Smith: Canadian festival heating up |

Smith: Canadian festival heating up

Barry Smith
Vail CO, Colorado

Editor’s Note: Barry Smith is on tour, performing his comedy shows across the U.S. and Canada all summer long. Today’s dispatch comes from Saskatoon, Canada.

Opening night in Saskatoon happened at 4 p.m. on a Thursday, when most of Saskatoon didn’t yet know that there was a theater festival going on.

In fact, the Saskatoon Fringe Festival will come and go and most of Saskatoon won’t even know it happened. Apparently there are about three things that happen in Saskatoon all year long, and they all happen in the same week. So the Fringe Fest is competing with the Saskatoon Expo, which is apparently like a county fair. How am I supposed to compete with a Ferris wheel? Impossible.

So, Thursday, first day of the fringe, and I’ve got a 4 p.m. slot. Not a good time. And my venue is far away from the rest of the festival. So the fact that 11 people come to my show is quite surprising. Eleven people ” that’s not the disaster I was anticipating. Other people with similar time slots that day had audiences of three and four people. That’s brutal. By comparison, I’m sold out.

A few minutes into the show and it becomes clear to me that the guy running my lights and sound is having some problems, mostly involving running my lights and sound. My lighting requirements are pretty simple: Turn the lights down when I play a video; turn them back up when the video is done.

My first video finishes and the lights don’t come up. The second video starts and they do. The video finishes and the lights go down again. I stop the show and ask if we could get the lighting thing worked out, so he proceeds to turn on every light in the theatre, then cycles through them randomly. And slowly.

Oh, and did I mention that there are two reviewers among the 11 people gathered? Two out of eleven. Eighteen percent of the audience were reviewers! And I didn’t just work that out right now, I did the math there on stage. Why not? I have plenty of time, standing here waiting for the light show to finish, doing some math in my head and thinking about how much I love being judged.

The lights get sorted out and then the sound issues begin. I have 10 sound cues in my show that need to be played from a CD. Ideally these need to be played at a certain time, like the time indicated in the script, but I may not have made that totally clear, as they start to come up at random times throughout the show. Awesome.

I don’t let it fluster me, though.

I soldier on ahead, telling my story, showing my little pictures, and when I look into the “crowd” I can see people smiling and seeming to enjoy themselves. All except for one of the reviewers, who has FALLEN ASLEEP!

Now look, I can take the rejection of people not wanting me to hand them a flyer for my show. I can take it when people in the audience just stare at me rather than laughing uproariously at my clever observations delivered in signature deadpan style. I’m even used to seeing people nod off. Hey, it happens.

But if you really want to put your self esteem to the test, try looking into the crowd and seeing that the woman who was previously scribbling in a notebook has now decided to grab a little shut eye. There’s not enough theater in Saskatoon to warrant a full time theater critic, so I’m assuming this assignment must have been new to her, and perhaps she needed to rest up before heading back to her desk and finishing that big story on the state of the Saskatoon hog industry, or whatever.

Sorry. That was unfair. I don’t even know if Saskatoon has a hog industry. I do, however, know that typing Saskatoon over and over again is exhausting. Maybe that’s why she was tired.

Her review came out the next day and was what I expected ” three stars, some misquotes, a personal attack or two. I was hoping she’d accidentally include some of her dream imagery in her review, as I’m sure it must have shown up in her notes.

“Smith, in an unprecedented bit of acting, transformed himself into a giant starfish with the head of my father, and then, somehow, into my first dog, Punky, whose death I never quite got over. I was shocked when my mother flew into the theatre, wearing a referee’s uniform and blowing a whistle while lights flashed, telling me that I’ll never…oh, wait…why are all these people clapping?”

Next time: I’ll still be in Saskatoozzzzz

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