theatre

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.

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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

When all the world becomes a hundred stages

Winnipeg Fringe 2013

My favourite time of year just wrapped up again, and this year I was lucky enough to share it with someone who’d never Fringed before. AC and I saw 12 shows in total (sadly this year I had no vacation time to take the full week off, or it would have been at least double), 90% of which were as brilliant as expected. One of my oldest friends got to stay with me, and though our time was short, it was wonderful, and we even got to help out in making part of People Pleaser (if you happen to be lucky enough to be reading this in Edinburgh, please catch his show!).

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We saw actors perform a sold-out show and move the audience to tears with no words; nothing but hand-crafted masks and brilliantly imagined physicality. We laughed ourselves silly at so many witty comedies, parodies, and storytelling, and spent one night in absolute awe of one show in particular, which left me absolutely breathless. Seriously. There are some moments of human brilliance, whether in writing, Tim Redfordperformance or music, where the creator actually has the power to suspend time and transport you into their world, immerse you in its creativity so deeply that when it’s over, you almost feel the physical need to come up for air. I can’t explain it, but that kind of mesmerizing power, that kind of imagination, that kind of skill… it just leaves me breathless. After that show, I left inspired on so many levels, and reinvigorated with ideas for getting back to writing. And the universe, as if in unison with the burst of awe I felt inside, set the sky alight as it crashed down on us in the most epic of storms, and we ran, we kissed, we laughed, we stood atop a bridge marvelling at the lightning and the force of nature that seemed to be an echo of everything we felt inside.

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I know I try every year, but words fail me when I try to express just how much I love this time of year. I’ve been to Fringe festivals in other cities, and though Edinburgh and Adelaide remain for now a dream, there’s nothing quite like Winnipeg’s. The whole city unites in one part of town that’s usually deserted, and restaurants, pubs, concert halls, parks, churches, and of course the usual theatres become the home of the products of people’s imagination, and the dedicated audiences that fall in love with them. There’s magic in the theatrical. Anyone can become transported into a world of someone else’s creation; for a moment in time nothing exists but the universe of another’s conjuring. It can evoke laughter, tears, and all manners of emotion, and its residual effect can be carried like a torch in the form of inspiration long after its burst of glory. And to live in a city where there’s a community of fellow enthusiasts, others who adore these twelve days of a hundred plus creations… is incredible. Passion shared is passion multiplied, and this year, I got to share it with my favourite person in the world.

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It came and went all too quickly, this explosion of universes that originated in the human mind and for a moment, became real. But they were real. The residual inspiration with which I’m filled is real, and I’m beyond excited for it to fuel the next chapter of creating worlds of my own. In my head, in writing, and in song.  1009800_10151731036659171_359321007_n

“Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds… Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.” 
— Neil Gaiman

Of Pirates, Poetry and Prayers

I’m not going to lie, this week and last have been lots of things, but the victory prize goes to exhaustion! Not in a bad way – work has been packed with learning, meeting new people, and creating copious amounts of curriculum leaving little time for anything else. Except that what little time has been leftover, I’ve been filling to the brim with STUFF.  Theatre (the city’s enormous Fringe festival is in town. Read: 155 plays; sleep is on the backburner!); friends from far away staying with us for 2 weeks; weddings, new experiences, and family stuff. It’s left me running on adrenaline, excitement, nerves and of course, way too much coffee, so I think I may be taking a bit of a break from blogging until later next week when I have time to gather my thoughts.  So much stuff has been going on that today’s post is a tad disjointed, so please forgive me!

The Winnipeg Fringe is seriously my absolute favourite time of year. Huge theatre companies, solo shows, musicians, contortionists, comedians… you name it, if it can go on stage and entertain people, it will happen in Winnipeg in July.  Each year’s Fringe also has a theme – we’ve had the frightfest “Night of the Living Fringe”, James Bond, Vegas, a Fringe “Factory”, Cowboys, and this year – everything Science Fiction (I KNOW!).  The Exchange District is a BEAUTIFUL part of town, full of old buildings, ornate architecture, and little boutiques full of vintage clothing and music. But it’s also sadly one of the dodgier areas for most of the year, bridging downtown and the North End (think crime and poverty), and, for the most part, deserted.  Streets are empty and a slight feeling of danger lurks in the air (maybe because I’m a bit of a girl when I walk alone at night!). But in July, everything changes. Hundreds of artists take over the city; dance halls, upstairs book shops, pubs and even the streets become performance spaces, home to a thriving community of arts lovers. Colour and creativity radiate from every corner, and every conceivable surface is turned into prime advertising space for shows ranging from the hilarious to the moving, the haunting to the incredible, the brilliant to the downright bizarre. This week, I’ve seen a one man riot, a brilliant true story of one man’s joke gone wrong that shot him to international stardom, two actors playing one man as they deliver spitfire comedy in Freud vs. His Ego, Cirque du Soleil-esque 19th century pirates, a stunning romantic tale told through tin can radio, described as  “part fairytale, part vaudeville routine, part old-fashioned love story… the theatre show The Decemberists would create if Roald Dahl directed them.” This weekend we have one of the funniest men I’ve ever seen on top of a parody of everything Europop – it’s my favourite two weeks of the year, and this year I’m thrilled a good friend of mine (who visits every year doing shows) happens to be staying with us. All this culture is fantastic, but I’d be lying if I said my sleep pattern hasn’t been affected 🙂

