When I last checked in with Brian Haimbach, writer, actor, and head of the theater program at Lane Community College, it was February 2016, and he was about to premiere his one-man show, How to Be a Sissy.
I couldn’t give it away in print then, but can happily admit now that I was in on a little secret. At the close of the show last year, Haimbach was going to propose to his longtime partner, Vincent Mays.
“I got down on one knee,” Haimbach says. “And said, ‘Now that we can — I think we should.’”
Well, it worked — Mays accepted. And now, in addition to planning his wedding this summer, Haimbach is taking Sissy to the granddaddy of them all, the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe.
Founded in 1947, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival. In 2016, the festival spanned 25 days and featured 50,266 performances of 3,269 shows in 294 venues.
“Every nook and cranny of that city becomes a theater during that month,” Haimbach says. “It’s a madhouse.”
Haimbach sought support to present at the Fringe from the Oregon Arts Commission’s Individual Artist granting program, and he learned this winter that his project was selected.
“The Fringe is the most visible theater festival in the world,” Haimbach says. “I don’t know what did the trick, but I’m grateful. I feel extremely lucky.”
Haimbach will be at the Fringe for the whole month of August. And he won’t be idle.
“I’m performing every day, once per day, for 26 days,” he says.
He has secured a venue, but the audience is not guaranteed. In fact, at the Fringe, Haimbach will have to hustle to get butts in seats.
“I’ll be busking all day long — handing out flyers,” he says with a laugh. But he’s serious. “And I have to run my own tech,” he adds.
“Getting this grant has been such a boost to my confidence — that people believe in me,” Haimbach says. “This is a one-person production, self-directed, and I’m looking forward to doing it day after day, to seeing how it settles into itself.”
How to Be a Sissy explores Haimbach’s experience growing up gay.
“You have to tell your story — that’s it,” Haimbach says. “It’s only though telling our stories that we’re going to recognize each other’s humanity.”
For Haimbach, theater affords the opportunity to create empathy.
“This is what I’ve gone through, this is how I responded to it. Theater does that better than any other art form,” Haimbach says. “But I am a theater guy.”
How to Be a Sissy plays 7 pm June 29 at the Wayward Lamb. Or you can fly to Edinburgh during the month of August to see Haimbach’s world tour.