My First FringeNYC Adventure, Part 1.

It’s been seven years to the day since I jumped on a flight from Burbank to New York City. I chronicled the entire trip daily for our Kickstarter backers. Over the next week and a half, I’m going to share those entries (and maybe add in a few details or anecdotes that had gotten left out), because it makes me really happy to think back to all of this, especially now that we know FringeNYC is coming back next year, and Theatre Unleashed is submitting a production.

So with that, here’s my Day 1 recap of my first FringeNYC adventure!

August 22nd, 2010

Hey all!

We’re here! The cast and crew have all confirmed their safe arrival in New York. I have been in town for a day and a half now, and I want to share with you what’s happened so far. After all, we wouldn’t be here without you, and as many of you can’t actually see the production you helped produce, the least I can do is tell you how it’s all going.

Friday night, I ran home from work, threw the last of the stuff I needed into my suitcase, kissed the kittens goodbye and grabbed a quick dinner with Jenn before heading to Burbank airport. A brief, misty-eyed farewell and I’m checking my bags and strolling through security.

That’s when it started to hit me: this is finally happening!

I’ve been planning this trip, this production, for almost a year! Getting this show to the New York International Fringe Festival has been my obsession since the middle of the world premiere run last year. Now, here I am, boarding a red eye bound for JFK, getting in at the absolute ass-crack of dawn to open that show.

It feels like I’d spent the last few months climbing Mt. Everest, and I had finally broken through the cloud cover and could see the peak. Almost there. Just a little further. Just three days until the show opens. So close.

The flight went without incident. Unable to sleep, I watched a documentary gangs in Los Angeles on NatGeo for most of the flight. Hit a little too close to home. Literally.

We land, and I bolt for the first Dunkin’ Donuts I see in the terminal. One XL French Vanilla with extra cream and sugar (although they skimped on the cream), and I’m feeling about as good as I’m going to feel, considering I’m already going on 24 hours with no sleep.

I grab my bag and take a little while to sit and plan my day:

  • See The Twentieth Century Way at 12:15pm
  • Check our show in at FringeCENTRAL
  • Check in to the apartment I’m staying at and drop the bags off
  • See Saving Throw Versus Love at 7pm
  • Find a new prop gun for the show (MUCH harder than it sounds, but I’ll get in to that in a moment)

It’s about 5:45am. I’m at JFK. My airbnb is in Brooklyn, and all of my business is in Manhattan. I can’t get in to the apartment until after 1, which sucks because I’m carrying two big rolling suitcases and a laptop bag. Thankfully, JFK has free W-iFi at the Jet Blue Terminal. So, I put that to good use, plotting out where I need to go. I also download a fantastic app for my iPhone that helps me navigate the subway. I plan my route: Go in to Manhattan, drop bags at Penn Station (which, as it turns out, they only let you do that if you actually have a train ticket. I went to the Hotel Pennsylvania instead and pretended to be a guest checking in. They’re very no-questions-asked), get breakfast, see The Twentieth Century Way, check in at FringeCENTRAL, grab the bags from the Hotel, go to the apartment, take a nap, clean up, go back into the city to hunt for a prop gun, catch Saving Throw Versus Love, grab dinner, go back to Brooklyn and go to bed. It’s a simple plan.

Too bad it didn’t work out that way.

Not wanting to look like I’d just gotten off a red-eye flight while touring Manhattan today, I duck into the extra-large handicapped stall in the Men’s room at JFK and change into a fresh pair of jeans, a button down shirt and blazer. I even went the extra mile of taking a bird bath – washing my face, brushing my teeth and even shaving – in the sink. Changed and freshened up, I head for the subway, buy a two-week pass, put my new App to good use and head Downtown.

Everything went smoothly at first, even though I had to do a quick Google search and find the Hotel Pennsylvania to drop the bags off. I grab breakfast at Tick Tock Diner on my friend Kristin’s recommendation, then walk from Penn station down to the Village. I catch The Twentieth Century Way, produced by The Theatre @ Boston Court – absolutely FANTASTIC, by the way! Incredible show! Two actors play… what, over a dozen characters in this thrilling, fast-paced mix of comedy and drama. It was tough to keep my eyes open before the show (because at this point, I’ve been up for thirty hours straight), but this gave me an adrenaline rush watching it. Amazing.

