Spinning a Website

The primary website for Wretch Like Me (www.wretch-like-me.org) has been through a number of changes over the last few weeks, the first updates given to the site in over a year. The most significant change, other than the new dates of upcoming performances, is the new video box on the home page. The video it links to is an adapted version of the ‘Wretch’ Indiegogo “pitch” video. Basically . . . I cut out the pitch part, and left all of the stuff that tells my story and my inspirations to create ‘Wretch Like Me.’

The new version includes new music, and a rearranged  ending.

With the website prominently listed on all of the postcards and posters for the Fringe run of ‘Wretch,’ the video and other items on the site will be the first impression people have of ‘Wretch Like Me.’

You can help by telling people about the site, and maybe linking to it on your Facebook page.

The Fringe runs September 11-26. The first ‘Wretch’ date is Sunday, Sept. 13 at 4:00.

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A few words on memorization and ‘Wretch Like Me’

photo 1Last night, I ordered a veggie pizza. shoved the coffee table out of the living room, dragged a stool and a chair over near the fireplace, and waited for Team Wretch’s stage manager Robin DeLuca to arrive and kick off a fresh bout of rehearsals of ‘Wretch Like Me!’

With the San Francisco Fringe Festival kicking off in just over a month, and with ‘Wretch Like Me’ in the lineup this year, after trying to get in for about ten years, we decided it was time to, you know, rehearse the show we haven’t performed since last August 16, when Robin ran sound and stage managed my final performance at the Surgeon’s Hall in Edinburgh, closing out our time at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Sheri Lee Miller, who’s directed the last few runs of the show, is rehearsing another show tonight, so it’ll be just Robin and me (and Gillyweed) this time.

After Robin arrived, ate a piece of pizza and scratched the head of my three-legged cat Gillyweed, she fired up the computer to see if all the sound cues were still in place (some weren’t, and needed to be reloaded). Then, with me reading from the script I’ve barely looked at in a year, we ran through ‘Wretch’ from beginning to end.

It was weird.

I’ve been doing this show, in one form or another, since July of 2009, and every time I come back from a a hiatus to launch a new run of the show, I am flummoxed at how little of the script I still remember. It doesn’t help that I keep rewriting the thing, of course. Not that I’ve rewritten it much this time. With the exception of a tweaked opening scene, the restoration of a few lines cut for the very-short Edinburgh run, a slightly revamped version of another scene cut for Edinburgh, and the insertion of one BRAND NEW paragraph setting up the moment when Cindy wets her pants for Jesus—it’s the same show we did in Scotland.

photo 2Anyone curious about how far the script has evolved is invited to read the ORIGINAL 17,000 word script, which was published in it entirety on line in the North Bay Bohemian newspaper. Believe me, it’s a HUGE departure from the current version, weighing it at a trim 9500 words. That first one, by the way, I managed to memorize (more or less) in just two weeks, which is how long I left myself between finishing the script and taking the stage for an opening night I had already booked and advertised. David Yen, the original director of ‘Wretch,’ was as patient as he could be with my decision to book a run before the script was finished, but I knew myself. Without a deadline, I will wait forever, spending my time instead on projects I DO have a deadline for. So there I was, with 17,000 words to memorize in two weeks.

Last night, running a show with a mere 9500 words, was technically easier.

But I still had a remarkably hard time remembering much of it at all. Yes, I remembered it. Vaguely. I remembered the story, and certain lines and bits, but I was as far from word-for-word as an actor can get. So I just read from the script, gently baptizing myself back into the verbiage and story of ‘Wretch Like Me.’ By this morning, it was starting to come back to me.

But I suspect it’ll be at least two or three weeks before I can rattle it off the way I once did.

And no, the fact that I wrote it doesn’t make it easier. Why do people always think that? Could YOU write 9500 words and then recite ten verbatim? Of course not. Most of us can’t write a grocery list and recall more than three or four of those items once we get to the store. Memorization is always hard work, regardless of who wrote the words you are memorizing.

