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Five life hacks to mentally survive the unbelievably shitty Fringe shows you will see

By David Cote

If you check out our Fringe Festival page, you will see some quite positive reviews: four stars…wow, even five! But guess what? There are 200 damn shows in the Fringe, and you know that many of them—if they get reviewed—would draw three or two stars. And a two-star Fringe show isn’t like a two-star show in the real world. A two-star Fringe show is a special kind of awful, where the acting school dropout and the first-time writer-director-designer team up to murder two hours of your life. Don’t get me wrong: The Fringe is a wonderful thing, a playground, incubator, circus…pick your marketing metaphor. I even directed a show there in 1998 (which was fucking brilliant). But it’s also a place where much bad, bad art happens. So unless you want to leave halfway through that dance-rap-puppet adaptation of Ulysses and break a dream, here are tricks to pass the time:

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1. View it as performance art. The actors are not actors. The play is not a play. They learned their lines phonetically and there is a postmodern method to the madness. You think that trained, talented actors and writers are more worthy of your time? How bourgeois of you. Nothing is more intellectually bracing than the boredom of watching inept amateurs bump into each other on stage, uttering words that died inside their hearts. That is true art—a sucking vacuum of art.

2. Imagine everyone naked. Chances are the cast is young and reasonably attractive (being paid in cheap beer and summer showmance). Would the dramaturgy be improved by partial or full nudity? Then go ahead and imagine it! Note: At some shows, you won’t have to work so hard.

3. Cook lasagna in your mind. Have you ever made lasagna? Me neither! But now is a great time to start. First you have to buy the pasta noodles, marinara sauce—no! let’s make the sauce from scratch—garlic, onion, ricotta, mozzarella… Meat or vegetarian? Preheat the oven to 375 degrees… Before you know it, you’ll be slicing up a savory square of cheesy, tomatoe-y goodness just as the dazed actors are taking bows to tepid applause.

4. Bring peace to the Middle East. Retreating deep into your subconscious to avoid the trauma of a particularly crappy Fringe show, you can get a lot done: write an epic poem, work out complex mathematical equations, maybe even come up with a cunning solution to the centuries-old sociopolitical antipathies that have turned the Middle East into a breeding ground for religious intolerance, fanaticism and social inequality. Or just go back to imagining everyone naked.

5. Practice upright silent open-eye sleep technique. This may take a while to master, but you have nothing but time, right? First, make sure your pupils are well moistened. Then slide a three-foot wooden plank down the back of your shirt and lash yourself to the seat by means of an extra long belt. Now let nature take its course. You may have to use tranquilizers at first, depending on how horrific the show is. People with sensitive eyes cheat by painting peepers on fake glasses. But soon you’ll be slyly drifting off to dreamland, looking like every other appalled spectator around you.


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