09 Fringe: 3 More Shows, Some Tent Time, a Busker, and a Personal Stretch


(FYI:  the above video is a conversation with Erin Schlabach, director of one of my favorite 2009 Indy Fringe shows, “Crossing the Bridge.”  Scroll down to see other videos embedded in the post below.)

One day last week during the 2009 Indy Fringe Festival here in Indianapolis, Indiana, juggler Brent McCoy told me, “The audience is like a monster: if you treat it right, it will roll over and let you tickle its belly.”

Brent’s show, “Blunder Construction,” is one of, if not the most, popular shows at the Fringe.  Last night there were more than a hundred people lined up outside Theatre on the Square (TOTS), hoping to get in to Brent’s show.

I had been feeling proud of myself for trying something new with my blog (i.e. – video content) but I realized suddenly that I had not been handing out my blog card this year the way I did last year.  I hadn’t even taken little piles of cards around to the theatre lobbies.

So when I arrived at TOTS last night to see “Tortillo” on its second stage, and I saw all those people waiting outside to see “Blunder Construction” on the main stage, I decided it was time for me to tickle the beast a bit myself.

I made my way down the line saying, “Hi, my name’s Hope.  May I give you my card?  I write about Indianapolis area theatre year-round.  I hope you’ll visit my blog.” 

One man said, “You write about what?  Beer?”

“Well, no, but I interviewed someone today who sells beer in the Fringe tent.”

“Okay, I’ll read your blog.”

Another man said, “Have you seen ‘The Worst Show in the Fringe’?  Hey, wait a minute, were you IN that show?”

I laughed and said, “No, but that could have been me tied up in the chair.  I’m a reviewer.”

“I LOVED that show!”  He told me quite a bit about it, and when I asked if he was a theatre person, he said, “No, but I loved that show.  You should write about it on your blog.”

As a matter of fact, I enjoyed “The Worst Show in the Fringe,” too.  I wrote about it in a previous post.

I had a good time talking with the people in line, and I think I might be able to get used to “flier-ing,” as the Fringe performers call it (I call it “schmoozing”), but it makes me feel turned inside out, so I’m glad I don’t have to do it every day the way they do.

I saw three shows last night and spent one time slot hanging out at the FringeCentral Outdoor Stage, aka the big, striped tent near the intersection of College and Mass Aves.  I made a few more little videos (see above and below.) I also put my iPhone away for a while and enjoyed the live music on the stage, which was that night sponsored by the Indianapolis Songwriters Café.  All you need to get in to the tent is your Fringe Backer Button, which you can purchase at the tent for three dollars.

One of the little videos is of a conversation with the director of one of my favorite 2009 Indy Fringe shows, “Crossing the Bridge.”  (See above.)  Erin Schlabach was kind enough to let me try interviewing her again, since the recorded conversation we had had right after I saw  “Crossing the Bridge” last weekend did not actually record.  I apparently pushed the button too many times.  What can I say?  I was still shaking from that wonderfully cathartic show!

Last night I also recorded a conversation with vocalist April Armstrong.  She and actor Daniel Robert were selling two kinds of beer inside the tent.  She had only had a chance to see one Fringe show so far – “Tortillo” – because of working in the tent, but she loved it.

Here’s April:

Then I asked Justin Brady from the Indy Fringe administrative staff if I could record a portion of the live music and he said, “Sure!” 

“Wait,” I said.  “Have you actually asked the musicians?”

“Oh, don’t worry: they’ll be fine with it.”

They looked surprised, though, when I lifted my iPhone, so I hope it truly is okay.  Nifty as the iPhone is, it does not give you anything like the experience of actually being present with the live music and the sound is nothing like the sound that musicians can produce for a professional demo in a recording studio.

I recorded two songs each from the Cliff Snyder Band and from Tad Armstrong.  I enjoyed both groups.  (Please go to www.YouTube.com/IndyTheatreHabit to watch those four videos.)

I also recorded a bit of a performance by a busker (street performer) named Preston Long.  He was playing his electric guitar and singing “The Thrill is Gone” a little farther down on Massachusetts Avenue, right on the sidewalk.  To my delight, Indianapolis Business Journal Arts and Entertainment editor Lou Harry made a surprise appearance in that video. 

Here is Preston:

And here, finally, are a few of my thoughts on the three Fringe shows I saw last night, in the order I saw them:

The Rise of General Arthur” –

The name of performer Phillip Andrew Bennett Low’s production company is Maximum Verbosity.  His retelling of the King Arthur legend as a modern military tale is, indeed, verbose.  I enjoyed it very much, and the program says it is a work in progress, so I’m going to break my usual “appreciations only” approach to reviewing and make an observation that I guess is actually a suggestion to the performer, to do with what he will.