The cool thing is that, after so long, it really does seem fresh and kind of new.

And there were moments, last night, standing there in my living room, the smell of cold pizza still lingering in the air, when I would read a passage aloud, and part of me would think, ‘Wow! Cool. That was nice. What a cool moment. What a cool story!’

At those times, I could faintly recall the reason I started doing this whole project all those years ago.

It’s a cool story. And it touches people.

I might have to work to remember every word of it, but I’ll never forget that part.

I’m so lucky to have an opportunity to perform this story again.

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Wretch resurrected

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Today is the one-year-anniversary of the very first Edinburgh Fringe Festival performance of ‘Wretch Like Me,’ and I can imagine no better way to celebrate the moment than to announce that ‘Wretch’ will be on stage again soon, as part of the San Francisco Fringe Festival, opening September 11, 2015 at Exit Theater! In Edinburgh, we had fourteen performances over a three-week period, but in San Francisco, we’ll have just four shows over the same period of time!

With action once again happening again on the Wretch front, it seems like it’s time to fire up this somewhat dormant blog, and offer some updates and progress reports and other information our many fans and followers and supporters might find entertaining and/or useful.

First, how about an update on what Team Wretch has been up to over the last 12 months.

David on TRainI’ve been busy on a number of new creative projects: I’ve been giving the script for my new one-man-show, Polar Bears, a bit of a polish, and have already begun committing the 38-page monologue to memory, in preparation for its world premier this November (keep reading for more details). My journalistic work has roughly doubled, which has left me little time for the big, big project I’ve just completed: the writing of my first novel. Well, it’s a novella, technically, but coming in at 27,000 words and nearly 60 pages, Mary Shelley’s Body—which will be published in 2016 as part of an anthology of stories inspired by Frankenstein—is easily the most ambitious and complicated writing project I’ve ever undertaken. It was gestating, actually, while I was in Scotland. having kicked off the project by rereading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein while on the plane over to the UK. It seemed like a good omen that in Edinburgh, just off the Royal Mile, there is a restaurant and bar called Frankenstein’s, where I was tempted to order a Bloody Mary Shelley, but settled for a beer and hamburger.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. What about the rest of the team?

photo 3The director of Wretch Like Me, the brilliant Sheri Lee Miller, has, since her time in Scotland, played a lead role in Main Stage West’s production of Other Desert Cities (she was magnificent, of course), and has also directed a remarkable production of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia (Cinnabar Theater), and just recently opened the world premiere of Yesterday Again, a brand new play by award-winning 19-year-old playwright Dezi Gallegos. It’s running through the end of this weekend at 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa, then moves for two weeks to Lucky Penny Community Arts Center in Napa. Next up, after helping to stage Wretch for the SF Fringe, Sheri will be directing me in the aforementioned ‘Polar Bears,’ opening November 27 at Main Stage West.

photo 2Robin DeLuca, our stage manager and light designer, has been working hard as a professional lighting tech and stage manager, having designed and run countless shows since we got back from the UK, including productions of Agatha Christie’s ‘Witness for the Prosecution,’ and a currently running production of ‘West Side Story,’ at Wells Fargo Center for the Arts. As a side project, she even helped put together the tech for the annual Pirate Fair in Vallejo. She will once again be running the show when ‘Wretch’ returns for its San Francisco run in September.

Allo Gilinsky, our street team manager and master flyerer has returned to Boston, where he’s launched his own business: Pints of Portsmouth Beer Tours. So if you are ever in Boston and thirsty for beer, call photo 4up Allo (no website yet, but just search “Pints of Portsmouth” on Facebook and you’ll get it) and he’ll lead you on an expert tour to some of the best breweries in the area.