In less than two weeks, I will be heading home to England with Sweet, for his first time to Europe. We’re chiefly going to visit family and friends that won’t be able to make it over for the wedding (it’s a long way, a lot of money, and December in Winnipeg pretty much qualifies for Arctic conditions) – so they get to meet him, and so he gets to see home! I have mixed feelings about the trip – I’m so excited to go home, see friends, see sights and castles and stock up on Angel Delight – but I’m also nervous. I had word earlier in the week that my Nan, who most of you know was in hospital from late 2009 – early summer, doesn’t remember being in there at all, neither does she remember my Dad’s visit from earlier this year. One of my biggest fears is a loved one losing memories of our time together, and worse, forgetting people – my Dad says she remembers we’re coming to visit, but I’m terrified one day she won’t remember me.  It breaks my heart to even think about, and this trip is going to be one of mixed emotions.  If you could spare a thought or prayer for her, I’d really appreciate it.

These past few weeks have also brought about big changes in terms of socialising. I’ve always been a big advocate for putting things out into the Universe, and an even stronger believer that the Universe is pretty amazing when it comes to delivering.  I don’t want to alienate anyone by talking about something that’s very personal to each and every individual, but let’s just say I’ve been very blessed on a number of occasions  over the last few months in which I’ve prayed… and my requests have been fulfilled. I believe more and more that there is a path that’s set for each of us, and sometimes we don’t understand why things happen… but there are certain things that are meant to be, certain people we were meant to meet and share experiences with, and certain people who we’re better off without. Recently I’ve experienced both.

Finding meaningful friendships and people who were genuine, who’d be around for the long haul, was something I’d wished for back in the Spring, and since then, people have arrived in my life who have welcomed me with open arms, talked and shared and listened like good friends, and have just felt 100% natural, fun and comfortable to be around.  I am so lucky to have crossed paths recently with so many awesome people.  On the other hand, people who had been around for previous chapters in my life, who, though still present, brought with them unnecessary disputes, stress, and a feeling of uncertainty, have recently had those doors closed. When we’re younger, I think we place such importance on popularity, sometimes at the expense of sincerity – we’re more content with lots of people who may turn their backs at the drop of a hat than we are with a small handful of amazing souls who’ll stand by through anything. I have a feeling I’m experiencing the tides turning, and I’m beyond excited to be able to start a brand new chapter.

Work! My first month is almost at an end, and it’s been full of training and learning and opportunities to create new and better ways to serve people, to empower them, and to contribute to the community. That’s not to say there haven’t been a few fits of tears worrying about not being good enough, or learning quickly enough, but I have to remember we’re all in the same boat, and we all have the same goal: to work to make people’s lives better. I’m so incredibly fortunate to have been given this opportunity, and though quite possibly the biggest challenge yet, I’m ready for launch come August. I can’t wait to see everything that happens over the course of the next year.

And lastly, there’s less than a week to go until the Weddingbells contest ENDS!! I have been in this competition for eleven months and words cannot come close to doing justice to how much I’ve appreciated everyone who’s stuck by me throughout this journey. Six days left, and trust me, after being in the semi finals I know how quickly a big lead can turn into a close call – I have so much love and appreciation for all your votes so far, and if you could keep spreading the word over the next few days, I promise I’ll never ask you to do anything again! 🙂  You have been absolute STARS!!

I’m off to spend the week soaking up the arts – see you all next week. Have a great one 🙂

The fringe’ll fix it

Okay, okay, I surrender.  Fringe festival: 1; silly, negative, worrisome, time-and-energy-wasting thoughts: 0.  Before I took this week off I was in a pretty low place, but I’ve seen ten plays in the last seven days that have all somehow led me back toward, and onto the path upon which I want to stay. 

I began it with two very different shows; one put on by a group of friends of mine who I look forward to seeing so much every year, which had me  laughing out loud.  Another, a performance poet, a veritable connoisseur of the English language, left me thoroughly entertained for the sixty minutes in his presence, and thoroughly reflective in the subsequent couple of hours.  

