Ottawa Fringe Festival 2011 – My Pick for Favourite Show

It’s been several days since I left the Ottawa Fringe Festival closing party… and I miss it.
This year, I made an effort to fully commit to seeing as many shows in 10 days as possible and I achieved my personal best of 26 shows. Hooray!
I found that this year, in general there were a lot of underwhelming shows and only a couple of really fantastic shows. Although many of the underwhelming shows could be improved with rewrites, polished design, proper casting or improved attention to detail, I have to wonder if people are putting on shows just to put on shows.
Do what you need to do to make sure you are presenting a quality show. Bring in someone honest who you can trust to give you some straight up feedback about your work. Take in the feedback and collaborate with others to make sure you are putting your best foot forward. Fringe is definitely a place to experiment with theatre, but it shouldn’t be something that you have just thrown together so that you have a play to show – and it certainly shouldn’t be a forum for un-edited work (and by un-edited, I mean a show that has only existed in one person’s own bubble and is seeing the light of day for the first time).

I love theatre that makes me feel something. Theatre that makes me unable to stop thinking about it. One show in particular met all of my criteria for a fantastic show this year (although from what I hear, if I had seen Falling Open, I would have 2 shows that fit the bill). Live From the Belly of a Whale was high on my list of “must-see” shows this year, so when it popped up in my Fringe Schedule saved in my iPhone, I made an early trek to the venue to make sure that I could secure a ticket for myself. I ended up with a seat in the second row where I could see everything and started writing a letter to my brother as per the instructions.
Mine read: Dear Brother, Thank You for saving my life when I nearly choked myself to death by accident. Happy to be alive! Love, Sister [a long story that I would be happy to share in person if you ask me about it]

Quickly following my letter writing, I was taken in and enraptured by the work that Nick and Emily had crafted. So far, it is a charming mixture of song, storytelling and theatre and I can’t wait to see their next version of it in early 2012.
The story of the brother and sister was lovely and it made me think of my brother and I. After growing up together, my brother and I have been separated by distance for over 10 years. We have only really seen each other a couple of times (his wedding and a quick vacation to Ottawa last year) and we don’t talk on the phone. On my way home from seeing the show, I reached out to my brother on twitter almost immediately, he sent back to me a link to one of my favourite pictures of us as kids.

Dave and Jen, Front Yard in Caledonia, c. 1986
Dave and Jen, Front Yard in Caledonia, c. 1986

This photo has become almost iconic in my family. I have a framed copy of this photo in my living room, my parents have at least 2 or 3 copies on display in their home, and I imagine that my brother has one as well. It’s the little things about this photo that make me laugh. My knitted, hooded cape and red sunglasses are pretty classic, but what people don’t see immediately are 2 things:
1. The item that my brother is wearing around his waist is not a belt – it is a windbreaker that folds into a fanny pack. We each had one. His was navy blue and mine was turquoise. They were the coolest jackets ever.
2. In most versions of this photo, it is cropped out, but in the original version, my brother’s fly is wide open. Awesome.

This photo personifies for me the essence of my relationship with my brother – a big thanks to Mi Casa Theatre and Live From the Belly of a Whale for reminding me that it’s important.

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