When students are so excited to get out and experience everything to do with the Edinburgh Fringe - it becomes difficult to get great blog entries to share their experiences with you. However, Julie Kimelman created a wonderful blog about her experiences. So if you want to learn more about what it might be like to take a class at the Edinburgh Fringe with Fringe University, you should read Julie's wonderful blog, which is also filled with great photography. Below is a link to her first entry:
by Katelin Del Rosario
At the European Parliament Office, Richard Demarco received the European Citizens’ Medal, making history as the first Scotsman ever to receive the award. A group of us were asked by Demarco himself to catch this memorable life event on camera. At 10AM Ali, Xela, Andrew, and I set off for the Parliament office.
On our way into the Parliament Building, we ran into Dave from Summerhall TV, John Martin, one of the Traverse Theatre’s founders, and multiple people Richard had invited to witness the event. After a few moments of confusion, we figured out the entrance for the European Parliament and were led to the space where Demarco would receive the award by a security guard.
Earlier in the month, on our first day out in Edinburgh, Ali and I had expressed interest in visiting the Parliament building, so we were fascinated at the opportunity to get our visit. The room was small. With only a three rows of chairs, the event was intimate and seemed to be reserved for Demarco’s friends and family. The formal ceremony would take place in October. Indeed, everyone who was in attendance greeted Demarco with a hug or kiss on the cheek before they took their seats.
Dave started setting up his camera and equipment in the back and asked for assistance. Since Ali had been given the task of taking pictures, I volunteered to help him. My mission: hold the fuzzy microphone as close to the podium as possible during the ceremony. A small task it seemed, but five minutes into the ceremony, the microphone grew heavy. It did not deter me from listening to the introduction by Struan Stevenson, a Scottish MEP (Member of European Parliament). Stevenson was the man who nominated Demarco for the medal. He gave a small introduction of Demarco before inviting him to the podium to receive his award.
Demarco smiled and waved his medal around excitedly. “I’ve waited 83 years for this…the great culture that binds us together as Europeans is also the culture of the world. There is no Polish art, or Scottish art, or English art, or Italian art. There is only art." He stated grandly. His speech lasted twenty minutes, and more than once, he asserted his distaste for stand-up comedy at the Fringe. At the end of his speech, he received a standing ovation from the room. As soon as the ceremony concluded, Demarco’s friends and family shook his hand enthusiastically. His face was filled with gratitude, and for the rest of my time there, he smiled from cheek to cheek. I felt honored to witness the occasion.
by Amy Gijsbers Van Wijk
Yesterday’s talk ended with the fact that one of the main reasons for founding the Traverse was the freedom it allowed the “club” in Edinburgh.
Jim Haynes said this great thing yesterday about how the Traverse began because of three love affairs: Jim Haynes fell in love with a student, and then actress, Jane Quigley (later, on Broadway, Jane Alexander), Tom Mitchell being in love with a woman named Tamara, and Richard DeMarco and Jim’s love of art and desire to make art.
DeMarco said, “The idea of the Traverse was a club, where one could drink, not controlled by the Presbyterians. It was a time when things had to happen.”
Sean said, “One of the great attractions of it was there was no censorship.”
The story of getting the actual Traverse space was that Jim Haynes was demobbed in Edinburgh, and then sold his Volkswagen. He went to a junk shop with 300 pounds, and offered to buy the space from the woman that owned it. She sold it to him, and he turned this space into the bookshop that then became the foundation for the Traverse.
The Traverse Theatre was a membership-based club at first, and everyone was trying to sell membership. DeMarco, while teaching, sold memberships for 3,20 pounds (or 3,60 – it was a bit disupted) to seven hundred university students in order to make sure they had enough membership. Then, of course, the students came to the Traverse and were totally thrilled by what they were seeing.
Hearing about the beginnings of the Traverse was absolutely fascinating and inspiring – though the climate is different now, on almost every level, it shows that a passionate group truly dedicated to art can really change the artistic culture around them and create a lasting project and endeavor.
by Amy Gijsbers Van Wijk
Today was the largest panel of the Traverse Through Time series, which featured Catherine Robbins, the moderator; Richard DeMarco, who needs no explanation; John Caulder, who was one of the biggest international literature supporters in Edinburgh when the Traverse began; Jim Haynes, who also needs no explanation; Sean Hignott; and John Martin, who did the design that now marks Traverse’s logo Sheila Caldon was also in the talk, who worked in various roles at the Traverse.
The main question, to quote one of the speakers, was about the origin of the Traverse, and the past of this wonderful city of “Edinburgh in the dark days, before the light of the Traverse.”
Jim Haynes spoke about the time when he first came to Edinburgh, in 1947, after his duty in the military. While in the military in Edinburgh, he was studying at the University of Edinburgh as well. He also recounted – often times with Richard DeMarco, fondly referred to as “Ricky,” – how he met most of the people who became part of the Traverse.
