Fringe NYC at 20


Tickets for the 20th annual New York International Fringe Festival go on sale today. My hat goes off to its co-founder and director Elena K. Holy at this auspicious benchmark. My admiration for what she has built in the past two decades is immense. She is a hero. A very well organized hero, like all of history’s best generals. That’s how wars — even cultural ones — are won.

Like all great friendships my amount of ardor for this festival ebbs and flows at times over the years, but the bottom line is that the volume of art that has been encouraged, supported, and delivered to the public by FringeNYC has been staggering. Most years my frame of mind is such that the festival is like a true and proper holiday, and I’m excited like a kiddie at all the presents I am about to open. (That is, the 3/4 of the time I haven’t actually been busy with a show of my own in the festival. That proud history is here).

The best theatre is always a risk, for the audience as well as the artists. Such risks can be thrilling. The bigger the risks, the bigger the thrills. And Fringe is still a place where artists are encouraged to go out on a limb. To see a LOT of theatre like that in a short time can be most invigorating.

With so many shows to be seen it’s impossible to see ’em all (and who would want to?) Invariably the catalog descriptions of scores and scores and scores of them are of no interest to me at all. What generally grabs me are: 1) shows with artists I already know and follow; and 2) shows that happen to overlap with my own personal interests at the moment. And no amount of gimmicks or backflips will make me stray outside those pre-decided areas.

Of the former category, there are relatively few this year. At the top is Off Track, written by good friend James Comtois and directed by Tim Errickson, and starring several other friends. The very funny Andrea Alton has a show as her character Molly “Equality” Dykeman with partner Allen Warnock called A Microwaved Burrito Filled with E. Coli. I am highly intrigued to see that Daily News editor Gersh Kuntzman has a show in the festival this year. I’ve known and worked with Gersh many times over the years. When I was p.r. man at New-York Historical Society, I pitched to him as a NY Post columnist, and maybe also when I worked at Coney Island USA now that I think on it. I definitely worked with him when he was a talking head on BCAT’s local political shows (I did marketing there as well). And I wrote a couple of pieces for him when he was editor at the Brooklyn Paper. Now, not surprisingly, he has co-authored a comedy-mystery called Murder at the Food Coop — a highly Park Slopey satire, which interests me on yet another level, as it’s my ‘hood.

I see too that playwright Kevin R. Free has a show up: Night of the Living N. Word. This brings up what seems to be the strongest theme in this year’s festival, shows of African American interest. I see around ten of them that look interesting to me: Black and Blue, Black Magic, Colorblind’d, Let the Devil Take the Hindmost, Power! Stokey Carmichael, Pryor Truth, Red Devil Moon, Transcend, and W.E.B. DuBois: A Man for All Times.

There are some semi-related political ones that grabbed my attention: the satire Not All Cops Are Bad, Waiting for Obama, Zuccotti Park and Seeger (a one man show about the folk singer).

Two shows about New Orleans caught my eye: The Braggart of Bourbon Street and Interludes: A New (Orleans) Play. 

There’s a handful with historical angles that interest me: Amelia and Her Paper Tigers (about Amelia Earhart), Dementia Americana (about the Evelyn Nesbit/ Harry Thaw/ Stanford White triangle), and Lunt and Fontanne. The latter leads into another mini-theme, a couple of faux British sounding theatre parodies: A Brandy Before Dying and The Intriguing Engagements of Frances and Meg Cheatham, Ladies of Society. 

There seem to be two shows by former prostitutes: Cuntagious and Honor: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan.

Readers of Travalanche may be especially interested in the sideshow themed The Extraordinary Fall of the Four Legged Woman, and At the Crossroads, which provides a musical setting to the silent movie Faust. 

Two interesting takes on Shakespeare: Richard III: A One Woman Show and Til Burnham Wood (a version of MacBeth in which the entire audience is blindfolded).

Some things that just grabbed me as really fun looking were Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show by the Amerasian duo Slanty Eyed Mama, and Humorously Horrendous Haunted Hideaway (just because I like ghosts).

Tall Pines Lodge is called “a thriller in the tradition of Jim Thompson” and that sounds like something I might like. And I REALLY like the title The Unusual Tale of Joseph and Mary’s Baby. 

Okay, them’s the ones that jumped out at me. My eyes are always bigger than my belly. If I’m lucky maybe I’ll catch a few. To check out the offerings for yourself and buy tickets (they go on sale today) go here. 

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