Guest Blog: Showing Up Without a Clue

A guest blog by Peter Michael Marino

“Let’s do this.” While recently editing this first line of my newest solo show, Show Up, I realized that my last two solo shows started with the same exact line. Lazy writing? A way to get the audience excited? I’m not so sure. I think it’s actually more of a mantra for me than for the audience. “Just do this, Pete, and in an hour it will all be over.”

When I decided to perform my first show, Desperately Seeking the Exit , at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe, I was terrified. That it would fail. That no one would come. That no one would care. Yet I kept thinking about that semi-famous phrase by the semi-famous American First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do something every day that scares you.” I hadn’t really been following Eleanor’s advice up until then, so I figured if I did a month at the Fringe, it would make up for at least a year of not doing anything that scared me.

The show did well and I brought it back the next year. I didn’t return the following year, because I was terrified to create a new show. How could I do better than the first show? Were my expectations too high? Was it even worth it? Again, Eleanor’s voice rang out in my head. So, in 2105 I brought my solo character show Late with Lance! to the Fringe and produced someone else’s show. Yes. It scared me, but in the end again, it was totally worth it.

After these triumphs, what else could I do? What would my new show be about? I’m not one of those folks who joins a cult, or goes on a thousand dates, or puts myself through an ayahuasca experience in South America so I’ll have  some juicy material to base a show on. I wasn’t going to start doing standup. And I certainly wasn’t going to do a play with (gulp) other people!

But I knew I had to return to the Fringe to be inspired. To have faith in art again. To face my fear and have some fucking fun.

About a year ago, I whined to a friend about my dilemma. “I don’t have a new show. Why can’t I just show up at a theater a create a show on the spot?” My friend replied, “Because that sounds terrifying.” And that’s when I knew I had to do just that. Just. Show. Up. Easy, right? NO!

Outside of Facebook, I’m not a famous person. A non-famous person cannot just show up and entertain an audience half-full of strangers for an hour. What the hell was this show going to be? Well, I’ve been writing, performing, directing and producing solo shows forever, so I used that as a jumping off point. I’d create a solo show based on the lives of the audience. And it would obviously be called Show Up. Easy, right? NO!

There had to be a structure. There had to be a why. There had to be stakes and a story and twists and turns. There had to be something vulnerable and human. I called my director late one night and said, “This show has to also be about my damn social anxiety and depression. And the audience. And hope.” She agreed. And that’s exactly what the show is about – in addition to being about the audience’s own enlightening and shite life experiences.

I booked dates at a theater (because let’s face it, there’s nothing more terrifying than plunking down tons of money to rent a theater in NYC for a show that you’re semi-improvising) and it happened. I was getting off on the fear! Then I did it  again a few weeks later.  I liked not having a clue about what was going to happen on that stage. And again a week later. I enjoyed seeing the audience going along for a mystery ride to an unknown destination. And again and again.

I had to bring this show to the Fringe. And I had to jump on board to produce yet another show at the Fringe in addition to my own. And I had to say yes to being in yet another show at the Fringe. What the hell? Am I terrified? YES! But, in my mind, I’ve changed the word “terrified” to “excited”and that’s a lot easier to deal with.

I don’t know if Eleanor Roosevelt reads Fringe blogs from the great beyond, but if you are reading this, thank you for scaring the crap out of me. And thank you for challenging me to face my fear, instead of running from it. And thank you for letting my cluelessness give me a clue.

Oh! And RIGHT HERE is the fancy new 45-second trailer for the show!

Show Up plays the Laughing Horse Free Festival  at the Counting House (39 W Nicolson), at 15.30 every day during EdFringe (dark 14 & 21 Aug)