I am moving out of Hollywood.
I went to my last Burning Man in 2005.
I have just decided to go back to Edinburgh Fringe this summer.
Sometimes people ask me if they should take a show to Edinburgh. I don't know. Below is something I wrote right after I got back last fall.
I just made a T-Chart of pro's/con's in order to actually decide that my Edinburgh Fringe experience was a good one. We all say "roller coaster" to each other during the month. Oh yeah, well, it's a roller coaster isn't it? which is to say that we understand that even if we had a really good show today, it's bound to be a shit show tomorrow, or something in between, or whatever man, the point is, there is no such thing as having a "good time" or a "bad time" at edinburgh fringe. It's just a fucking thing. It's no thing. It's every thing.
"You're addicted now," said Barry Church-Woods, who is one of the main administrators of the festival, and also—weirdly, considering it's the biggest festival in the universe—a super-approachable guy. Also clearly a maniac.
But maybe it is a kind of addiction. The Edinburgh Fringe is an incredible cocktail of Hollywood and Burning Man in a gorgeous old Gothic city. Maybe, sure, maybe I'm addicted now. Or maybe I'm just going again.
WHY IT'S LIKE HOLLYWOOD: Industry. Whatever That Means.
Edinburgh Fringe has Industry. People who make money off of performing artists! Mythical beasts! They come to Edinburgh to see shows and meet people! It could be YOU they meet, at one of the needy-grabby Fringe bars you need a secret card to get into. It could be YOUR show they wander into. And then BAMMO! LIFELONG TOUR!
That happens to some people, probably, maybe. Or it happens to differing degrees, but not the way you imagine. Or maybe it totally happens a lot.
The smartest advice I got was to be specific in goal-setting. Do some research, find some names, introduce yourself as much in advance as possible, follow up. Just try to move a teeny bit further along in your plans for world domination, in a specific, down-to-earth, case-by-case way. Keep your head down, except to notice the moody Scottish sky, hanging delicately above all that massive stone and chimney.
Being specific worked wonders, because on the "pro" side of my T-chart were actual people I invited to see my show, people who came. So they came! That's a goal met! Mazel tov! You don't know what/where/how may lead to gigs/gigs/gigs. The more specific you are in terms of whom you want to meet, the more clear your results or lack of results will be to you. And that is useful information for one's emotional brain, which during this festival is all over the goddamn map.
WHY IT'S LIKE HOLLYWOOD: Annoying Personalities Everywhere (Including Your Own).
Because this festival is aware of its own Star-Making-Potential Myth, stakes feel high for everyone, and everyone becomes potentially the worst version of him/herself imaginable. Or maybe it was just me. I was moody as hell, all month long. Some of those moods were great moods. I cried at BEAUTY, all month long. I was deeply moved by positivity, by hope, by art. I moved in a ethereal way, floating above a month-long Achilles tendon issue. How did I survive all those cobblestones with all that heel pain? Euphoria, my friends. There are euphoric moments.
But the bad moods were horrible. Feeling un-cool, worst of all. My wise flatmates talked me off many a metaphorical fire escape. (Seriously, living with friends was goddamn genius. I did make friends, but it's just not the kind of festival to go at alone.) It was a month in which I was somewhat embarrassed to be me, in terms of the levels of self-involvement that feels like it's in the water. And I drink a lot of water.
A month-dose of that kind of behavior is not horrible, though, when you consider that so many artists in Hollywood have to deal with that bullcrap every day of their life. You can take a month of Hollywood, right? Provided you can spend good portions of the rest of the year feeling more like a positively contributing member of society and not like a needy desperate devil-spawn of pipsqueak shitsackdom. Which Edinburgh did make me feel. Real highs and lows, is what I'm saying. Big ones.
It may be an addiction, Barry Church-Woods, but it's an addiction that can be managed.
WHY IT'S LIKE BURNING MAN: ARTISTIC ABUNDANCE!
