Impressions of Winnipeg

We leave tomorrow for Calgary. The other women have left for fringe central, and I stayed a our billet’s (the person who is housing us) to do laundry.  We had our last show on Saturday at noon, and had the rest of the day, and today to catch up on the plays, and this evening they have the awards for the best shows.

The fringe experience has been interesting to say the least. I’ve never been in an environment where everyone is there to see theatre. There is of course competition for audiences because we all want to make some money, at least the money we put into it, and apparently some people do make money (they are called the darlings of the fringe) but it isn’t cut throat in the treatment of other performers in fact all the actors are very supportive. We had a really tough time filling our venue. We had 280 seats and probably only sat over 100 on our best nights. This is a lot of people, but not when you have a 280 person venue, it feels like you are playing to empty seats. I tried not to be affected in my performance; to not to let the laughter or lack of laughter or sound cause me to be in my head and not focused on the performance. Even though at times we felt as if we failed in getting people in, we certainly succeeded in how people were affected by what we have done. Many, many times people came up and told us how sexy it was, how empowering, how eye opening, men and women a like. It is pretty powerful, and out numbers the offended. What I found out about the fringe is that some people do this every year for years, and when they get together it is like seeing old friends. To me this very much had the affect that I was a freshman in theatre school and sitting in the greenroom, the only difference is that I don’t care that much this time around. God, I feel like I wrote that previous sentence already- oh well.

Winnipeg has a great skate park up near this area called the forks and around it is a amphitheatre and manicured lawns and a stone promenade along the Red River. Across the river is French town, which we wandered into yesterday, everything is in English and French. It is hard to determine what Winnipeg is really like since there is a festival going on right now, and that changes the feel of the city although my impression is that there are some pockets of wealth and even more pockets of poverty. We’ve been parking the RV in a lot next to a community center, there haven’t been any problems, but today these three teenage girls asked me about the RV. I told them it was pretty much our house for now, and that we had traveled from Portland to be a part of the fringe. They were really interested in the idea of driving across country in an RV, one girl even said, I want to do that one day. Then they giggled and said, “I can’t believe you have been parking here. You are in West Winnipeg, this is the hood.” I had gathered that by certain things I had seen, and by the number of sirens. Then the girl said, “It’s dangerous over here, but I don’t care. I like it.” Then she smiled, and said, “Now you can tell people you been to the hood that you been to West Winnipeg.”

Our Billet got married while we were here ,and we all went to the wedding. It was held in a woman’s back yard and then we went to the Olive Garden for lunch (it was a small wedding party: us four, T (our Billet) W (the groom from Nigeria) T’s two little girls, T’s mother’s ex-girlfriend (who T said was a far better mother than her real mother) and a neighbor who happened to walk outside as the wedding party was getting ready to leave) it was my first time at an Olive Garden. I found the whole thing amusing. We decorated the RV and drove T and her girls to the house where the marriage was taking place. Our billet has four foster girls, all aboriginal, all are from the same tribe or reservation and all of them are fetal alcohol children. There is an enormously large portion of aboriginal children in foster care and an abnormal amount of them are born with FAS. The girls are all pretty quiet, just near the end of my stay one of them has begun to talk to me a little. T says in some of their foster homes the “parents” wont allow them to speak in their native tongue. Again, I feel as if I have written this all down previously, I apologize. The roughest freakiest story I heard was from T’s mother’s ex-girlfriend. She said she was going to visit her 17 year old daughter in jail, she said she is her foster daughter. She was in jail for murder, her and another two girls murdered a reservation cop with a hatchet. If that wasn’t enough, she said her other daughter was going into jail for attacking people with a hatchet. She said, it’s the alcohol, when they are born with FAS,and then drink it makes them not think of consequences or to feel what they are doing as wrong. In my mind I’m thinking, hatchet? That is hardcore, wow, I can’t figure out which is more frightening guns, or hatchets. Then today as we went to have brunch (at the worst restaurant ever: Tall Poppy I think it was called, a hipster breakfast joint that charged a disgusting amount of money for, so so food, with terrible service, but we got tied into for a stupid reason not even worth writing about) as we neared the brunch place T said, “oh normally I wouldn’t come here, that place (the name of the hotel next to the breakfast place) is known for stabbings.

So interesting.

We have no idea what to expect in Calgary. We may be stopping in Jasper and Banf on the way- YEAH- and then we start promoting all over again.

Even with the stories of hatchets and stabbings, I do really like Winnipeg, I may even return again one day but I do not like the mosquitoes- they are bastards.


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