Let’s be honest- Montreal Fringe is a great festival to start off your tour, especially for young people. People have called it the party fringe and for good reason- during the day we artists are either working or sleeping and in the evening we are performing and supporting each other. But when the street lights turn off and the sun hasn’t yet come up, that’s when we the artists really get to play. Beginning at 1:00am every night of the fringe, there is the 13th Hour, which is pretty much a late night variety show that gives the artists and lovers of the arts a chance to socialize and dance together. At this fringe, we made many new friends and met up with old ones. This year in particular was Portland flavored as there were two other groups from our home town- our amazing friend Eleanor brought her one woman show “Lust in Marriage.” We actually joked about missing each others’ shows back in Portland and that it took us a trip across the country to finally see hers. It was phenomenal and had me a snotty mess by the end. The Famous Haydell Sisters also brought their famous Comeback Tour this year. Laura and I were fortunate enough to see them at the Seattle Fringe last fall when we were there with “Overlanders: An Oregon Trail Misadventure.” Again, they had us laughing to tears and squirming in our seats.
But let’s start at the beginning. It’s not all fun and margaritas at the fringe. It’s a lot of work and with this particular fringe- not a lot of sleep. The first few days were dedicated to deciphering french (with our translator, Jeff Desautels); postering and bookmarking the life out of the city; and cat naps in awkward places like Laura’s hair or in the hands of a statue. We also wow-ed a group of middle school girls with our Fringe-for-All rehearsal (which is a teaser night giving previews of shows to entice people to come). It was a fabulous encounter with a lot of gestures and confused shaking of heads as they spoke no english and we only had a few phrases of French among the lot of us- “Où se trouvent les toilettes?” or, “Where is the bathroom?” may have surfaced a couple times. In the end pantomime prevailed and we, the clowns, were treated to a couple impromptu performances as the girls were inspired by our acrobatic play.
By the end of the week, the shows began and we attempted to see as many of them as we could. For seeing the work of other artists, each fringe is set up differently. Some of them give you a pass and you can see a show for free if there are seats left. For the Montreal Fringe, each group was allowed to set a password and give it out at their discretion. Some were as simple as giving the password or showing up with an artist pass and you were allowed to go in, while others got a little more creative. My favorite was for a show called “Rabbit Night.” In order to get into the show for free, you had to yell at the top of your lungs “IT’S RABBIT NIGHT! IT’S RABBIT NIGHT! IT’S RABBIT NIGHT!” Jeff yelled it the best, hands down. He had people from down the street turning to look at the spectacle he made of himself. Precious moments locked away in my memory forever.
About halfway through the festival, we had a great laugh. Our venue for this festival didn’t have a dressing room for us to get ready before the show and so we were allowed to get ready at the Fringe Headquarters down the street. Our artist liaison graciously allowed us the use of her desk for this, for which we are eternally grateful. As we walked to our venue, often times we would do it in nose and hand out bookmarks as we went. People were really interested in seeing our characters mingle with the crowd and it was a well received form of advertising. It was about halfway through the festival when we realized that our fellow artists didn’t know who we were out of clown! They had seen us so many times in nose and walking around that they didn’t recognize us when we were simply ourselves.
A highlight of this stop on our tour, for me, was being invited to tour the Cirque du Soleil headquarters. An invitation was issued to the festival artists and the three of us jumped on that immediately. It was amazing. First, there was free coffee- and considering the 13th Hours and subsequent dance parties that oftentimes left us out until 4 in the morning, we were all very thankful for that. With the tour, we got to see the rehearsal and creation spaces of everything Cirque. We learned the histories, the presents and the futures of the company. We saw libraries of fabric swatches, halls of posters, and gyms that made my muscles twitch, yearning to jump around and play. I had a smile plastered to my face from morning until dusk that day. We were enamored with the place and it filled us with ideas for our next 3 shows in the works.
As for the shows themselves, they went very well. Our limbs looked like spotted Dalmatians from the bruises we got from playing- but honestly, when we are in nose, we don’t feel them when they happen and some of them are quite funny! I had ones like railroad tracks on my calf for a week as they kept coming back, but I have no idea which part of the show they come from. I went through the show moment by moment in my head and I still couldn’t figure it out. The best part is- now that we’ve moved on to other cities, they no longer appear! Very strange indeed.
We ended our run their by volunteering to be a part of the big dance number at the award ceremony on the last night of the fringe. We spent one three hour rehearsal dancing and sweating bullets and laughing. I’d never felt like a real dancer before then, but I was able to keep up. The award ceremony took place at a very old theatre that was maintained and stunning. There was a huge dance floor filled with tables and booths along the edges. There was a balcony that went practically up to the stage itself with the classic side booths for important people. The woodwork and the stain glass and the atmosphere were marvelous and I truly felt like I was at an award ceremony. The awards were fun and we danced the rest of the night away. We made our final goodbyes to our friends and the next day we packed up and headed back to the states- tired but excited for the next adventure.