SHOW STOPPING NUMBER! at the Best of the Fringe Blog

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Current mood:  high
Category: Blogging

July 30/07

The cast of Show Stopping Number! The Improvised Musical was asked to do the Best of the Fringe, which is a festival which occurs after the Toronto Fringe Festival. It showcases some of the hits of the Fringe. We were honoured to be asked.

The festival takes place at 56 Blue Jays Way which was where Second City used to be. We will be in the old Tim Sims Playhouse which is called the Diesel Cabaret. This is like coming home for me since this is where my comedy career started. The first improv show I ever did was in the Tim Sims Playhouse. The first comedy show I was a part of was Co-ed Prison Sluts and we performed that show for six months back in 1998 and 1999. Co-ed Prison Sluts is a show which ran for ten years at Chicago’s Annoyance Theatre. They brought it up here to see if it would be as successful here (it wasn’t). But damn we had a good time. In fact, there are four people involved in Show Stopping Number who were in Co-ed Prison Sluts. There is me, Jamillah, Marcel (one of the Bad Dog Producers) and Mark Andrada who I was happy to see would be our tech/stage manager. For seven years I toiled away at the Tim Sims.

It has been a year since I have been around that area since I abruptly left. It was strange to walk in and see how it has changed. For the most part it seems to be an improvement. The Tim Sims itself seems to have nicer design to it. It felt like putting on an old comfortable shoe.

Jan and Carmine were there to help figure out how we were going to do the opening number and figure out where my keyboard would go. It has always been an awkward area to load a keyboard. The theatre is two floors up. There is no parking around the building and the increasingly insane entertainment district pushes in from all sides. This is one of the reasons I prefer working in the comfortable, homey atmosphere of the Bad Dog and the Danforth.

Afterwards we went to Pizza Rustica across the street where we waited for half an hour to order some pizza. Saw some friends walk by, as the downtown traffic roared. It’s nice to see that things just keep chugging along on this corner – even if I disagree with how it all went down. Do the politics ever really end?

I printed up some posters and postered around the Bad Dog and the Diesel the next night. Had a long conversation with my friend Sean B from the Late Late Horror Show on the Danforth at 1:00 AM. I’m a night owl.

August 1, 2007

I spent the day in my usual state of anxiety about the show. I’m always a bundle of nerves. I tried to get my nervous energy out by postering around Forest Hill Village.

I put on my Sean Val Jean costume. I was surprised by all the activity surrounding the building. I rememeber when Wednesday nights were desolate around this building. When Ashley came in she had good news about ticket sales. I have done a lot of Wednesday night shows around here and I was surprised by how well they were going for what used to be such a dead night.

We had lots of time to warm up. Tonight’s show was called The Librarian’s Chinese Lantern Festival. It was a very naughty show. Lots of making out and simulated sex. More on the Facebook page. Good to see friends like local stand up Dave Martin in the audience as well as some former students of mine from the Bad Dog and Second City.

I had a drink with the cast as well as Nug and Carly from the very successful Evil Dead Musical which is playing in the main space. I actually didn’t recognize Carly with her hair died black for the show. Mark said something funny when he said “Ten years later and look at us – in the exact same place.” Sad but true. We were all happy with how the show went tonight.

August 2/07

Today Jamillah and I met my parents downtown for dinner before the show since it is my mother’s birthday. I wanted to make sure she had a good time tonight, since it was a year ago I decided to quit my job and I was more than a little miserable on her birthday. We went to a place across from the Holiday Inn, an Italian restaurant I have never been to. The meal was alright, maybe a little pretentious for my tastes. The grilled shrimp appetizer was the best. Then Jamillah and I loaded up at 56 Blue Jays Way.

Tonight we had Sandy back in the cast. This is the only night he can do of this four day run and he sang the opening. Tonight’s suggestion was The Bee-Keeper’s Soccer Game. It was pretty funny watching the cast struggle to make a connection between Bee-Keeping and Soccer. Jamillah was the narrator and despite a throat infection she sang strong and beautiful as always.

