Twas the night before Fringe, and most Fringers are stirring and stirring badly! I catch Lar Vi to find out the state of The Making of ‘Warm Mess’. When we last left off, Vi’s collaborator was away in Iceland and there were still things to settle about the rewrite of the show as a two-hander. When we catch up, it seems as though all things are well in hand.
“We open tomorrow,” Vi tells me.
Vi is not daunted. “So, Dave [Kaufman] got back from Iceland and we started radically,” she says.
Much of the work seems to be collaborating with others to improve the show. “I made an update of the two-person rewrite,” Vi says, “We met with Brent [Skagford] and Marc [Rowland] from Montreal Improv on separate occasions and they had notes on how to evolve the narrative a bit more.”
I ask for details. “In first draft, there was a point where it was amorphous, a lot of dialogue, one long scene,” she says. “They saw a way to split that up, which is great for momentum of the show.”
A radical change a week before the show is scary, and Vi admits as much. “It’s scary to change a show so late in the game,” she says, but acknowledges the changes are in greater service to the finished product. “If you’re having trouble memorizing certain things, or they don’t feel quite right, it’s because they don’t need to be there.”
Vi reflects on this experience of changing the script as both interesting and necessary. “It’s interesting to see how a script evolves, the poetics of omission, of saying more with less and trusting audience to be with you,” she says. “I want people to be engaged with the story and I want people to be on board with it.”
Ultimately, her experience is common to many who put shows together for the Fringe. “A lot of Fringe people say time is precious and it’s unbelievable how much a show can change in a week. You’re pulling things together and finding that burst of inspiration. You have to be decisive and move forward when you’re under the wire.”
More to the point is how the creative process to make the show relates to the show’s subject: the creative process. “The show has so transformed. It’s phenomenal,” Vi says. “It’s the first time I’ve adapted a solo to a duo. So much about this show is about how every creed of work has a million different universes that it could have spun off into. Take one Beatles song and imagine all the different directions each artist wanted to take it in. Change one instrument, one thing, and it’s a whole new thing. How overwhelming that can be!”
Like many Fringe performers, Vi also is aware that this show will continue to evolve. “I think it was Jon Bennett who said it takes 20 times of doing a show for it to take on its own life, for it to be a show. This is the second time of The Making of Warm Mess ever. I still see so much room for adapting different parts. It’s only opening more possibilities, the more we work on it.”
The Fringe for All was also a chance for Hamhock Velvet to appear before a large audience and Vi just let the character be himself. She says she was lucky to be in the 10th slot, so she could go on right away with no stress looming about the performance. “I had Hamhock sing a song. It was the first time performing in a big theatre like that and Hamhock was having difficulties hearing himself. There was some off-key philandering there,” she says. “Because Hamhock is so wavy-gravy, such a ragged around the edges guy, people are forgiving. People have patience for his fumbling. He loves singing and music. He’s not that good at it and it’s okay. He’s not going to win a Grammy. He’s not aiming for that.”
She also got a boost from host Al Lafrance. “He’s seen the past three shows I’ve done and feel like he’s on my side. We respect each other’s work and he really pumped it up.”
She was also glad that the tech responded well to her request for “party lighting.” “I asked for party lighting and it was kind of like a rock concert for this silly song. I remember when the lights were shining over the audience and seeing my friends smiling and standing in the back,” she says. “There’s this kind of horror that ‘I don’t know… Oh God, is this going okay? Am I embarrassing myself?’ I want my friends to have fun and it’s intimidating to go up there alone. It’s also fun. We conveyed what’s going on with the show, this kind of silly, playful, cosmic character.”
I point out that the whole audience was clapping along to Hamhock’s song. Vi credits her music muse, Les, with helping out. ” Les was there, which was cool. He got to hear his song in that space.” She also notes that he’s added an original instrumental piece that will be in the show too. “It will turn heads, tap toes,” she says. “It’s something special.”
So what’s left? A lot. “Right now, I’m working on finalizing our sound check, tech use, making tech script, this kind of thing,” she says. “I’m going to meet with Marc this afternoon and go over some of the physicality. I am also gathering our costumes and making sure it’s all prepped. You want to test everything out, and have it organized, and know who is doing what and how it’s being done. Today’s the postering day for Fringe, so we have to put up our posters at the Fringe Park. And then Dave and I are meeting tonight with Brent to go over some things too.”
Tech in particular is on Vi’s mind. “The Fringe sent out cue sheets to all the companies, which is helpful,” says Vi. “The more clear you can make things for the tech and what you want in lighting and sound, the better thins are.”
Vi’s first show opens tonight at 11:15 p.m., a volunteer show that is free for all the volunteers. “It’s a late slot, but it should be good to have first run. There will be nerves and shakiness to put out there. Once it’s out of the gate, then my entire Fringe schedule is booked. I’m seeing shows every single night,” she says.
One of the last things Vi wants to point out is how critical the Montreal Improv group was in helping her. “It’s where Dave and I got our training and were we met. Mark and Brent are teachers there. There are like 20 shows from people who are affiliated or have been affiliated with the theatre. It’s exciting to see. Improv has this reputation of being a short form or a whose line is it anyway form, but there’s so much work in craft of narrative and being present and emotive, vulnerable and playful. It’s such a great place for making friends and exploring creativity.”
Read the Dispatch about The Making of “Warm Mess” # 1 HERE, and #2 HERE. The Montreal St. Ambroise Fringe Festival takes place from May 30 to June 19. For details about the Fringe, click HERE. The Fringe-For-All takes place on May 30 at Cafe Campus (57 Prince Arthur E) at 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. Free. The Making of “Warm Mess” is in The Mainline Theatre (3997 St. Laurent) on June 9, 11, 12, 14, 18 and 19. See HERE for details. $12/10.