Today's Edinburgh weather forecast: Light drizzle from 9-10 a.m.,
then an hour of heavy rain, partly sunny heading into noon, a downpour,
then bright sun, then partly cloudy, sun again before the temperature
plummets and rain descends before dusk.
It's easy to spot the natives. They're the ones with no umbrellas,
dressed as if it really is summer. We Fringers look like the offspring of
Heidi and a pack mule. Layers of clothes are topped off with satchels,
backpacks and bags for the paraphernalia needed to do what we need to do to
get our shows noticed. Right now, in my bag, are a stapler, a huge roll of
tape, 20 posters, blue sticky stuff for postering, an extra pair of shoes
for when my sneakers are sodden, extra socks, printouts of flashers and
releases for reviewers, a hat (I'm sunburned in Edinburgh!), a phone, two
pads, several granola bars, an apple, giveaways (candy, backpacks), about
500 flyers and miscellaneous necessaries. I forgot the umbrella back at the
This morning a healthy-looking young woman with vermilion hair shows up at
the half-price ticket pavillion with a stool and a sign: Ten-Minute
Massages! I gaze at her strong hands with longing. "How much?" You donate
what you want, she says with a sweet smile. I've rarely been so tempted.
But the line of ticket-buyers is stretching out of the courtyard, down the
walk toward the Scott's Monument (despite the rain). In the line people
thumb through Fringe catalogues, make notes, stare at the lighted list of
shows with slightly dazed expressions. I have to work it. "Would you like a
flyer for my show? It's a new play -- a world premiere!"
Time: Yesterday. Place: Venue 53. Characters: The Playwright and
Dog: No fair!
Play: Tough shit.
Dog: People came to see me.
Play: You fell asleep!
Dog: Was there a reviewer?
Dog: Broadway Baby would find me captivating.
Play: You lay down center stage and started snoring. You missed your exit.
Dog: A delightful dream. Rabbits!
Play: You're fired!
Dog: Lighten up. It's the Fringe. Stuff happens.
Dog: (laughs:) Like you have a replacement waiting in the wings.
Play: I'll write the dog character entirely out of the script.
Dog: People come for the dog.
Play: They come for the cat.
Dog: There isn't a REAL cat.
(Dog stretches slowly, yawns, sits, lays down again.)
Dog: No skin off my nose. I have an audition for Ambien tomorrow. Better
(Dog closes her eyes, naps. Playwright rewrites furiously.)
The world premiere of LISTEN! THE RIVER (without the dog) runs through
August 25 (not 19) at 1:55, Venue 53, theSpace@Surgeons Hall.
Shivering against oncoming dark clouds, I scurry north onto
Broughton Street headed to my home-away-from-home while at the Fringe.
Another long day of flyering. I want to collapse on the sofa.
Once again I admire a checkered table runner in a window of the John Lewis
department store, cross St. James Place, pass the Police Box Coffee Bar
(bagels and Philadelphia cheeze, amazing kool drinks) and the closed Hotdog
King cart. I glance at the sculptures in front of St. Mary's Catholic
Cathedral and again wonder what they signify. Two young boys climb on the
giant bronze foot while a girl plays on the giant bronze hand adorned with
grasshoppers and a mysterious miniature building.
A plaintive scree, scree, scree from the direction of the cathedral. At the
top of the wide stone steps a baby gull is crying. She's full size, as big
as an adult, but clearly a youngster. She searches the sky. SCREE! SCREE!
She paces back and forth. A stiff wind is starting up.
I climb the 17 steps and sit. The gull paces, approaches then veers away,
then back toward me. An adult gull glides overhead. The youngster goes
nuts, calling, pleading! The adult continues past without a glance, soaring
toward Princes Street. I'm sure she's sitting atop Wellington's head
watching for food scraps. She has done her job. She produced the baby, fed
it, gave it adequate direction, then: You're on your own, kiddo. It's solo
time. But Mama, what if I forget my lines? What if nobody comes? What if I
get a bad review? What if I crash and burn?
The young gull teeters on the rim of the top step. She spreads her wings. A
gust of wind catches them; she bobbles and chickens out but stays on the
edge of the top step. She wants so badly to make it on her own. Slowly I
inch down two steps. She eyes me, then hops down two steps. I go down two
more, then two more. She follows each time. At the bottom I stand. The gull
walks over to the giant bronze foot, hops onto the big toe, and turns to
look at me.
It's going to be okay.
Cooper, the world's largest female dog, loves theater. The train
ride from London was grueling, but here she is at the Fringe.
This morning Cooper held a photo shoot in Princess Street Gardens. Wearing
a chic leatherette saddle plastered with posters for her favorite show in
the Fringe, Cooper pranced, jumped and mugged for photographers around Ross
Cooper's person, London's Wendy Peace, plays six characters in LISTEN! THE
RIVER. The main character is a cat, but after meeting Cooper New York
playwright Robin Rice Lichtig wrote her into the story. It's understandable
why this play is Cooper's pick of the Fest.
The LISTEN! THE RIVER team will give a portion of their ticket sale
proceeds to the Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home. The Home sent representatives
to join in the photo opp. Glen, a young Yorkshire Terrier who is available
for adoption, came with Rosemary and Daniel Eggleston from the Home. Podge,
an elderly Staffordshire Bull Terrier who was adopted from the Home three
years ago came with her person, Melissa Settle.
Everyone behaved admirably. The sun shined, flowers bloomed, birds chirped.