And finally, Susan Panttaja, our Tour Manager and part-time Banner Holder (whenever it got rainy and windy)—my brilliant and insightful wife—has been doing her job as a geologist, while also studying for a Master’s Degree (in Divinity!).  Also, she’ll be teaching a couple of Geology classes this fall at Santa Rosa Junior College.

photoWith the exception of the East Coaster Allo, all of Team Wretch will be back on hand, in some capacity, to get ‘Wretch Like Me’ ready for the Fringe, and serve it up, Edinburgh-style, for a brand new assortment of won’t-know-what-hit-’em audience members.

So . . . if you feel like returning to the wild and weird baptismal font of joy that is ‘Wretch Like Me,’ or know any theater loving folks in or around San Francisco, please pass along your suggestion that they attend the San Francisco Fringe this year. There will be 33 different shows in total (compared to 2500 in Scotland!), running in three venues from September 11-26.

Wretch Like Me (with some great material back in place after cutting the show to a spare 70-minutes for Edinburgh), runs the following dates and times.

simple-graphicSunday, Sept. 13, 4:00 pm
Friday, Sept. 18, 7:00 pm
Sunday, Sept. 20, 5:30 pm
Thursday, Sept. 24, 7:00 pm

All seats are $12.

Our venue, called Exit Stage Left, seats just 49 people, and only a small number of tickets will be held for walk-up purchase, so advance ticket-grabbing is recommended for these few shows.

tickets available on line at www.sffringe.org

So that’s the update! Rehearsals start soon, and I can’t wait to get back to the show that took me, and our amazing team, halfway around the world, just one year ago. Thanks again for all of our friends and supporters. Hope to see some of you when ‘Wretch Like Me’ rises again in just six weeks!

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REVIEWS at the Fringe

ED - Fringe poster on the boardsAt the Fringe, the pursuit of positive reviews is much like the great California Gold Rush. There are scores of eager, optimistic theater people luring into Edinburgh, each pushing a show like a big covered wagon, each wielding press releases and reviewer invitations like pick-axes and shovels, all of them dreaming of striking the motherlode, which in this case is a four-star or five-star review from one or all of the biggest media outlets in town.

But as in the days of the 49ers, there’s only so much of that critical gold to go around (even with local media outlets and newspapers adding dozens of writers to their ranks for the festival), and then there’s the old problem of different people having different tastes.

And the unpredictability of those darn stars.

Allo with ladies“It’s a three star review,” admitted one actor in a Guys-and-Dolls-style suit, handing me a flyer for his Chicago-based improv show, “but it reads like a four!”

There are dozens of newspapers from all over the UK, represented with their own squads of reviewers, and then there are blogs site, websites and radio and television stations, all of them eagerly seeking out the show they can name (hopefully becoming the first to do so) as the best unexpected find of the festival.

And then there are the other performers. It is not uncommon for one theater troupe to see another troupe’s show, in exchange for which, the visited troupe feels responsible for seeing the visiting troupe’s show, and in both cases, there is the chance that someone will visit the Fringe website and leave an audience review.

And it all matters.

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Because you never know when the right good review will be seen by the right two or three patrons, and an avalanche of interest can be pushed into motion. Because the Gold Rush vibe isn;t just for the performers. The patrons too, by the thousands, are all out there looking for signs that will point them to the next real;ly great show.

And that show could be anywhere.

Because at the Fringe, good little shows are hiding EVERYWHERE.

So how did ‘Wretch Like Me’ do in the race for good reviews?

Below are snippets from the reviews we got from websites, newspapers, audience members, and one very creative other performer, whose entertainingly devilish review I reprint at the end in full.

efr Alex Woolley

Wretch Like Me (OR How I Was Saved From Being Saved)

★★★★
For me comedy is best when it is used as a means of broaching serious topics. Given such a mindset, it is little surprise that I turned out to adore Wretch Like Me (or How I was Saved from Being Saved): David Templeton’s one-man show about his experiences of South Californian evangelical Christianity. If you prefer jokes about silly walks or vacuum cleaners, look elsewhere.

