Confessions of a Fringe Virgin

Well, they say you never forget your first.  It can be uncomfortable and awkward while all of your senses are being tapped to exhaustion because you haven’t gotten the hang of it yet.   However, for the sake of writing, I love first impressions.  It’s when I am paying the most attention to details, where my mind is racing a hundred miles an hour, overloaded with stimuli, lest I become jaded later on down the road, and take it all for granted.

I have been working on my one woman show “Late Bloomer” for a couple of years now, only performing excerpts, here and there, testing material. It wasn’t until this past February that I finally ran the entire show in front of test audiences,  story only, without technical cues,  hoping it would all come together and make sense before I took it on the road to …

Fresno, California.   Being from the San Francisco Bay Area,  where entertainment is hustling every night of the week,   I was a little surprised that the Central Valley agricultural town of Fresno, which I had only visited once in the early 90’s (it’s grown so much since then), had a Fringe Festival.

What is a Fringe Festival you ask? It’s an annual event (can be as long as two weeks) that showcases  artists and live performers from all over the world.  It can be a good place for new and seasoned performers to take their show on the road and try and gain a wider audience .  I had heard some festivals were better than others-and that Fresno’s Rogue Festival was a good one.  So I applied online in a “first come first serve” basis back in October 2016 and miracle of all miracles, my crappy spotty internet service (translation: hotspot on my phone) came though and I solidified a spot in the festival.

Kicking it into high gear, I hustled to get my show into shape by the March 2017 deadline. I met with acting coach and fringe goddess Jill Vice, bi weekly, then weekly as it got closer to showtime. I performed the entire show in front of friends, in their homes and in coffee shops. I got feedback. I made changes, I got more feedback, I made more changes- right up until the week of the festival.  I made postcards. I wrote a blog. I advertised on social media even though I do not know a soul in Fresno.  Then I prayed and packed my bags.

I headed East on highway 580 and  cruised in familiar territory until I drove past the last town of Alameda County- Livermore.   Then all my radio stations went out.

I made my first pit stop in the town of Tracy to use the bathroom in a Carl’s Jr.  I also figured I could take this moment to learn how how to sync my iPod to my car stereo.  I rarely  take long drives and this is a new car for me and  how hard could it possibly be?

Hard.  I can hear my mother’s and grandmother’s voices in unison inside my head, “Did you read the manual?”  You see, my 93 year old grandmother bought this car a couple of years ago-brand new- and then stopped driving altogether a year ago and I bought it from her.  She and my mother kept insisting I read the car manual, but who does that?

After accepting defeat that I would not be syncing my iPod, I got back on the road and settled for the three C’s of valley music- Classic Rock, Christian Rock and Country Rock.  I fiddled back and forth between radio stations playing the game, “guess what genre of music this is by the opening chord progression or first vocal.”  Many times the Christian and Country songs sounded the same until I heard the lyric “boots” or “savior”, then I knew what I was listening to.

Not so with the classic rock, which I was the most familiar with and sped down highway 99 blasting Def Leppard, Boston or Pat Benatar.

Well, that nostaliga wore off quickly.  And now I was stuck behind big rigs.

I drive a very small car (remember it was a little old lady’s car) – a 2015 Ford Fiesta.  And I always hate driving alongside big trucks because it feels like I am stuck in their blind spot and at any time they will just make an unpredictable lane change and slam into me. So I had to constantly speed up and pass them- squealing in fear each time I did.  I told you I don’t drive long journeys much. Thank God it wasn’t raining!  Don’t get me started on driving in the rain…

Then my lower back apparently couldn’t take the strain of sitting still for so long as I had to pull over again in the town of Chowchilla just to stretch and pee. I posted on Facebook about my travels and a friend posts back: “When you get there- say hi to my friend Wendy, she owns Mia Cuppa”.

Mia Cuppa is a coffee shop that has a stage in the back and was one of the official performance venues of the festival.  I made a mental note to go meet Wendy at some point.

