Sunday, June 22, 2003

Last Chance to Fringe

Today is the last day of the Montreal Fringe Festival, so head out and catch a final show. Also, head to the Beer tent at 10pm for the Frankies, hosted by the beautiful Andy Nullman and the hysterical Jessica Pare.

Certain Fringe staffers with a particular fondness for liquor have leaked the name of the winner of the Spirit of the Fringe award, but I won't post it here, because that would be like printing an obituary for the character who dies in the latest volume of the Harry Potter septology. I shan't ruin the surprise.

Sources have told me that Sabotage is in line to win the Just For Laugh prize. (Uncalled For, the improv troupe of John Abbott College grads, is the most popular comedy, for sure, but the JFL already has a Improv troupe in its On the Edge series.)

The Centaur Prize looks to be a real dust-up this year. There were so many incredible shows, the jury had a difficult time picking one to win a spot at the Centaur for a fall run.

Some possibilities: T.J. Dawe has never won the Centaur Prize before (though he did win the JFL prize in 2001 for Slip-knot), so perhaps this will be his year. Two other shows I heard tossed around a bit as contenders were Uncle Jack and She's Not Well. Nicola Gunn's Tyrannous Rex is incredible, but it's unlikely she'd win two years in a row. Jem Rolls, perhaps?

We'll find out in just a few short hours.

Drag Race Scandal!

In the biggest scandal since the Black Sox threw the 1919 World Series, yesterday's Drag Races were marred by allegations that the contest was rigged. Two out of the three finalist pairs or individuals in the event hosted by Mado turned out to be employees of Cabaret Mado!

Worst of all, Gigi, an obnoxious drag queen dressed like Marie Soleil, inexplicably made it to the finals for the second year in a row, beating out crowd favourites Miss Vicky, Fonda Dix (a much-too-sexy Dan Jeannote from Uncalled For), and Lenore Lovecraft (Fringe General Manager Patrick Goddard cleverly disguised as a shy Marilyn-Manson-esque queen).

Luckily, the winners were Hiro and Sho, two Fringe artists from the Gay Samurai Revue. Otherwise, we might have had a real ballroom blitz on our hand!

Scandal aside, the Drag Races were wonderful, a popular and entertaining tradition that deserves to continue for years to come -- though someone needs to tell Mado that she doesn't need to explain how the race works to every single contestant.

Vava Voom!

Thanks to all of you who wrote in to let me know that Vava Laverite, the sexy gossip columnist on the official Fringe webpage, is a real person -- Fringe Communications Director Marta Cooper.

Yoicks! Rrrrrr... I will pop a couple of breath mints before tonight's Frankies and introduce myself. Surely love can spring between a gossipy blogger and a gossip columnist?

(Sniff.. sniff... Whoa. Anyone have any Febreze I could borrow?)

Shows I saw yesterday: Tyrannous Rex, Uncalled For, Ninjas Get all the Chicks.

Tyranneous Rex: I tend to ovate from my feet only when I'm in a rush to leave or when a show is remarkably good. I think standing ovations should be dispensed like I-Love -Yous, with a mix of passion and sincerity and only on rare occasions. Therefore, consider the fact that I shot up as soon as Nicola Gunn finished her performance last night as a sign that I loved the show. Brilliant and precise physical characterizations. The ironic retromania and gentle surreality present in her work remind me of the Coen Brothers' filmography. Strong, strong talent, that Nicola.
Hey guy-friend Mark Chavez (from Sabotage) is one lucky fellow. What a power-fringe couple.

Uncalled For: Anders, Matt, Dan, Caitlin, and Mike are hilarious. Top-notch improv, much better than what I see at the World Improv Championships each year at the Just For Laughs. They deserve all the kudos they've been getting. I'm proud of these kids.
Reminder, you can catch a bonus show of Uncalled For tonight at midnight, fundraiser for the Fringe.

Ninjas: One-man shows are often the expression of an actor's narcissistic tendencies let loose: "Me, me, me, me!" In fact, even the most talented one-man performer always ends up seeming a bit full of himself.
Well, almost always...
How does Ron Scott manage to pull off being so likeable, damnit?
A marked improvement on last year's hastily-thrown-together My Wellness Buddy Gave me Pink-Eye (he had to write and learn that show in three weeks), Ninjas shows that, if you give Ron a bit of time, he'll come up with an excellent Fringe show, which Ninjas is. It's original, competent and funny.
The biggest triumph of Ninjas is Ron's decision to remake the one-man show as a two-man show. He has an "invisible" helper on stage at all time, helping him fly across the stage in ninja-kick mode or pretending to be a video-store rack (the modern equivalent of the actor who has to play a tree?). That poor guy had to perform dressed all in black in the most sweltering-venue.
Don't be surprised to see this neat and clever technique become as frequently-used in Fringe shows as the Matrix multiple-POW effect has become used in film.
(Also, kudos to Ron and Helper -- sorry, didn't catch his name -- for using the black-outs during the scene changes. I can't believe how often I still see shows with clumsy, out-of-character scene changes.)

Out-of-town Shows Don't Need Reviews THAT Badly!

In response to a blog correspondent's assertion that "Actors who travel, especially from overseas, have significantly greater expenses that can only be offset by bums on seats. Their travel schedules and lack of local knowledge make self promotion more difficult. They need publicity.", Long-time Fringer Michael responds:

This is bunk about the out of town acts needing the reviews. The limited reviews we've been seeing have focused on (a) returning troupes, and (b) out of town acts, and both categories tend towards seasoned performers. They tend to come with the ability to get press, and for returning companies, I count at least 21 this year, it's really easy to say "I saw them last year, so I'm going to see them again this year". Meanwhile, the local shows, which tend to be the real Fringe shows, are locked out of the process.
I don't care if shows get bad reviews, but I really dislike the tone that suggests some shows aren't worthy of review before they've even been seen.

Thanks, Michael. Your point is also well-taken.
Michael sent me an interesting email about the Fringe and publicity, reviews and the Internet, from which this is taken. It's too long to post here, but it's here for those of you who are interested in these issues

Quick Fringe Hits

I hear that a high school English teacher brought her class to see Medea (presented in Japanese) on Friday, mistakenly thinking it was in English. After the show, she tried to get a refund for her and her 19 students. The gall... What is our education system coming to?

Big Celebrity Sighting: Margie Gillis, the internationally-acclaimed dancer and choreographer, has been spotted around the Fringe. She apparently attended one of Cuppa-Jo's performances earlier this week. Michael explains the connection:

Not a complete surprise, because one of the pieces [in Cuppa-Jo], "Mara", is the work of Stephanie Ballard, who long worked with Margie Gillis. When the music started,
I realized I had heard it before, and as the piece played out I remembered seeing Margie do it, maybe as far back as 1989 and I think for the first time.


Send in your final bits of Fringe gossip to jkelly@cup.ca and I'll post it in my final Fringe blog entry on Monday. Even though the festival is over tomorrow, you are always welcome at fence.blogspot.com for my usual blog stuff. Thanks for visiting and for all the kudos and constructive criticism..


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