Summer

Fringe, authenticity, and friendship: A single cloud cannot extinguish the sun.

As I begin writing, the Winnipeg Fringe Festival is at its midpoint and I’ve taken in four shows (five, if you count the one I enjoyed so much I went back!). Each one has been wonderful in its own way, and I can’t wait to wrap up this week with an explosion of theatre that will surely leave me as inspired and invigorated as it does every year, and has for the past decade. I’m positive I’ll write again after the second half after the festival is over.

I’m starting to realise that with words like “decade” – realizing that some of the brilliant souls I’ve shared this festival with over the years – I met before I’d even turned twenty years old, and it’s kind of fantastic how we’ve all shared in these creations of creativity, fully immersing ourselves in the experience that seems to exist to celebrate imagination and the artistic spirit. I remember shows from years ago, so clearly I can remember the goosebumps I got, or the awe that struck me, and I can look them up online to find barely a trace of them having happened at all. These performers flock to the city for ten days each year to display the products of their imagination, to share their talent, their energy, and to draw audiences into their world in the hopes of sharing it, inspiring, and creating memories. These shows burn brightly and touch countless souls, bringing laughter, tears, and wonder, and then, like the glow of sparklers after Bonfire Night, they are gone for another year. There’s something bittersweet but quite wonderful about their transience. If you are to exist for such a limited time, then why not make that existence shine?

Photo by Leah Borchert

Fringe couldn’t have been timed better this year. So far, I’ve seen master storyteller (and eternal favourite) Martin Dockery, who brought with him two shows (the second to come later in the run), strings of words and buckets of charisma, and DVDs (finally!) of some of my all-time most loved shows from festivals past; a tale of a man’s journey through cancer as told through story, projections, and stadium rock songs; the greatest hits of the always brilliant Die Roten Punkte, a “brother and sister” duo from “Berlin” who sing about robots, lions, and the Bananenhaus, and the 5-Step Guide to Being German, suggested by my friend, who’s dating a German man, returning for a second time after having such a blast being the token Brit and ending up befriending the performer, going for food, chatting about literature, travel, and pseudo-plotting the emergence of a British version of the show. To come: zombies, performance poetry, parodies, puppetry, and magic. I usually take time off work for Fringing, but this year I have a grand total of ten days holiday off from work (can Canada take a flip through the UK’s book of employment standards? McDonald’s workers back home get at least four weeks!) and they’re all being used up very soon in the most epic way possible: jetting off to Europe with the love of my life and packing in eight whole countries. In eleven days we’ll be stepping onto a plane, and my heart will burst with excitement, gratitude, and awe.

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But I digress. Fringe, in all its glory, is good for the soul, and as of late, this soul has been feeling a little empty. Perhaps empty is the wrong word – I haven’t stopped writing songs, making music, diving into this new photography business, planning trips or going on adventures. I haven’t stopped seeing people or filling my time with exciting things. But I have had a bit of heartache lately when it comes to the people in my life. I’ve come to realise I probably feel things at a greater extreme than what’s considered normal – and I think any fellow INFJ can relate. Everything I do has to be with passion, everyone I befriend has to become a kindred spirit, and everyone I love I do so with all my heart. Every hurt I witness is as if I feel it myself, and every injustice to a cause, or animal, about which I care, goes straight to my heart and tears flood out. Tears flood out with all the positive, too – whether gratitude for kindnesses, for love, or for simply being part of the same human race that creates such brilliant things – I feel pretty hard. So it’s no surprise that losing my two best friends this year has thrown me. I’m thirty years old, not thirteen, so I’m not going to go into details, but it’s made me pretty sad. The illusion of permanence always does, when things come to an end. I tend to invest everything into things and people I care about – believing words like “family” and “forever”, and thanking my lucky stars for people who feel as strongly about our coexistence as I do. It’s heartbreaking when things you believed were forever are shown to be untrue, and I feel a tad foolish for ever believing otherwise. But I guess that’s the price of growing up – as we become older, stronger, more authentic, and (hopefully) wiser, we scan and audit our environments to ascertain whether or not they still align with our values and the person we’re becoming.