Roughly three and a half hours later I arrived at my air bnb,  a yellow house right in the heart of the Tower District where the festival was being held.  I explicitly booked a place that was “in the middle of everything and walking distance from a Starbucks.”  I’m a bit of a convenience rat but as I would find out later, this personality flaw comes with a price.

I unpacked and settled into my new home away from home.  I walked to the corner food joint, “Irene’s” and put some postcards in there and ordered a hamburger. Then I walked around the main drag putting up postcards any place I could until the “teaser show” that night.

What’s a teaser show? It’s a preview night basically- the night before the festival actually begins. Where a good number of performers get on a stage inside a theater and give a two minute tease of their show.  It’s a good way for potential audience members to decide if they want to come see your show in front of an audience who have already bought admission wristbands   And I, like a beginner, did not sign up to be part of the teaser show in time.  Cut me some slack, I was a fringe virgin!

So I settled for handing out postcards to audience members while they waited in line outside the theater before the show began. “How old were you when you got your wisdom teeth pulled? 18? Well, I was 35, let me tell you a story…”

After repeating my elevator pitch a thousand times I made it into the theater and sat in the back and watched an hour and a half of two minute teasers.   Now, this theater was HUGE and I was in the back- and the performers had one little mic.  They would have to find a way to fill up the room.  A major challenge for any of the solo performers, but one person stood out to me.

A man who looked to be in his forties with dark blonde hair grabbed the mic and proceeded to tell a story about how he attended a fringe festival in Australia and because there were so many shows going on all at the same time, no one came to his.  His show was outside, under a tent, and in the back, for whatever reason, he could hear a group of crickets.  THE MAN LITERALLY PERFORMED HIS ENTIRE SHOW TO NO ONE BUT CRICKETS.

I fell out of my chair.  Boys and Girls-if you can perform you entire full length one man show to a tent full of crickets- is there nothing you can’t do?  This guy was my new hero.

After the show I met cricket man in the lobby and found out we would be performing at the same venue (fringe festivals have multiple venues where shows are spread out all day long).  I had so much to learn from him.

It had a been a long day, the drive, the anxiety, the postcards, the people, so I crashed hard in my home away from home that night and as I begin to drift off into sleep…

“THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP!”

Did I mention there was a nightclub across the street from the Starbucks that pumps up the jams til 2am every night?

FAB Night Club.  My new nemesis.

fab2

This club was cranking it out every night of the week, which I normally would be cool with (and to be honest, I got used to) but it was the spillover of drunk people that happened in the parking lot lonf after the club closed  that woke me up. Long after I had trained my brain to fall asleep to the beat of the bass and taking an Advil PM on top of that.  I felt like a cranky old lady “YOU KIDS BE QUIET” I wanted to yell, but this was Fresno and also I don’t like confrontation.  So I called the police.  Night night.

The next day I would continue flyering my show-putting up as many postcards as possible to the businesses on the strip before I tucked myself away into my bnb to get ready for my first performance on Friday night, March 3rd at …9:30pm.  Um, what?

Way to put a positive spin on a late time slot

text

For a festival, this is a bit late in my opinion but also, it’s a bit late for me to keep my energy up for an hour after being awake all day, so I was a little nervous I would be too sleepy in my performance and that no one would show up to see it.

But fortunately for me, that was not the case.  I think I had like 9 people show up to see a complete stranger perform a show and my energy was just fine.  In fact, that night was the first night where I ran the entire thing with my lighting and sound cues- ever.  And it didn’t totally suck. Such low expectations, I know, but shoot, I’ll take 9 people.   They seemed receptive and I felt honored that they would come out.

Then there was the next night.

Feeling a bit better about my show, I felt confident that my second evening’s performance would draw more people as this time I had an 8pm time slot.  But when I came out from behind the curtain to take my place on stage…

Thank you for coming.

