The wild catfish of Winnipeg
“Irrelativity” is on the road as Barry tours his solo shows through theU.S. and Canada this summer. This dispatch is from Winnipeg.Performing at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival reminds me of a story. When I was a kid my grandfather used to take me fishing. Once he took us to a lake where a man raised catfish. The man took us out to the dock, banged on the side of the pier and threw a few scoops of fish food into the lake. The banging was his signal to the fish that it was feeding time. And it worked. The water boiled in a feeding frenzy. Fish practically leapt from the water and onto our hooks. There really was no point in even using bait. I don’t mean to imply that the people in Winnipeg are hungry catfish, though I guess that’s hardly the worst thing you could call someone, but they are mad for the Fringe here. It’s the second largest Fringe Theatre Festival in Canada and the city really turns out for it. Busses drive by with Fringe ads on the side. Posters are everywhere. People come out early and line up and, when you go to hand them a flier for your show, they jump on it like a hungry catfish. In other cities – Toronto, Ottawa – I’ve actually been heckled by people while I try to tell them about my show. In Winnipeg they are begging to hear about my show. And everyone else’s show. It’s a bit of a dream come true, really. I was lucky enough to get some great reviews early on, so after my second (of eight) performances, my shows started selling out within minutes.Jesus in Montana quickly became the show that you can’t see. People stood in line for as long as three hours to get in. One day last week people were actually in line for my show while I was still in bed. Mid-week it was announced that Jesus in Montana won a Best of Fest award, an award given to shows in each venue with the most ticket sales. A nice little accolade, for sure, and as the winner I get to do another performance. In a few hours, in fact. I suspect people are lining up for it now. And yes, I am writing this while still in bed. A few days ago I got a call from CBC TV about doing an interview. Was I interested? Sure. The interview is at 6, I was told, so please show up at 5:50. Ouch. That’s seriously early, especially on Fringe time. The last time I did a TV interview was in Montreal last year, and it was an equally early call time. That time I didn’t actually go to bed, so I showed up all puffy-eyed and goofy with lack of sleep. This time I would be more professional. I was asleep by 11 the night before – unheard of. I woke up at 5 o’clock, feeling like I could have easily used another six hours of snoozing. It’s about half an hour walk to the place where the interview was to take place – on the Fringe Festival main grounds. I’m assuming it’s some sort of Good Morning Winnipeg show, like the kind I was on in Montreal, and they are hosting it from the Fringe site. Makes sense. I had obviously never been there that early, but that’s where they said to meet. By the time I woke up a bit and was ready to leave, a cab was my only hope of being on time. In fact, I was actually running a bit late. How did this happen? Crap! I gotta move! I phoned the cab company, told them where I was and waited. Ten minutes. No cab. Now it’s 5:35. I call again. A cab comes. It’s 5:42 when I get in. Dammit! I was going to be so professional about this. I was going to show up early and well rested, now I’m watching the clock tick down while the taxi idles at the red light. Aaargh! We pull up at 5:51. I pay, tell the driver to keep the change, then jump out and slam the door. I spin around to look for the TV crew and … nothing. There’s nothing and no one to be found. There’s an empty beer tent, one lone Fringe volunteer “security guard” walking around trying to stay awake,but no TV set. No perky host. No makeup chair. No tray of coffee and snacks for the guest. Clearly they’ve changed locations and not told me. I flipped open my cell phone, called the producer and left a terse “I’m here, where the hell is everybody else!?” message. Everybody else was home in bed, because the interview was 6 p.m., not 6 a.m. Everybody else was still asleep while I was lining up for their show. Read more about Barry’s tour – with pictures – on his blog,www.barrysmith.com.