“Nancy Drewinsky” and This Year’s Frigid Festival

It was only a few days ago that I was walking around depressed about a lack of a legacy on the part of our generation of indie theatre makers…certain things, certain institutions I thought we had built that have folded, or eroded, or faded away. Then last night I went to a show. I hadn’t planned it that way, but it turned out to be the very first performance in this year’s Frigid Festival. And the experience put the wind back in my sails.

Now, I’ve known about the Frigid Festival since its inception, but this is a city of many festivals, and for a long time there was another one in particular that was much larger, that got a lot of press attention, and that seemed like, for all intents and purposes, the “official” one. I don’t mean to use the past tense as regards its existence. As far as I know it’s still around. But for a long while it seems to have been chugging along like an automated machine without the soul and the love and the freedom to breathe and experiment that it had possessed initially. I won’t dwell on the used-to-was, I just want to say that I walked into the Kraine Thatre yesterday afternoon, and perused the catalog for this year’s Fridge Festival, and saw titles like Martin Dockery: Delerium, Artaud Marat, Big Tits Energy, Finding Fellini, and Sexpert: Madame K, and felt reassured that the milieu I so love had not fallen off the face of the earth.

Additionally in the lobby, I picked up Issue #1 of a very cool new ‘zine called Reviews from Underground, which is full of indie theatre reviews.

I also felt myself oddly reassured by a Jewish Baby Boomer’s solo show about her family’s persecution during McCarthyism. The persecution is not so reassuring, but making theatre about it, especially during the new period we’re entering, is very much so. Robin Bady’s Nancy Drewinsky…And the Search for the Missing Letter is more under the head of political performance art than theatre per se, but it was an enlightening hour, in which we learned about 41 scientists, most of them Jewish, who had worked for the army signal corps at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey, the same facility where Julius Rosenberg had been employed. Fears of a spy ring were unleashed, and two of the scientists at the facility, Joel Barr and Alfred Sarant, did in fact did prove to be Soviet agents. The rest, like Bady’s father, however were not, and their families lived under the chill of suspicion, ostracization, disruption, and emotional turmoil for a long time to come. Unlike its namesake Nancy Drewisnky is not escapism but a leap to a lateral hellscape many decades in the past. It’s a lesson in “never again” — that is, if it’s not too late for such a lesson. More on the show here.