“Highly sensitive people are too often perceived as weaklings or damaged goods. To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate. It is not the empath who is broken, it is society that has become dysfunctional and emotionally disabled. There is no shame in expressing your authentic feelings. Those who are at times described as being a ‘hot mess’ or having ‘too many issues’ are the very fabric of what keeps the dream alive for a more caring, humane world. Never be ashamed to let your tears shine a light in this world.”
Anthon St. Maarten

Sometimes, what fit who you were before no longer has a place in the life you’re meant to be leading, and as you grow into that person, that life, fundamental incompatibilities begin to show. It’s sad, but somewhat inevitable –the more you invest in people, the more their authentic selves begin to show. Hopefully, as with any relationship, you discover layers upon layers of shared hopes, dreams, experiences, and above all, values – but sometimes, you discover you only aligned on the surface. Hurts begin to emerge, and panic sets in – it’s not supposed to be this way, you think, and before you know it, there are conspiracies and spite thrown about in the name of others’ preserving their own images and reputations at the cost of yours. Losing people is never easy in any circumstance, but witnessing those who once cared turn so quickly on you and toward gossip and flat-out mistruths hurts hard. Last week was a hard one, but after much reflection, introspection, and a tallying of all the wonderful things that hold true in life, I’m feeling better. I heard a turn of phrase recently that made me slightly wistful – “people are only happy for you as long as you’re not doing better than them.” Is this the new way of the world? It’s sad, but what can we do about it? We aren’t equipped with the power to change the world. But we can make a conscious decision to be honest, kind, true, and real, and leave the world hopefully a little better than when we arrived in it. We can choose to be an example of what we wish were the norm. And we can choose to let go of the things that are no longer good for us in order to do so.

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Fringe most definitely helps. Friends from other walks of life surface and relationships deepen, genuinely, and I find myself excited at the prospect of memories yet to be made. I count my blessings for those who’ll drop everything to show their caring when it’s needed, and hope they know I would do the same. I relive moments, words, and photographs of recent days and remind myself how lucky I am to have experienced them. I think of the past six months with J. and how much laughter and love have filled my days; moreso than the entire rest of my life. When your world seems to be falling apart, if you take a step back and look at it in its entirety, things usually aren’t quite so dire. The universe is simply pulling out weeds to make room for a more beautiful garden – one that’s pretty lovely to begin with, and one that you’re probably already standing in.

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From my Lady of the Lake photoshoot 🙂 (http://stardustphotography.ca)

So, here begins week two of this wonderful festival. I’ve already met people from faraway places I hope very much to stay in touch with. I recently indulged in some more creative storytelling, heading out onto the open road under skies of the most brilliant purple and orange, sitting solo under the symphony of the heavens. I’m working on new songs, finding ways to record on my own, and reconnecting with possible future collaborators. I’m loving the death out of summer, but quietly anticipating colder days and evenings filled with good tea, great music, and the return to my novel. I’m going on adventures to abandoned ghost towns in the middle of the night, jetting off across Europe with the most incredible soul on the planet, and capturing the beauty of this planet we share an existence with. For those things that have ended, their bitter culmination doesn’t take away from their season’s brilliance. With everything comes new skills, wisdom, and a clearer picture of what’s needed in life, and what isn’t. This week is going to be filled with creativity, camaraderie, fun and adventure. The one after will take us on a journey I’m sure will be a highlight of this lifetime. When things seem sad, it often helps to write things down, and see that one black cloud doesn’t extinguish the sun.

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Live to the point of tears: Fringe 2014

Winnipeg Fringe 2014

I didn’t realise it until a few days in, but this year marked my ten year anniversary of being a Fringer. Winnipeg Fringe is always the highlight of my year—I write about it every year probably with more passion than anything else because it invariably excites my soul to the point of bursting. Diving into ten days of such an explosion of creativity (seriously, this year we had over 175 different shows of every genre you could dream of), where the Exchange District ignites with passion and people pour torrentially to fill the streets, all sharing a common passion for art and theatre and these brilliant creations of the human mind… it’s like throwing yourself to the bottom of a lake and instead of drowning, thriving; soaking in every ounce of imagination as it fuels a burning excitement that lasts the entire festival.

