Week 1, Edinburgh Fringe: Hills and Valleys

The Edinburgh Fringe is well underway. And it certainly has its ups and downs.

Having arrived here exactly a week ago from Manchester, where I performed the show for 2 nights to packed, enthusiastic crowds, my first voyage from the train station to my flat was up a huge hill and down another… while lugging about 75 pounds of luggage. This was a primer for what was to follow.

The flat is in the Leith section of Edinburgh, across the street from a lovely green park. I’m in private room in the home of Alan and Victor, who couldn’t be sweeter. We have the same taste in music, tapas, and B-movies and they provide tips about the terrain on an hourly basis. It’s a sweet spot to come home to at the end of the physically and mentally exhausting days here.

One minute it’s pouring rain, and the next it’s hot and humid. One second it’s breezy and freezing, and the next it’s sunny and still. The weather changes faster than my mind. I go through 3 outfits a day from shorts to jeans and hoodies.

I make a joke in the show about the joys of “navigating the ancient cobblestone streets of London” – but that’s nothing compared to the practically Medieval roads of Edinburgh! The city is built on upper and lower levels. Hills, valleys, alleys, short-cuts that become long-cuts, roads that lead to nowhere, etc. For 5 days I kept overshooting a major road here whilst crossing the populated North Bridge. How did I keep missing that damn road? Every time? Oh! I missed the little set of granite steps that lead down the road to the lower level of the city. So very, erm, Roman?

Walking with a map is sooo not cool. I can’t do it. So I save a photo of the destination on the map on my iPhone and use it as a sorta primitive GPS for every new location I visit. At least I look like a cool, wealthy American who gets a signal on his phone. And then my UK phones starts ringing and I have no idea which phone is doing what.

So far, I’ve done 7 performances of Desperately Seeking the Exit. And I’ve seen 10 shows. Or maybe 12. I don’t even know anymore. Many of us Yanks have been seeing each others’ shows and I have to say they were all excellent and inspiring. I’ve also seen some shows that just caught my eye … and some of them were rubbish. High and lows. Highs and lows. The trick is to see as many shows as you can; not only for the “art” but to network. That’s how it works. You scratch my show’s back, I will tweet about yours. But with 2,700 other shows all playing here, there is a ton of people to reach.

Pete against the wall – of competition

In a city populated with thousands of performers, locals, and tourists, I run into someone I know at least a dozen times a day. From visits to Fringe Central for the free wifi or seminars, to the popular late night outdoor garden tents of Assembly, Gilded Balloon, and Underbelly – I always spot a familiar face. “Hey! You just tweeted me this morning! I’m Pete! You look just like your avatar! Come see my show!” And then I hand out show flyers. That’s all I do. Hand out flyers.

A circus of promotion on The Mile

That’s all anyone does here when not drinking or performing. Promote and promote. There’s a popular strip called The Mile where all sorts of performers in various stages of painted-face and garish costumes hawk their shows. It’s like walking through an actual circus. I can’t do The Mile anymore. I’ve instead taken up conversations with folks at other shows, or at pubs, telling them about my show. Hence, I carry about 100 postcard/flyers with me every day, as well as my promotional glow-in-the-dark buttons, stickers, computer, hard drive, and adaptors. And I’ve lost about 8 pounds in a week. In sweat. My belt tells me so.

At the end of the show, my entire “costume” is completely soaked. I call the room at the Edinburgh City Football Club where my show happens at 6PM every night, “The Sweat Box.” It seats about 50 and is quite intimate. Just a 6’X6′ stage, two windows, 6 tiny HOT lights, and a tiny backstage area. But the backstage area is not for prop storage. That would be the tiny open closet down the hall, next to the ladies room … which has become my dressing room. I use a cheap bike lock to lock up my trusty boom box to an iron grating on the window in the prop closet – because we all know how important windows are in closets. I simply cannot carry that box back to my flat 10 minutes away whilst also carrying a few pounds of sweaty clothes and flyers, posters, buttons … you get the picture.