Over the course of slightly more than an hour, Templeton takes the audience through the story of his teenage and early adult years, focusing on how his commitment to a particularly unthinking type of Christianity affected his sense of self-worth. It all began with Mrs Hunt at primary (“elementary”) school, who capitalised on Templeton’s loneliness, and it all ended with a dramatic departure from Happy Chapel and fall-out with the acid-tripping Rev. Dude.

Templeton’s selectiveness is thankfully not so acute as for him to leave out certain stories that are truly delightful, if a tad tangential, such as that of his ex-girlfriend, who considered herself a martyr for wetting her trousers (“pants”).

Wretch Like Me forcefully conveys what can happen when religion takes too firm a grip on an impressionable young mind, and this – the journalistic aspect of the show – is very impressive.

Joy, Templeton long believed, cannot be found outside Jesus; nearly killing yourself through fasting brings you to the face of God; masturbation is no sin so long as you do not think of sex while you do it; praying for help whether to choose chips (“fries”) or onion rings is an acceptable thing to do in the queue in a fast food restaurant.

All this nonsense Templeton was devoutly subject to during his youth – the flower of life. It must take considerable courage to admit publicly to having believed such rubbish, and it can only be a good thing for the world that such real-life stories are publicised.

A good standard of acting—which makes it easy to distinguish between the various characters Templeton plays during the show—combined with material that is simultaneously comic and deeply serious, goes to make Wretch Like Me a definite must-see at this year’s Fringe.

Templeton can also sing Amazing Grace backwards.


efrLucy Diver

Wretch Like Me (Or How I Was Saved From Being Saved)

★★★

Wretch Like me is a one-man show about religion. I feared for the worst but I was very pleasantly surprised: the show manages to be both thoughtful and funny, critiquing organised religion while eschewing angry ranting.

The set and costume are simple . . . but on the whole, it’s David Templeton’s charisma that sustains the audience. Over the course of the one-man-play, a young David describes his encounters with Mrs Hunt (aka The Jesus Lady), Righteous Rick, Cindy (who sends an air kiss to the sky everytime she mentions Jesus), and an ex-surfer druggie named Rev. Dude, who discovered Christianity in a tent in Hawai. Templeton switches skillfully between these characters.

The characterisation of organised religion is hilarious at times: praying in a Burger King, Holy Communion performed with a PB&J sandwich, and interpretations of scripture that condemn mainstream radio in unexpected ways.

However, what I engaged with the most is the struggle with self-hatred. Templeton crucifies himself: lying on the floor in a cross position, singing I hate myself to the tune of Amazing Grace.

This is sure to resonate with anyone who suffered from teenage angst.

There’s also puppets, a fantastic critique of ‘speaking in tongues’, three baptisms, fasting, a caring mum, a modern day martyrdom and a lesson in finding the perfect hedge to hide from school bullies. Though the premise of a one-man show about religion might promise to be restrictive to a particular audience, I don’t think that’s the case. This is a show for anyone who’s ever hated themselves, for anyone who was unpopular in school, for anyone who’s flirted with religion, or flirted with atheism.

In other words, it’s a show for everyone.

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ANDRA ROSTON

Wretch Like Me (Or How I Was Saved From Being Saved)

★★★

THE story of how a person becomes totally devoted to, and then totally jaded about, the American Evangelical Christian movement is inherently interesting. This show gives a real insight into what attracts young people to this type of faithan important story to tell. The material is compelling. If you would like to know the inner workings of the American Evangelical movement, then it is well worth a look.

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Review: Wretch Like Me

Storyteller Tim Ralphs and the talking serpent he suspects is The Devil attend David Templeton’s Wretch like me (or How I was saved from being saved.)

TIM: This is a storytelling show in which Templeton talks about his lonely childhood and how he was increasingly sucked into the Evangelical Christianity in his teens. He does a good job of painting himself as the “wretch” from the hymn Amazing Grace and then explores the theme of salvation, his role in perpetuating the semi-abusive messages of fundamentalist Christianity and the crisis of faith that lead to him breaking away and finding his own path.

THE DEVIL: And puppetry.