We can usually tell how the audience is going to react by how they react to the opening number. If they don’t laugh at certain lines we know we might be in trouble. When we got to the suggestion part of the song the audience was oddly quiet. That kind of continued throughout the whole performance. We would finish a big number, I would do a flourish to clearly indicate the end of a song, and then dead silence. When I looked at them it seemed like they were one of those “quietly enjoying” audiences. However, I think the performers were a little rattled by it, though we were all happy with the performance anyway. Nevertheless, this is what I would call the inevitable second night blues. It always happens – there is no way to avoid it.

Tonight we did not hang around due to Jamillah being sick. We went and got a Burger Shack burger instead.

August 3, 2007

I’ve been lugging my big heavy keyboard around to so many performances that the zipper on my keyboard bag has started to rip. Last night I knew it was almost finished. So I drove down to Long and McQuade today to buy a new one. After three years, Papa’s got a brand new bag. I left the old bag with them and started driving home. Halfway home I realized I had left my manuals in my old bag and had to rush back. The guy I gave the bag to was on lunch and they couldn’t find the bag anywhere. Finally after about twenty minutes we found it.

I had a good feeling about tonight. Tonight we had Aurora back in the cast. It was good to see her. Our show from last year’s Fringe – a staged version of Plan 9 From Outer Space – was nominated for Best Comedic Play at the Canadian Comedy Awards.

Doug was a little late, and we found out why. It was because he just got engaged to Ayumi. Ayumi was there and she showed us all her beautiful ring. It was a pretty exciting moment.

The suggestion tonight was The Barber’s Funeral. I felt everyone was really together tonight. A lot of songs had reprises. There was a good crowd that wanted to laugh and applaud. I kept trying to wrap up the show, but there were a lot of loose ends in the storyline to tie up. Rob B made an interesting choice of making the hero also very abusive to the villain played by Rica. It made the villain somewhat sympathetic.

Again, Jamillah’s tonsilitis seems to be getting worse. So I just took her home and we watched The Number 23 (very odd – or even).

August 4, 2007

It is with a mixture of pleasure and pain that I see the end of these fifteen performances in a month. It is pleasure because now I don’t have to worry about this show anymore. Even if we never do this show ever again I think I made my point, and I got a lot off my chest with my moment at the beginning of every show. Unlike most improv shows, this one had my whole heart and soul. And the interesting thing about artists is they can only really be truly great at what they do unless their whole heart and soul is in it. That is the reason why art and commerce have such a problem existing together. SHOW STOPPING NUMBER! is a labour (Canadian spelling y’all!) of love. Of course I could be making a bit more if I sold my soul across the street, as I look out the window from the Diesel. But I would never have cared about the work. This will probably pay us all a little less, (in the short term anyway) but we all walked away artistically satisfied. And that is where the pain comes in. Because we have to let it go – for a while anyway…

Today was also difficult for me because I had to come to terms with the fact that Jamillah wasn’t going to be able to perform due to her tonsilitis. I was worried about her all day. Since both Sandy and Jamillah were out Jan was going to have to sing the song at the top of the show for the first time. But that is what is so great about the flexibility of this show. We have done 21 performances since April. Jamillah has been at every single one. This is the first one she missed and it was like I was missing my right arm.

Nevertheless, I have a good relationship with all of these people and, of course, the show was brilliant. Even though I am showing a little bit of wear and tear. It has been a lot of work. But we definitely had one more in us. We all gave each other meaningful “got yer backs” back stage. I can only really have someone’s back if I really mean it. And I did. Rob Hawke is back from a crazy Canadian journey, sporting a beard. Tonight’s show was called the Costume Designer’s Birth. Jan did a brilliant job of singing the opening number. I took one last crazy flying leap off of the Tim Sims stage and off we went. There were some brilliant moments in this this show. Some audience members couldn’t believe we hadn’t planned some of it. But no, it isn’t planned. It’s authentic and there isn’t a magic trick. The magic trick is that we are all crazy enough to try and do this for a living.

I had a quick drink with the cast and then Jan helped me carry my stuff down to the car. I pulled off and went home. I am feeling a bit of post partem depression, or the closest thing a man can feel I suppose. We’re going to have a party…

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