Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Fringe - It's Live! It's Inspiring!

The Ottawa Fringe Festival is starting today. It kicked off last night with a VIP party, which I was invited to attend because I'm hosting someone from out of town. The party was fun, although it was pouring rain, which maybe dampened the group in more ways than one (yuck, yuck). (It was so wet that there was a gigantic America-shaped puddle at the end of the driveway I spotted on my way out.)

One of the great things about the Fringe is that it's live entertainment (or it tries to be entertaining). So much of our lives is virtual, compartmentalized, anonymous, one-way, passive, etc., that to take the opportunity to be out in the world, with people, where things may go wrong (!) is becoming unusual. Films, although I love them, are perfected in studios, crafted in editing suites until they are so far removed from real life, which is probably part of why we love them. Theatre at this level on the other hand, is done by people, one person at a time, live, with spoken voices in life-size shapes.

At the Fringe, you can mingle with the performers at the Courtyard or outside their venues. Your ticket payments go directly to them and they are often happy to meet you and thank you for being their patron. Hanging around the Courtyard almost guarantees someone will try to woo you to their show - it's blatant marketing and it's fun being appreciated as a customer on such a base level. "Pick me! Pick me! Come to my show!" It's so totally self-expressed, which is another part of why I love going. I love to hang out with people who are up to something and who are fully self-expressed, or self-expressed lots, because I'm sure there are people there who are still holding back!

The other thing the Fringe does is it asks for what it needs from the community. "We need volunteers! We need people to open their homes to out-of-town performers!" They've made it easy to hear what they need and they have an easy path to volunteering and helping out generally. Their system seems to work well.

To me, that's following a yogic path of moving from surviving to thriving. This is a group of people that overcome their circumstances and conditions - the festival started because performers couldn't get their shows in the traditional venues for a variety of reasons - and they've managed to create from nothing something that is exciting, that offers people an unbiased opportunity (the shows are chosen by lottery) to put on a show, that pays for their travel across the country in some cases, and adds value to the community they're in.

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