The Village of the Fringed opening night with #YEGprov

I attended the Village of the Fringed opening ceremonies yesterday for my birthday. This is another new thing I have tried. While I am a long time fringer, I usually wait until the reviews start popping up to pick and choose what I want to see.

I think a little back story is necessary. Fringe is a noun or a verb. Basically it is a collection of venues that host a play/improve/theatrical experience that you go and watch. The old days, one would fringe by standing in line for a mystery venue and taking a chance on a show. You bought your tickets at the door. Now you buy your tickets at the box office ( a tent in front of the Strathcona’s Farmer’s Market) or purchase them on-line. They still sell tickets at the door, but don’t hold as many. Edmonton hosts Canada’s largest Fringe Festival. This year is the 31st Fringe here in River City. I started going in 1988 when I was making cash and could pay the open shows or the closed venues.

My first show I saw in 1988 was with my sister. I took her to see The Arrogant Worms. We are still fans and have passed their comic genius down to our children. Everyone has the Worm’s music on the rotation in their iPods. My favorite is Canada is Really Big or Let’s Go Bowling. I knew The Pirates on the River Saskatchewan before Captain Tractor did it and actually, The Worms wrote it. I haven’t seen the Arrogant Worms in YEARS they have to be old like me and perhaps the Fringe Tour is just exhausting. Fringe performers are basically homeless and live out of their suitcase. It would be a tough gig year after year. Yet I see the same performers came back for a few years in a row!

This time we watched the Fringe Parade of Stars. I have no idea if that is what it is called but you lineup along the alley/gravel road behind the main venues and watch the performers walk in costume handing out handbills and sometimes cookies, all in an effort to entice you to see their show.I met a Hippo that spoke with a French Accent, luckily I also can speak with a French accent so there was no language barrier. I met a very excited dude from Orlando Florida who was excited that he saw snow twice while flying over the mountains from Vancouver. He was jumping and so excited to be here. I met a guy from Brooklyn and another who just said New York, a fellow with a Russian accent from Edmonton and a drag queen who kept saying it felt like a protest not a parade. I met sister wives for a polygamist show and weird creepy dudes from a show called Suicide a Love Story.

I was offered free tickets to see the shows by some performers so I could review and promote their shows. Sadly I had pre-purchased tickets for the family so I couldn’t take up the actors on these freebies! I needed to carefully select the show my family was seeing. When you Fringe, you never know what you might get, from blood and guts to nudity and actually sex on stage. The Edmonton Fringe  does not jury or censor artists’ work in any way and selects performances using an unbiased lottery system. Therefore there is risk involved. I would ask the performers if it was suitable for my kids, The Syphilus show guy was honest and said there was no nudity or swearing but the content was obvious. The Beef lady was also honest and said it may not be appropriate but I was welcome to see it without them. That is the plan. Go Fringing without children…maybe. But then I got them hooked on Improv.

After the Parade of Stars, complete with a Flag barer (it was just like the Olympics!), we walked from the Fringe site to a BYOV ( Bring your own venue) site down on 109 street. BYOV means the show finds their own venue, arranges a price (usually free) and sells tickets to their show. Often there isn’t an extra site charge and the Fringe has student pricing! (FYI I love being a student for this reason!) We were seeing #yegprov, a twitter improv experience.

While waiting outside for the venue to open, I recognized a fellow – or thought I did. I asked him if we met in the park over the summer. He said wait…. pulled out his phone and gave the details of our meeting. It made my family crazy because I know everyone. Being opening night, the audience was sparse, people like to wait because we all have a limited budget for shows. $13 is reasonable but it starts to add up quickly if you see everything!

We sat near the front because improv is all about engaging the audience. We provide the non-geographical location, a famous monument, the name of your first crush and so forth. The spin on this improv was twitter. There is an at home game you all can participate in this week just follow #yegprov. The audience was asked to tweet their suggestions alternating with shout-outs. As with all improv, the stories can go south pretty quickly but for the most part this show was seriously fun! Genetic Offspring is a improv vet and participates in NAIL (Northern Alberta Improv League) He was please to have learned two new games to bring back to his improv team. We laughed hard and sometimes groaned, but all agreed this was tremendous fun. We plan on checking Rapid Fire Theatre group for their take on improv and perhaps see if we can find another improv group or two. Better yet, go back and play with the #yegprov group again, or at the very least, playing the home game.