Sometimes my show has 8 people in the audience; other times I have 40. Inevitably there’s a familiar face in the crowd who buys me a Magners in the upstairs bar. And I wind up filling in even more blanks about the show, and the show within the show. Like an evil form of déjà vu, I’m once again adapting my script every day to satisfy and engage an international audience. “British” becomes “English”, so I don’t include any Scots in my observations about life in London. After all, I don’t know enough about the Scottish culture yet to make any judgements. The word “spastic” is offensive to Scots. OK. Now it’s “jerky.” Miming a cigarette comes off as “the finger” to the Scots, so change that. Candy=Sweets. Arugala salad= Rocket salad. And no one here knows the TV show SMASH. So, I need to know who is in the house so I can direct certain bits to that section of the audience. We now open with, “Where is everyone from? Oh! London! I love that city. New York? Me too! Kirkintilloch? Where is that? Scotland! I love it here! Well, I have a story for you …”

I see the audience nod and sometimes nod off. It’s hot in the Sweat Box. I’ve stopped using the stage lights and just use the natural light streaming through the windows. “Oh! The sun is out! Let me pull the shades. Oops! It’s pouring rain now. Let me turn on the stage lights. We all good? Good. Oops! The humidity made my banner fall on my head. Whose mobile phone is ringing? Why is the deaf guy and his translator down front leaving halfway through? I’m talking too fast?”

While holding out my collection bucket at the show’s end (actually a cheesy Uncle Sam hat) I get a pound here, a £20 note there. I’ve had folks tell me they saw the actual musical in London and loved it. I’ve met other performers who swear to spread the word. I’ve had an old couple wander in 40 minutes into the show and tell me how much they loved it. I even had a reviewer come in 8-minutes late and then gave me a trash review in The List based on not hearing the set-up for the entire show. A real LOW. We got that review retracted. And then we got a MUST SEE from The STAGE the very next day. Ups & downs every minute of every day!

Coverage! And inside, this Anglo is a centerfold.

More reviews will be coming out this week. We are all warned not to read them. How can I not? You learn just as much from your negatives as your positives. Your highs as well as your lows. A lot like life.

I’m off now to “exit-flyer” after a fellow Yanks’ show. That means passing out flyers as the audience files out of a show. “If you liked this show, you’ll like mine. Come see it. It’s about a flop that I wrote! And it’s free!”

The good news is I don’t need a map to get to the venue. I ain’t no tourist.

Cheers!

It rains and rains … and then there’s this reward.

 

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Desperately Seeking The Exit: Video Interview

Nice sweaty live video interview. You know, casual. Like me.

WATCH HERE

Hello, BBC!

The BBC blares on my telly in NYC, and now I am blaring on the BBC in London!

BBC – How to Write a West End Flop

The Olympics of Performance

Here is an article I wrote for the Pink Paper, which is a gay mag in Scotland. They asked me to do a piece about the Olympics. This is what they got. xo

PINK PAPER

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Get Into the PRESS

Yesterday was the official launch of the Edniburgh Fringe Programme and with that came a whole lot of publicity for Desperately Seeking the Exit. Including making the TOP TEN FREE FRINGE shows in The Daily Record UK, and a whole paragraph and photo in VARIETY.

READ THE VARIETY ARTICLE HERE

Let’s hope this brings butts to the seats of the Edinburgh Football Club where performances begin in 60 days!

#4 is better than #2

Dreaming is Free. Doing costs Money.

“DREAMING IS FREE” – Debbie Harry

“DOING COSTS MONEY” – Peter Michael Marino

You might wonder how a solo comedy that only has a guy, a stool and a boom box on stage costs so damn much. I am funding this adventure with my RocketHub crowd-funding campaign that I launched in May to help bring the show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and the cost of the preliminary “try-out” ventures is included in the total cost of the show to date.

The initial readings of the show in Buffalo, the NYC run, and the runs in L.A., Long Lake and Manchester are all a part of developing the show, so it is in tip-top shape for the festival. After organizing the show’s expense receipts for the past few months of production, I thought I’d share my numbers with you. These are items that have already been paid for. The President of the United States does it, so I thought I’d jump on board.

  • ARTISTIC FEES – Director, NY Publicist, UK Publicist: $3,200
  • BUFFALO TRY OUT – Flight, props, transportation: $363
  • LOCAL TRANSPORTATION – Rehearsals in Pennsylvania: $75
  • NYC rehearsal space: $125
  • PROMOTION – DSE Trailer, Photo shoot, Stylist, Logo & Postcard Design, Postcards, Buttons, Show business cards: $1,433
  • PROPS & COSTUME – Boom Box, Batteries, Banner, Pants, Shoes (waterproof!), tailored T-shirts: $478
  • EDINBURGH FESTIVAL APPLICATION FEES: $540
  • EDINBURGH TRAVEL & LODGING – Flight, Trains, Flat: $2,140
  • L.A. SHOW – Theater rental, posters, transportation, advertising: $470
  • STOOL for Ed Fringe show –  $40
  • TOTAL – $8,864.00

I still need to pay my Edinburgh house manager who will work all 26 performances; my Edinburgh “Street Team” who will do flyering with the 5,000 postcards and 50 posters I’m about to purchase, and food. And aspirin. And phone costs.

