On the Fringe

MLS Group at the Mitchell Library

UMD MLS Group at the Mitchell Library

It’s been quite a journey since we set foot in Scotland a few days ago! We began our trip in the quiet serenity of Glasgow’s West End, which I felt encompassed everything a quaint little British village should.  While there, we toured Glasgow’s beautiful Mitchell Library, which holds a vast collection on the Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns, and had a wonderful group dinner at the Mussel Inn.  Still in good spirits, we hopped on a train for Edinburgh and made our way eastward through the countryside, dotted with sheep and cattle.  I dozed on and off on the train, only to awaken to little pictures of rolling green hills and fields of heather through my window.

And then BAM! Edinburgh!

Dark Evil Castle (aka Scott Monument)

Dark Evil Castle (aka Scott Monument)

I got off the train and rubbed my eyes several times, wondering if I had fallen down a rabbit hole.  The hills, the fields, the quaint little cottages were all gone! Only to be replaced by tall, castle-like buildings glaring down from every avenue, and twisted streets that seemed to change their path each time you walked them.  Even the weather had changed!  Whereas Glasgow had been bright and sunny, Edinburgh was gray and drizzly, and I had the feeling that it held some old, dark magic deep inside of it.

Things only got more bizarre as I walked around the festival. A man on stilts greeted me as I walked in, his face painted in a permanent smile.  Men in drag gave monologues in the middle of the road.  A fellow in a top hat rolled around on a unicycle.  A group of college-age students sang a cappella jazz on the sidewalk.  My head was filled with a cacophony of voices, instruments, and camera shutters.

I was on the fringe.

It took a few days to get everything together.  To accept that I was not, in fact, in Hogwarts. To remember that I had a great deal of work to do.  And to get my technology and strategy together to document the CalArts theater group I would be working with.

Fringe Performer

Fringe Performer

I was thankful to see I wasn’t the only one at my wits end.  My partner, Alison, and I dove into work by attending the “tech” of our theater group.  Tech, for those who aren’t familiar with theater, is a rehearsal where technology, such as audio and lights, are checked along with stage cues.  Our group, performing Whispering in the Dark, only had about an hour and a half to run through their play and check the technology with it.  The show itself only has two actresses and relies a great deal on lighting, audio effects, and screen projections to convey the mood and story.  As someone who has never done theater, I was amazed to watch how many elements were involved and how delicate the orchestration was.  If an actress missed her line, it was easy for a lighting or audio cue to be missed.  At the same time, a mistake in lighting could lead to the wrong mood or idea on stage.

Given the time restraints and the foreign area, the group seemed right on the fringe—they were nervous to get everything together and have everything in working order before today, the dress rehearsal.  Everything was happening last second and there was a certain tenseness in the air. Even Alison and I were struggling with our own video camera, still image camera, and audio device to figure out how we were going to record everything properly.  When we left that night, not everything had been worked out.  The cast and crew seemed stressed and tired.

But hey—it’s the Fringe.  Tonight is the dress rehearsal, and after all I’ve seen of Scotland, I’m willing to bet just about anything can happen.

About Heather Darnell

I am going into my second year of library school at the University of Maryland, studying archiving with a focus on music and sound librarianship.

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