A day or two before the Gmen headed west, we received good news. The Managing Editor of Metro (Edmonton) had taken an interest in our publicity material and invited me to blog my Edmonton Fringe experience for Metro.
As it turns out, Harry, the Managing Editor, is an old high school friend. He recognized Dave’s name and my face in the publicity material. Ray’s top-notch publicity material got us noticed and the pre-existing relationship sealed the deal.
It was a great opportunity for everyone involved. We wanted as much publicity as possible and had limited resources. Harry wanted more coverage of the Edmonton Fringe and had limited resources. Synergy, as they say. Moreover, it was an opportunity to catch up with some old friends over beer. Done and done.
As a writer, I also saw it as an opportunity to work on my mass media writing skills. Harry gave me full license to write whatever I wanted. His only editorial guideline was that each post should be no longer than three hundred words. Metro‘s market research indicates their readers don’t want to read anything longer.
Another writing challenge emerged because I wanted to publicize the show without writing a glorified advertorial. Re-reading the posts now, I think I struck a decent balance. Let me know!
I’m not convinced the blog itself got many hits and we never had any click-throughs to our Gmen webpage. We did, however, have a little picture of my head in most of Metro’s articles about the Fringe itself. To see this image, click here. There is no way of knowing if this helped to sell tickets but it unquestionably was a useful addition to our overall publicity campaign.
As a side — but very cool — note, the photo of my head in the paper was posted by a twitter friend. Anyone that helpful deserves a shout-out and a follow-recommendation. Her twitter page can be found here. Thanks again.
At any rate, I am hoping to get feedback from you folks in regards to my approach to this style of writing. Effective? Soulless? Etc.? So, please give my Metro posts a read (see below), and provide whatever feedback you think appropriate. I look forward to it!
Oh, and for the record, I did / do feel more than a little guilty about not keeping up with my posts here. On the positive side, I think the short free associations post was a kind of reaction to my mass media writing. That post received a lot of positive feedback and it might not have emerged had I not diverted my writing energies to the Metro blogs. It doesn’t justify my negligence but it is a kind of silver lining.
One final note. Each post included this short bio:
Sterling Lynch is an Ottawa-based actor, writer, and director. He is performing in Black Sheep Theatre’s production of Gmen Defectives at the Edmonton Fringe. For more details, see www.gmendefectives.com. This is his first time performing at the Edmonton Fringe.
Gmen Defectives Opens Tonight: Commies Need Not Apply
My show, Gmen Defectives, opens the Edmonton Fringe tonight (8PM, Stage #8). It’s the result of a rewarding hustle that began a couple of months ago in Ottawa.
After milkshakes and poutine at the Elgin Street Diner, Dave Dawson, Ray Besharah, and I decided to re-mount Gmen Defectives because it’s fun, clever, and crowd-pleasing.
We worked hard and the show came together brilliantly. As Ray and I worked out the final kinks, Dave took off for the Winnipeg Fringe where Trashcan Duet, another show he directed, won “Best in Venue.”
We reunited for the Saskatoon Fringe. We had fun, made friends, and were well-received by the friendly Saskatoon audiences. A highlight was the night Ray got punched and had a sheep thrown at him. It doesn’t sound like fun but it was. Really!
Last Sunday, it took five hours and a Prius named Toby to get us to Edmonton. Ray was fighting a cold. Dave and I were dealing with similar symptoms, but they had a different cause: the final Saskatoon performer’s party. We are all feeling much better, thank you.
Monday afternoon, we moved into our theatre and met our technicians. Megan and Hillary are great and know their stuff cold. The Coca-Cola Stage at OSPAC is perfect for our show. We are psyched to perform there.
Then, we worked hard to secure the best spots for our posters. This is an obsession for every Fringe performer. Also, keep a sharp eye out for our little “No commies” signs.
This afternoon, before our opening tonight, we will work the Fringe crowds, handing out flyers, and encouraging folks to come to our show. Keep an eye out for the guys in the suits and say hello!
I will blog how things go tonight and for the rest of our adventures in Edmonton. Check back soon.
Sweat Is the Cologne of Accomplishment
If Gmen Defectives was an ordinary show, yesterday’s grey clouds might have been a bad sign for us. Fortunately, this is no ordinary show.
Ray and I play a couple of wacky G-men who train our audience how to detect “commies”. It’s a silly, satirical, and fun show. Our costumes are conservative, dark suits.
