Okay, here’s the first properly-prompted piece of writing for Publishing 101. Because, yes, this is all for class.

Lucky for me, I don’t have to go out and brave the perils of pandemic spikes or smoky skies. Because I already did.

As I mentioned in my previous post, last weekend I participated in Judith Fair, a variety night put on by Alley Theatre and the Fringe Festival. It was me and, like, about a dozen other women and non-binary performers. It was a delight, being able to perform again and watch other performers.

But also, it was a delight talking to complete and utter strangers. Like, in the real world. Not through Zoom. Sure, there were still masks and distancing protocols, but it was more than, say, interaction with the grocery store cashier. And they were strangers.

All of these factors in tandem was something I hadn’t seen in about six months.

I remember being scared at first. Sure, I’d talked to strangers plenty over quarantine, through my Zoom-based work in the art scene, but there’d always been the screen.

Fortunately, there were a couple of people I knew. For example, the producer who I’d been emailing with, and the host, who I’d worked with in the past. I pretty much clung to them.

That’s the one major difference from online interaction: you’re physically there. People can approach you, and there’s nothing you can do. People can see you, whether you like it or not.

But the secret? You can see them too, and there’s literally nothing more thrilling than the rush of seeing someone do something cool, and going up and telling them it was cool.

I did it to basically all my fellow performers, because like I’m pretty sure I’ve stated, this was a variety night packed with talent. Comedians, musicians, slam poets, storytellers… a little bit of everything.

Most of those had to wait until after the performances, because I’d missed most of the rehearsal. But the one full practice I caught was for the stage combat routine. It was majestic: one moment they had rapiers, another there was a dagger, there’s an interlude where they waltz… the setting is just their playground. And everything’s to music!

So, I overcame all my anxieties and at the end applauded and practically shouted, “That was so cool!”

They thanked me. And when the night came, as I finished up the interlude music (that was my job of the night: besides my own performance, I’d improvise music on my synth as acts rotated), one of them walked to our side of the stage and winked at me. It honestly made my night, because they were… so cool to me.

So, look at that. I threw out a compliment and got some pals!

And just as we were finishing setup, I got to be on the receiving end of that exchange. The other musician on the roster, a pop and metal musician, came up to ask about my synth. That’s fair: it’s a Suzuki QChord, which you don’t see often because they’re 20 years old and honestly just weird synth guitars. We got to talking about school, identity, and all kinds of cool things. The day after, we just drifted naturally towards each other and started talking about AirDrop of all things. We even bantered with each other onstage!

Overall, for a first time meeting strangers in the real world? Things went well. We’ve been emailing all week and following each other on Instagram. We’re hoping to meet again sometimes, ideally in a world without masks.

Take it from me, someone who braved a dozen strangers and came back unscathed: you probably aren’t as rusty with people as you think, and everyone’s as happy to be there as you are. Everyone’s just so happy to see other people, and there’s nothing like expressing that joy out loud.

So, yeah. Don’t be scared of strangers! We’re all in the same boat, after all. Just looking for an excuse to spread love.