Wednesday, June 25, 2014
"...nineteen suburbs in search of a metropolis."
- Aldous Huxley on Los Angeles
Y'know, even if I couldn't have articulated this to myself, I think that some part of my brain was expecting LA to be more like New York (which I revisited recently) -- at the very least, much more crowded. But while it has about half the population, it's got a third of the density. It doesn't feel so much like a city as a collection of cities, each with a distinct culture, although united by one pretty awesome transit system (and as someone who tours frequently, boy howdy am I impressed by a 24-hour bus service).
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
NICKNAME: City of Angels
VENUE: Theatre Asylum
The good shows (and I saw at least one that I'd call phenomenal) aren't that interesting to talk about, because a large part of what makes them good is the fact that they're unique -- they don't conform to obvious patterns. But boy howdy the bad ones do, and different patterns in every city. I saw a string of bad ones as soon as I made it into LA, bad enough that I was dragging my heels and despairing of ever seeing a good one again.
This is a networking city, no doubt about it. Usually, I have to down a few shots at Fringe Central before setting out and shoving my cards at strangers; here, everyone else is approaching me. I spent my first three days aggressively pushing my show at every Fringe event before realizing, hey, I don't think I've encountered a single audience member. It's all other artists. Likewise, there's hardly a critical review on that website -- it's almost entirely artists gushing at each other. I briefly considered diving in before realizing that this really wasn't the appropriate venue for critical analysis. That's not why anyone's here.
I tell you what.
SO WHAT HAVE I LEARNED?
Audience numbers have been thin, but I've received some positive press, which was my primary goal in coming out here, as well as at least one serious invitation to a promising performance opportunity, which is one more than I was expecting. I certainly don't regret making the trip.
Would I make it again? That's a harder question. It's a huge investment of time (it's a month-long Festival, most are only about ten days), as well as a huge investment of money -- in addition to just general cost of day-to-day living in a city this size, I was immediately inundated with offers (hire me to do your publicity! Hire me to record your show! Hire me to place an ad!) Definitely couldn't have swung it if one of my old touring buddies hadn't offered to put me up. So while I don't object to the notion of returning at some point, I can't see it happening anytime soon.
That said, in terms of intangible benefits, well...I spent an evening chatting up an attractive Irish bartender with tales of Celtic mythology. I watched a street preacher on Skid Row quote Ecclesiastes not half a block from where I saw a homeless dude lighting up a crack pipe. I spent another evening talking the Fringe circuit with a sex worker who introduced herself by comparing me to a mass murderer.
There was an article going around Facebook a while back, but its basic gist was that Baby Boomers devote their lives to collecting status symbols, while Gen-Xers devote their lives to collecting experiences. I am definitely in the latter camp.
FIRST AMENDMENT BOX RESPONSES
As part of the tour, I've included in each programme a "First Amendment Box", in which audience members may write any extreme, absurd, or politically incorrect thought -- and submit it anonymously. I share them here, with no commentary or context.
"Morals, while subjective, support the common sense of legislature. Professed Christianity is not, as popularly misunderstood, a shorthand for strong moral character. We should refuse to allow the sloppy invocation of religion as a mass appeal in our political process."
"The key problem of our age is immature masculine energy. All problems can be traced back to some man fucking things up."
"Get more graphic with Palin."
"That I'm awesome."