Let me tell you, these suits are warm. Very warm. Add sunshine or stage lights and the result is two very sweaty actors. Ray sweats so much a Saskatoon reviewer remarked on it in print.
Sometimes, Ray is literally dripping. At the end of every show, both our shirts are soaked through.
We work for the laughs. The sweat proves it.
So, for us, every cool cloudy day is a gift. It helps keep the performance sweat under control. It also helps our publicity efforts.
We are from out of town. We have no local fan base to draw on. The only audience we will get is the one we build for ourselves. We work the crowds, hand out flyers, and give people a sense of the show.
If we can make you laugh in a thirty second street encounter, you can be sure we will make you laugh in our forty-five minute show. Hopefully, it convinces you to come.
Yesterday, we worked the crowds in our suits for almost five hours. I have a blister to prove it. Seriously. The cool afternoon made it much easier.
The hard work paid off. Our opening night audience was big, warm, and receptive. A good time was had by all.
Today, we don’t have a show. Although, it’s not a day-off for us. We will be working the crowds, trying to connect with people, and building an audience.
Here’s hoping for a cool, cloudy afternoon.
No Rest for the Gmen Defectives
It was a very cool afternoon yesterday. The rain never really came. It was a perfect day for the Gmen to work the Fringe crowds.
Ray and I changed into our suits at three and got to work.
Back in Saskatoon, on our first day, we changed into our suits on the street for a TV interview. We haven’t looked back. Getting changed in pubic is all part of the fun now.
Many fringe performers hate to work the crowds and hate to hand out flyers. Both Ray and I felt the same way before. For Gmen, we decided to work the crowds more or less in character. It turns hard work into a mini-performance and into fun.
Plus, we believe in the show. It’s very easy to sell a show when we know that most people who come will have a fun time.
Most often, the people we approach catch on to the game we are playing. They play along and they enjoy our pitch. Sometimes, people don’t get it and are even a little frightened by us. On occasion, we are simply ignored.
Our hard work is paying off. People are starting to recognize and approach us. People are mentioning they have seen us on TV or read our good reviews. Our pre-sales are creeping up. Buzz is building.
More importantly, we’re having fun and making people laugh. It’s becoming quite addictive.
This afternoon, we will be out working the crowds. We have our second show at 5:15PM.
Keep an eye out for us. I’ve got two free tickets for the first person who tells me, “It is important to hydrate regularly.”
Hard Work Rewarded: Gmen Sell Out!
Yesterday, the skies were clear and blue. The Fringe grounds were hopping. Excitement was everywhere. It felt great to be a part of it.
The sun was hot, but we Gmen got into our suits as soon as we could. Thank God, for the dry Edmonton air. Shade was a dear friend.
There were a lot of long lines for shows. It was great to see Edmonton turn out in force for quality Fringe theatre.
Ray and I worked those lines. We were warmly received by many people. More and more people recognize us and it makes the encounters all the more fun.
We took a break an hour before our show. I told Ray, “We’ve already won.”
I said this because we had done the work to get the results we wanted. Whatever happened now, we could walk away with our heads held high. All we had to do was get on stage and have fun.
Backstage, waiting for our second show to begin, Dave told us what we wanted to hear. We had sold out our venue, the 175 seat Coca Cola Stage at OSPAC.
The audience was great and the show went very well. We ran two minutes late because of the laughter. It was a delight for us and a great reward for all the work we’ve done. Thanks, Edmonton!
We decided to take the night off. We had a party to go to but we agreed to make it an early night. We had learned an important lesson. At the Edmonton Fringe, if you work for it, you will be rewarded.
Our next show is 2:15PM today. We want to try and sell it out again. The skies are also clear and blue again. It should be another great day for the festival. See you out there.
The Commie Threat Is Ever Present, Even In A Gmen Training Seminar
In theatre, every show is different. No performer can give the same performance twice. New audiences always create new performances. Often, the unexpected happens.
Sometimes, performers, with the help of the audience’s reactions, discover something new and great about a show. Sometimes, things go wrong. Actors forget or skip lines. Cues are missed. Technical glitches happen.
The great thing about Gmen Defectives is that these gaffs are one more opportunity for fun.
For example, in Saskatoon, I completely blanked on a line. No problem. Ray and I light-heartily figured out where we were. After the glitch, the audience warmed to us and laughed even more.
Yesterday, in our second sold-out show of the festival (thanks again, Edmonton!), the commies struck! Problems with the lighting board messed up our lights and we ended up in complete darkness.
