I have now reported on the 2008 Indianapolis Fringe Festival for seven days straight. I am taking today (Thursday) and maybe tomorrow off from seeing shows to play catch-up with my posts and my life. Even God took a break after six days, right? And God knows, NO reviewer is a deity.
So, before I get dressed and take myself out for brunch, here are some brief comments about what I saw last night (Wednesday), plus some other bits of Fringe-related news and gossip:
** I paid $10 instead of using my media pass and saw “The Birdmann“ a second time. I loved his quirky charm and bizarre inventiveness even more when I wasn’t trying to take notes on it. My friend and tireless Fringe volunteer, Sue Grizzell, seemed also to enjoy his show.
His last show is tonight (Thursday) at 9:00. I wish him the best for his next series of shows in New York, and I wish him a safe journey back to his home and girlfriend in Surfers’ Paradise, Australia, but like the girl in the “Red River Valley” song, I will miss his bright eyes and sweet smile.
** Matt Panesh, the Monkey Poet from England, is back! This year’s show, “The Big Brown Number Two” is even more outrageous, disgusting, and endearing than last year’s. Oh, my goodness, this brave man’s stories and poems about life, sex, and politics are funny. Have you ever been fisted?
** Every time I think I have seen every new artist that I really want to see at the Fringe this year, I see a show that makes me think, “Thank goodness I didn’t miss this one!” “In Rehearsal,” by Alison Vodnoy, is such a show. At first, it is just a fairly interesting list of some of the people she has dated. She incorporates dance and a large video screen into her telling, but it is still pretty much just “I dated one wrong person after another.” Haven’t we all.
Mind you, her words and movements occasionally did have me in tears of recognition and sympathy.
But then she becomes each of the people she dated, and tells the story from their points of view. This is when the show becomes truly fascinating as a piece of performance art. Her portrayals are richly, and insightfully, differentiated.
I will write a fuller review of each of these shows eventually.
Other Fringe news from the Performers’ Luncheon:
** Croft Vaughn, the man who plays Sinclair in the very well-received “Stinky Flowers” show, came up to me at the Fringe Performers’ Luncheon yesterday and asked if I would revise my review to include mention of his director, Adam Goldstein, and his stage manager, Elizabeth Gordon, both from the Drawing Board Arts Project, plus Fritzie Andrade, the managing producer of Vaughn’s home theatre company, WTE. None of them could be here with him at this Fringe, but “They are my good friends and give me a lot of brilliant help.”
Vaughn did a version of the “Stinky Flowers” piece himself in December of 2006. Goldstein saw it and asked if he could direct it. His company, the Drawing Board Arts Project, provided both director and stage manager. Vaughn also approached WTE about taking the show to the Edinburgh Fringe, which they did.
I said that of course I would share this information. Most Fringe shows don’t have printed programs, which is okay, but their absence means that reviewers don’t have them to use as cheat sheets, and therefore sometimes important people go uncredited. I am delighted to be able to add my thanks to the people who helped Vaughn create the lovely “Stinky Flowers” piece.
** Someone (was it Les Kurkendall from the “Christmas in Bakersfield” show?) told me about couchsurfing.com. Performers on the Fringe circuit use it to find cheap places to stay in order to keep their production costs down. Not every Fringe festival finds housing for performers from out-of-town, the way the Indy Fringe does.
** Several performers mentioned how great it is that our Fringe venues are all within walking distance of each other. It is a treat for them to be able to easily see each other’s shows. I was surprised to learn that most other Fringe festivals around the country do not have this geographical asset.
** Brent McCoy, aka “Clown at Work,” and a friend were practicing their juggling after they ate lunch. McCoy heard me and Susan (I’m sorry, I didn’t catch her last name! I thought she was a Fringe Board member, but now I don’t find her name on the Fringe website) talking about how we wished we knew how to juggle.
He came over and encouraged us to find a good teacher at the local underground juggling club. “Every metropolitan area has one,” he said. A good teacher, and practice, will help you develop good habits so that your body senses where and how to catch the ball or stick or whatever, so that you don’t have to try to look for how to catch it.
He also said that 7 or 8 years old is the best age to start juggling training. Younger than that is too young for juggling but great for learning how to ride a unicycle.
I bet kids love being taught by him, back in Vermont.
** The guys from “Adventures in Mating” tore out the page that includes the library book paragraph from their mammoth script and gave it to me! I promised not to post it here on my blog so as to respect the rights of the playwright, but I do get to tack it up on the bulletin board here in my home office. I love this souvenir!
** I enjoyed meeting and chatting with Fringe Board Vice-President Nora Campbell, Fringe Board Vice-President and Treasurer Wendy Harrison, Fringe Street Theatre Committee Chair Bruce Kelley, and Fringe Executive Director Pauline Moffat.
Campbell told me that she and current Executive Director Pauline Moffat met when they each “just walked into the headquarters that first year…We were all just feeling our way around.”
But Campbell can see a big difference just four years later:
- the festival is better organized
- there has been more publicity
- attendance has been greater
- Mass Ave merchants have “embraced us”
- there are more volunteers
In other words, “the growth thing.”
I have only attended the Fringe for two years, but even I can see that each year the people in charge learn from their mistakes and improve the festival a bit more. As Harrison said to me about the development of Mass. Ave. itself: “Slow growth is healthiest.”
I was delighted when Bruce Kelley came up to say “hi” to me, too. I had not seen him since he gave me a backstage tour of the Alley Theater, last year. He told me he had just returned from performing in “The President’s New Clothes” at the Denver and Washington, DC fringe festivals. How cool is that! I am sorry that I missed this show when it was in last year’s Indy Fringe.
I told him that many people in the Indy theatre community have been wondering if the Alley Theater is still in business. Many of us have loved seeing and/or working on shows there.
He shared with me what’s been going on, and I agreed to let him give the details publicly when he is ready. In the meantime, I think it is okay for me to say that I have a lot of respect for him and his soon to be ex-wife, Michelle. Whatever they decide to do with their theatre space, I wish them both well.
Later in the day I met Sherrie (sp?) Baptista at the ComedySports Arena. She was selling tickets for the Monkey Poet. She told me that her husband, Fringe Board President Tom Battista, works all year to get our Fringe ready…and then has to leave town during the actual festival!
“What? WHY?” I asked. “How can he stand it?”
“He calls me on my cell every day, asking how it’s going,” she replied. But his day job is working with Jimmy Buffet’s road show, so when he has to go on tour, he has to go on tour.
Man. Is that dedication or what? I appreciate the Battistas’ hard work and the hard work of EVERYONE involved with the Indianapolis Fringe Festival. I love being able to attend it.
My second-to-last bit of news, which you may have already heard, is that the new Fringe headquarters includes rehearsal space. Pauline Moffat told me that this, in addition to the monthly Fringe Friday events year-round, are making the Fringe even better, too. The rehearsal space helps the performers year-round, and the Fringe Friday events keep the volunteers and audience members involved and interested year-round.
My last bit of news is that Moffat told me she also is planning to have a female playwrights’ festival in the new headquarters. She asked if I would help promote it and I said yes.
And there: I just did.
The 2008 Indianapolis Fringe Festival continues this weekend. ‘See you on Mass. Ave!
Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com