I think I can speak for the whole of Haste when I say that our US tour this summer was amazing and epic. From Orlando, Florida to San Diego, California, we had many varied and interesting experiences, meeting a whole range of new people, visiting new places and performing in different venues.
We started our journey in Orlando as we were invited by the producer to bring our show ‘Oyster Boy’ to the Fringe Festival there (America’s oldest Fringe Festival). After a day of recovering from the long flight, we set out on our marketing campaign which involved busking in and around the Fringe venues and flyering virtually every person we passed, inviting them to come and see the show. A couple of times, we would flyer someone and they would politely say ‘Oh, no, thank you, I already have 4.’ We were playing in a really great but very large (300+ seats) venue and as we were as yet unknown to the audience of the Orlando Fringe, we needed to make people aware of our existence!
We also signed up to do workshops in the Kid’s Fringe area (a very impressive area across the road from the main Fringe site, with lots of exciting free things for kids to do) and do ‘Meet and Greet’ sessions with Sam, the puppet in our show. We were placed under a 300 year old beautiful tree to do these workshops and had a great turnout – the ages ranging from about 0-10, not forgetting the enthusiastic parents who were keen to get involved. The ‘Meet and Greet’ was a great chance for us to introduce our puppet to children – it’s always interesting to see how different children interact with him – some hugged and tickled him, some hit him, some let out a primal scream upon seeing him and had to be carried away by their parents…
Anyway, the build up to the beginning of the festival itself was very busy and productive – we met lots of amazing fellow artists and managed to fit in seeing many inspiring shows. There was a really strong artist community in Orlando, which made us feel very welcome and involved. We were very happy with the audience turnout for our shows, and we felt that all five of the performances went well. It was only the first press night in which we had some technical difficulties – because of a storm we lost electricity at a crucial point (of course), which meant a minute long blackout and rain coming through the ceiling onto the stage. Although this was a little nerve-wracking, after performing outside in San Diego last year where we had to deal with a police helicopter search, fireworks, loud football fans and a pregnant cat on stage, we weren’t phased and carried on with the show as soon as the electricity decided to start working again. We ended up winning 3 awards – ‘Fringe Crush’ along with the puppet, Sam (who was long asleep by this point in the evening so couldn’t be there to accept the award); ‘Best Kid’s Fringe Show’ and ‘Best International Show’. All in all we had a really fulfilling and fun time in Orlando and hope to go back at some point!
Next, we set off on our second leg of the journey – to San Diego. Here we did 2 performances of ‘Oyster Boy’ as a pre-fringe venture at the Ocean Beach Playhouse, as well as developed and re-worked our show ‘The Hideout’ which we had previously performed for 1 night only (five times back to back) as a site-specific piece in South London in January. In San Diego we were lucky enough to use rehearsal space at the Academy of Performing Arts, which is owned by Kevin Charles Patterson, the producer of the Fringe. We did about a week of rehearsing ‘The Hideout’ and then took a trip up the coast to San Francisco and Bakersfield. In San Francisco we stayed with two girls we had met last year at the San Diego Fringe. One of the nights we were able to partake in a Circus Skills workshop which one of the girls runs every week. There we learnt the basics of juggling, plate spinning and tight rope walking… Then onto Bakersfield where we were hosted by a lovely family, friends of Valeria’s, who arranged for us to do a performance of ‘Oyster Boy’ in their backyard for their friends. It was another great experience of doing this show in an unconventional location – always interesting and very fun! Sadly we could only stay the weekend there before heading back to San Diego to carry on the rehearsal process.
Upon our return we ran a workshop which we organised in conjunction with the Actors Alliance of San Diego. We were thrilled with the turnout for the 3-hour session, there was a wide range of people from different disciplines – some involved in improvisation, some involved in musical theatre and some were there simply to find out more about physical theatre. It’s a really rewarding experience being able to exchange skills and techniques across cultures, and seeing what people are aware of already in their area of theatre and what they have never been exposed to. Sometimes the same games are played but in a different context, giving a whole new meaning to them.
At the end of June we were joined by Paul, our technician, who flew from London to work with us for the Fringe. He was super helpful and supportive, making some major set pieces and props as well as helping design (and operate) the lighting for the show. It took a lot of work and a lot of nerves before the show was ready to go up, as it was the first time this show would be put in front of any form of audience excluding Paul! Thankfully our first night went very well and the audience were really positive. As always we like to get feedback so we have a different perspective of the show so we can tweak it if necessary. After a nice review (read it here!)
and a couple of nights doing the show, we were able to relax into it and enjoy playing our individual characters more fully. There were some amazing shows at the Fringe this year which we were fortunate enough to see. Other strange and wonderful experiences happened during our time in San Diego, including singing at a lesbian wedding on a rooftop and being guests on an improv show where we were interviewed and then the performers improvised (hilarious) scenes based on what we said. Very insightful into how other people view us!
San Diego Fringe ended very nicely with a party and an awards ceremony in which we won ‘Best World Premiere’. The post-tour come down involved travelling around the US for some of us, going back to Europe for others, and above all lots of sleep. Now we are back in the UK, working on our next production, ‘Beyond Cragporth Rock’ which is playing from 23rd Sept-4th Oct at the CLF Art Café (aka Bussey Building); tickets available here:
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That’s all from me for now! Watch this space for future tales of Haste adventures…