March 4

Okay, I’m kidding.

There were actually two people.

Two people, who I knew, who came down from the Bay Area, bless their hearts, and if they hadn’t come down, I would have gotten my baptism by fire of performing for metaphorical crickets.

Fortunately for me, my friends laughed in all the right places and they had never seen the entire show with all its bells and whistles before, so it ended up being their own private showing.  And I acknowledged that at the beginning of the show.

You know, it was too bad that there wasn’t more people that night because I think that was one of my best nights-performance wise. To quote Gwen Stefani of the band “No Doubt”, when they hadn’t hit it big yet, “We had alot of great shows when no one was there.”

*Sigh*  Did I have to learn this lesson so early in my Fringe experience? Ouch.

I blame myself, really.  I hadn’t done a press release to the local papers because this was a brand new show, still a work in progress, and I was just in too fragile of a place to have some critic from the Fresno Bee rip me a new one. Like they did- to a couple of other shows -one show in particular.

Peter Aguero, a story teller from New York and regular host of The Moth performed his show, “Daddy Issues” during the festival and he was an audience favorite, with full houses every night. But the Fresno Bee dismissed him as the headline read: “There are Big Issues with Daddy Issues” and proceeded to tear him apart saying that he “has found a way to go through a therapy session and have others pay him for it.

Well, people were pissed.

At first, it was just grumbling among festival performers saying that the critics “just didn’t get it” and had no idea what it takes to put on a solo show. And then some of the festival’s producers  encouraged audience members to refute the review.  And then the producers themselves got involved and wrote passionately charged responses to the Fresno Bee newspaper.  But that wasn’t enough.

Outside the Vista Theater, while Aguero was performing one night,  out in the street, people started kicking down garbage cans and lighting them on fire and honking their horns.  Then others begin to march  yelling “Justice for Daddy Issues! Justice for Daddy Issues!”

It became chaos and Peter had to halt his show and then the cops came and then fights broke out, an ambulance showed up and then…

 

Okay, that didn’t happen.

But, people were pissed.

The next morning, on Sunday, I woke up feeling discouraged by my extremely low audience turnout and googled “Fresno, Church”. I needed to be lifted up, so I got up and went to church!  Hallelujah!

I didn’t know a soul at this church but the music was great and the sermon was good and I even struck up a conversation with a nice woman and told her about the festival and she told me I should talked to this one woman “Wendy”, who owns this coffee shop “Mia Cuppa”.   Okay, she was the second person to tell me this, so I take it as a sign from God to meet her before I head back to the Bay Area after the festival’s first weekend is over.

I perform my show the third time on a Sunday night at 8pm and thank God there were more than two people. I think there was 9 people again. I was thrilled, but exhausted, and felt myself going through the motions of my show. By far my worst performance.  But people were kind.  And I felt challenged.  How does one keep their endurance up?

Being the end of the first weekend of the festival, the next morning I packed up and checked out of my bnb to head back to Oakland for a few days.  I can only take so many days off of work.  On my way out I stopped by Mia Cuppa and asked to see the owner.   Wendy was sitting at a table by herself, probably working on something when I interrupted her.  We must have chatted for an hour as we talked about common interests and she shared her vision for the coffee shop.  Feeling renewed and hopeful, I hit the road back to the Bay Area then hit a slight speed bump along the way.

Well, I don’t know what I was thinking- I mean, why didn’t I just listen to Google Maps on the way back?  Because I was curious when I saw a sign that said “San Francisco” pointing in another direction than the one from Google Maps.  So I took it. I mean why not?

Well Google Maps kept trying to reroute me, warn me.  Kept trying to get me to take back roads and get back to the highway we had come from but I was determined to try this alternate route.  I mean the sign said San Francisco!  Mistake. Let’s just say highway 152 is the loneliest road that you’ll ever meet and comes to a complete stop in the city of Los Banos making the drive extra laborious.   And when I finally hit highway 5, which I thought I was familiar with, it was the scariest 30 miles of my life- because there must have been 5 times the amount of big rigs than there were on highway 99.  Thank God it wasn’t raining!