These costs will run approximately $1,850.

So, as you can see, a solo show costs a whole lot of solo bills. I appreciate the 78 contributors to my RocketHub campaign (which runs until the end of May) and the numerous friends and family members who chose to give cash at the show or checks in the mail. The cash has already purchased a professional microphone that I will use to record the performances in Scotland as well as an audio blog I am planning where I talk to the visitors to the Festival and the show. These donations will also pay for a waterproof backpack and carrying case for the boom box and wellies. It rains an awful lot in Edinburgh, and this Yankee needs to stay dry and healthy.

Thanks again, and if you’d like to support my venture, please visit my RocketHub page. Every $10 counts.

Cheers!

XO Pete

Talkin’ About the Show

I chatted with Nancy Lombardo about the show this morning on the radio. You can listen to it here … if you have 44 minutes to spare. XO

BLOG TALK RADIO – DESPERATELY SEEKING PMM

International Press

The run at the Taurus Bar in Manchester, England is nearly sold out! Here’s an interview I did with the producers of the show at Vertigo Theatre Productions. Let’s hope we get some press like this in the USA.

BroadwayWorld UK Interview

Buffalo Rocks!

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to perform two semi-staged readings of the show in Buffalo in two different venues for two very different audiences. First for students (many from my simultaneous Writing for Actors workshops) at Buffalo State College and then at the hip Alt Theatre.

All I can say is, “Bring back the out-of-town-tryout!”

It was so exciting to give the show a whirl in front of an audience. You can rehearse all day long, but without an audience, you really have no idea if your show is working or not. In a solo show, the audience is the second character. What do they respond to? What do they like? What are they confused by? What do they want more (or less) of? These questions were all answered by very eager and supportive audiences.

What did I learn? Well, the show is funny. And that was a pretty important goal for me. So funny that holding for laughs probably adds about 2 minutes to the show. But the human aspect – the personal journey within the story also affected people very much. Awesome! But, this is where it gets tricky. The show needs to be 60-minutes in Edinburgh due to a tight schedule – not only for the venue, but for the audience who makes great efforts to see as many shows as they can. The show can be 65-minutes for the May run in NYC, but I need to cut about 10 full minutes of material. This is also called “murdering your babies.” Where is that merciless red pen?

Thanks to the feedback in Buffalo, I have a good idea of what to cut; but also, what to add or clarify. I learned that diction is vital. Water is a must. And the silences in the show are just as important as the rants. Also, throwing bags of British crisps at the audience creates a feeding frenzy that adds a whole minute to the running time. CUT!

In the next four weeks before opening, I’ll work with my director John Clancy on editing the show down and finding all the beats and moments. In addition to that, 500 postcards have been ordered, interviews with press are on the way, plans for my Rockethub crowd-funding campaign are moving forward and this writer has to put down the pen and become the performer.

If you are doing a new show, try the thing out. Small clubs, in front of a friend, anywhere you can before you open. Funny, this is exactly what we didn’t do with Desperately Seeking Susan. Next time, we must try out a new show in Buffalo! xo PMM

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Get Into The Promo

Here’s the promo, directed & shot by the talented Todd Rocheford. Voice-over recorded at Lotas Productions.

  • The promo contains over 1,700 individual photos that were edited together to make them “animate”
  • Prep time: 12 hours of writing, printing, cutting, model making, story-boarding, and snack eating
  • The actual shoot took 12 hours of painstaking small moves
  • Editing time: 10 hours
  • No West End theatres were actually burned in the making of the video
  • Look closely at the reproduction of the original horrendous review from The Daily Telegraph. It says it is written by “Charles Spencer – Theatre Snob.”
  • Godzilla is holding MiniMates of Susan and Roberta. These mini models are very hard to find these days.

… all of this prep and time for one-minute of fun marketing. Enjoy!

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