A week in the life of a solo performer
Editor’s note: “Irrelativity” is on the road as Barry takes his solo show through the U.S. and Canada this summer. This dispatch is from Edmonton. Sunday – Leave Saskatoon early morning, after little sleep, to drive to the Calgary Fringe. Van breaks down with Calgary literally in sight. I call AAA, which is actually honored in Canada, they just add an extra ‘eh’ at the end (obligatory Canada joke, check). Three hours later the tow truck arrives. Three hours! Van gets towed to a mechanic, arrives around 2 a.m. I sleep in the van.Monday – Wake up and tumble out of van, explain to mechanic that I HAVE to leave for Edmonton in a week. Bike to the place I’ll be staying, a couch in someone’s living room. Nice guy, nice place. Shower and go for breakfast just absolutely dead tired. My bill is $12.34! I take this as a good sign. Do my technical rehearsal at my Calgary venue. I’ve wondered what it would be like to roll into a town totally exhausted and still have to perform, and I find out. It’s great! I do a good show, I think, and the audience really loves it.Tuesday – No show today, but hardly a day off. Up at 6. Ride to Edmonton for a technical rehearsal with the girls from the show ‘Tales of a T-Shirt.’ They have a van that works. Tech in Edmonton – drive back. Get a call about the van – needs a new fuel pump. Fine. Make it so. Drink some wine with T-shirt girls, play some guitar. Home to bed.Wednesday – Breakfast. Bike across town to the van to get some clothes. Mechanic tells me it has fuel and spark, but still won’t start. Dammit. Go to an Internet café to work on posters, promo and emails for upcoming shows for several hours. Lunch around 4. Race across town to pick up flyers. Two months ago I’d never biked in a city before, now I’m weaving and running lights like a bike messenger on crack. Show up to the printers sweating and panting like a crazy person. Get flyers. Eat again. Do a good show. Sold out. Meet with some other performers after my show. Someone tells me, ‘There seems to be a thin veneer of control covering your frantic core.’ They aren’t talking about my show, just me in general. They have a point. I drink a cider. Today begins a 9-shows-in-nine-days-spanning-two-cities tear. Or, to really break it down – two different shows, 17 performances, three cities, 20 days. All signs point to overachiever. I go to bed at 1 a.m. Early.Thursday – CBC TV in Edmonton calls to schedule an interview. I don’t call back. Just too tired. Both Calgary papers run great reviews of my show today (‘Barry Smith can spin a yarn. He’s got that old ex-pothead, Aspen slacker, ex-dishwasher charm on full throttle in Jesus in Montana.’) No word back about the van. Sold out show. Really great crowd. The theatre is very small – easily the smallest on my tour, and I love how intimate it is. Someone said they heard about my show on the radio. Cool. My show opens in Edmonton on Sunday night, and if my van isn’t done by then I need to find a way there – with all of my projection stuff. I’m cooking up several alternate plans, but the only one that doesn’t suck is the ‘van is fixed by tomorrow’ option.Friday – Mechanic calls – suggests I proceed with my Plan B. Get a review in the Edmonton Journal today (the reviewer saw my show last week in Saskatoon.) Four and a half stars and a great write-up (“‘Jesus In Montana’ is a quizzical, rueful, darkly funny exploration of our fear of randomness, our desperation for coherence and enlightenment”). Mechanic calls back – says van is running! Yay! Mechanic calls back 15 minutes later – says van isn’t running anymore. Sheesh. Show sold out again. I was a bit tired, but did a good show, I think. People really dug it. Went for a drink with performers and biked home.Saturday – Final show in Calgary. Sold out. Great crowd. I load my stuff into the T-shirt girls’ van and we drive to Edmonton. This is my Plan B – I’ll have to get a bus back to Calgary (three hour drive) later in the week to get the van, assuming it’s ready by then. Staying with a performer I met last year in Montreal. Nice guy, nice place – my own room! Meet up with the girls from the show Caberlesque for dinner, then to the pub to hang with other performers. In bed by 1. Early.Sunday – Today’s Edmonton Sun has a review of my show (“Smith is a spellbinder.”) – Four and a half stars. Cool. My show opens tonight at 10:30. I really hope to nap before then. Read more about Barry’s tour adventures on his blog, http://www.barrysmith.com.