Then it started to sprinkle.  Noooooo!!

My lower back started hurting but I was in the middle of nowhere and what was I thinking.  No towns on my right or left side.  Just green hills.  Pretty.  Pretty boring.  And I still couldn’t get my iPod to sync to my car stereo.

Three hours later I was home in my apartment, safe and sound.  I went back to work for two days.  Then I turned around and drove back to Fresno.  This time I took the recommended way and FINALLY figured out how to sync my ipod.  Exhale. This time I would do it right. Cue the John Mayer music…

I checked back into my same bnb and that night streamed the latest episode of Scandal  on my computer since the place didn’t have a television.  I had two more shows left of this festival and was determined to just chill and reserve my energy. I was ecstatic that my new time slot would be 6:30pm.  This was the first time, when leaving to head to the venue to perform my show, that it was light outside.

Friday night’s show felt good.  And I think there were 10 people, but who’s counting?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Late Bloomer-Coming to Fresno!

Last night I performed my one woman show at a coffee shop in Redwood City, CA at a monthly meet up group called Creative Crew. It was the perfect prep for me before taking my show on the road to Fresno, CA next month.

If you happen to be in that area the first two weekends in March- check out the Rogue Fringe Festival in downtown Fresno.  So many shows packed in a two week period!

For ticket information for my show go here:

https://roguefestival.ticketleap.com/theresa-donahoe–late-bloomer/t/e418b18a4e1c5bacc534f60da9c91873/#social-comments

https://w2.countingdownto.com/1723560

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The Day My Phone Died

Actually it was at night.  It was a typical weekday evening. I had just finished brushing my teeth and washing my face and was climbing into bed to play Candy Crush on my phone with late night television humming in the background.  Upon clicking on the app, a blank blue screen appeared.  I waited a few seconds for the home page to readjust- nothing.  I stayed calm.  I decided to restart the phone but upon doing this it froze on the word “RESTART?”  I waited a few more seconds.  “It does this”- I thought.  I waited a few more seconds.  Then it appeared to shut off- or so I thought.  But even though the screen was dark- lights at the bottom of my phone remained on.  And it stayed like that.  Forever. Or so it seemed.

I tried not to panic and continued to attempt to restart the phone again- nothing.  I watched late night television with one eye, while the other eye stared at my phone waiting for it to shut off completely. Nothing.  I tried taking the battery out and then stopped myself short remembering that this phone doesn’t have a removable battery.  What was I gonna do?  Go to sleep?  I read one chapter of a book.  I looked at my phone.  Still in limbo.  As a good Christian woman, I even prayed for my phone-for healing, by the blood of the lamb.  Nothing.  Finally giving up- I turned off the light to go to sleep.  I looked one more time at my phone- and saw the frozen light at the bottom.  Stuck there in time.   Nothing.  My mind made plans to go to the Verizon store the next day.  But what time do they open? I can’t check from my phone.  I can’t even get on my computer because I don’t have regular wi-fi! I use my hot spot on my phone to get online!  I was completely disconnected from the outside world.  Still, tomorrow would be a new day.

I woke up the next morning and looked over at Sammy, the Samsung. Still nothing.  I got up and walked down to Starbucks to get my morning coffee and took Sammy with me.  The Verizon store was nearby.  I could at least look at their door for their store hours.  It was like being in the 1980s all over again.

I can do this,” I thought.

As I suspected, the store didn’t open until later.  I would have to call the office and tell them I was going to be late, but….HOW?? Not a payphone was in sight. And even if I could find a payphone, I don’t know any of my co-worker’s phone numbers! Well, except one.  Angela.  And we work on different floors but she could at least email everyone and let them know my dilemma.  I bought my iced coffee with my credit card instead of my Starbucks App, throwing the barista off as he looked at my quizzically.  “My phone died” I lamented.  “My condolences,” he said.