TIM: Yeah, he does talk about how nobody likes a puppeteer. This was a wondrous tragi-comedy, ultimately uplifting but, by God, David puts you through an emotional ringer to get there. Templeton is very skilled at his craft. There are lovely little touches, the salamander that becomes a metaphor, the soft reinforcement of the lamb imagery. And his characterisation is phenomenal. So many of the people in the story are slightly blissed-out Californians and yet David portrays each one as distinct and fully developed: Reverend Dude, Righteous Rick the leader of the school bible club and so many more. I had a chat with him afterwards about the evolution of the show and his quest to find a Director that got what he was trying to do. All very interesting stuff.

THE DEVIL: …………….

TIM: Hey, what’s up with you today? You’re being very quiet.

THE DEVIL: Conflict of interest. I have a cameo in this story. I appear as a talking fly in the second act.
Tell them about how you cried.

TIM: Oh there were tears. It is the mark of great personal storytelling that it goes beyond the confessional and anecdotal and instead touches something universal, something that might be called archetypal. I can’t say for sure how well Wretch like me manages that, but I found this story deeply personally affecting. Perhaps that has something to do with my own spiritual journey. It’s been exactly a year since I was ordained as a Minister. I’ve known plenty of people who have been deeply hurt by religious institutions and Wretch like me resonated keenly. But more than weep, I really wanted to dance. If I’d been a shade less inhibited, I’d have been up at the end dancing in the aisles as Templeton sang “Amazing Grace” to the tune of Springsteen’s When I’m out on the street.. I was filled with ecstatic joy.

THE DEVIL: Aw. Would you like a hug?

TIM: Yeah. Yeah, that would be nice.

THE DEVIL: Then go find someone with arms.

Tim Ralphs is a storyteller and his show of urban devilry Rebranding Beelzebub is on every night from 2 August 2014 to 24 August 2014 at 9:50pm in The Banshee Labyrinth. A PBH free fringe performance – you only have to pay what you think the Devil is due.

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Edinburgh: The Aftermath (a visual summation)

WHERE"S WRETCH LIKE ME?' The Edinburgh Fringe is all about standing out in the crowd. With over two-thousand shows taking place in venues all over this city, and hundreds of thousands of posters, flyers, and handbills distributed during the Festival, any show that stands out can stand up and draw audiences.

WHERE”S WRETCH LIKE ME?’ The Edinburgh Fringe is all about standing out in the crowd. With over two-thousand shows taking place in venues all over this city, and hundreds of thousands of posters, flyers, and handbills distributed during the Festival, any show that stands out can stand up and draw audiences.

After five years of developing ‘Wretch Like Me,’ a solid year of fundraising, several months of focused rehearsal and a dozen North Bay performances, followed by 20 days in Scotland and fourteen performances at the world famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe—this piece of the ‘Wretch Like Me’ story has now come to an end.

Team Wretch has returned to America (with the exception of Allo, who will remain in the UK for another couple of weeks to recover from Tonsilitis, and maybe get to travel a little).

So, how do I sum up the whole Edinburgh experience?

In the show, there is a line: “At times I didn’t know if I was dreaming or hallucinating.”

That, for me, totally sums up large portions of the Edinburgh experience. A definite ‘dream come true,’ the three weeks we spent together were a high-octane cocktail of super-powered adrenaline, heart-racing excitement, bone-deep exhaustion mixed with a sense of extended roller-coaster overdrive, moments of stunning awe and beauty, and a few moments oaf artistic high-wire walking that will eventually rank, I am sure, as some of the proudest moments of my life.

ED - Surgeons Hall front

SURGEONS HALL – Down this pathway is the the little complex of four theaters, one of which was our host and home for fourteen performances (note the ‘Wretch’ banner in the foreground; we put that up some mornings while handing out flyers to passersby on the street before showtime).

Rather than write several thousand years recapping and describing the experience, I will let pictures do what pictures do, and (with the help of some hopefully pithy caption-writing) allow these images to give a sense of what Team Wretch did, saw, and accomplished during its time in the gorgeous, magical, seriously and joyously demented city of Edinburgh.