It started when Haynes bought a bookstore, which he then held theatre performances in, and then that developed into a desire to start a larger theatre performance space and become a legitimate club – so that they could banish the “Edinburgh in the dark days” and be able to do things like have a restaurant and drink on Sundays, as well as perform the theatre and performances they really wished to see or participate in.
Hearing the panel speak, but Jim Haynes in particular, was captivating because the passion and desire to really create an artistic space in Edinburgh was fully evident in their memories.
by Sam Wend
Tonight, a group of us went to see Shit-Faced Shakespeare at C. The performance was 24 minutes late getting started, which was pretty frustrating since we had to queue up outside in the cold night air for the majority of that time, and we knew the only way any show could get away with starting that late was because it was the last one in the space for the night. But despite that, despite having to pay for tickets at a venue where we had passes, and despite going all the way there only to find out it was sold out yesterday – the show was 110% worth it.
The concept of Shit-Faced Shakespeare, a Magnificent Bastard Productions tradition, is that a troupe of professional Shakespearean actors perform a Shakespeare play – this year, it’s Much Ado About Nothing. The catch is that at each performance, one of the actors is randomly selected to be totally, completely wasted. The same actor cannot be picked two nights in a row, and no one can do it for more than four performances a month, as a way to protect both the livers of the actors and the integrity of the show.
It was absolutely hysterical; the edges of my mouth still ache a bit from smiling so much. The girl who played Hero, the smallest, lightest-weight person in the cast, was selected as the shit-faced Shakespearean of the evening. Highlights of the show, which was excellent even beyond the drunken element, included: Hero bringing her cell phone onstage and making the entire audience sing “Happy Birthday” to her sister over voicemail; Claudio pulling a woman out of the front row to stand in as Hero when she got distracted backstage, and Hero mocking and staring the girl down for the rest of the performance; Hero dying at least three times because she couldn’t remember when in the wedding scene it was supposed to happen; a fantastic soundtrack of modern music given a medieval twist; Margaret being portrayed by a teenage boy pulled from the audience; Hero constantly asking the stage manager to change cues and the rest of the actors wondering who the mysterious Maria in the sky was; and Hero calling Claudio a “dirty man” and apologizing to Maria for her husband (Claudio) cheating on her when Claudio and Hero kissed as part of the show.
If I had unlimited time and money and the show wasn’t selling out every night, I would be more than happy to see this production every single evening. I can’t imagine it ever getting boring, since by nature it becomes a completely different performance every evening. Despite the goofiness and insanity of the idea, the support and passion amongst the actors and Maria was clear, and it was wonderful to see them work together and support each other, somehow getting through the show despite the many (comedic) distractions and deterrents.
by Allison Pitts
On Sunday the 11th we attended a workshop led by Scottish producer Frodo McDaniel. After he briefly joked with the crowd about having the name “Frodo,” he began the session. Frodo is currently producing five shows at the Fringe and is also here looking for shows to produce in the future. Specifically, Frodo looks for circus and cabaret, but he gave us helpful tips for all types of artists to use when finding a producers.
Frodo stressed that the most important thing for an artist to have ready is the pitch for their show. It is important to explain what your show is about in two lines. He said producers do not want to hear the entire plot in a pitch; just the general information of what the show is about. As an artist, it is important to always have a flyer, press release and business card on you. This is especially important at the Fringe because you are always meeting new people who could potentially help you.
At the Fringe, a producer can help an artist with several things. A producer manages your budget, logistics, rehearsal space and anything else that keeps you from focusing on your show. Using a producer while at the Fringe will help the artist to spend more time making their show the best it can be and it is an overall good investment to make. While the price varies by the producer, the average price a producer will charge at the Fringe is 1000 to 2000 pounds for the month. While this does not fit into everyone’s budget, a producer is worth the money if you can afford it. Overall, Frodo’s insight on presenting to producers was very informative. He gave everyone the knowledge they will need if they want to get the attention of a producer.
by Emily Selke
At the beginning of this past weekend, Fringe University hosted a meet and greet for university students to mingle and network with one another. It was held in Summerhall in the early afternoon, most certainly conducive to the young adults' sleeping schedules. The room was bustling and full of goodies, ranging from coffee and tea to cookies and donuts. Fringe U. business cards and flyers for the big Fringe University project of the summer, the Traverse Through Time lecture series, were scatted on the counters amongst the sweets and treats. Several people wandered in during the hour and a half we were there. Some were students and others were there to present work at Summerhall. Regardless of their origin, we were happy to meet with and speak to them about their projects and goals.
