Edison, a new play by Joshua Walker, toured five international cities throughout the summer of 2017 following a University-wide collaboration in March 2017. The play began its life as a small workshop production in a dance studio on the second floor of the Terra building in November 2016. From there, Edison grew into a three-act cross experimental play produced as a Brind School senior thesis, directed by Sandy Doria, designed by Bryan Schall, and written by Joshua Walker. The piece tells the story of the life, career, and brutally stolen dreams of mastermind Nikola Tesla as coordinated by one of the biggest crooks of modern history, Thomas Alva Edison. Beginning in late May 2017, with major support from the Corzo Center Innovation Lab at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, the tour of Edison began at the 16th Annual Prague Fringe Festival in Prague, Czech Republic. After a month long break, the tour continued in early July at the International Youth Arts Festival in Kingston upon Thames, England, then the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival, the Buxton Festival Fringe, and concluding at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe which took place for the entire month of August. In total, there were thirty-six performances of Edison in five different festivals.
Lessons Learned and Conclusions
While we began with the intention of continuing Edison beyond this summer, we were a bit disappointed by the vast amount of highly commercial and expensive theatre that was taking place at the Fringe. We felt out of place in what should have been our home base. We had an extremely scrappy piece that was put together on a budget that was a fraction of what some of these other pieces were presenting. This thing that we were so proud of accomplishing was the very same reason why we were getting harshly reviewed by the critics. Then, almost two thirds through our run, we received a review from Fringe Review which absolutely put everything we were working towards in context. The last paragraph sums it up the best:
“I’m pretty sure some of you who go on my recommendation will hate me for it. But I found something so fresh in the anarchy on display here that I am willing to forgive them all of their infractions. If you’re hoping to find out more about the real-life Tesla or Edison, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you’re hoping for a science lesson, again this is not the show you are looking for. If you want cogent storytelling, strong characterisation and a satisfying ending, steer clear. But if you want to fart in the face of theatrical convention, if you like your drama hewn from the recesses of a twisted poet’s mind, if you (like me) like coming out of the theatre going “whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?????????”, then to you I wholeheartedly recommend this strange, strange production. Fearlessly bonkers. Just like Tesla.”
In the end, we decided that it would not be in our best interest to continue moving on with the production. There are other projects we all want to work on. We feel that we have hit an excellent conclusion. We did the impossible with this production. It was neither easy nor clear cut. The path was filled with turmoil, conflict, and debt. As an ensemble, we will fearlessly march into our futures with this knowledge and experience on our side. Some of us will go on to create new Fringe pieces. Many members of our group began planning their own pieces they want to bring to Scotland next year. Some will have learned better and stay far away. Regardless, Edison was a milestone for all of us. I can guarantee that none of us are the same artists as when we began.
The total cost of the production was approximately $33,470.08. The total amount raised in fundraising, grants, and ticket sales was approximately $31,869.62, resulting in a loss of approximately $1,600.46. For more information on the budget or any other figures about the tour, please email lead producer Bryan Schall at firstname.lastname@example.org.