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THE ASSEMBLY ROOMS – This jaw-droppingly awe-inspiring historic building is just one of many spectacular (and some not so spectacular) venues in town that features theater, music and comedy during the three-week long festival.

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GREYFRIARS BOBBY—this statue (rumored to be the most photographed object in Edinburgh)  commemorates a dog who, in the 1800’s, stood vigil for years on his dead master’s grave in the nearby Greyfriar’s Church cemetery. Bobby is buried in that same graveyard, not far from the grave he made his home.

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FALKIRK — In the little town of Falkirk (a 20 minute train ride from Edinburgh), where Team Wretch stayed for its final week in Scotland, there are monuments on nearly every downtown corner.

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SCOTLAND ROCKS — Above Holyrood Park (not far from the palace where the Queen stays when she’s in town) is a gorgeous walking trail past some mysterious rocks and spectacular views of the city.

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WAVERLY STATION — Just down the street from The surgeons Hall (where ‘Wretch Like Me’ held its run), is the train station, where thousands of folks convene every day riding to and from Edinburgh. It’s a massive station, and a fascinating mix of modern technology and historic charm.

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THE HALF-PRICE HUT — Another VERY busy spot in town, the HPH is where audience members line-up by the hundreds to get deals on that day’s discounted shows. Here, in a shot taken just before the hut officially opens, the screen in blank. In a few minutes, it will list all of the shows offering half-price tickets.

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FOR EXAMPLE – Check out the show listed at the bottom of the screen.

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THE FESTIVAL WHEEL – This Ferris Wheel towers above Prince Street Gardens, not far from the Fringe’s ‘Half-Price Hut.’ Each self-enclosed car can seat about six-to-eight people.

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THE UNDERBELLY — Behind this wall covered with enormous posters for festival shows (We gave in and went to see ‘Shit-faced Shakespeare, partially because of the poster on the right), there rises as massive purple tent in the shape of an upside down cow. Housing one of the local ‘Underbelly’ performance spaces, this purple cow is just one of many weird things on display during festival season.

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RUN-OF-THE-MILL—There is nothing special about this building, which houses and apartments at the top and retail spaces at the bottom. And that’s what’s so special about it. In Edinburgh, everything is so gorgeous that even something as beautiful, old, and striking as this become just another beautiful, old, striking thing to look at.

ED - Fringe Central

FRINGE CENTRAL – A space at the University of Edinburgh where performers and participants can meet, hang out, use the copier, grab a snack, and even take a meditation class if they like. In the foreground are team members of various shows printing and clipping bits of reviews to their postcards.

ED - Holyrood Palace

HOLYROOD PALACE – A vie wot the Queen’s residence from high up above Holyrood Park.

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THE INVISIBLE MAN — One of many regulars along the Royal Mile, this ingenious busker collects coins from passing photographers. Other regulars along the mile include a guy dressed as the Predator (from the sci-fi movies), a fellow impersonating a statue of a Roman, a man standing still but attired as if he were in a windstorm (his coat and tie permanently blown up in the air), and others I’ve now forgotten. hey, there are a LOT of these guys out there. And a lot of them are kind of weird. But Weird stuff pops up everywhere in Edinburgh. Speaking of which . . .

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‘Nuff Said.

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PARLIAMENT – The Scottish Parliament is a rare modern building in town, and it is REALLY modern. This sidewalk mural runs along one edge of the massive complex, and includes a series of Scottish quotes mixed in around some ancient Scottish stones jutting out (far right), which are arranged from top to bottom according to geologic age. This is a VERY science-friendly town.

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CARVED IN STONE — This is one of many quotes on display along the walkway on one edge of the Scottish Parliament complex.

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BETWEEN STORMS — These picnickers are enjoying some sun between rainstorms, overlooking the Grassmarket area of Edinburgh. What you can’t see is what stands just above them (to the back of the photographer), which is Edinburgh Castle. Not a bad place for a picnic.

