We’re Off To See The Wizard! : Seeing Shows at the Fringe

In addition to the shows we document at Venue 13, we are encouraged to experience and document other performances at the Fringe. No, I didn’t get to see a production of the Wizard of Oz as the title of the post might suggest (though there was one about Dorothy that looked kind of cool), but I did get to see some other fantastic shows. The most difficult part was narrowing down a manageable amount of shows–there is the official programme (over 400 pages, color coded by genre of performance, and with a handy map at the back) and app to make the job easier. I really liked this tweet the other day that illuminates how large this festival is:

Out of these, I (with the help and company of some classmates) managed to narrow it down to 5 shows as I mentioned in my last post–but so far I have actually gotten to see 7 shows! We happened upon the cast of “He Had Hairy Hands” on the Royal Mile, and we got free tickets to their preview show that night; that was some of the best money I’ve never spent. It was a silly “horror” story with a werewolf, an enterprising detective, and had a little twist at the end! They also had some of the most inventive uses for a retractable dog leash I have ever seen–it was at times a telephone cord, a mountain climbing rope, the edge of a(n invisible) table, and of course, a classic dog leash.

Flyers, Tickets, and Map

Flyers and venue booklets for the shows I saw, as well as my handy dandy Fringe venue map

Then, during a pause in documentation shifts, I saw the 5 shows I originally bought tickets for. First up was “Shakespeare’s Avengers Assembleth” on Sunday–and it was as fantastic as the title might suggest. Will Shakespeare has been called by the queen to defend Protestantism against a Papal inquisitor…by putting on a play. Appearing in the play was quite a mix of characters–Hamlet and Ophelia showed up, as well as Macbeth, Brutus, Katherine (from Taming of the Shrew), Tybalt, Romeo, Juliet, and Iago. Shenanigans ensued, and it was hilarious.

Next, I saw Out of the Blue (an all-male a capella group from Oxford) at a venue at the University of Edinburgh, and to put it in perspective–they started with a Shakira medley and got better from there. What more can I say, really? They were very talented musically, and were great performers on top of it. That night, I went to see a production of “Hamlet”–choosing one out of the many because of a vague personal connection to a director–that was also well done. Watching such a well-known (and often-performed) work is interesting to me because of the different stylistic choices made by the directors and actors, and this one had its own unique flavor–helped by the fact they managed to fit most of Shakespeare’s longest play into about 70 minutes!

Flyers collected over the course of just a few hours on the Royal Mile (and elsewhere)

Flyers and booklets collected over the course of just a few hours on the Royal Mile (and elsewhere)

Tuesday I saw two more shows. In the morning, we saw “The Seussification of A Midsummer Night’s Dream”,  which was very cute. In addition to performing the majority of the play–in a rhymed, Seuss-ed style–the all-female cast ran through the show again at the end only faster…and then did it again, only faster and backwards. My ticketed shows ended with watching a musical group from South Africa, called Soweto Melodic Voices, in St. John’s Church. They started with a tribute to Nelson Mandela (which gave me chills for almost the entire first half of the performance), and by the time we finished people were dancing in the aisles. They were awesome, and so my original list of 5 shows ended on a good note.*

Finally, yesterday (Wednesday), I got the opportunity to see “Fleeced!” at Venue 13. I had seen a description and it looked funny, so I went in and gave it a shot–it was hilarious. Jesephules leaves home on a Hercules-esque quest and meets Odysseus, and then they meet Medusa (who is very nice, wears a bag on her head to avoid fossilization accidents, and has a hand puppet as an imaginary friend). Hades also shows up, and had a very thick Scottish accent (who knew, right?). The mashup of different Greek mythological characters, along with the fact that it was a well-written musical, made it one of my favorite experiences of the trip so far.

*Pun not originally intended

 

 

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All the world’s a stage

The travel part of traveling tends to be my least favorite part. Or at least it’s the most stressful, especially in instances of ocean-crossing, time-zone hopping, airport loitering. It’s limbo. Depart and arrive are polar points of a continuum; you constantly approach arrival the farther you wander, all while creating distance from departure with every step. It’s the process, the middle, the present, the moment-to-moment. It’s the prolonged tension of not-quite-there, not-quite-complete.

dulles-airport-departure

Departure, or the calm before the 16-hour travel storm

It’s like a performance.

I know all of my cues: check my bag at the kiosk, disassemble hand baggage at security, present boarding pass and passport, and again, and again, and once more, just to be sure I’m me and I’m where I’m supposed to be. I have rehearsed less thoroughly than some, more than others. The players – travelers, security personnel, flight crew, disembodied voices echoing throughout the airport – each performs, each is vital. Each is in constant motion; ongoing, in progress, in transit.

So as I sit, arrived (cue: exhale, decompress), in my Glasgow hostel, recovering from jet lag and awaiting another (mercifully brief) journey to meet up with my colleagues, I think about what we have arrived to do on this journey – to perform the documentation of performances. We are players recording players, with practical roles to capture theatrical roles; each player, each role, is essential to each production, on their end and ours.

Looking forward to the festival days ahead in Edinburgh, it’s my hope that the records we create will reflect the fruit of preparation and the release of completion, respective of the CalArts production ensembles and our documentation teams. We rise to the challenge of recording these performances and preserving them, armed with our budding archival instincts and know-how. I say, Bring on the Fringe.

(Originally written 29 July 2013; revised 2 August.)

About Alex Lange

I am a recent graduate from the MLIS program at the University of Maryland, where I specialized in Archives, Records and Information Management. I have a Bachelor's degree in Russian Studies, but became interested in archival science while working as a student at the National Archives in College Park, where I worked for 4 years. I have recently been hired at NARA in a permanent capacity.

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