 In the week, I saw what I can only describe as my favourite performance in my five year Fringing history.  Moving Along was remarkable; hilarious, sad, inspiring, disturbing, though-provoking and encouraging.  A man who never moved from an electric chair  controlled a series of spotlights surrounding him, accentuating and punctuating his tales.  The message was clear: life can take an incredible number of twists and turns, but we all only have a finite amount of time here on this earth, and so often it’s taken for granted.  Incredible show, and I was left feeling totally renewed, uplifted, and ready to take on the world. 

I saw a love story in which one character told the story of her relationship from the breakup backwards; the other told the story of his from the moment they met, forwards.  They met in the middle and I had more than a tear, while I heard someone behind me sobbing her heart out.  I spent some quality time with my parents enjoying a laugh-a-minute tale of one man’s career as a psych nurse in the mental institutions of Great Britain, walking out humming the impromptu musical number, “it could be worse, it could be worse, it’s not time for the hearse” feeling positively happy to have spent a week enjoying such talent, and having people I love to share it all with.

Somehow, almost every show I’ve seen has invigorated me, made me think about what’s really important.  I realised I do only have a set amount of time, a set amount of energy, and why would I want to waste that beating myself up and missing out on life?  I’m off now to see a show that’s selling out and even has Kleenex stations set up, followed by another weekend of friends, positive energy and creativity. 

I’ve wasted so much time recently… and this week’s been a complete wake-up call.  I feel like I’ve done a complete 180, and I can’t wait to get back into how things were really meant to be. 🙂

Find yourself

I’ve been struggling a bit lot for the last little while with a lot of personal issues, and while I’ve been exceptionally grateful for the people who’ve offered words of advice and encouragement, I can’t seem to shake what’s going on. 

I count myself so lucky to be blessed with wonderful friends, a wonderful partner, a bright, sunny city that embraces culture, diversity and the arts, to live in a beautiful house and never have to worry about things that affect so many people in other parts of the world… these are the things I try to keep at the forefront of my mind, but I find so often they find themselves in the back seat, while my personal insecurities and anxieties take over. 

I worry so much about everything it’s affecting – well, everything.  I worry I’m not fun to be around, that nobody would ever want to hang out with me if I didn’t make the first move.  I worry about what other people will think of me if I open my mouth and offer an opinion.  I worry that they’ll see me turning red and shaking, and then I’ll get upset because I’ll convince myself they think I made a bigger fool of myself than I do.  I worry the past will repeat itself and I’ll be left for something… better, more exciting.  I worry about people judging me, thinking I’m incompetent, tactless, ugly, weird.  Even when I’m around people I love dearly, I worry about what they really think of me.  Do they secretly see me as the socially awkward, funny looking, too quiet, unexciting girl I do? 

I have so many dreams… if I could get over this constant fear, I’d be able to do so much more.  I love to sing, but I’ll only do it alone when all the windows are shut tight.  I love to dance… and I’ll throw myself into it, when I’m sure nobody’s home.  I love to write and create… but I’ve stopped trying, for fear it’s all rubbish anyway.  I’d love to write a play but the fear of it being judged horribly scares me away.  I love to share, to educate others on the issues of the world… but I’ll make my contribution in the form of a monthly donation, or a sponsored event where I don’t have to be in front of anybody.  I love to play games and throw dinner parties… something I haven’t done in years.  I gave up on my dreams of being a teacher two years into my post-secondary education when I realised I’d never be able to stand in front of anyone for a living.  I’m passionate about so many things… and I just feel trapped by my own insecurities, and I don’t know how to get past it.

I saw a play last night, a good friend of mine was in it, and one of her lines said something along the lines of “I don’t get embarrassed.  I just made the decision not to a long time ago.”  If only it were that easy, I thought.  If only I could make the decision to believe what other people tell me, believe in myself, and not be so sure everyone else in the world thinks I’m an idiot. 

I spoke to someone about it all a few weeks ago, and she said it was all about finding who you are, where you fit in in the world.  I’ve always kind of turned my nose up whenever people say they went off “to find themselves”, but maybe there’s something in it after all.  Right now there’s the person I think I am, and the person I want to be.  The stress, I guess, is caused by the discrepancy.  I want to be able to be fun, exciting, talented, confident, someone who can inspire others and someone people want to be around.  But maybe I’m just better off by myself? Maybe I need to realise that I do better alone, when I’m at home with my cat reading or singing or watching TV.  Maybe if I didn’t feel such a need to be reassured all the time I’d actually feel more okay about myself, and not worry so much about being judged.  I don’t know what the issue is, but I wish I could just go take a week and spend it somewhere remote, figure it all out, and come back ready to face the world.  I think it’s my turn to find myself, and maybe when I do, things will be a whole lot better.

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.