“Next!”

As I walked back to my apartment, I noticed my phone was very warm.  A little too warm. Maybe it’s just overheated and needs a cool down.  Uh oh, it IS a Samsung. Okay, it’s not the Samsung 7 Note that has been catching on fire, but it is a close relative.  So I did what any rational person would do.

I put my phone in the refrigerator.

How would I let the world know I was offline? I couldn’t even get on Facebook to tell everyone, “MAY DAY, MAY DAY!” I couldn’t check my email or text messages.  What if people are trying to get a hold of me? What if there is an emergency?  What if??!

I turned on my computer to type my thoughts out in a Word Document.  My one sanctuary, my one outlet that doesn’t need online access.  As I powered up, the “not connected” icon glared at me in the far right bottom corner, judging me.  “That’s right”, I thought.  “I’m off line.  But I can save my document without you! I don’t need you!”

I took my phone out of the refrigerator. Even though it had cooled it down the frozen light was probably draining the battery.  I plugged it back in. Then I unplugged it  and put it back in the refrigerator. Then I plugged it back in. This would be the temporary fix until I could get it to the emergency room at Verizon.  I had to keep its heart beating.  It’s okay, mommy is here with you.

I started thinking about those stories of people who take offline fasts.  Had I become one of those people?

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.  Sammy isn’t even two years old yet. I haven’t paid him off. I’m not ready to upgrade.   He can’t die. I’m still stuck in a contract!

I got ready for work and then drove back to the Verizon store. A male millennial greeted me.

“Can I help you?”

“My phone is frozen!”

“Let’s see what we have here. Oh, did you try taking out the battery?”

“No, I thought..”

He successfully took the battery out and popped it back in.  Wait, I thought it couldn’t..

And then I remembered.  It was my OTHER phone, the one I had before Sammy– Diana, the Droid X, that I couldn’t remove the battery. Or maybe it was Henry, the HTC…or maybe…

And just like that, Sammy was restored! Healed! Hallelujah!

With just 18 percent battery left! I had to move quickly.

I emailed my co workers to let them know I was on my way. I checked for any emergency text messages or emails.  To my relief, the world still turned without me.  I plugged Sammy into my car charger and drove off to work.  Contemplating the entire way about getting a land line….

 

 

 

 

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Trial By Fire

So I was accepted into the Fresno Fringe Festival this upcoming March 2017 and there is nothing like a deadline to force me to get into high gear.

I have been working on my first full length solo show “Confessions of a Late Bloomer” for quite awhile now and I am ready to put all the pieces together. I have only performed 20 minute excerpts at a time so I have no idea if the whole piece, run together, makes any sense.

The good part about putting together a solo show by a deadline is that it forces me to wear many hats- very quickly.  A crash course in production, if you will.  I have been wearing my writer’s hat for so long and now I am juggling my actor, sound tech and costume hats all at once within the last week.  All of a sudden, I need a haircut, a costume, and a photo shoot completed by next month.  Yikes.  Fortunately for me, I am good under pressure. Found the beginning of my costume, software for my sound cues, and local photographer that I trust.  Now if I could only find reliable internet service so I can continue to update this blog…

Speaking of trials, I only have an hour of internet access as I type this.  Apparently I have burned through most of my Verizon data plan already.  I usually am not online that much outside of work, so that dinky plan worked for me before.  Not anymore. The times they are a changing.  Gotta go.  Gotta use this internet time wisely. Peace.

 

 

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Confessions- Part 4!