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AND HERE IT IS – Edinburgh Castle (or one close-up of one tower of it). There is always something interesting and amazing to look at during the festival, and that’s not even counting the shows themselves. Check back soon for a full update on what goes on on-stage at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (and how ‘Wretch Like Me’ was received by audience members and critics)

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Show Days

David on Train

Today is the last performance of ‘Wretch Like Me’ at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

So I thought it might be time to describe what a typical show day is like here. Each week has been a little different, since Team Wretch was housed in a hotel in Edinburgh for the first week, a house in the suburbs for the second week, and a flat in the town of Falkirk (a 25 minute train ride from Waverly Station, in the heart of the City) for the final week. 

So, for the last week, each show day begins with a ride on the train. 

After climbing the steps from Waverly Station up to Market Street (hauling whatever postering, laptops, cables and other show-related gear we have), we climb another flight of stairs (a steep alleyway named Fleshmarket Close) up to the Royal Mile. Where half of the time it is raining. 

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It’s a short walk on busy streets to get to the Surgeons Hall, where ‘Wretch Like Me’ is staffed every morning at 11:40 a.m. The building is an active school of medicine, and also houses a museum, where some very rare artifacts are on display. Ever heard of the infamous Scottish grave-robbers Burke and Hare? Their bones, and bait of their skin, are kept here. But the theaters are actually in an adjoining building used normally as lecture and meeting space. The production company that operates these theaters during the Fringe is TheSpace UK, which has venues all over town Our show’s home at the Surgeons Hall is Theater Two.

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When we arrive, there is always another show wrapping up in Theater Two, so we spend our time checking the electronic signboard in the lobby, maybe running out for coffee or discussing anything that needs discussing regarding that morning’s performance. If we’ve arrived early enough, we might spend some time out on the street with our banner and sheep puppet, handing out flyers to passersby on the street. 

10460786_10152547468778971_454273552659828819_n ED - 'Wretch' on the sign board

Once the preceding show has ended, and the audience has cleared the room, the Surgeons Hall tech crew goes to work changing over the lights from the needs of the other show to the needs of ‘Wretch Like Me.’ On average, we have between ten and fifteen minutes to make this change before our show begins. As the lights are being changed, Robin sets up the computer and goes through all of the sound cues to make sure everything is still working and ready for the show.

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With only a those few minutes between shows, there’s a lot to do in a short time. Two stools need to be dragged out from behind stage and set in place, a chair too, which I sit in for a “light check,” to make sure I am properly lit for a couple of big moments that take place while sitting on that chair.

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After a quick warmup, and an announcement from Robin that we are opening the house, I change into my blue short and black jacket, put in my contacts while listening to the walk-in music, which in our case is always Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Don;t Fear the Reaper.’ 

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Meanwhile, as House Manager, Susan (who first checks with the box office about any pre-sales and other arrangements for the morning) takes her position outside the door to collect tickets and help patrons with anything they need. 

And then it’s show time. 

ED - David checking lights

Theater One is small, but the lights are such that I often can’t see the faces of anyone in the audience. It’s their laughter and other audio reposes that let me know they are with me as I romp through the now-69-minute-long show. 

After the final bow, Susan returns to the door to hand out ‘Shodala Kiria Boondala Augmia’ buttons (“It’s tongues for ‘Go See ‘Wretch Like Me’ at theSurgons Hall,” we tell people), and then back to box office to do some paperwork, as the rest of us quickly break down the stools and chairs, as I change back into my street clothes, and Robin pulls our laptop and other gear while the Tech Crew pops back in to switch our lights out for whatever the next show needs. We usually have about ten minutes to make all of this happen.

And then, at 1:00 p.m., were done with the show part of the day.

Which has often been when the real work begins, heading to the Royal Mile for more flying and posturing, camping out at Fringe Central to print out reviews, chat with other performers, send press releases, and otherwise do all the marketing stuff that everyone does at the Fringe.

