Everyone’s First Time is a tad… awkward. (By Yana Kesala)
Montreal is a city that’s pretty easy to navigate, thank goodness–lots of nearby Metro stops and relatively perpendicular streets. And my billet is downtown, so that makes it extra simple. The Ukrainian area, though, is not conveniently off a Metro stop. And I am determined to hang posters in all things Ukrainian in Montreal. So that means: Bixi.
Bixi is the rent-a-bike system with stations all around town. For $15 I can rent a bike for 3 days, making sure I check it back into one of these stations every 30 minutes. It’s super smart. All the accessibility and cardiovascular exercise of cycling, none of the hassles of bike ownership. But wait–I don’t have a helmet. How am I going to stay safe and keep the cars from getting too close?
I know: short skirts. Platform sandals. And my killer legs. Brilliant. So I postered the Ukrainian churches, nursing homes, scouting organizations, bank, and Federation. Yes, we have a Federation. Star Trek style.
Fast-forward to Saturday, opening night. I’m ready to show Montreal my box. And, like any first encounter in this vein, it’s a little…awkward. For one it’s stickingly hot, so much that I am extremely aware of the sheen of sweat that I’m leaving behind on the floor. But heck, if it’s not sweaty then you’re not doing it right. My audience was with me, I had them in the palm of my hand. You could hear a pin drop.
And then the lights stop changing three-quarters of the way through. A climactic spotlight continues (rather anti-climactically) as the only light for 10 minutes. Annoying, yes, but I could tell that I could still be seen on stage. Not the end of the world. And eventually the lights get back on track, with about 5 minutes left.
The final and most dramatic moments of my show come to the one and only sound cue in the whole piece–and instead of my sound cue, my pre-show music comes on. The technician quickly realizes the error and turns off “Fly Me to the Moon.” But my sound cue still doesn’t play.
There is a breathtaking moment when you realize that you are performing your heart and soul out, you’ve just begun the most important tour of your career, and the only option you have in this moment is to leave the stage. So I do, and the eternity that follows (in reality probably 10 seconds) comes to an end with my sound cue. And I reenter and finish the show with a slightly altered ending.
Afterwards I felt dazed, like I had just taken a blow to the head. I treated myself to an ice-cream cone and headed to the 13th Hour, which is the nightly party that starts at 1am. I wanted to go home and sleep opening night away but I was slotted to perform at the party. So I put on my fake-it-til-you-make-it face and prepared to play a game with the 13th Hour audience.
When my turn arrived, Kiki the host introduced me. She said that she was excited because she had had the good luck to see my show that evening. She said it was her first cry of the Fringe and that she was touched deeply by its simple storytelling. She recommended it highly.
I was floored, not only because I respect this woman’s opinion (she is a Fringe favorite and a talented actress), but because–it turned out okay. Actually, even better than okay–I achieved my main goal in sharing this story. I touched an audience member’s spirit.
Each time has just gotten better and better (again, as it usually goes with these things.) And I’ve actually received great reviews, both in written and verbal form. So I guess I’m learning to navigate not only the streets of Montreal, but the avenues of my play. The story is stronger than I gave it credit for. Sometimes I’ll be able to use the Metro, sometimes a Bixi bike. But I will get my audience there, regardless of potholes or detours.
And they might even catch a little leg along the way.