Fringe 2014I love the Fringe. I haven’t found another city that does it as perfectly as this one. It becomes a community, and for ten glorious sun-filled days, you live it. You feel a connection to everyone you see sharing it, enjoying it as much as you do. People come from everywhere on the planet to see or share amazing stories and performances, and the excitement and adrenaline and sheer connectedness that fills you as you take part in something amazing spills into the time between, which of course, turns into adventures. I don’t know what it was about this year (although I suspect being temporarily unemployed, as well as living without roommates for the first time had something to do with it), but Fringe 2014 was filled with a magic I’ll never forget.

Let’s start with the fact that one of my dearest friends in the world spent the festival with me. One of the great things about the festival is that it gives you the chance to billet performers—have someone who’s in town to do a show live with you for their tie in the city. Shelby comes up from LA every year and has been staying with me for a decade, now, and it’s always brilliant. Some years we don’t get to see each other as often as I’d like because I’m working, or he’s doing multiple shows, but this year, I had all the time in the world and he had a good number of days off, and we celebrated by throwing ourselves into all sorts of adventures with the most wonderful people I know.

In ten years, I’d never shown him anywhere outside the city, so we jumped in the car and headed south, accompanied by the best of soundtracks, and shot down the highway framed in endless fields of yellow. We found my favourite old barn and we waded through wild gold and we climbed to the rafters. We took pictures as the sun sank over the prairie horizon and left us with soaring trails of pink to light our way to an abandoned ghost town. We explored houses that looked as though they were straight out of a horror movie, scared ourselves with imaginings of what may lay in the basements, and ventured into a deserted church with only an oil lamp and a handful of stories. We sat on the balcony (or whatever that upper level of churches is called), lit candles, and marvelled at a silence thicker and heavier than the blackness surrounding. We read, we found creepy poems posted on the walls, and we left the memory written in a strange guestbook.

Abandoned

We did a spontaneous open mic—I’d never been on stage alone in my life, and though I’m finally becoming more comfortable singing with my new band (because they are incredible), I still make most people turn the other way if I’m to sing them a song. And there we were, my veins filled with the magical spirit of the festival, printing out lyrics to an eighties hit, never having practiced it, and within twenty minutes finding ourselves in front of an audience. We played and people applauded, and then I had another song to do, solo. For the first time ever. I sang something I’d written, and felt the battle raging inside me; on one side, the desire to show what I could do, what I’d created, that I could sing… the other, so afraid, all the nerves and anxiety I thought were a thing of the past wrapping around my vocal chords and strangling the life out of my voice. I made it through the song, but I knew I could’ve done so much better. I knew I had done so much better. I was thwarted, and I went back into the audience and cried. My friends told me I’d done great, but my emotions told me otherwise. I sobbed as my friend held my hands, reassuring me. She told me something I’ll never forget: “I strive to be like you.” This wonderful woman, saying these words to me. It made me cry harder, and I left with a fierce determination to prove myself better. Sometimes I wish I could just feel good about having tried. But to this day, I’m still unable to unless it’s brilliant. Experiences and endeavours should be epic. I don’t want to fall short. I don’t do mediocrity, and I know learning curves in anything are inevitable, but I don’t like being in them.

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We always try to watch one wonderful film together (one of my favourite years was the one we chose Russell T. Davies’s Casanova with David Tennant), and this year, it was The Perks of Being a Wallflower. So wonderful. We watched it in pieces, because we both have the complete inability to focus on sitting still and not doing for extended periods of time. But it was lovely. We shared music, and each night before bed I’d read or write or watch EastEnders, and he’d write a handwritten note to his best friend back home and mail it to her the next morning. Such a wonderful soul. I’d never had breakfast in bed, so one morning we had blueberry pancakes. Blueberry pancakes and great music. “You deserve to have breakfast in bed.”

