And a Fringing We Did Go! –An Artists Perspective
So the internationally known Edmonton Fringe Festival just wrapped up – including its holdovers – and what a celebration of the arts it was! Now bits and pieces of the arts have been coming back to pre-pandemic levels, but this summer, we truly took back our title as festival city. And it was glorious. My heart was full.
As an artist, we know how the last three or so years have been – brutal is an understatement. There are countless stories of how artists needed to pivot, change careers entirely or sit idly as the rise and fall of restrictions took away both hope and dollars. Venues closed. Artists left. Companies crumbled. Mental health plummeted. I myself faced many highs and lows, as I’m sure any of you reading this did also. So with all that being said, what did this artist do? Decided that this was the year to write, produce, direct and cast myself in a hit comedy to take to the Fringe stage! Bonkers right?
Within the artist community, you can often hear something to the effect of – say yes and then figure it all out after. This saying terrified me. How can someone jump into something with no knowledge on what on earth they’re doing? But, as I looked at old projects on a dusty shelf, it became clearer to me that where I was, wasn’t getting me what I wanted. So I had a conversation with Grade 5 Rebecca – the Rebecca that had won creative writing awards all through elementary school. And together we decided that this was the time to stop hiding and go all in. I signed up for a Fringe spot, without having written a word.
Some of you might be saying, hey Rebecca I don’t think that’s what they mean by that saying. True to rebel Aquarius form, I often interpret things differently than the majority and away we went. I had what I thought was a solid idea and sat down to write. And sat. And sat. And sat. Where was my zing? What happened to all the skills I taught English students of previous years? Where did my procrastination brain go……..oh there it is. The brain that needed to dwell on costumes and props. The brain that needed to create a variety of marketing images. The brain that needed to clean the desk, change the bed sheets, plan dinner and cut the cat’s claws. While there was a level of productivity happening, none of it had anything to do with writing a play.
In the back of my mind, I was secretly hoping that other artists were going through something similar. Since we weren’t allowed to create collectively for so long, I had this idea in my head that artists were at home, creating magnificent pieces of art that would take the world by storm for the next few years. I mean some of you created something brilliant – but not until after you watched Stranger Things season 4 right? There was some solidarity in that together aloneness and that put a smile on my face, and slowly got the fingers to typing. There was a skill set in there, it just needed to catch up with Grade 5 Rebecca.
Now producer Rebecca was fine sitting on the bench, because the most anxiety ridden thing about being an artist is asking for money. Can’t we just create and share everything and all of us live for free? No? Well then. When there is a skill set you don’t possess, you call for back up. And the reinforcements came! I sometimes joke about all the good karma I have stored up because I was a fan of creating long before I began to create, but truthfully, I felt that so much this summer. Sure a producer needs money, but they also need cupcakes, gift cards, flowers, help clearing the stage, proud sticker wearers, show photos, knowledge, kind words and shout outs. When your currency is creation, are you ever truly broke? Okay, philosopher hat off.
My journey is only one of many. There was so much new work to take in at this year’s Fringe, it could’ve been held for at least a month. My stage mom hat was worn with pride as I connected with so many fellow creators to see their work, to catch up, to show support, to expand our circles and of course eat green onion cakes. We’d all been through something similar over the past few years and whether we wanted to admit it or not, we ached for each other – creative energy needs fellow creative energy to thrive. The lovefest was unlike anything I’d ever seen. But I truly believe it’s the new normal…….UGH. Yeah I said it.
Fringe ended up being such an overwhelming experience, in all of the best possible ways. I surprised myself with what was accomplished. And because I like to switch things up, I might have already begun to write for next season. Keep creating loves! The world needs your brand of art. I can’t wait to see what YOU do next.