Say what you will about Burning Man, it is full of creativity. There is creativity everywhere, not all good creativity, a lot of it inebriated creativity, but some of it genius creativity, plus plenty of damn fine creativity, and all of it inspirational. It does do something to you to be surrounded by that much creativity. And the hustle-bustle of Edinburgh when it's full of performers getting their shindig on certainly feels like something. You do feel part of something larger, that drop-in-the-bucket feeling, yes, but you know you love the bucket.
At Burning Man, there is no way you can see/experience everything. You will hear about some amazing fur-lined trailer where virgins drool cucumber water into your belly button to a chorus of singing bowls, and you can't find the cross streets or someone says it moved or left or whatever it's finished you lose.
So you learn, at Burning Man, that whatever journey you're on, it's the right one to have. And you have your adventures and paths, and you realize that there is an infinite amount of paths that were probably equally awesome, and the one you were on was uniquely yours.
There are far more shows at Edinburgh than you can possibly see. You want to see a lot of shows, and your capacity to see them is compromised. So you become okay with your unique journey.
One dear flatmate of mine experienced at least two dead raw chicken bodies in two different shows she saw, and she realized that dead raw chicken bodies were a theme in her Edinburgh experience.
Themes in my Edinburgh experience: catchy music snippets, spotlights, tiny shorts, drag, tea, crying, weight-shifting, cobblestones, cobblestones, cobblestones.
WHY IT'S LIKE BURNING MAN: IT TAKES ALL KINDS!
There are people who get up early at Burning Man, and sleep at night. When I did my time in Black Rock City, I did not meet these people. But we all heard about them. Apparently, they all made pancakes for breakfast.
Just like that, there are a lot of different ways to do Edinburgh Fringe. I know I mentioned the omnipresence of Industry, but I met plenty of performers who gave a lot less of a fuck about it. Why they were so sang-frois? Because they come to Edinburgh Fringe every year, the way some kids go to summer camp. They bring a new show, new material, every year. In this way, they get good at the Beast, they have perspective about the Beast, and they are far more fun to hang out with than, say, me. Guess what else: they're all fricking British. Or a lot of them are. There are some toughass not-Brits who go every year, and they are epically heroic and inexplicable. But of course it's mostly Brits who go every year, because it's a fricking train ride away. Why shouldn't they go?
And just like that, they get to be better artists. A month'll do that to you. It's a really good system, that way. Brits are lucky to have a Hollywood Burning Man so close at hand.
WHY IT'S NOT LIKE HOLLYWOOD OR BURNING MAN:
A lot of people, myself included, wound up caring a whole lot about how many stars were printed next to reviews of our shows. Did I get loads of 5-star reviews? No I didn't. And I officially think stars should go fuck themselves.
I don't think I'd feel differently if I had 5-star reviews plastered all over my face like so much foundation. Stars are an insult to reviewers, artists and audiences. Who wants this rating system based on no generalized criteria and no objectivity? Doesn't everyone want readers to actually read the reviews? GET RID OF THOSE LITTLE BULLSHITS.
Alright I'm off the podium.
I don't think my show is the son of Christ, but I think it's good enough.
Edinburgh reminded me I have a lot of faith in it, and love it.
That's a nice thing to know.
Edinburgh is toughening; toughening is healthy. Yeah, okay, do Edinburgh. At some point.
When you love the shit out of your show and don't give a fuck who likes it, because you love the fuck out it. When you love your show so goddamn much you want to give it a big crazy present. When you want to marry your goddamn show, you are that much soul mates. It is you; you are it. It is a once-in-a-lifetime show for you. Maybe twice.
Pack those bags for August. It's almost the honeymoon. Forget the crappy moments, and go love your show into the sunset. I LOVE THE FUCK OUTTA YOU, SHOW, you'll whisper, I'MA GIVE YOU SOMETHING YOU NEVER FORGET.
Edinburgh Fringe: pretty good, overall. It might be worth checking out. Three stars.