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The Edmonton Tourist’s 2nd Blogiversary: 11 lessons learned

Tomorrow is my second blogiversary as The Edmonton Tourist. Unreal! I never thought I would get this far, I told myself I would but back then I wasn’t so great with follow through. I was very happy to make it through a year, yet very amazed with myself. I learned that given the right motivation or goal I could be quite driven.

Motivation is the wrong word. I no longer believe in motivation. It isn’t something that comes to you through divine intervention, it doesn’t come in a magic pill that lifts you up to get things done. Motivation comes in a form of achievement. Setting a goal, seeing the finish and figuring out the steps to get there is goal oriented, not motivation. At least in my circumstance, motivation has never been a factor. you want to do something or not, you want to achieve something or not. Motivation never helped me out for long and it abandoned me when the going got tough. Goals were always there. Figuring out how to achieve them was the key.

When I started this journey, I was miserable. I was deep in depression. My good blogging friend wrote a brilliant description about depression here. She eloquently explains the difference between sadness and depression. Depression is not sadness. It is dark, cloudy and soul sucking. Sadness is an emotion. huge difference. Depression is not an emotion, it is a state of being, like hunger or tired. Those are not emotions. there is a big difference.

I wanted to climb out of my depression and change my life. I was living in my imagination for a long time and decided it was time to make my imagination a reality for me. I knew I would need to take risks, try new things, say yes more often and no more often too. I needed to become a tourist in my own life.

I achieved that. Funnily enough, there are 11 major lessons I have learned through my Tourist Journey. All of them have leadership qualities like my Number 11 Hero.

1. I was always disappointed that I never finished my degree. I am 5 classes away from my undergraduate degree. I have the intention of getting my MBA in Leadership, but for now that is a distant goal, I am focusing on my first one for now. I have learned not to be afraid of hard work because I am smarter than I give myself credit for and I can figure out or research anything.

2. I never lived on my own, unattached long enough to experience serious solo travel. I experienced it several times of late. By solo I don’t mean just me and the road, I mean not being responsible for anyone but me. I traveled with my cousin, and I traveled with girlfriends. One of the best trips I ever had was with my sister, when we went to Seattle for the weekend. It was freeing. I took one child at a time on separate vacations. That gave me a chance to bond and laugh and really focus on them separately rather than a unit. This was invaluable. I learned to relax on holidays, not over plan and enjoy the moment. I needed the solo vacations to learn this.

3. I became a tourist in my own city and went to every festival I could. I discovered lots of them were crap, and a couple were brilliant. Now I just go to the ones I love and will continue to try out new festivals as they pop up. Edmonton is Festival City, every week – or there abouts – is another festival to attend. This week is my favorite festival of all time, The Fringe Festival. The largest Fringe in North America. I am doing some improv with my son (who is a improv comedian himself) and I will call my Gran to go to a drag show or two. I took her at the age of 84 to her very first drag show last year, because she is cool like that. Then she asked if we could go again, YA WE CAN! Drag is super fun and fabulous! I think I have to see “BitchSlap!” the Bette Davis and Joan Crawford saga. Darin Hagen is just simply wonderful and I am a huge fan. I learned that new adventures are in my own backyard. Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz was right.

4. I learned that I needed to make the outside me match the inside me. So I started the Just Me and Mo journey about weight-loss and fitness. This saw me swim long distances for 1.5 hours on Fridays and an hour the rest of the week. I trained for and completed a half marathon – 13.2 miles or 26.1 km. I did the last 7km with a stress fracture on my left foot. It took strength of mind to get to the finish. I now know mentally what I am capable of and yet I sense I haven’t even scratched the surface of my mental possibility. I belive there is more there, I just haven’t been tested hard enough yet. Running consistently will help me figure out that tidbit.

5. I learned that people are hugely disappointing. I cannot expect people to have it all together when I don’t even have it pulled together. I no longer expect things from people. If great stuff happens, terrific! If there is no follow through, oh well. I need to make my own fireworks and magic happen. I learned to be grateful for what it given and don’t expect more.