BelltowerWe loved our midnight adventure so much we rallied a group together later in the week, and six of us headed out in a van armed with candles, scary stories, ukuleles, and a thirst for adventure. We drove through the starlight to the same scary houses, the same abandoned church, climbing through the thickets and weeds and cradling our candlelight from the wind, ventured up into the church bell tower. We told tales of frights and unfortunate children and made our way to the altar in the dead of night. Our friend Walter, an incredible musician, brought out his guitar, and performed a series of what we dubbed “murder ballads” as we huddled together in the darkness. The echoes of these fantastically morbid, brilliant folk tales rang throughout the church and our hearts were alight with an eager excitement.

We went glow bowling, we pressed flowers, we ventured into a forest where I was eaten alive, I met a Transformer, learned how to swing dance… and of course, we saw more shows than I can count. From the wit and hilarity of shows like Fruitcake, Like Father, Like Son (Sorry), and God is a Scottish Drag Queen (“Hallowed” is a shitty name!) to the rocking good time of Die Roten Punkte’s EuroSmash (where I got to dance in the aisles, rock out and laugh so hard), see the return of the banananhaus and take home one of the enormous balloons that fell from the ceiling), to the sheer uniqueness of the Wonderheads… from shows like This is Cancer, which sold out every show and was quite possibly the strangest and most wonderful thing I’ve ever seen (a real-life cancer survivor, who’s lost 90% of his vision, dressed in a gold lamé suit filled with lumps and bumps personifying the disease in a one-man comedy that left the audience laughing and sobbing, and me calling somebody afterward to tell them how thankful I am they’re alive…) to seeing phenomenal performers like Martin Dockery, who’s given me my some of my favourite theatrical experiences of all time return with new shows and true stories that only he can tell in his brilliant way, to seeing audiences flock to Shelby‘s One Man Back to the Future, where he condensed the entire movie down to an hour, played all the characters brilliantly, and had the audience participate in hilarious moments that had the entire house on their feet in standing ovations… just made me so infinitely proud.

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The night after it was all over was the night after my first day at my new job. To say it was emotional would be a bit of an understatement… I’d spent two weeks in art, culture, and friendship heaven, and not only was I going into the unknown (although I knew it was going to be amazing; I’d received two job offers and this was the one I wanted more than anything I’d interviewed for… initially I thought I was going to have to turn it down, as it paid quite a bit less than the other and the world isn’t set up for a single person to be able to survive easily… but they called me the next day, upping their offer by an entire third of what they were originally offering… which made me feel really good!), but I arrived home to a newly empty apartment. No suitcases, no cowboy hats, no enthusiastic friend or a night ahead of adventures. It had all evaporated for another year, and I found myself overwhelmed by the infinite sadness of it all being over. The Fringe takes over your whole heart in a way I can’t describe. It fills your soul with an energy that’s too much for one person to contain, and everyone is experiencing the same thing… the air is just filled with the overflow, and we drink it in with every breath. And then it’s gone for another year, and we must return to reality. But the memories, oh, the memories, they last a lifetime. I came home that night to a note that of course made me sob, telling me it was the Best. Year. Ever., and that my friend felt “lucky to be in this time with me.” Not to have shared this time, but to be in this time. A subtle difference that meant the absolute world. That this time had been ours.

Ten Years Em and Shelby

Today is National Friendship Day, and I’m spending it with the most wonderful woman I’ve ever met. She called me that night, the very first night of my return to the real world, knowing full well I’d be terribly sad, and though I was exhausted and a bit of an emotional mess, she welcomed me over with open arms, hearing the heaviness of my heart and there to hold it up. Since then, we’ve had adventures of our own, in addition to the countless ones of the festival, and we still have at least a month of this glorious summer left. Fringe brought so many of us together, and it has a way of letting you in, sharing something incredible, and releasing you on the other side with bonds deepened, memories shared, and a connection that’s stronger for having experienced it. Ten years… and this was, most definitely, the best year ever.

