Warning: Hilarity ahead | AspenTimes.com

Warning: Hilarity ahead

Barry Smith
Aspen CO, Colorado

When you get chosen to perform in a Fringe Festival, there’s some paperwork involved. The selection process is by lottery, meaning that no matter what kind of show you want to do, if your name comes out of the hat, you get to do it. However, for the sake of audience members, the festivals ask you to provide certain information to include in the program:

“Please be as open and honest about your show content as possible so that parents of young children will not be surprised by, oh, let’s say a simulated stabbing and disembowelment of a clown during your show. Providing us with that information will help your show attract people who hate and fear clowns.”

Seriously. That’s what it says. I didn’t make that up. I love the Fringe.

For the record, I neither hate nor fear clowns. In fact, at this point I can honestly say that some of my best friends are clowns. If you do a summer-long Fringe tour the same thing will happen to you.

On the same form there’s a laundry list of potential warnings for you to tick off, also intended to go in the program.

– Violence

– Cartoonish Violence

– Nudity

– Sexual Content

– Adult Language

– Strobe Lights

– Gunshots

– Smoke/Fog

– Religious Content

– Other

My goal is to create a show that includes many of these as possible, including combinations – Cartoonish Sexual Content, Nude Language, etc. Alas, for my “American Squatter” show I was only able to check “Adult Language.” But only ’cause it’s too hard to travel with a fog machine.

One show, by a performer who’s new to the Fringe, listed “Gay Themes” as a warning in her program description, not realizing that at the Orlando Fringe in particular this is not a warning ” this is more like a given.

It’s taken me a while to find my audience this year in Orlando. Last year, my “Jesus In Montana” show (Warning: Religious Strobe Lights) did very well, and I expected people to be clamoring to see my new show. That wasn’t the case early on. Several times my show was scheduled at the same time as a show called Bathhouse. Here’s part of that production’s review from the Orlando Sentinel.

“Start with a gay cliche. OK, EVERY gay cliche. The male ones, anyway. Beginning with the title and setting–Bathhouse, where bathing is optional. Put your cast in towels. Whip up a few songs, with an ear for the funny and the familiar.

And you’ve got one of the can’t-miss shows at this year’s Fringe.”

And it’s true. Even during a late night Tuesday slot, I’m waiting backstage looking at the monitors for the Bathhouse show, and it’s packed. Packed! In the monitor for my theatre I can see that there are 9 people in the audience. Nine. I counted. Several times. And if theatre is all about creating illusion, then these 9 people are doing a great job, spreading themselves out evenly, giving the illusion that there are exactly zero people there. Awesome.

Next door are attractive and talented young gay men in towels, singing and dancing and snapping each other’s asses with towels. How am I supposed to compete with this? Sure, I could do my show in a towel, but I don’t see how this would help. (WARNING: Pale Skinny Straight Guy.)

Oh, and what little chance I had of whipping up some theatrical magic was thwarted by the fact that the house lights were not working that night. They were stuck in the ON position. So, bright room, straight guy, fully and not very fashionably clothed … talking. For an hour. Bor. Ring.

OK, it was a bad night. But it happens. And it will again, I’m sure. My next show, three nights later, was as good as any I’ve ever had. Packed house, enthusiastic crowd, even a standing ovation. And the Orlando Sentinel picked my show as one of the handful “can’t miss-es” to see during the final weekend of the Fringe Fest! So yay, right?

I’m feeling it … after a winter of being hunkered down in front of the computer I’m back on the Fringe roller coaster! I can already see where this will be yet another summer of highs and lows, successes and humiliations, ego bruising and ego stroking! Sometimes all within the same hour!

And I’ll be here, each week, telling you all about it.

(WARNING: Potential For Self Indulgence.)


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