Barry Smith: Irrelativity
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – My whole summer has had one main focus: to get a good video of me performing my “Jesus in Montana” show.
Oh, I have video of me doing this show over the years – hours and hours of it – but I don’t have “THE” video. Every time I set up the camera to tape a show something inevitably isn’t quite what I think it should be – my performance, the audience, the lighting, the sound, etc. … it’s “the curse of the camera.”
But this summer I have a plan: I’ll get all warmed up at the Edmonton Fringe Festival – 13 performances nearly back to back – then hit the Vancouver Fringe Festival, where I’m scheduled for six performances in a very nice venue, perfect for filming. I’ve hired a video guy to tape all of them. Yes, ALL of them. Because one of them is bound to be “THE” show, right? And I want cameras rolling when that magical moment happens.
Or, at the very least, each show will have elements of “THE” show. Through the miracle of postproduction editing, I’ll be able to pick and choose the best moments of each performance and create one awesome video. And if I have six performances to pick and choose from, well – foolproof.
This has been in the works since January, so I’ve put a lot of time, effort, thought and planning into this project. Continuity has been a big part of that planning. If I’m going to have the option of editing six performances together, then I need to look exactly the same in all of them. And now, in Vancouver, with four of the six shows already done, things are going great. I’ve got my costume (jeans and T-shirt) all set aside – I leave this stuff in the dressing room each night and only wear it for the show. I got me a wife-beater undershirt for sweat absorption, lest unique Rorschach-like sweat patterns form on my shirt each night. I shave right before each show. I’ve never thought this hard about this sort of stuff before – I really, really need to make this work.
The momentum is building, and I think my final two shows will be the best ones. But I have three days off before the next show. So how do I maintain continuity? How do I look the exact same one week later? Simple. I’ll cut my hair, right now – just a little – so it has a few days to grow back out to where it was last week when I started filming. Continuity. Brilliant.
I had my hair buzzed back in Edmonton, not that long ago. It can’t have grown that much, so if I give it the once-over with my quarter-inch trimmer blade, then it’ll just take it down slightly.
Even if it’s just a trim, this procedure is quite messy and is best NOT done in the bathroom of the person you’re staying with, so I head outside, start my van and plug my clippers into the power inverter. Fancy. I bring the buzzing clippers to my head for an initial trim, front to back just above my right ear, and …
A BIG CLUMP OF HAIR FALLS TO THE GROUND!!
Oh my God! I have the wrong blade on my clippers! It’s cutting way too short! What about CONTINUITY!? NOOOOOO!
OK, OK, maybe it’s not so bad. I still have three days, and my show is late at night, so really it’s more like three and a half days. There’s still time. It’ll grow out. It better, because I can’t exactly stop with the cutting now. I have to fix this reverse off-center mohawk.
You should really take a moment to picture this – creepy van idling outside of apartment building, doors open, guy standing next to it bent slightly forward running vibrating trimmers over his head, muttering “there’s still time” to himself, little clumps of hair collecting on the ground at his feet, mothers pushing baby strollers down the sidewalk just a few feet away. Yeah, it’s a glamorous life.
I go inside to check out my work in the bathroom mirror. My head looks like the surface of the moon. There are big clumps of uncut hair next to deep valleys of scalp, lines and swaths, and general mayhem: unmistakably horrendous. I look like an escaped mental patient who hasn’t had his morning coffee yet.
My whole summer, all the work and planning and attention to detail, all down the drain with one swipe of the Wahl home clippers. And still two shows to go. Surely the best two shows. “There’s still time,” I tell my reflection. “There’s still time.”
Next time: Not surprisingly, there’s NOT still time.
Barry Smith’s column appears, with continuity, on Mondays. More at barrysmith.com.
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