Oh my gosh how I have neglected this blog! Proving my inability to creatively multi-task. Sure I can go to work and the gym and then write. But can I write multiple different stories at once and keep blogging and posting them on Facebook? Apparently not.  I have been super hyper focused on finishing up my final draft of my first attempt at a full length one- woman show: CONFESSIONS OF A LATE BLOOMER.  A story about the world’s youngest 35 year old.  I can’t seem to do anything else. I do have a couple of other story ideas brewing in the back of my mind- both include a lot of music.  Hmmm. It sounds ambitious and complicated! A soundtrack? At least my first solo show is minimal when it comes to bells and whistles.  Speaking of which…

Come on out tomorrow night , Tuesday, August 23rd and see 5 wonderful solo performers for David Ford’s class performance in Berkeley! I go on first.  Doors at 7pm, show at 7:30pm.  $8 at the door only.  Each performance is approximately 20 minutes.

The Marsh Theater, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley.  Right off Downtown Berkeley BART Station!

https://www.facebook.com/events/1170034799752926/

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Cat Nanny, Casting, Writing..

So I was a Cat Nannying fool these past few weeks.  Usually I don’t book up so much in the Spring but all of my friends took trips so I got to hang out with other people’s cats.  Because that’s what I do, I’m a Cat Nanny.

First there was Andrea’s cat- Foxie, who needed to go to the vet a couple of times a week so she could get her shots.  She was a snuggle bunny though when it came to binge watching shows on tv.  Andrea was on a cruise with her family and left her fur baby with me.

Foxie Relaxes

foxie

Then my friend Peggy and her husband Curtis went to Hawaii and I had to watch two fur babies- Jack and Jojo.  Jojo seems annoyed at Jack’s carefree ways.

Twocats

Then my friend Cynthia went to Cuba- dang! Who does that? Who goes to Cuba? Cynthia. That girl is crazy.  And she left me with Jasper- the friendly cat, the friendliest cat you know.  In the morning that is- he’s a morning kitty.

Morn’n.  Oh, Were You Sleeping?

Jasper

Somewhere in the busy feline fury I helped my friend Tony cast some local talent for his upcoming movie, “Neighbor” which will start filming next week!  Sooo..SHHHH, quiet on the set!  Yeah, I used to work in casting for many years- I don’t really do it very much anymore, but seeking out talent never really leaves the blood.  It’s okay- although I would much rather be IN FRONT of a camera or on stage myself. Speaking of which…

My Solo Performance class finally starts up again next week and I really want to get the rest of my solo show finished this year- CONFESSIONS OF A LATE BLOOMER must be ready for Fringe Festivals in 2017.  I am hoping to finish it in 2016.  Gotta get this show up and running. I must confess I feel like it’s not edgy enough for the SF/Berkeley crowd.  Urban areas seem to want more grit and well I am just so squeaky clean! But hey, the Midwest will love me!

Gotta go. Saturday Night Live is on!

 

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Spring Awakenings!

So I blinked and it was New Years Day and I blinked again and now it’s Spring? What is happening?  These past couple of months have been a busy blur, cat sitting in far away places, but now I am back in my own apartment!  Woo hoo! That is, until Thursday. Then more cats will need the cat nanny love again.  What can I say? I am in hot demand.

Being it’s already Spring means I have two shows next month! I thought the month of April was so far away that I was just kicking back letting my script get dusty, but now I am back baby, back!  Gotta start warming up the vocal chords again.  In the meantime..

I just got some postcards from the Marsh Theatre mailed to me with the details!  I will be performing alongside three other solo artists (approx. 20 minutes each). Below is the show info and I hope to see you there!

The Marsh Theatre  1062 Valencia Street San Francisco CA 94110

APRIL 4TH AND 11TH

Box Office Opens at 7pm.  Performances at 7:30pm. $8 at the door only.

PERFORMERS: 7:30PM

  • Missie O’Toole, “TRANSforming AIDS:Earth, Energy, Spirit”
  • Theresa Donahoe, “Confessions of a Late Bloomer”
  • Elaine Magree, “Holding the Edge”
  • Ron Jones, “Naked Zombies”

 

 

 

 

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