One woman who seemed to just happen upon us, Maria, spoke with many of us about her project called Long Distance Affair. The effort is a cooperation between directors, producers, and actors worldwide who have never met before. The exhibit is interactive, as visitors walk around a room to various computer screens where different plays are acted out by one person from and in a different country. Over 30 artists from five continents are participants, and it is on at Summerhall through the 25th with five performances daily. Two girls came in about a half hour into our event with huge bags, grasping everyone's attention. After settling in, they spoke with me and told me they had just arrived in town. They saw the event in the Fringe book and wanted to check it out! It turns out the two are from a town just outside of Glasgow. The one I was mainly talking to, Kim, had recently completed a program with one of Edinburgh's theater companies. She has had and is also planning some awesome adventures for being just 16 years old, and speaking with her was truly fascinating.
Though there weren't a large number of people, the event seemed successful. People were able to come in and share their experiences and knowledge with others. The cool part was that even people who had no idea what Fringe University is found the event attractive enough to come, creating a very thrilling environment.
by Emily Selke
The Events by David Greig is a play written to represent the horrific mass murders that have taken place around the world. Based on the terrors in Norway by Anders Breivik from 2011, the story focuses around characters The Boy, the killer, and a surviving victim and priest, Claire. The play was held at the Traverse Theatre, and it was our first experience in the space since talking about the place during our Traverse Through Time lectures.
One of the nice things about the show was that I was part of the team responsible for conducting the pre-show research to educate our class on the plot and history of both the show and its producing company. It was also a downside because it led to many assumptions, expectations, and questions about how the performers would act out such intense moments. Though there was a great deal of build up, the show did not disappoint.
The mood of the piece was immediately eerie and a little confusing because there was a full choir filing onstage. Having previously done research, we knew (though it was fairly obvious) that the choir had only been rehearsed for 90 minutes immediately before the performance. Aside from that, they had never seen nor heard the full play. This was slightly unsettling until they started singing and the story began. The two rehearsed characters, Claire and The Boy, emerged onstage, and the crowd was swept into the emotion and details of their story. It was a two hour mind boggling journey through social constructs and mental stability (and lack thereof).
It was one incredible show because of all the unique facets. The story was non-linear, and the male actor played a handful of different characters, and the almost unsuspecting choir were such integral and unusual parts of the program that it was hard not to enjoy at least some aspect of the show. The absolute best part about the show was that it was universal, exploring the emotions of disasters from anywhere in the world.
by Julie Mercik
After the intense TTT session #2 with Steven Berkof, academic and Scottish theater authority, Ian Brown, seemed to be the perfect speaker for TTT session #3. Ian is a playwright, poet and Professor in Drama and Dance at Kingston University, London. Formerly Arts Council of Great Britain Drama Director (1986-94), he was, until 2002, Professor of Drama and Dean of Arts at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. He is President of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies and Chair (until June 2013) of the Scottish Society of Playwrights of which he was founder Chairman (1973-75). Ian’s tall, yet gentle, frame took a relaxed stance behind the podium that was set center stage. He surprised me by not bringing any written notes, but supplied a steady stream of history on the Traverse Theater from its creation up until the 1970’s. Ian provided an objective view on the Traverse and was not afraid to point out that the work it produced wasn’t always “on the cutting edge”, but rather, it was the seemingly impossible space it resided in that made it a completely unique theater. There was time for a few questions at the end, to which Ian took great consideration and care in answering. Although he did not shy away from offering his opinions, Ian made it clear that there is no, one, definitive answer when it comes to theater.
by MC Sokolowski
For our second installment of the Traverse Through Time lecture series, we hosted English actor, playwright, director and author Steven Berkoff. His lecture began the early days of his career and how that interacted with the Traverse Theatre. He found his unique voice for theatre by observing a defunct British theatre scene. Audiences like watching shows that were reflections of themselves; Berkoff described them as “sterile”. At the time, theatre was returning to stories that were easy to watch.
The level of acting that dwelled within the Traverse impressed Berkoff. In 1975, he debuted his first original stage play, East, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Berkoff described the play as “very rude” and “scatological”. He combated the offensive dialogue by writing the play in verse to give it a more beautiful feeling.
One of the founders of the Traverse, Richard DeMarco, gave a copy of East to Scotland’s most notorious convict Jimmy Boyle. Berkoff stated that there is dynamic in the criminal mind and their actions are acts of frustrated creativity. This idea tied into the show we saw the Traverse Theatre, The Events. David Greig’s play centers around a mass shooting and a survivor’s search for answers. Claire attempts to get inside the mind of the killer to gain peace of mind but discovers that is near impossible when you are inside the head of a psychotic person.
As an American audience member, I think I had a different perspective in light of the recent attacks of gun violence. I think the story was not as shocking to me than others because of desensitization in the American media. I do not want to make this a post about my political views but rather an invitation to think about how our current history is tied to the past and how theatre is used to tell these stories.