Five Questions with Alex Eddington

by Ottawa Fringe

June 27, 2008

1) So Alex, you’re setting out on another Fringe tour.  What advice do you have for new artists on the circuit?
 
     Yes – this is Acky-Made’s third tour in as many years, and the second one from Ottawa all the way to Vancouver.  Touring is like summer camp, except that it goes on for three months.  I meet new friends with an intensity that I haven’t felt since I was 14 at Camp Hurontario.  I become a night person.  I look at my watch and it’s suddenly midnight.  I love it – the beer tent conversations, the lineups, the audience that wants to talk to me about my oddball shows… and all the theatre, good and bad, that I get to see for free (Fringe IS my theatre school).  But I have to pace myself.  There’s my advice: pace yourself.  I’ve been dehydrated and overexhausted and sunstroked at Fringe before, especially in the oven of Winnipeg.  And the show has to come first – because if you’re not ready to give the show your all, you have nothing.
 
    Also, touring is expensive.  Very.  If you don’t have a credit card, get one.  Keep tabs on receipts.  And don’t bring too many people/things on the road.  If it can’t fit in my little Volvo sedan (“Acky”), it doesn’t come.
 
2)  Your content this year seems contrasting to your last show, “The Fugue Code”.  Tell us how this show differs from what we would have seen last year.
 
     Well, for starters, “Old Growth” is a two-hander – and I think this makes a world of difference.  Suddenly there is this relationship to watch on stage.  I could write overlapping text – and did!  It’s also my first show with live music (odd, considering “The Fugue Code” was about J.S. Bach experts), which is kind of an extension of that onstage relationship.  We NEED these two characters.  My character is so intense that there needs to be someone who anchors him.  My co-performer Aura is (like me) a musician by training, and has a very natural presence on stage.
 
    And the two shows are different in other ways too.  “The Fugue Code” was highly stylised, delibrately breakneck paced, and I played 11 exagerrated characters with some pretty crazy quick switching.  “Old Growth” is naturalistic, takes place in a single hour in a single place, and Aura Giles and I each play ONE character – though my character has a few disctinct facets to his personality, and Aura’s character has a lot that she’s not saying. 
 
     What they have in common is a level of intensity (and sometimes fast talk – where I don’t expect the audience to grab every word) that I really love to write and perform… but “Old Growth” has some very very simple moments too – awkward transitions and stalemates between Alex and Aura - and we are going to give the script a little more breathing room.  We are, after all, in the woods. 
 
    And, as different as they are, ALL of my plays (including “WOOL” in 2006, which missed Ottawa) are to a large degree about the role of artists in the world, and how to go about creating big changes in the direction our society is taking. 
3)  You’re one of the first artists to attempt a paperless promo campaign?  How has the show been going without flyers?
 
    It’s really too early to tell.  It is an odd feeling, to talk to lineups without leaving them with something (except our logo stamped on their hand, if they want it…and then memory of our chat).  But it is getting us some attention.  People get it – they even take it for granted that a show about trees WOULD do a paperless campaign.  Well, we printed 6 laminated posters for the whole summer.  Honestly, the paper doesn’t matter.  Reviews and buzz matter, and showing your face and actually getting to know people in lineups matters.  Paper ends up sopping wet on the beer tent grass.
 
    So what we *are* doing is hand stamps, chalking the Fringe grounds, and once the weather is better and the show itself is more settled, charming lineups with music (flute and drums, of course!) and magic.   
4)  You’re a Toronto artist with an Ottawa director.  Is there an Ottawa draw in the show?  (or  What about Ottawa keeps you coming back?)
 
    There’s not an Ottawa draw in the story itself – it’s set in the Queen Charlotte Islands, BC - but we did spend our entire rehearsal period here.  Why?  Because Alison Williams (director) *and* Aura Giles (my co-star who I actually met at the University of Alberta years ago) both live here.  And also because we found cheap rehearsal space (at the wonderful Jack Purcell Community Centre on Elgin St.)   I love Ottawa, the city and the festival.  This is much quieter, more streamlined place then Toronto to rehearse a show, and it’s a great festival to begin a tour at: warm audiences – not too much competition - few spies from other festivals further down the circuit – and the best beer tent on the circuit. 
 
    And if it weren’t raining today I’d be in Gatineau Park.  There’s NOTHING like that anywhere close to Toronto.
 
    I should also add that this is a wonderful side-effect of Fringe touring – creative connections.  Alison and I met at Saskatoon Fringe in 2006.  Many people’s directors live across the country – or the ocean – from each other. 
5)  A solo tour is a rough go.  You’ve added a musician this year, but have you considered having a bigger cast just for the company?
 
    I’m actually writing a ensemble piece next year – not for Fringe, though – actually for a residency with Tarragon Theatre in Toronto that I’m pretty excited about.  It will probably be a script for five actors.  It might find its way into a Fringe here or there eventually, but really – I can’t afford to tour with more than two people!  Two-person travelling has inherent tensions.  Aura and I will have to work hard to stay out of each other’s hair.  But I find myself wondering whether a bigger group would be easier or harder to travel with.  “Greed” here in Ottawa brought five people over from Australia.  I’m sure their profit margin is a little tight – and the logistics complicated…but they won’t be lonely.