Oh Montreal Fringe, you are one tough nut to crack! I wanted to love this festival, I really did, but, cards on the table, I didn't.
Now, to be fair, I came in late in the game and I was already exhausted by the time I got there. The last weekend of the London Fringe overlapped with the first weekend of Montreal, which meant I missed out on preview events, poster space, first weekend media and early bonding time with fellow performers. All things that help make your Fringe experience as a performer even better. That said, I wasn't worried at first since I had already done the show in Montreal last year for Zoofest with little to no advanced buzz and managed to get 60 to 70 people per night. Also, I'm great at flyering line-ups and promoting my show one-on-one, so I figured catching up would be fairly easy.
Unfortunately, I quickly realized that there were no line-ups anywhere and folks at the beer tent were mostly there to listen to music, not see shows. That didn't mean there weren't people out seeing shows, but I'll be damned if I knew where to find them. It seemed to me that people would buy their tickets and just leave the venue until showtime.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all bad. Montreal is one gorgeous city and I always love checking it out, especially in the summer time. The Fringe staff was absolutely delightful (Seriously, can someone give Amy Blackmore the prize for most adorable Fringe producer on the circuit? I love her and her Beyoncé strut), my venue tech was great and we lucked out with some pretty incredible billets. I saw some great shows and ate the best poutine. I was also very grateful to have been nominated for a few awards while I was there (Best English Theatre Production and Best Solo Show) and I hear that the Winnipeg Free Press theatre critic was at one of my shows, which could be a very good thing in a few weeks. But I barely managed to break even and, when Fringe is your job, that's not good.
Oh and I finally got to check out this "13th Hour" event I kept hearing so much about on the circuit. 13th Hour is an awesome cabaret event that starts at 1 a.m. every single night during the Fringe. It was hosted by some great people, featured many of my favourite Fringe artists and it was lots of fun. But did you see the part where I said it starts at 1 a.m.? By the time everything was over, it would be close to 3 a.m. and practically impossible to get home before 5 a.m. on any given night. Because bagels.
You guys, I'm getting old. I can't go to bed after 5 a.m. anymore and still be productive the next day. I started getting cranky from the tired and small houses. Montreal Fringe felt like that older cousin who drags you out to the bar every single night during the week and you have trouble saying no to her because you don't get to see her that often throughout the year. Now that we're back in Ottawa, we went to bed at around 1 a.m. and that totally seemed reasonable.
I was forewarned. Montreal is the "Party Fringe". I just can't party that hard anymore. Most of the time, I just want a couple of casual drinks with friends and someone to spoon at the end of the night. Walking into Ottawa's beer tent last night, I felt unbelievably happy to be coming home to my favourite Fringe on the circuit.
Montreal, it's not you, it's me. Ottawa, thanks for welcoming me back with open arms. We're going to spoon like crazy this week.