08 Fringe: Quick Notes

On my way back to my car tonight (the 2nd Saturday of the 2008 Indy Fringe Festival in Indianapolis, Indiana) after a 10:30 show, Justin from the Fringe office pulled up to me on his bicycle.  “It’s been a big night for us,” he said.  “Four or five shows sold out, or came very close.”

“Yay!” I said.  “Which ones?”

“‘Phil the Void,’ ‘Monkey Poet’ and ‘And I Am Not Making This Up’ came very, very close, if they didn’t actually sell out.  ‘Assholes and Aureoles,’ ‘Adventures in Mating,’ and ‘Moved’ definitely sold out.  Isn’t that surprising?  I hadn’t heard any buzz about ‘Moved.'”

I hadn’t either until yesterday, when my new, five-year-old friend, Hannah, told me I should see it.  I guess the kindergarten grapevine is the one to tap if you really want to know which shows to see. 

I wonder if Hannah has a blog.

I took Thursday off from seeing shows at the 2008 Indy Fringe Festival, but I couldn’t stay away longer than a day.  On Friday night (last night) I stayed out WAY too late with friends and didn’t get any writing done.  It was worth it – I had a great time bonding and flirting and discussing and so on – but now (Saturday night), I am even farther behind in my reviews.  So…here are some quick notes about what I saw yesterday and today:

** The Time Machine – This is an odd show that uses life-sized child puppets that look as if they have day jobs as mannequins for the window of a small town’s Ben Franklin store.  The two human actor/puppet manipulators are Jameson App (the butler, Wentworth) and Kent Livingston (The Traveler.)  They were directed by Ty Stover.  The story moves a bit slowly through the middle, and the sound bleed from the restaurant next door to the American Cabaret Theatre is annoyingly distracting, but I left feeling charmed and wanting to read the novella by H. G. Wells on which the show is based.

** Potpourri Potluck Kitchen Sink Meatloaf – This piece involves playwright Matt Potis unapologetically reading aloud several first-person stories based on events from his own life.   He sits on a folding chair with his notebook on a tv tray, and at first you think, “Is this it?  Just some guy reading from a notebook?”  But then you get caught up in the hilarity, and gentle irreverence, of the stories.  Potis is an EXCELLENT reader.  And writer, for that matter.

I got a chance to chat with Potis later.  He told me that he had originally planned to bring a staged show from Shantz Theater Company (his home theatre in Chicago) to the 2008 Indy Fringe, as he has in previous years, but then his wife got a new job and therefore couldn’t take a week off to help him with it.   Then, a cast member in his “plan B” show got engaged and dropped out to plan her wedding.  So he just did the best he could and brought us, his Indy fans, some stories he thought we would like.

‘Works for me, especially since he clearly spent a lot of time deciding how best to read them aloud, and then practicing.

** Phil the Void: Comedy Over Quality – I paid to see this a second time, instead of using my media pass.  It was standing room only and HOT in the ComedySportz Arena, but people were roaring with laughter anyway.  My friend Sarah was there because someone had told her that she would like Phil Van Hest’s work because she likes David Sedaris’ books.  She sat next to me and laughed and laughed.  I laughed and laughed, too, even though I had already seen the show before! 

Van Hest’s (no, wait, I know I should stick to convention, but I just really want to call him “Phil,” so I will) Phil’s girlfriend, Noelle, was there, too, dressed as The Hug Machine.  I.e. – she was the one wearing the purple metallic wig and the t-shirt that Phil made her that lists the different kinds of hugs in her repertoire.  I hugged her before I saw her shirt, so I think I got the generic variety, but in any case it was just right.   Today I asked her if I could mention her here in my blog.  She said I could but added that I should not call her a performance artist but an “artist of all trades.”  (I think that was the expression she used.)  Anyway, it was a pleasure to meet her.

** And He Ran Screaming – For the past four years, Jeffrey Barnes has been sharing this autobiographical program with church groups and other organizations.  He tells what it was like for him to grow up gay and homophobic in a small Indiana town and then seminary.  I was moved by his description of praying to God to change him (that is, to take away his feelings for men) and his realization, over time, that God had answered his prayers after all: God had changed Jeffrey’s self-hatred to self-love.   

I also was completely turned on by Barnes’ portrayal of his first kiss.  Luckily, I have enormous self-control and did NOT jump the man sitting next to me, but let me tell you, it was a struggle.

Also: this is the show where you might receive a feather boa to take home with you.  Mine is now draped over the back of my sofa.

Meet the Rock – The rhythm of this show is sometimes a bit odd, but the content is very interesting and educational.   Samuel Harper plays Norman Rockwell, “America’s Favorite Artist.”  Phyllis Harvey plays Charlene Rose, host of a television show.  She is interviewing Norman Rockwell about his own life and work and about other artists that have influenced him.  They banter back and forth as they (and we) look at slides of the artists’ real work.  Rockwell also shows us artifacts that the other artists have (or could have) sent him.  We hear excerpts from letters and other quotes, plus the occasional recorded sound effect.  The ending took me by surprise and made me laugh out loud, it was so goofy.

Alone and Testifying – I paid ten dollars instead of using my media pass to see another segment of this six-part series.  In this segment, Loren Niemi and Howard Lieberman take turns telling stories from 1968.  They are, as you might imagine, stories of assassinations and political unrest, but also stories of losing one’s virginity.  Earlier in the festival, I had enjoyed Lieberman’s “pretend I’m a Republican” audience participation activity, but I think that having that as the introduction to the whole series and to that segment made it hard for people to get into what he and Niemi do best, which is “pure” storytelling.  Tonight’s segment, which was all “pure” storytelling, felt much more cohesive and satisfying.  I loved the sensuousness in Niemi’s stories and the humor in Lieberman’s.  Their last segment, which is tomorrow (Sunday) at 1:30, will be stories from the 1950s.

** My Friend Hitler – I hadn’t planned to see this one-woman adaptation of a Yukio Mishima play about Adolf Hitler, but then I happened to meet its star, Zehra Fazal, when I was hanging out with friends after the shows last night.  I loved hearing her talk about her work.  I decided I wanted to see her show after all.   It really does seem as if you are a fly on the wall as Hitler is talking to various people.  It is chilling.

** Common Humanity –  I was delighted by this narrated-dance-performance-with-painting-production.   The narrator, Robyn Wood, takes us through levels of awareness of our common needs and experiences as human beings.  After she verbally asks questions to make us think, dancers come out and visually explore them.  Dance.  Narration.  Dance.  Narration.  All the while, painter Katy Kessler is swifly covering puzzle piece-shaped canvases with further interpretations.   The creator and choreographer of the whole show is Firefall Dance Theatre founder, Stephanie Riner.

And now here it is after two a.m. again!  I will write fuller reviews of each of these shows eventually.  For now, I’m off to bed.   Tomorrow (Sunday, August 31) is the last day of the 2008 Indy Fringe Festival in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com

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