Before the show.
I just bought my tickets to the Forstner & Fillister show happening tonight at 9PM, and I'm pretty excited to go! I knew I wanted to go to at least one undercurrents show because I've been to the Fringe festival before and I enjoy the kind of atmosphere smaller shows bring. I find that shows that happen in smaller settings are often much more intimate because of the smaller venue, so it's easier to make eye contact with the actors, and there isn't any huge stage or proscenium arch creating a barrier between what is clearly stage and what is clearly audience. Some of these shows occasionally interact with its audiences as well, with actors speaking directly to an audience member, or handing out little things to the audience (I went to go see Countries Shaped Like Stars for the 20th anniversary of Fringe and they handed out little moustache cookies to everyone! They were yummy and the show was amazing).
What I'm most excited about is this table-building thing they're going to do. I read the description for each show happening at undercurrents and decided on Forstner & Fillister because it seemed light-hearted and I wanted a break from the busy mid-term schedule I've been keeping this week. I love shows that provoke thought and emotion and drama, but sometimes you also just need a break and to laugh until your stomach hurts, and that's what I'm hoping to get out of this show. When we were talking about it in class, the girl who had already seen it made it sound like that's exactly what I'm going to get, and then some, so I hope it's true. I'm a little bit disappointed that she mentioned the way the actors interact with the audience members right off the bat, giving lanyards and pretending you're all at some sort of table-building conference, because now I don't get the opportunity to be pleasantly surprised by this interaction when I get there. After getting over that tiny disappointment, however, my excitement only grew because it's really fun to go to shows where the characters interact with you pre-show. It only adds to the intimate feeling I was talking about with smaller venues—really feeling like you're a part of the story you're about to go see, beginning to end.
I haven't really decided where I'm going to sit yet. I'm not always one to be put on the spot, and I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be being singled out, if it is one of those shows where they choose to interact with the audience members personally—sitting at the front will make it easier for them to see me and potentially choose me. On the other hand, I love sitting at the front at Fringe shows because I get to see every little thing that happens up close, and there aren't any heads in the way reminding me that I'm part of an audience watching a show unfolding, instead of someone being completely immersed in a story. I'll probably see how I feel once I get there.
Anyways, I'm pretty excited! Can't wait to watch these two guys build a table.
After the show.
This show gave me all the laughs I expected going into it, and its story ended up being quite relevant to my life right now, as my brother is coming to visit me in Ottawa tomorrow and we've had plenty of arguments like the one Forstner and Fillister did. I expected I would enjoy the humour of the show, but I didn't expect to get so drawn into the relationship between these two brothers, and I didn't expect to relate so much to Fillister, the younger brother who tries to do everything in a newer, modern way—a contrast to his older brother, who wants to do everything the old-fashioned way, exactly the way their father taught them. It probably just struck a chord with me because my brother and I are the same way—he sticks rigidly to what my parents taught us, and I always try to do whatever it is completely differently.
I'm sure their relationship was relatable to many audience members with siblings or very close friends, especially in the way the brothers argue. They fought and pressed each others' buttons right where it hurts the most, and instead of directly apologizing, they showed each other their forgiveness by working together to finish the table Forstner had stubbornly started to build halfway through their "presentation". I was impressed with the way they played off of each other, both in the lighthearted parts and in their arguments, and how the two of them were able to create such a tense atmosphere in the silence following how they shouted at each other. The theme of familial relationships is well-portrayed in the way they keep bringing up their father's motto of "wood first", and how they bring it up at the end, after they build their table and forgive each other, clinking their beers and saying "wood first" in a way that implies "family first".
I actually enjoyed the writing of the play as a whole—the jokes were funny without trying too hard, they poked fun at professional conferences with just the right amount of cheesy, they talked to the audience enough times to remind us that we were all part of this conference they were holding, and as I mentioned, their conflict and resolution were very realistic to me. The one thing I keep thinking about is the story Fillister told us about his father golfing and shitting (these were Fillister's words!) his pants. I know it's supposed to be about how their father was this overly proud, very masculine guy, and that this pants-shitting incident really humiliated him in front of everyone, cutting down his pride in front of his sons, but I found it to be just a bit too absurd for the message to properly hit home. Either that, or maybe they should have brought up more examples of how toxic their father's pride was to their childhood to drive the point home that no one should ever be that proud.
Other fun things about the show that I loved:
- Forstner talks about how magical it is to see the sawdust floating in the air, reflecting the sunlight coming in through the windows at the shop, and as they woodwork later on, the sawdust does float up in the air and reflect off the lights on the grid and it is quite magical;
- The lanyards and the audience interaction were both great! You really felt like you were part of the show because of how they treated everyone as part of the conference. At the beginning, they went and talked to you and gave out business cards, and Fillister was kind enough to take a selfie with me;
- There is a part in the show where they do math to figure out measurements for their table, and there was a guy in the audience who had extreme mental math skills and called out the answers, so the brothers started referring to him to answer their questions! They have enough audience participation to make each show slightly unique, and that makes each one feel special.
It was also fun to walk into the Arts Court and see all the fancy flashing lights and the disco ball—it really adds to the party feel of the undercurrents festival as a whole!
Overall, it was a great experience, and yet another great example of why I love shows that happen in smaller venues, and why I love going to shows that happen at festivals like this.
(In case you were wondering, I decided to sit in the second row: close enough to the front to see every detail, but not in a way that makes it easy for me to be chosen to stand up and do something. I think this was a good call, because they did indeed choose someone to get up and stand on stage. Audience participation can add a lot to a show, but I'm not a great on-the-spot thinker so I'd rather just watch other audience members be put on the spot instead!)
Hello! My name is Reine Tejares, and this is my blog for THE 2100: The Theatrical Event at the University of Ottawa.