6. I learned there comes a time in everyones life where you need to take responsibility for your own life. This time should happen when you are 25 and your brain is fully developed. Sadly this never happens. It takes becoming a parent or growing up to figure this out. We all grow up at own rate. I know men who haven’t grown up yet and feel quite sad for them. They still blame their parents for the life they have. Here is what I know and have learned. Your parents love you and agonized over making the right decision because they know it can affect you for the rest of your life. They made the best decision they could with the skills and knowledge they had ( okay, there are parents out there who never grew up and yet still had kids. They made and continued to make poor choices. This is the exception to the rule.) You cannot make choices based them. You are not your Father/Mother/Grandmother etc, you are you. Their DNA does not make choices. DNA provides allergies, eye colour, height etc. These are factors that cannot be changed. Education, experience and choices + DNA make you the person you are. Suck it up and grow a pair. Quit blaming your Mom/Dad/Wife/Husband/EX-whatever because the choices you make are not right for you.

7. I learned that kindness will take you very far in life. Empathy, caring and kindness in general are the key to meaningful relationships. I use to be cranky. I often see glimpses of my dark angry side when someone annoys me, but instead of the knee jerk reaction, I am now quiet, contemplative and reflective. I try to stand in their shoes and figure out why they are reacting in that way. Seeing things from someone else’s perspective has been enlightening. I still feel frustration at choices people make that I think are wrong, but it is not my choice. I no longer judge and rant, I will say I disagree or we need to agree to disagree. On occasion I will be asked why, then I will say why. But if someone doesn’t ask my opinion, I won’t give it. I do here on my blog, because it is my forum. It isn’t a two way conversation until the comments roll out. Then you will notice I usually respond in kind. Everyone has an opinion. Force feeding someone your opinion is not going to change theirs, it will just have them think ill of you. So perhaps tolerance is the lesson learned here.

8. I have learned people are starved of kind words. If someone does something I think is fantastic, kind, loving cool or positive – I now will tell them. They may not know it, or ever hear they are doing great work. I tell them with words that are specific to the job well done. This has opened doors for me. It’s true! People remember the nice things or compliments that are genuine and will reciprocate in another fashion, like introductions to new possibilities. The new possibilities have been mind blowing awesome and have changed me life. It is true when you give of yourself, you receive ten fold. I can vouch for that.

9. I have learned that help is available if you ask for it. I always wanted to be independent and do it myself. I can’t always and failure hurts. So I now ask for help. I have learned that people LOVE to feel needed. Help can also be in the form of things. I have something and you don’t. I don’t need it so I give it to you. I don’t sell it. I wasn’t using it. You need it, you can have it. My mom is the master of this skill. She is the kindest, most generous person I know aside from my daughter. Kindness becomes a wonderful two way relationship.

10. I learned that everyone is going through varying degrees of struggle. You do not know what their journey is, so don’t assume theirs is harder/easier/insignificant compared to yours. Listening to others struggle has given me great insight. Truthfully, we are all the same. We all have fears, hopes, dreams, disappointments and tragedy in our lives. The point or lesson is how we deal with it and how we learn to benefit from it. Some of us figure it out, and some of us never do. But we are all the same.

11. I learned Failure is the best way to learn stuff and have it be meaningful. I needed inspiration yesterday. I texted my friend and said “Quick, I need something inspiring.” They texted me back  without asking why, “If your dreams don’t scare you they aren’t big enough” then they sent “or this one ‘fall 7 times and get up 8′” This was what I needed to hear. I have had a summer of failure and disappointment. I fell 7 times and got up 8. If I fall again, I will get up 9. I will keep getting up until I reach my destination. I learned a valuable lesson every time I fell. I tucked it away and kept getting up, dusting myself off and moved forward because my dreams are so huge they are scary.

So there you have it. 11 things this tourist learned over 2 years. What I thought was going to be a short term movement has ended up being a lifelong journey. Learning doesnt end. In fact, the more you learn, you realize the less you know. I wonder what will happen next? All that matters is, I need to be aware and present when it does happen.