On The Spot Improv's HORRIFIC HISTORICAL HYSTERICAL Improv Walking Tour kicks off tonight at the Fringe Park at 7 PM. That means, among others things, that I will be performing in the in Montreal Fringe Festival once again.
Like a lot of Montreal based actors, comedians, musicians, dancers and performance artists of all kinds, I have had a long and varied history with the Fringe. I suspect my history (while not necessarily as varied) is most likely the longest of anyone performing is this year's fest.
I was in the very first Fringe Festival in Montreal. I had heard the legends of other Canadian Fringe Festivals like Edmonton as well as those of the great Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.
On The Spot Improv was only about a year old when the first Fringe Festival in this city launched in June of 1991. We did your basic short form theatresports improv show. We were performing in one of three (yes, three) venues running that year. The venue was a little room upstaris from a Hungarian restaurant on St. Laurent between Sherbrooke and Prince Arthur, as I recall. Csarda, I think it was called. All I remember is that we got good sized audiences, the beer tent was tiny (I've gone camping in bigger tents) and it rained a lot.
I was back in the Fringe again in '92. Once again, I was performing with On The Spot Improv. Now two years old, we all had our improv chops down to a fine art by this point.
Or so it seemed at the time.
This time around we presented, in alternate performances, our improvised versions of a horror movie, a film noire and a fairly tale. It was another show that I remember doing very well.
There was also a moment in one of the improvised Fairy Tale shows that will stay with me forever. I forget the exact details and mechanics of the scene now but I do recall that in each improvised fairy tale we would get a suggestion of an object from the audience. That object would end up being the undoing of the villain of the story. I remember one show the object in question was a cigarette. So, toward the end of the show, the hero gave the villain (some kind of evil magical fish man if I remember correctly) a cigarette. I was playing the narrator that show. As soon as the evil magical fish man started smoking the cigarette, I called out, "Forty years later!". The actor playing the evil magical fish man caught my drift immediately and proceeded to play out this wonderful death scene where the evil magical fish man finally succumbed to a 40 year long battle with lung cancer. I was later told after the show (by some fellow members of the troupe at the time, who shall remain nameless) that I had "destroyed the genre" and that it would have been a much better show if the evil magical fish man would have died from smoke getting into his gills or "something more immediate". Friends of mine who saw the exact same show told me that the "40 years later" line was "brilliant" and that it "made the show".
Ah, such is the lot of the improviser.
I attended many Fringes in the years that followed. I saw some brilliant shows. The Canadian clown team of Mump and Schmoot stands out in particular. I also saw some shows that were, well, not quite as brilliant. A play from the '93 Fringe entitled Batman and Robin: The Untold Story, regrettably, still sticks out in my mind (and, yes, you can guess in about 30 seconds what the "untold' part of the story is).
I also performed at the grand daddy of all fringes, The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, in 1995. I appeared that year at the world's longest running Fringe Festival with The Vestibules.
As opposed to the first Montreal Fringe Festival with 3 venues, Edinburgh that year had 189 venues. Every play you'd ever heard of, from King Lear to Annie Get Your Gun to No Exit and everything in between, was playing in Edinburgh that year. I think the play I wrote in high school was on in Venue 57.
Two years later, again with The Vestibules, I also did the grand daddy of all Canadian Fringes, the Edmonton Fringe Festival. Edmonton's Fringe Festival is more on the scale of Montreal's Jazz Festival. The Fringe atmosphere is very strong in that city. I remember getting on a bus. I still happened to be wearing my Festival Performer's pass at the time. Much to my amazement, the driver stopped me from paying my fare and told me I could ride for free. I rode the bus for free for the entire run of the festival, just because I was a Fringe performer. I recall my dad telling me similar stories when he was wearing his Royal Canadian Air Force uniform during World War II. Those two things are exactly the same thing in every way.
I returned as a performer to the Montreal Fringe in the year 2000. This time I was all on my lonesome. I wrote and performed my own one man show entitled "Being Terence Bowman". The critical reaction was "mixed". However, I did have some really good audiences, including one show that sold out (not always an easy feat at the Montreal Fringe).
I was back in the Montreal Fringe in 2006. The show was called "Terence Bowman's Happy Fun Fringe Show!!!". It was a more comedy-oriented one man show than my previous one had been. I had a good first couple of shows with good attendance and positive audience reactions. All that came to a crashing halt when the most brutally negative review of my entire career was published. That review pretty much turned the rest of my run into open dress rehearsals, each with 1 or 2 exclusive selected invitees in attendance.
Ah, such is the lot of a Fringe performer.
Happily, 2006 did not turn out to be my Fringe swan song.
I'm back this year with a new, fun and different improv show. 21 years after appearing in the first fringe festival ever, On The Spot Improv and I are back with The HORRIFIC HISTORICAL HYSTERICAL Improv Walking Tour. There is no theatre for this show. The streets and parks of Montreal are our venue. The show is a walking tour that explores the life, death and afterlife of an obscure figure from the history of Montreal. This local historical figure is so obscure, in fact, that it's almost as if the audience just invented them moments before the show began.
|Don't forget this show too|
If last night's free preview show is anything to go by, The HORRIFIC HISTORICAL HYSTERICAL Improv Walking Tour is gonna be both unique and fun.
I will be try and blog regularly on the latest news from our improv walking tours, other shows I may see and the Fringe experience in general.