Obstacle Three: Spreading the Word (A Montage)

It's a pain in the ass. Maybe next year there will be more interest in a street team. This year we don't have anybody.
— Em Piro, June 3, 2012

Piro:For the past several weeks, Billy, Tara and I have been going to all sorts of events in silly costumes. I'm the stilt-walking skeleton. [Piro daubs sparkly blue paint around her eye sockets, draws bones on her arms and clavicle, pulls on a vest and pirate pants and climbs onto a pair of stilts.] Tara's Lady Lou Connor, the Cigarette Girl. [Daniels wears shorts and knee socks and straps an open suitcase around her neck. There are no cigarettes in the suitcase; there's a laptop cued up to the St. Lou Fringe website and a stack of fringe postcards and magnets.] And Billy's the Cupcake Cowboy. [Croghan, decked out in a ten-gallon hat, neckerchief, boots and spurs, with a holster and a pair of handcuffs dangling from his belt, carries a tray of cupcakes.]

Dancers from Ashleyliane Dance Company:  Michelle Bohn, Jake Henke and Ashley Tate.
Jennifer Silverberg
Dancers from Ashleyliane Dance Company: Michelle Bohn, Jake Henke and Ashley Tate.
St. Louis Osuwa Taiko members Andrew Thacheimer and Eddie Pelikan.
Jennifer Silverberg
St. Louis Osuwa Taiko members Andrew Thacheimer and Eddie Pelikan.

At every event we've done, the response has been really different. At Show-Me Burlesque we met people who had been at other fringe festivals. [Burlesque dancers shake their tailfeathers and swap stories.] At Midwest Mayhem people took our pictures. [Random partygoer stands between Daniels and Croghan; Piro towers behind them. A camera flash goes off.] The next night we were at Grand Center Art Walk, and people pretended not to see us. [Elegantly dressed couple walks by, ignoring Daniels when she tries to hand out a postcard.] We went to IndiHop, and people had heard of it. [A couple of dudes carrying cups of beer slap hands with Croghan.] We're starting to get recognized. [A passerby waves.] We're like, "Yes! It's working!" [Passerby accepts a postcard and a magnet.] I have a vision of making everything by hand. The handmade component is important. I want it to feel visceral. Everything will have that homemade feel.

The Future (An Oral Prehistory)

Daniels: I met Em last year at trapeze classes at Bumbershoot. Billy and I just met. We've never had any problems. We mesh well together. If I have an idea, and they don't like it, it's OK. I've been to a lot of meetings where there've been a lot of ego issues. We don't have that. Next year when we become really famous, it will all change. [Laughs.] We'll buy the Castle Ballroom and get someone to pay to fix it up for us, and we'll have our offices and the festival there. It'll be awesome.

Piro: I have no interest in producing my own show for the festival. A couple of times people have asked me, "What are you doing for the festival?" I say, "Putting it together." Producing the festival is my show. But the other day we got announcement cards for the New Orleans festival, and I thought, I'd like to put together a show and go there. I love that city.

St. Louis theater is very conventional. Even the weirdest show will be done in the neatest little box. There will either be an explosion of really, really innovative work, or we'll have one of the more conventional fringes. I hope this will give people the opportunity to stretch their legs and take risks. A migrating fringe is my dream. We'd travel all over the city with the different community cultures as a uniting factor.

Croghan: Our credo is: Something for everyone, kids or adults. It's ambitious. There are days when I wake up really early, like at 6:30, because I have thoughts about it. It gets me up in the morning. The last couple of years have been odd for me. My dad died. He jumped off a bridge. I was out of it for a good year after that. Every day I was sleeping till noon. It was a struggle. I got myself together. I was ready for something. Then I talked to Em about this. It was perfect. It's something to kick butt for.

Piro: Tara and I had a plan that after fringe we'll take till the end of June off. But I'm not tired. I'm not burned out. This is energizing. I think I'm going to be starting on 2013 as soon as the closing party's over.

Coda: A Fringe Jingle

[Setting: Fubar. May 15. It's the Fringe Tease, when eight of the acts perform short snippets of the shows they're producing for the festival. Croghan steps onstage, dressed as the Cupcake Cowboy.]

Croghan: I'm going to sing a song. [He taps out a rhythm with his boot.] Can you clap along? [The audience claps along.] OK! [Sings] Meet me where the waters collide, at the St. Lou Fringe!

[He grins expectantly out at the audience. Confused, they continue to clap.]

That's it!

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