Time speeds up when the end is nigh. When the last week of the festival hit, suddenly life was on fast-forward -- so much to do and only six, five, four days to do it. Not only is the clock winding down, but every time you turn around something new has gotten a five-star review or won and award, and the list of things left to do grows frantically longer with every passing hour. What you've done become eclipsed by what you won't do, because there's no way to come to the Fringe and expect to experience even half of what it has to offer.
But I think that the best way to experience the Fringe is not to make a long list and stick to it, but rather open up your expectations and let yourself be surprised. Some of the things you were excited about end up letting you down (for example, a show that shall remain unnamed in which a man in heavy make-up yelled at us for what felt like eternity but was actually only an hour). On the other hand, sometimes you go to a weird little free show in the basement of a bar because you met the guy performing it and he seemed nice, and it ends up being one of the most fun things you'll do at the whole festival (Tomas Ford's one-man cabaret at Jekyll and Hyde, which should have been on everyone's list).
The highlight of my 2012 Fringe experience, and indeed surpassing any highlight of my 2005 and 2007 Fringe experiences, was the dreary Sunday night my sister dragged me to a "Finnish electro-pop a capella rock band." My family had seen them without me the night before and had nothing but raves. Still, with a description like that I was trepidatious at best. Ten p.m. rolled around and I turned to Sally, "Maybe we should just skip it. I'm tired."
"No," she said, "I know you're skeptical but trust me. They're so cool."
We arrived with almost no time to spare, and ran from the ticket booth to the theatre, sliding into the first seats we saw. When the lights dimmed and Fork took the stage, I realized that there was a legitimately bad-ass rock concert happening every night at 10:25 in the George Square gardens. When our stage manager turned 21, I took her to Fork, mostly as an excuse to go again myself. "I know you're skeptical," I said, "but trust me."
When our friends Ellie and Lindsey came to visit, they asked us to show them a good night out. First stop? Fork.
Falling in love with things that sound so absurd on paper is part of the magic of the Fringe. It's part of what compelled me to come back after two summers spent performing and stage managing with the HWS Rembiko Project while I was in high school. A lot has changed since then. At age 15 I called my first show, mucking up the light cues for The Gondoliers: County U.S.A., a messy mash-up of Gilbert, Sullivan, and American political satire. My biggest worries were parting my hair to the side instead of the center, and discussing cute boys with my roommates.
I've come a long way from that gawky teenager sneaking into Silent Disco. I've now stage-managed for professional theatres in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, and The House of Shadows allows me to claim the title "international producer." But I don't think you can ever grow out of the sense of wonder that the Fringe's best moments can inspire.
Leaving now, I feel a strange sense of loss. I felt it five and seven years ago, as well, and it's what compelled me to come back, whatever that required. It's not about leaving my compatriots, since we'll all be reunited in less than a week, and it's not about leaving particular people or places we encountered on the Fringe since they will always be preserved in the rosy-colored vaults of memory and nostalgia. It's about leaving the experience and the feeling of the Fringe. Being part of something crazy, ridiculous, hilarious, and wonderful. There's nothing else quite like it.