16301_10152547468798971_8806998232562356312_n Allo with ladies

We may try to squeeze in a show or two, along with food and maybe even a little sightseeing.

And that’s it.

A typical day here at the Fringe.

And now, at 9:16 a.m. on Saturday, August 16, it’s time to head out again and do it all one last time. 

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Food

 

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Deep-fried Haggis at the American-themed restaurant The Filling Station, right there on the Royal Mile

In Edinburgh, food is always an adventure. The food is good. Sometimes great. Yes, haggis does appear, one way or another, on nearly every menu we’ve encountered (haggis tacos, anyone?), with the one exception of the excellent vegetarian restaurant David Bann (a nice surprise for our team vegetarian Robin). The biggest surprise about Edinburgh is how into ‘themes’ they are. Even the haggis I finally tried (above, not bad at all, actually) was served at The Filling Station, a restaurant designed to look like an American cafe, complete with displays of pop artifacts and pictures from the U.S., and Elvis playing on the soundtrack. And the haggis came with a decidedly American presentation.

But food and ‘themes,’ as a popular pairing, have been popping up since out arrival. For example: the popular downtown restaurant Frankenstein’s.

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At Frankesntein’s, the floor show takes place up in the air over the patrons’ heads.

Just down from the Royal Mile, and around the corner from Edinburgh Castle, Frankenstein’s is designed to look like the interior of Dr. Frankenstein’s castle and laboratory. There are posters from the movies on all the wall, a very goth kitschy feel, and pretty good, cleverly titled entrees. I had a frankfurter, of course. The place hosts Rocky Horror screenings every week. But the big attraction, in addition to the rather elaborate drinks (watch out for the Bloody Mary Shelley) is what happens every hour, when the lights are dimmed, dramatic music begins, lightning flashes, and spotlights illuminate the monster being brought to life, then lowered down over the heads of the patrons. Finally, the monster sits up, and looks around, then lies back down and rises again into the rafters.

In this case, the theme of the place is the major draw. But sometimes, the theme of a particular restaurant comes as a bit of a surprise. That’s the case with a place down from the Surgeons Hall (our performance venue) called Hispaniola. We thought it would be a Spanish restaurant. 

It’s not. It’s technically Italian. 

And once you get into the heart of the place, you discover it’s also a pirate-themed restaurant.

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Pirate skeletons in cages dangle from the rafters of Hispaniola, where the food is delicious and the atmosphere is a bit surprising.

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To anyone who’s read ‘Treasure Island,’ you know that the Hispaniola was the name of the ship eventually taken over by Long John Silver. After passing through an entry way that looks like a quaint Italian deli, you go up some steps . . . and into a room filled with pirate flags, skeletons in cages, pirate mannequins sitting next you at some of the tables, even buried treasure under a glass floor. The food, by the way, was delicious.

There are others we’ve heard of, including a Prohibition-era spot called Panda & Sons, rumored to serve huge martinis, Chicago-style. But, of course, the primary ‘theme’ in Edinburgh is the good old Scottish pub. We’ve sampled a number of those, including one called ‘The Last Drop,’ named after the gallows that once stood in Grassmarket square, and The Banshee’s Labyrinth, an underground maze of a pub advertised as ‘The Most Haunted Pub in Edinburgh.’ 

At the hotel where we spent our first week, the breakfasts were spectacular, with plenty of sausage, eggs, mushrooms (a breakfast spake here), and oatmeal and fruit (a good thing for Robin). 

Mainly, whether it’s picking up an egg and watercress sandwich at a shop on the corner, or grabbing some fish & chips at a tiny stand on the Mile, the main theme of the food we’ve had so far is . . . tasty. With one more week left to explore the restaurants of this amazing, creative, fun-seeking town, it’s going to be hard to choose what to eat, and what other surprising themes we are brave enough to experience. 

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Not a great photo, but this statue of The Creature hovers near the lavatory of Frankenstein’s. Note Grace the Amazing sheep peeking over his shoulder (and me, just behind, holding the sheep).

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