The Debriefing


Twitter comment, @CaseFile319After six sold out shows at the 2013 Ottawa Fringe Festival, Bob Shirley got what he was always destined to and the Bureau of Bat Shit Crazy packed itself up and moved out of Studio Leonard-Beaulne a mere two weeks after it moved in.

This post, really, is simply me saying how grateful I am for having won the chance to put The Bureau of Bat Shit Crazy together.

The People Who Made The Show a Success


The Bureau of Bat Shit Crazy on stage.First, I’m grateful for the truly remarkable team I was able to put together. This was a particularly ambitious production (I’ve never been accused of thinking small) that really required everybody’s dedication and support to pull off properly and everybody delivered, many stepping up to go above and beyond what was expected of them.

Including cast, crew, ensemble, and those on the periphery, there were almost thirty people who had a direct and visible hand in bringing the Bureau of Bat Shit Crazy to life. Each of them were stars in their own right and perfect for the jobs they had. I could not imagine having had a better group — even if we were cursed to never have perfect attendance at any rehearsal between the second table read and the second to last dress rehearsal. Seriously, missing crew is one thing, but working around missing actors was the real treat.

The People Who Made The Show a Success


The cast and crew of The Bureau of Bat Shit CrazySecond I’m grateful for the turnout and response to the show, which was almost universally positive.

Three out of four reviews were very positive, there was a lot of praise on Twitter, and, most importantly, the more than four hundred people who got to see the show seemed to have a great time. I don’t know if we were really “everything that Fringe is about” as I read in a couple places, but I’ll take it.

What of that forth review? Was I disappointed that somebody didn’t like the show? No. Not at all. I, more than anybody, appreciate the subjectivity of opinion and understand that not everybody’s going to love what they see. Plus, it was completely expected.

We were building The Bureau of Bat Shit Crazy for a very specific target audience and set out to service them. Our two market segments were lovers of high-energy fast-paced comedy and, more specifically, real genre geeks (I’ve made no secret about drawing a lot of inspiration on the Doctor Who model but I’ve heard love from a lot of Sci Fi fans across the spectrum). To paraphrase a song from one of my favourite musicals, it was better to be nine people’s favourite thing than to be one hundred people’s ninth favourite thing. We knew who our nine people were, we (the cast and crew) were those people, and we worked on building a show that would entertain the pants off of them. (Get it? Pants off… No? Sigh.)

Based on the overall public and critical response, we succeeded.


Trouble with the video?
Watch on YouTube instead.

So while I’m sorry that fourth reviewer didn’t dig the Bureau of Bat Shit Crazy, it wasn’t her cup of tea, and that’s cool. It most likely means she wasn’t our target audience.

Does that mean the show was perfect? Hells no. As good as it turned out, I know that in an alternate universe where the production wasn’t cursed and/or we had another week of rehearsal, this cast and crew could have taken it to a whole other level.

I’m also aware of where the flaws in the script, and the direction, were. There’s already a list of things that I’ll be emphasizing or diminishing or adding or removing or just changing if the show is ever remounted or if I make good on my threat to turn it into a full two-act play. And as a director, I know that I’m not always as confident and strong-willed as I could be when pushing actors (I’m a bit of a soft touch sometimes) and that I take fewer risks on the vision and driving a hard line towards it than I could — and I see where that didn’t do the show justice. If you want something specific, there was one beat at the end of scene four that we spent hours trying to solve in rehearsal and that I’ve only just figured out now, weeks later, while watching some of the reference video we shot at rehearsal.

Closing day sold out more than forty minutes before show time.Even with all that, for what we intended and what I expected and what we pulled off —
we crushed it.

The evidence is in six sold out shows, many sold out twenty to forty minutes before show time, several in off-prime time slots, and four at extra-capacity for SLB. Granted, the first couple of shows selling out, that was all about marketing. We had a great title and a great hook and a great marketing plan–again, tailored to our target market. But the earliest sell outs were our last two shows, and that wouldn’t have happened if people weren’t loving it.

So, in the end, thank you.