Fringe group 2014

Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths

“Anxiety is love’s greatest killer. It makes others feel as you might when a drowning man holds on to you. You want to save him, but you know he will strangle you with his panic.”   – Anaïs Nin

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks. You know, one of those annoying splotches somebody spilled on the canvas of the life you want to lead. Have you ever looked at your life as a nice, freshly baked pie? Rhubarb, perhaps, because it’s the best kind of pie.  (It should also probably be noted that I’m writing this at lunchtime, having forgotten to bring something to eat, and trying desperately not to spend on the exorbitance of downtown dining.) Have you ever mentally divided that pie into sections – work, home, friends, love? And have you ever delved in only to find that somebody’s eaten it all up? A vacuous dish you expected to be filled with deliciousness, but instead filled only with an ugly mess of scattered crumbs and regurgitated leftovers somebody decided they didn’t like all that much after all. It’s slightly alarming when you look to your plate and instead of finding things neatly in place, everything is all wrong. I’ve felt a bit like that over the last few weeks, and when that feeling hits, it’s hard not to look to the common denominator and feel that you must be the problem. But can it be you, if you genuinely feel inside that you try desperately to be a good person and do the right thing for every person and in every situation? Or could it be that your intentions become warped somewhere in the transition between your heart and the world outside, and you, simple medium, are oblivious to the final product?

A couple of issues from various areas have surfaced as of late and I’ve been left feeling powerless as to what to do. Take a blast from the past friendship, for example. A few of you may know that December 2011 was a pretty rough point in my life, and the build-up of only partially really dealing with my anxiety effectively led to me doing something awful that resulted in many people in my life wanting to distance themselves. It was a very sad and lonely, but I had no-one to blame but myself. Since then I’ve been determined to right the wrong, and have dealt with it in the best ways I can think of.

I went through a ten-week program through the Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba, and began seeing a counsellor. I started medication and increased the dose so I could get to a point where I wasn’t crying all the time. I did assignments every week and learned the enormous thought distortions that accompany an anxiety disorder. I learned to separate reality from distortion, and reshape my thinking and subsequent reactions to things that before would have had me in tearful hysterics, spouting my twisted imaginings onto those close to me and believing them to be real. I was a horrible person to be around, but the catalyst for really getting better was the self-inflicted isolation. If I wanted friends and loved ones to be around, I couldn’t treat them as I had been, and had to learn new and healthy ways of relating to people. Learn to be independent, to not catastrophise and assume the worst, to stop reading minds and seeing the world solely in black and white, and to stop blaming others for things my mind had invented. I’m in a much better place now, but I’m still not there yet. The slow journey is one that sometimes doesn’t sit well with my impatience, but I know it’s the only way to truly get there.

A handful of people stuck by me six months ago. A small handful of people who wanted to understand why it got to the point it did, and wanted to be there to support me as I got better. To let me know I wasn’t alone. I wish I could re-write the dictionary, add a second volume of words or maybe even add another twenty letters to the alphabet, to conjure up a whole new lexicon of emotions that express the true extent of how deeply thankful I am for those people, and how the amount of love for them I have fills my heart up so full it could almost burst.  But a larger number of people turned their backs. People I’d invested heart and soul and love and vulnerability into told me I “needed more than they were able to give”, and went about their happy lives without being weighed down by a friend in need. It stung. A lot. But I couldn’t blame them.

I reconnected with one of these people recently and we chatted about how things had been since December. I had thought that devoting myself to all the things I had to do to rectify the way I’d been acting may result in some of these people coming back, but I received this message earlier this week:

It sounds like things are really looking up for you and that you’re happy in your life right now and I think that’s fantastic. It took a long time to find what you were looking for, including a divorce, a partner’s stressful family, coping with a boyfriend who has a debilitating condition and then when things got too much, what happened in December. Up until the very last point, I was with you every step of the way, but at the end of it all, there was just nothing left to give. If you have friends now that you know will stick with you through thick and thin and are the rocks at the bottom, that’s wonderful and it makes me really happy to know that you’ve found those people. With that said, I just can’t be that friend – I just don’t have enough in me to be what you need. I’m happy to see you if we run into each other and catch up, but that’s all that I have right now. I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings, but I respect you enough to be honest. I still think that you’re a good person and I’m genuinely happy that things are looking up for you. Thanks for understanding and I’ll see you around.

