Five Questions with the General Manager

by Ottawa Fringe

June 29, 2008

If I could only have one woman run my career for the rest of my life, it would be Heather Marie Scheerschmidt.  I am hesitant to gush about her as a person for fear that it would diminish her accomplishments as a professional.  A festival like ours cannot run without a person behind the scenes oiling the squeaky wheels and bandaging the skinned knees while simultaneously managing the finances of all involved.  You don’t see many pictures of her on this site, if any.  It is a loss to us that we haven’t recorded her beauty, but she’s been too busy to make the photo calls.  

What follows is the five questions with my Best Friend Forever.

1)  You’re an arts administrator but you have a reverence for stage actors that I think is rare.  Without naming names, how do you react the first time you meet an actor of whom you are a fan? 
 
When I am really moved (angered, saddened, amused) by a performance, in my mind that performer becomes inextricably linked to that experience. They become larger than life and that’s what makes it difficult for me to approach them and start a conversation. There are performers in this year’s Fringe who I am still afraid to talk to.  
2)  You’ve been doing this festival for the last two years.  Can you tell us about some of the backstage activities that we might not think are a part of your job?  How much of your time has been focused on the arts aspect of the festival and how much is tied up in nuts and bolts admin? 
 
I am all about the nuts and bolts. There is a really great balance between Kevin’s artistic/production focus and my management/finance focus. Obviously my job is mostly about dealing with details and numbers. I create the budgets and then worry about coming in under them. I make sure everybody signs a contract and that everybody gets paid. I guess in a word I would say that my job is: glamorous.
 
When I write grants for the Festival, that is where I get to focus on the “arts aspect” of the Festival. It is my opportunity to talk about how important the Fringe is because it creates opportunities for a lot of artists. And not just local artists, (although I believe that in Ottawa the Fringe is vital to the local scene) but also touring artists. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but Canada is kind of a big place, and hard to tour. If we can help bring people to this town, find them a place to sleep while they’re here and help them get the word out about their show, then I think we’ve done a good thing. The expression gets thrown around a lot these days but I believe it is apt: by having a Fringe Festival here in Ottawa we get to buy local and experience global.
 
3)  Looking back on your career with the Fringe, name three things you done that you’re proud to look back on as things you’ve helped to accomplish? 
 
1. Government funding for the Festival is up 50% from when I started – in part due to grant applications that I have written. Increased funding has meant a bigger staff and a little more than slave wages for the Executive Producer so that he can feed his kids. That’s a good feeling.
2. Two words: accounting system
3. Bringing Lewis into the Ottawa Fringe 
4)  Compare the the first Fringe you attended in Ottawa to this year’s endeavor.  What are the biggest changes in your mind? 
 
My first year in Ottawa (2000) I worked as an ASM on the Fringe show “Drowning Girls” which I think was in Academic Hall. I wasn’t a very good ASM but it was a really great experience. Mostly what I remember about that Fringe is that I developed a huge crush on one of the artists (a gorgeous young man from the East Coast who I have never seen since) and I spent the entire week working up the courage to talk to him in the Courtyard.
 
I’d like to say that now, eight years later, the Fringe and I have both grown up. Certainly for the Fringe:  the number of applications is higher than ever and attendance at the Festival has risen significantly. Me, on the other hand, well, I’m still developing crushes and working up the courage to talk to artists in the tent…so… 
5)  What are you going to miss most?
 
Where do I start?
-Old Man Waghorn jokes
-Louisa-size drinks
-The Heather Marie song as sung by the fabulous Catriona Leger. I’m not gonna lie to you – it might be my favourite song.
-The wisdom, humour and generousity of the Fringe staffers. Everybody works really hard for a very concentrated period of time and they do it with love. I find that very inspiring.
If you see her in the tent, be sure to say Thank You.