A perfect day for a doggie romp. I have never seen such mugging for the
camera! Glen wasn't crazy about running under Cooper's legs, but this was
the main shot the photographers wanted, so he screwed up his courage and
complied. By noon Glen and Cooper had exchanged email addresses. They will
certainly friend each other on Facebook. Podge doesn't do Facebook.
LISTEN! THE RIVER opens August 13 and runs through the 27th (1:55 at
Surgeon's Hall, venue 53 - www.listentheriver.com).
I'm a writer. I spend my days at my computer with no one to
disturb me but the occasional cat. Silence reigns. The Husband steers
clear. Once he broke his hand playing tennis and didn't say a word until he
was sure I had finished writing for the day.
I don't want to talk. I don't answer the phone. I steer away from Facebook.
I concentrate. Magic happens. Plays are born.
But here at the Fringe it's: "Human entanglements through the eyes of a
cat. Wonderful comedy-drama. At 1:55. Would you like a flyer?" Wash, rinse,
repeat ad infinitum - with enthusiasm damnit. After flyering non-stop for
four hours today, my tongue started sticking to the roof of my mouth. After
another hour I started rolling my R's (did I mention I'm from New York?).
When your tongue is stuck to the roof of your mouth and you roll your R's,
spit shoots out of the corners of your mouth like a water pistol. People
started crossing the street to get away from me.
I think there's a limit to the number of times you can say a word. Like the
number of fertile eggs a woman has or the number of sperms a man has. You
might run dry. My supply of "cat," "eyes" and entanglements" are
dangerously low. Would you like a flyer? It's a play about human spaghetti
through the nostrils of a pigeon.
I've been here at the Fringe for nine days now. It can be
described with one word: rollercoaster. Up: Our flat is beautiful. Down:
It's a 45-minute walk to our venue. Up: I need the exercise. Down: It's
raining. Up: The venue is great. Down: Flyers and posters are lost. Up:
They found the flyers. Down: Nope. Up: Starbucks. Down: No time to eat. Up:
Sun! Down: Dreary comedy show. Up: Gorgeous Mexican show. Down: Tech guy
doesn't have what our show needs. Up: U.S. tech guy solves the problem.
More up: Flyers found. Up even more: Eight photographers came to our
photoshoot. And up: Photos in print and online. Down: Info accompanying
photos not all accurate. Up: My blog printed in The Scotsman. Down: Bus to
Ikea to buy heavy set. Up: Men from the Mexican company come and carry our
set. And the sun is still out. And another photo ran in another newspaper.
And LISTEN! THE RIVER opens with a world premiere preview in two days!
(theSpace@Surgeons Hall, August 13-25 (not 19) at 1:55 -
A tsunami of colorful fliers swirls through Edinburgh. A pudding of
imaginative offerings. Silly me. I thought New York was a theatrical bee
hive. No comparison. I'm lying on the sofa contemplating "flyering." The
word makes my mouth dry. Flyering at the Edinburgh Fringe is everything I
heard it would be and more. How will my actress and I ever manage it?
"Get up, lady! The world's tallest female dog is here at the world's
biggest theater festival! I'm ready to flyer with you!" My face gets a lick
with a tongue the size of a throw rug. It's our intern. Thank goodness. I
was afraid she couldn't fit on the train from London and wasn't going to
show. Out of cash to pay actual people to help us, my actress and I engaged
Cooper several weeks ago. She brought her own flyering outfit, a
fashionable, leatherette number plastered with posters for the world
premiere of LISTEN! THE RIVER. Full disclosure: I had to bribe her with a
part in the play. Not an actual part. Like all of us in theater, Cooper has
to pay her dues. I wrote her into the play as Peek-a-Boo, a one-eyed Great
Dane. If Cooper does a decent flyering job, I'll make her part bigger in
subsequent drafts. If she does an amazing job, she'll get a walk-on. And so
Like others with plays in the Fringe, we'll pull on our rainboots and head
out with bags filled with flyers later this week. Watch for us with our
very large yet fashionable four-legged intern. Give us a flyer for your
play, and we'll give you one of ours.
A blur of days ago I stuffed 10 tons of Jolly Ranchers into a suitcase and
headed east, New York to Boston to London to pick up my actress and her
extremely large Great Dane, then on to Edinburgh and the Fringe. I'm here
despite a pilot who needed emergency surgery just before take off; despite
the suitcase filled with you-know-whats that had to be trucked up stairs,
down stairs, through London tubes, onto a train, then up endless flights to
our flat in Edinburgh.
I'm here, with my intrepid actress, Wendy Peace, and her intrepid Great Dane,
Cooper, who needed to be folded like origami to fit on the train (the dog,
not the actor). We hit the ground running, or rather standing in lines at
the media event to pitch our play. Seven and a half hours of standing,
without food or drink (though free beer was temptingly nearby). Good
training, I kept telling myself. For what I'm not sure. Wait. Yes. Training
for intrepidity -- a must for Fringers.
I've already met an amazing assortment of theater people from all over the
world and Minnesota. New York clowns immersed themselves in local lore
right off by climbing to watch the Tattoo. Two companies of puppeteers from
London charmed this somewhat (ahem) older playwright, bringing tea and
sharing their puppets' backstories. A young comic, newly split from his
girlfriend, poured his heart out about chucking his conventional job and
going for it in the Free Fringe. Stand-up comics are intrepid.
I need a spreadsheet to plan a course of action to see as much as possible
while still flyering and getting ready for our show, LISTEN! THE RIVER,
which opens August 13. Why the Great Dane? Why the Jolly Ranchers?
Stay tuned for more tidbits from inside this huge whirlwind that is the Edinburgh Fringe.