I think, six months later, I’ve earned the right to feel it’s good to know who your true friends are. The reason for putting so much work into getting better wasn’t to win friends back, it was to be a better person – a better one for loved ones to be around, one who was more equipped to see things in a positive light and not cause undue stress on those I care about more than anything; a better person at work, who wasn’t preoccupied with worry about things that were only an issue in my head; a better person for myself, to have my thoughts and actions be in harmony with my values and what’s most important to me. So I’m not disappointed – the last six months have been spent with a few people who really have become those rocks, as well as learning to be independent, do the things I’ve always wanted, and be more of the person I really want to be. But when life gets overwhelming, I have a terrible tendency to revert to the stranglehold of old thought patterns and behaviours.

When life seems to be beyond your control, it can lead to feelings of despair. I spent many a night alone in my little apartment in the weeks leading up to Christmas sobbing into my poor little cat’s fur, wishing for things to be different. But if I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that nothing is going to change unless you take the action to do something about it. If you don’t like something, change it, don’t just sit there crying and playing the victim of the world’s wrongdoings. If everything seems out of your control, focus on what you can control. Your own actions and attitudes, not the thoughts of others.

The mind can become a sinister place when eclipsed by the shadow of anxiety. Every thought is wrapped meticulously in a dark veil of uncertainty, every hope and ounce of positivity choked tightly until all that remains is a core of steadfast fear. Friends become liars, who must be masquerading care and concern. Lovers become impostors, saying the right words but surely secretly wishing you were different. Acts of kindness and affection are drowned before registering as ever having existed at all, and you are left feeling alone, lost, and abandoned, wondering why everyone is suddenly giving up on you. But as real as it may seem, it is a fantasy. A dark place that exists solely in the imagination of those affected, their world becoming distorted as if by some sort of intoxication.  where everyone is an enemy.  Trust nothing, no-one. Become blind to reality and see the world only through a distorted lens of neglect and fear. It’s terrifying, once safely on the other side, to look back and see yourself helpless to an attack of the mind – to have studied psychology and read all the ins and outs of anxiety, yet once in a while still be powerless to its brute force.  There have been a few of those attacks recently, and I’m upset with myself that I still haven’t 100% beaten it, but I have never been more determined. The big difference is that before, I believed my thoughts to be completely justified. Now I can see that they’re not, but every once in a while, I still can’t seem to escape their grip.

I need to learn how to better deal with life when it gets overwhelming. I need to learn how to channel that energy into something positive and productive, to remind myself continually that crying and victimising yourself is the complete opposite of how I want to live. I pride myself on taking action to better things when there’s a problem, not sitting there whining about them. I think I’ve made a lot of progress, but I want it to be always. I don’t want there to be relapses, however few and far between. I want to be better permanently. For me and everyone around me.

But enough of the nervous ramblings. If we’re friends on Facebook, you may have seen there are an awful lot of fantastic things happening in the next little while, and having that to look forward to is my shining light. Soon enough, problems won’t seem so large, work will be caught up on, and all that will be left is awesomeness. In five days (touch wood), after a year of waiting, my divorce will finally be granted. In just over a week, an amazing new friend and roommate will be moving in with me, someone I am so glad to have met – a fellow INFJ with an incredible story who loves reading and musicals as much as I do, and – be still my heart – Moulin Rouge! 🙂  Not long after that, Winnipeg seems to be having a festival celebrating pirates, steampunk and the Renaissance – I can’t wait to get costumed up, watch jousting and dance around to one of my favourite Celtic bands. Then for a night of fancy board games for my birthday, a Space Party to celebrate the anniversary of humanity launching itself into the sky and landing on the moon, and then FRINGE, where the city turns into an enormous celebration of culture and creativity, and old friends come to visit from across the globe. The last few weeks have had their fair share of win too: a 1920s themed, swing dancing games night, being given the captain’s chair on creative projects at work going across the country,and a giant party in the park put on by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, surrounded by fellow space nerds, watching a partial solar eclipse. Summer really is shaping up to be pretty wonderful. And for now, I must focus on the positive. Focus on what’s important, and what’s a priority. Focus on catching myself before I fall, and focus on making the most of every moment I am lucky enough to have been granted. I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. And I’m determined to show just how much I really am.

