingly attentive and supportive throughout. It was an honor and privilege to play the show in the Claudine Carew Theatre space for this tremendous group of students.

The afternoon at Warhill High School was a different story. Being a Friday afternoon, teachers used the opportunity of having a guest artist to take an early weekend. As a result, there were a lot of students present who didn't really want to be there. Those students were downright rude and disruptive and made it difficult for those who wanted to see the show. As a performer, I found it painful to push my way through the show. I kept going "into my head" and thinking I've got to stop this. I got through it, but the performance was void of the joy I usually feel when doing the show. I hope I can reclaim that joy the next time we do the show. The drama teacher did an excellent job of making the most of a bad experience and said her students would have gotten a lot out of the show. In retrospect, I wish we had played for just those students.

My uncle, Charles Bush, did a huge amount of work to set up these performances and I thank him for doing this and for staying with us the entire time: shuttling us around to the schools and helping us load in and out. Thanks Charles. I will remember, as one of my favorites of the entire tour, the morning performance at the School of the Arts.

Carborro, North Carolina (February 26, 2011)

by Paul (Sparky) Johnson on 03/02/11

Carborro is located about 90 minutes from Winston-Salem and sits within the triangle of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. The show was hosted by the Carborro Arts Center. The audience was small but appreciative. We happened to meet a fellow on the street who was visiting from Kansas City, MS. He had asked about another show playing in the Arts Center (something involving large puppets) so we told him about Back to Borneo. To  our surprise, he came to our show. As he was leaving, Cathy heard him tell someone: "This was way better than large puppets!" Thanks, Scott. I'm glad we bumped into you.

I'd like to thank Jeri-Lynn Shulke for bringing in the show and doing some great work in promoting it. I've discovered, on this tour, that we are really just planting the seeds for future offerings of the show. Everywhere the show has played (in a public venue), it has been difficult to generate audiences. People don't know who I am, or what to expect from the show. It is difficult to build an audience when you are just in a city for a single night. Many of the places we've played have said they'd like to bring the show back. Hopefully, someday, that can happen.

Now, on to Williamsburg, where we will have two (back to back) performances at two area high schools. It will be a good challenge. I'm looking forward to it.

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