Again, no problem. Ray, always smart, funny, and quick on his feet, joked about the situation and gave our skilled technicians the opportunity to fix the problem. Seconds later, after a bit of unexpected fun, the show continued without a hitch.
Again, the audience warmed to us.
A lot of this has to do with the nature of our show. The script, from the very start, breaks with a lot of the snooty clichés of theatre. So, when the unexpected happens — good or bad — we can go with it and stay true to the show and our audience.
It also helps that Ray and I have absolute confidence in each other. With that kind of trust on-stage, only good things can happen, even when the commies strike unexpectedly.
We took the day off today, because our next show is Wednesday at 7PM. The first person who finds me and says, “It’s important to hydrate regularly” will get two free tickets. See you soon.
If You Like It, Talk About It: Gmen Plugs!
Two days off. Ray and I are itching to get out there and work the crowds and to perform our show. It’s what we’re here to do. It’s what we love to do.
We had intended to work the lines last night but the rain broke exactly when we were about to get at it. We watched the downpour from the safety of our de-facto office at the corner of 104 St. and 82 Av.
The pre-sales for our 7PM show tonight are climbing nicely. We are hopeful for another sell-out. Of course, without action, hope won’t create the results we want. So, we will be out there this afternoon trying to drum up those final sales.
One of the great customs of Fringe festivals is that performers plug other shows at the end of their own show. With so much to choose from, it’s a great way to help out other shows.
It’s also a great way to help festival-goers and the festival itself.
When people are faced with too many choices, they often don’t choose at all. Without some way to make the choice easier, people are likely not to attend any shows in the festival. Plugs or endorsements are a great way to make the choice more manageable.
For this reason, I encourage other performers to plug specific shows they truly admire, respect, or enjoy.
Success in theatre and a fringe festival does not come at the expense of other performers. Successful shows grow audiences for all the shows. Happy bums tend to fill the seats of other shows too.
We Gmen regularly plug three shows: Reflections on Giving Birth to A Squid, Boatload, and The Pumpkin Pie Show. They are great shows well-worth attending.
Canadians Crushed On The Pitch: Commie Meddling Suspected!
Life, on a Fringe tour, can get monotonous. Performing is always a pleasure, but we performers still need to take care of the everyday details of life. In a way, the almost daily rush of performance makes the details seem even a little more mundane.
Fortunately, fringe performers are creative, fun folk with a lot of initiative. We find ways to break the monotony.
Yesterday, Richard Harrington of Cabaret Terrarium put out a general call over Facebook for a pick-up game of soccer in the field behind the Catalyst Theatre. It was very well attended and a lot of fun.
The international performers played against the Canadians.
Technically, the match ended in a draw. Jonno of The Accident called “next goal wins” and the next goal never came. Eventually, the hot sun convinced everyone to call it a game and a draw. Had we gone by the score on the board, I am sure the Canadians had been soundly crushed.
Next year, all Fringe auditions should contain a soccer skills component. We must defeat these sweaty, shirtless, international tyrants of the soccer pitch!
I’m not going to lie to you. I’m more than a little sore today. I make up for a lack of skill with a lot of tenacity. Unfortunately, tenacity involves a number of muscles I have not used in a long while. I also have some pretty nasty scrapes from the dry summer grass.
Tonight, we Gmen have an 11:15 PM show. We are hoping people will have a few drinks and come out and have some fun. We are stoked and want to finish out tour with a bang! Be a part of it!
We will be working the lines this evening. I’ve got a pair of free tickets for the first person who reminds us, “It is important to hydrate regularly.”
Edmonton Saved From Commie Menace: Gmen Depart.
All good things must come to an end, even a Gmen training seminar.
Today, at 12:15PM we Gmen give our last performance at the Edmonton Fringe. It’s also the last show of our tour. We’ve had a rewarding trip, met a lot of great people, and had a lot of fun.
Edmonton went really well for us. Ray, Dave, and I are very grateful for the support we received. Our audiences were great. Many people took the time to tell us in person they enjoyed the show. We love it when that happens!
Very soon after our show ends, we will be on our way back home to Ottawa. We hope to do the whole trip with only one overnight stop. We will see how it goes.
Thanks to the success of this tour, we are already discussing the possibility of a re-mount back in Ottawa. We may even take it on the road again next summer to festivals we haven’t hit yet.
So, like all good things that come to end, the end of Gmen Defectives may only be temporary.
Thanks Edmonton! With a little luck, we may see each other again next year.
Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? Any and all welcome.