Cakes, Shakes and a Midnight Cabaret

This weekend was spent…

Indulging in the arts

If you’ve been around for the last few years, you’ll undoubtedly know that Fringe Festival is the absolute highlight of my year. Hundreds of performers from across the globe flock to the city to put on nine days’ worth of entertainment – from noon until midnight every day you can have your pick of comedy, drama, musicals, improv, dance, even burlesque, and what’s usually one of the more desolate and dodgy areas of the city is filled with life, colour, creativity and culture. Lecture halls in universities, top floors of pubs, backstage areas of theatres and city streets themselves are turned into performance spaces, laughter and applause fill the air, and extravagant costumes, floating sundresses and musical instruments adorn the assortment of people spilling out of coffee shops and off of patios. Over the past week, I spent my time with good friends, laughing until my sides hurt, watching a secret torch-lit midnight cabaret, admiring brilliantly written scripts and breathtaking performances, and just soaking up every drop of the creative spirit which comes to visit just once per year for all too short a time. My pockets are empty, my houseguest has gone home, and another Fringe has come and gone, but I feel thoroughly satiated after a week of the arts – and totally inspired to write a show of my own!

Channelling my inner eight-year-old

This weekend I also had the opportunity to attend my first “Cake and Shake”. It’s exactly what it says on the tin – an annual party thrown by a friend revolving around the idea of eating lots of cakes, consuming lots of milkshakes, pulling out guitars and breaking into song. I think all grown-ups should have a cake and milkshake party at least once in their life – it was wildly fun (not to mention delicious), and with the encouragement of a wonderful group of people, I even got to conquer my fear of public singing!

Dreaming of winter

Yes, you read that correctly and no, I haven’t been replaced by one Raven Darkhölme –Winnipeg is indeed the coldest city in the world, with over half the year spent with temperatures plummeting well into the minus twenties and thirties, but with the recent heatwave, I’ve taken to daydreaming of all the things winter will bring. Snuggling in blanket forts watching movie marathons, decorating my new apartment for Christmas, braving the cold in nerdy Hallowe’en costumes on the bus, Comic Con, holiday movies, festive baking, cooking warm meals, walks down moonlit streets after a fresh, glittering snowfall, group Thanksgiving potlucks, excursions outside the city to see the Northern Lights, afternoons with hot chocolate, fairy lights and a big notebook… I absolutely adore summer, but lately I’ve found myself for the first time daydreaming of all the things to do while the weather outside is frightful. Always good to have something to look forward to. 🙂

What did you do this weekend?

And so it begins

The best part of my year is peeking around the corner.  Three days ago, the Fringe came to town, and it’s here for another solid week – a week I’ve finally taken off work to enjoy more fun, creativity, life and inspiration than I could imagine.  This year there’s almost 150 different shows to choose from, and yesterday I made my schedule for the upcoming week. I’ve already seen a powerhouse performance poet rant a fervent and furious soliloquy, deifying his audience and making sure we were all aware of the new English History Syllabus (“We won, we won we won we won we won we won”).  I’ve seen some dear friends sell out the house and make me laugh so hard I cried. Still to come, I have a horror musical about robbing graves for medical science, a fairytale about a giant girl, a Shakespeare-meets-Seuss love story, and a frightening story of bringing a virtual reality junkie back to life.

