I say, all hail the summer of Fringe! | AspenTimes.com

I say, all hail the summer of Fringe!

Barry Smith
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

Well, yee haw then! The summer of Fringe is up and running, and I’m already trying to catch up to it!

Last year when I did this trans-Canadian performance tour, I had two recurring themes: 1) How tired I was; and 2) How my van kept breaking down.

I swore that I would not do this again this year, however ” I’m a bit tired, and my van broke down somewhere in Nebraska. I guess taking AAA off my speed dial was a bit premature.

Still, I got to meet yet another tow truck driver in this great nation of ours, and spend more quality time in an auto repair shop waiting room, an environment that has managed to remain untouched by the whole feng shui craze.

I got a new coil installed (in the van) and was back on the road with just a few hours lost.

The night before the Montreal Fringe Festival opened there as a “preview” evening ” where all the arriving out-of-town acts get one minute on stage to do whatever they want to promote their show. It started at 10 o’clock on Thursday night, and I figured I’d arrive earlier that afternoon, hang out, get situated, do my 60 seconds, have a beer and see old friends from previous years. A nice casual evening ” a good way to start the festival.


The thing is, my timing was a bit off. Off to the point where I arrived ” after 4 days on the road ” at 10:15. I ran into the theatre ” which, by the way, was a very large and packed theatre, not the tiny, intimate affair I was imagining ” ran backstage only to find that the girl with the clipboard had literally just crossed my name off the list. My pleading got her to uncross it.


I grabbed two other performers, the duo who perform “The Cody Rivers Show,” and asked them to pretend to be a projection screen and pictures ” you know, in an “acting” way. My shows are multi-media, so I have a little slide show going in the background while I talk. Obviously with one minute I didn’t have time to set up such a thing. I explained this to the crowd (using a quarter of my time), brought the guys up, and started rambling. I’d say “click” and pretend to be advancing my slide, and the guys would act out whatever I said. I hadn’t actually had time to think about what I’d say, nor was there anything even remotely resembling a rehearsal. I have no idea what I said. But according to reactions from the crowd, it was all very funny. The only credit I can take for that is that I chose funny people to be on stage with me.

Phew! Or did I say that already?

I don’t seek out this drama, but that’s how my summer has started, and why not? It’s Fringe theater, seat-of-your pants, free expression. A whole summer’s worth. How did I get so lucky?

My new show, “Barry Smith’s Baby Book” opened the next night. I felt I could have easily spent another week memorizing it. I was memorizing bits as I walked to the theatre. I considered writing notes on my hand, but how much good will a few notes do for an hour’s worth of talking? Unless I were to write “Don’t Screw Up!” But if I’m going to open that door, I may as well have that tattooed somewhere on me.

It was a late night show, Friday at 11:15, about 20 people in the audience. Not bad, actually. For once I wasn’t concerned with audience size, I just wanted to not puke. I guess I was a bit nervous. I had yet to actually “perform” this show, I’d just done script readings ” hardly any pressure there.

But this, the opening ” bringing my show out for the very first time ” just me, some pictures, and some people waiting to be entertained. I’d been thinking about this day for months and months.

And it went well. I didn’t forget any major lines. Nothing caught fire. People laughed. I didn’t puke. I’m off to a great start!


… or did I say that already?