After the show, I stroll up to FringeCENTRAL to check in. Turns out, all I needed to do was sign in on the arrivals list, say hi to Elena K. Holy (the director of the festival), and pick up my show postcards (which I had shipped East previously). Done and done. Our participant badges weren’t ready yet, but they would be later. The staff was kind enough to whip one up for me real quick so I could get the participant rate for show tickets for the rest of the day.

I head back out into the street, and resume my hunt for a new prop gun. All morning, I’d been stopping in different stores, trying in vain to find a suitable fake gun. Squirt, pellet, dart… doesn’t matter. I just need something with the right shape that I could paint black so it looks “good enough.” This is where my day went off the rails.

We found out months ago that due to safety and fire regulations we wouldn’t be able to fire blanks in the theatre at the festival (even though we had done so for the duration of three separate runs in LA – I don’t know, maybe New York actors are prone to spontaneous combustion or something…). We didn’t want to deal with the paperwork for checking it in our luggage and it’s illegal to ship a firearm (even a blank-firing one) to any address in New York state. Furthermore, as it turns out, I could have been arrested for carrying it around New York if I’d gotten caught, since even blank guns have to be registered in the state to be carried legally. So, even using the gun just as a dead prop with an empty clip was out.

Well, every store I search through is a bust. They have nothing even close to resembling what we need, NERF guns at best. So, I spend most of the afternoon running around the city (walking from the Village all the way up to Times Square and halfway back) before I find a costume shop that has exactly what I was looking for: a realistic-looking solid-rubber pistol.

Unfortunately, it’s bright yellow, but beggars can’t be choosers.

$24 later and I have most of the problem solved. It’s also 5:30 in the afternoon. I haven’t slept and I’m in desperate need of a shower, but tonight is my only chance to see Saving Throw Versus Love, so I decide to stick it out.

I’m glad I did. Saving Throw Versus Love was brilliant. So much so, I turned around to the writer and director of the show (who were sitting behind me) and told them I wanted to put it up in LA. They happily gave me their business cards. So, that’s two shows (The Birthday Boys being the other one) I am going to produce somehow next year.

(EDIT: Nope, it’s 2017, and I still haven’t managed to get Saving Throw Versus Love up in Los Angeles yet. But I’m still trying!)

So much for swearing I’d never produce again. However, this show is THAT GOOD. It’s the story of a guy and how he had to confess to his fiancé that he’s a role-player (like as in D&D, not S&M). She disapproves at first, but he convinces her to try it out and play with him their next session. Hilarity ensues. One of the things I liked best about this show was how accessible the humor was. At first, I thought that only geeks like myself would get most of the references, but that was certainly not the case. The show was funny because we didn’t have to understand what they were doing – we enjoyed watching them play the game and experience it themselves. This show had a capacity house in stitches. Now, I’d run into similar challenges in writing Friends Like These (explaining LARPing in a nutshell, making references to Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon etc) and making it so even if you’ve never heard of these games, you’d get the joke. Well, my hat is off to playwright Larry Brenner. His show creates a lighthearted celebration of geek culture and invites people of all levels of geekdom to enjoy it. Bravo.

After dinner, I meet up with an old friend from high school, Kristin Cantwell, an actress here in Manhattan, for dinner at a restaurant in the village recommended by Mike Shapiro (of the Long Island Shapiros), my collaborator on Super Sidekick: The Musical. I get back to the Hotel Pennsylvania around 11:30pm, grab my bags and jump on the train out to Brooklyn.

Of course by now my phone is dead, so I don’t have my handy-dandy lifesaving app available to help me navigate the city. As a result, I got a little lost.

Long story short, about two hours and one cab ride later, I’m standing in front of the building, trying to remember how to get in. I have to break out my laptop and sit on the sidewalk with my luggage for ten minutes going through my e-mail until I find the message with the check-in instructions. I fetch the key to the place from the 24-hour laundromat on the corner, and I get into the apartment building… only to discover that it’s a fifth-floor walk-up.

I haul over 100 pounds of bags up those stairs and inside the apartment… which is absolutely gorgeous. a lofted two-bedroom unit with a great view of Greenpoint. I shower, get changed and fall asleep checking Facebook.

All-in-all, it’s the end of a very fun and productive day. And just think, this was only the beginning.