The sun is finally out, the Exchange district is buzzing, and I get to spend a week with my best friend, theatre, sunshine and the ever-present countdown to all I have to look forward to this year.  My new job is going amazingly; I’m learning so much, I’m going out to seminars, I’m creating radio scripts and ads to go up throughout the city.  My officemates do yoga and watch movies at lunch time.  I’ve got a series of wonderful concerts to look forward to in the fall; Keane, Sonata Arctica, Dragonforce, Franz Ferdinand and Flogging Molly all in the span of two months.  I jump around and start clapping at the very thought.  And, after the year wraps up with friends and holiday cheer and a week to enjoy the festivities, I get to go to a 4 star, all inclusive resort in the Caribbean.

I’ve got a sneaky feeling this might just be the best six months I’ve ever had.

July, July

It’s that time of year again. I’ve found myself blogging less and less over the years, which is a shame because it’s always interesting to go back and read what I was up to a year or two ago, but without fail I always find myself writing during the Fringe Festival. This is definitely the time of year I find myself happiest, and it always passes by far too quickly. Dear friends fly into town, the beautiful Exchange District is filled with life, colour, and crowds that appreciate the arts, and I’m just surrounded by creativity, talent, and wonderful people. The rest of the year seems so dark and desolate in comparison; Old Market Square is deserted and there’s that underlying hesitance to even visit the Exchange. But for these two glorious weeks in July we’re treated to hundreds of productions from noon ‘til night every day; local vendors sell pretty trinkets to take home, and pubs and coffee houses thrive with dedicated theatre-goers.

I’m sitting here, at this moment in time, thinking how lucky I’ve been this year. Fringe season, without fail, has a knack for making me count my blessings, and this year I’ve had a lot of them. Sure there’s been quite a bit of crap too, but why remember 2008 for that? I’ve got a beautiful new apartment; I’ve been home to England; I’ve visited Ireland and seen something I never dreamed I’d see in person; I’ve caught up with old friends and family; and right now, all my absolute favourite people are here in Winnipeg. I saw a greeting card while I was in the UK that had the words “wherever you are, it’s your friends who make your world”, or something to that effect, on the front, and it’s so true. This past week I’ve been able to see people I may only see once a year, but these are some of the people I love most in the world. And being able to share in such an amazing festival every single day is just quite possibly the most wonderful thing ever.

I’ve seen about 6 plays since last week; I saw the boys twice and I’m so happy they’re doing so well. It’s a wonderful show and Winnipeg loves them and they deserve such love and success. If you see one thing at the Fringe this year, please go and see Sherlock Holmes and the Saline Solution over at the Gas Station. I also saw Scratch – I don’t normally tend to go to improv shows, but it was highly recommended, and I wish there were more hours in the day because I’d go again in a heartbeat! Probably the best improv I’ve ever seen – they took three suggestions at the beginning of the show and somehow, through flipping characters throughout the show, created three elaborate stories that all converged amazingly in this montage, tied up loose ends and had me laughing the whole time. Very impressive indeed. Last night saw Chris Gibbs, a wonderful storyteller and the ever awe-inspiring (and ever perspiring) Jem Rolls, who just opens your mind and mesmerizes an audience with his incredible performance poetry. In a world where praise is given to highlights and boob jobs over natural beauty, trashy gossip magazines are read over a good book, and a night out is dressing in skimpy clothing, getting drunk and dancing with strangers while a club plays soulless records made exclusively for money; the Fringe festival restores my faith in people at large. I’m so glad the theatre is still so very much alive, and there are still so many people who have such an appreciation for the arts.

Throngs flock to venues hours ahead of showtimes to get a ticket to see an hour-long performance, a lot of the time going on word of mouth with no knowledge of what they’re about to see. Performers spend months preparing a show, from an initial idea to a full-on production, and the variety is enormous. Storytellers, dramatists, comedians, singers and dancers all materialize and the city is treated to two magnificent weeks of culture and the creative spirit. One day I’d love to go over to the Edinburgh Fringe in Scotland – almost a month of shows, selling 1.6 MILLION tickets. I hope the boys do well there next month, and just maybe I might be able to go next year. Fingers crossed!