If Phillip were in one of my storytelling classes I would tell him that editing a piece that you want people to listen to is different from editing a piece that you want people to read.  For most people, listening to words is much harder work than reading them.  Storytellers work with language-rich literary tales all the time, but the best tellers don’t memorize the whole thing.  They memorize the language that makes the piece unique and then use their other tools (tone of voice, accents, facial expressions, gestures, stances, responsiveness to the audience, removal of the Fourth Wall, etc.) to make it come alive for their listeners.

In other words, they cut out all the “he-said-she-said.” 

Phillip has all of those other storytelling tools in spades, so he doesn’t have to say, for example, “‘Take it easy,’ barked Pellinor roughly.”  All he needs to do is bark the line.

The strongest parts of “The Rise of General Arthur” come when Philip takes us off the page.  He does a great job of physically and vocally delineating the many characters in his stories, even when they are in direct conversation with each other.  I was never confused about who was who.  My favorite character was Merlin: Philip’s interpretation of him reminded me of the Chesire Cat.  However, I was partial to Pellinor’s southern mama, too, and, of course, our soldier hero, Pellinor, himself.

In any case, the show as is, is worth seeing simply because the collection of inter-connected literary stories is as rich and interesting as an illuminated medieval manuscript.

(Side note: I’d also like to give a shout out to Phoenix Theatre tech person Dani Norberg.  The very loud gunshot in this intricate piece was perfectly timed!)

Tortillo” –

This new play by Casey Ross is having its world premiere here at the 2009 Indy Fringe Festival.  As I’ve mentioned before, Casey’s “Gallery” piece in the 2007 Indy Fringe was the first Fringe show I’d ever seen.  I saw it three times, I loved it so much.

“Tortillo” is not quite as satisfying to me as “Gallery” was.  It is not as tightly-plotted and some of the humor seems to come out of nowhere and go nowhere.

HOWEVER, I laughed a lot during “Tortillo” last night – deep, belly laughs – and I enjoyed the performances of the actors.   (There was no program, though, so I can’t tell you for sure who they all are.)

So many people have come up to me and told me this play is like a cross between “The Office” and “Scooby-Do” that I can not tell you who said it first, but I agree that it is an apt description.

“Tortillo” sold out last night at Theatre on the Square, so if you want to see it tonight or tomorrow afternoon, be sure to get there early.

I’m looking forward to seeing Casey’s next play, too.

Sex/Death” –

The Bloomington Playwrights Project presents this collection of seven very short plays related to some aspect of the title theme.   Oh, my, this is one powerful show.

It is where’s-my-fan sexy and laugh-out-loud funny, in turns.  It is also sometimes very disturbing, even macabre.  Each little play offers a completely satisfying and often surprising story.  Taken all together, they are a theatrical jewel box, perfectly arranged.

I should probably warn you that the creepiest of the short plays includes male frontal nudity and bondage for an extended time.  I wanted to curl up in the fetal position after that one.

Four exceptional actors – Derrick Krober, Ian McCabe, Margot Morgan, and Erin Sullivan – play all of the roles.

Here, from the program, are the plays and their playwrights:

  • “100% Distracted” – by Joni McGary
  • “Alibi” – by Matthew Haldeman
  • “The Edge” – by L. D. Goffigan
  • “Beware the Living Will” – by Henry Meyerson
  • “Thanksgiving” – by Neal Utterback
  • “Thursday Routine” – by Rebecca Martin
  • “Sex, Death” – by Nick Moore

This plays again at the Theatre on the Square main stage today (Saturday) and tomorrow.

Please see www.indyfringe.org for all show times.

Right now it is time for me to head downtown for my final meeting as an Encore Association community theatre judge, and then I am meeting my friend, Adrienne, to see a few more Fringe shows. 

Thanks for reading and watching.  ‘See you at the Fringe!

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com, @IndyTheatre on Twitter, and IndyTheatreHabit on YouTube.

4 thoughts on “09 Fringe: 3 More Shows, Some Tent Time, a Busker, and a Personal Stretch”

  1. Hi Hope,

    So glad you enjoyed Sex/Death. I just wanted to mention that the fourth actor (or third, in your list) was actually Margot Morgan. Joni McGary is one of the playwrights. Thanks for coming to see the show and for the kind words. We had a blast!

    Holly Holbrook
    Director, Sex/Death

  2. Hey hey — just wanted to express my gratitude for you taking the time to see the show and share your thoughts. (I appreciate your thoughtful suggestions, too, and I’ll be looking more closely at them as I work on future drafts of the script.) In any case, I’m glad I had the opportunity to entertain you, and hope I’ll get to see you next time I’m in Indy!

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