We’re baaaaack! Yes, “Desperately Seeking the Exit” is back on US soil after kicking arse at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe. With great press, sold out houses, special events and a slew of 4-star reviews, it was even better than last year. Whew!
I really didn’t know how EXIT would do in its second round in Edinburgh. After all, this years’ festival was officially the largest Arts festival in the world to date – hosting 45,000 performances of 2,871 shows in 273 venues across the city. Uhm, that is A LOT! But somehow, EXIT managed to find its way and audience. 75% of the 21 performances were standing room only and we often had to turn people away (which is a good problem to have). Most of the attendees were there from word-of-mouth … not only from last year’s run, but from hearing about the London run this past winter. Many people simply stumbled upon it due to the venue I was in with comedy-seekers literally just popping in to check out the show.
The Counting House is a large bar complex made up of four venues, connected to a beer garden and another popular pub. I would gladly return to it, even though I fought with the sounds of the band and clicking bottles in the beer garden below the window of my very hot venue.
It was great to meet up with so many fellow performers from last years’ Fringe, as well as new friends I made in London and at the Adelaide and Brighton Fringes where I performed the show this past year. Everyone is so supportive of each other and we don’t even blink when asked to see the same show again and again because some important reviewer is in the audience that day. I think one of the best things about doing the Fringe, is seeing others’ work. I am almost always moved to tears at the sheer creativity that goes into these kinds of shows. Most shows are an hour long, so I squeezed in about 2-3 shows a day starting at 10AM and going until 2AM. Plus, doing my show every day at 6:15PM. I lost some weight, crediting the “Fringe Diet” and the many hills of Edinburgh. I highly recommend it!
I stayed with my old pals Alan and Victor who live in Edinburgh and treat their guests like hotel guests. The flat is only a 30 minute walk to my venue, but I did learn to master the bus system to save my energy. It was nice to come home to some paella cooking on the stove every so often and I treated them to a proper Yankee BBQ on my last day.
The show received three 4-star reviews and was named Top Five Solo Shows by Fringe Review. I did an interview with the BBC, spoke on a panel about World Fringe festivals (having now participated in five) and learned about the American college touring circuit which is the next phase for EXIT. Not only can I perform the show at these colleges and universities, but I can also teach. And this means an income doing something I love to do. I’m doing the show in Buffalo the weekend of October 18 on the same weekend as the National Association for College Activities is having a big convention. Here I plan to land a booking agent, and it’s also going to be fun to bring the show “back” to Buffalo. I actually did the first workshop/reading of EXIT in Buffalo about 18 months ago! So much has happened since then. Kind of shocking to think that EXIT has now played on three continents in 10 cities in about one year. Oh! And I just added a performance of EXIT in NYC at the Triple Crown on Sunday Oct 13 at 8PM. Pay what you may, as always!
Madonna’s birthday landed on the third weekend of the show, so I threw a spontaneous birthday bash in the middle of the three shows – complete with cake, candles, balloons and streamers that magically appeared; getting 50 people to sing “Happy Birthday” to the Material Girl. If I do EXIT again next year, it will only be for that weekend and will absolutely have a Madge party. There is also talk of showing the DVD of the musical in Edinburgh one night, and a pop-up-drive-in theater where I might show the original film. We will see!
The good news is that EXIT has reinvigorated an interest in the musical Desperately Seeking Susan which my lawyer and I are working hard to get published and licensed by 2014. We hope the show will then be performed by regional theaters, UK tours, colleges and high schools. It has taken a long time to get this far with the musical. Working with pop stars is not easy.
One of the highlights of the Fest for me was the crazy event I created called the Critical Mass Tomato Toss.
Set up in a large park in Edinburgh, performers who received rotten reviews were encourage to throw rotten tomatoes at the poster-sized faces of 33 critics. It was a hoot! Most of the supplies and printing were donated and we collected money from the roughly 40 onlookers and participants which went to the local homeless charity Streetwork. “Making something good from something bad” was the slogan…and it was a total blast; ending with me dumping a HUGE bucket of tomato-goo over my head (think CARRIE). The event got some great press and will definitely be back next year. And maybe every year. Ironically, The Scotsman (who gave EXIT a 1-star review last year) asked me to write a piece about the Toss for them!
The 2013 Edinburgh Fringe was one of the highlights of the year, and I cannot wait to go back. I’ve been asked to direct and develop three shows – one from the US and two from London. I’m not sure if I will be doing a new show next year, but there is some talk of Hollywood Nurses (the play I cowrote with Sheila Head) making its way to the Fringe in 2015 direct from Manchester. This. Would. Be. Awesome.
In the meantime, I’m back in NYC working hard on the novel version of the show, which a publisher in London is keen on publishing. I will be running my Edinburgh Fringe Starter Kit workshops this winter to help folks get ready for next summer’s Fringe and I hope to perform the show a few more times in NYC and hopefully get chosen for the Orlando Fringe in May. If you haven’t already “liked” the EXIT Facebook page, please swing by and give it a click. This way you’ll get updates that are a lot shorter than this. To date, over 1,700 people have seen the show on three continents, and we hope to double that this year – alas, one or two continents will suffice. : )
Finally, thank you gentle reader for your support and encouragement these past 18 months. It might be a solo show, but it’s nothing without an audience and readers like you. The tide is high … let’s get into the groove!