If you go to the Indy Fringe Festival website right now, you will see a list of the ten top-selling shows. I saw nine of those shows, and I loved all nine. I congratulate all of the performers in the top-selling shows.
I can’t help thinking that popularity by itself is not really all that interesting. So here, in no particular order, are the first* annual Indy Theatre Habit Fringe Awards based on the 30 shows that I saw out of a possible 40 shows** during the 2009 Indy Fringe Festival:
Most Delightful Show: “Gone, Gone, Gone” – This attractive duo from Milwaukee – Monica Rodero and Daniel Schuchart – combined unexpected dance moves and unexpected music with everyday masking tape and paper toweling to nonverbally speak volumes about human love relationships.
Most Cathartic Show: “Crossing the Bridge” – This dance-theatre fusion show about a dying man and his sibling care-giver made me sob and yet left me feeling uplifted and refreshed. Performed by the Leonix Movement Theatre Ensemble out of Los Angeles, California.
Best Come-Back: “55 Minutes of Sex, Drugs, and Audience Participation” – I was one of maybe six audience members in Loren Niemi’s and Howard Lieberman’s 2008 Indy Fringe show both times I saw it. I know Loren and Howard were discouraged by the small audiences, especially since their shows had always been popular at the Minneapolis Fringe. However, instead of giving up, they decided to tweak their storytelling show to more effectively invite Indianapolis audiences into their work. They also marketed their show more assertively this year by participating in the Fringe Preview Night and by politely schmoozing Fringe-ers and other people as they walked down Massachusetts Avenue. This year, Loren’s and Howard’s show had several sold-out houses.
Best Solo Show: A three-way tie between “7 (x1) Samurai” – a mostly mimed version of the epic Japanese tale, performed by David Gaines from Virginia; “Blunder Construction,” – a juggling show by Brent McCoy from Vermont; and “Phil the Void: The Great Brain Robbery” – a philosophical stand-up comedy show by Phil Van Hest from Los Angeles, California. Each of these shows was very different from the others, but each completely engaged and satisfied its audience.
Most Beautiful Show: Another tie, this time between Kenyatta’ Dance Company’s “Groundwork Suites” for its beautiful appearance and “The Cask of Amontillado” – a one-act opera composed by Paul Geraci – for its beautiful music.
Best Show for Teens and Adults Only: “An Evening of Stories and Song with Kevin Kling and Simon Perrin.” I wouldn’t call this a family-friendly show because it wouldn’t have interested little kids. However, there was nothing R-rated about it and it was excellent. The combination of Kevin’s hilarious, language-rich stories and Simon’s unusual singing voice and exceptionally expressive face was intoxicating.
The “Now THIS Is Theatre!” Award, aka Best Acting and Writing: Another tie, this time between “Another Classic of Western Literature” (written by Matthew Roland; directed by Michael Shelton; performed by Sam Fain, Charles Goad, Rich Komenich, and Don Jamaica; stage managed by Lindsey Lyddan; produced by the Heartland Actors Repertory Theatre) and “Sex/Death” (a collection of seven short plays written by Joni McGary, Matthew Haldeman, L.D. Goffigan, Henry Meyerson, Neal Utterback, Rebecca Martin, and Nick Moore; directed by Holly Holbrook; performed by Derrick Krober, Ian McCabe, Margot Morgan, and Erin Sullivan; stage managed by Gabe Gloden; produced by the Bloomington Playwrights Project.)
Best Surprise/Fringiest Show: Another three-way tie, this time between “The Tragical Ballad of Black Bonnet,” “New Vaudeville” and “murder, hope.” None of these three shows was what I had expected based on the show descriptions, preview night excerpts, or word of mouth. All were quite unusual, as I had expected, but they were also all much more intriguing and satisfying than I had imagined.
Easiest Fringe Show to Recommend to ANYONE: “Blunder Construction,” the funny, expertly-layered and family-friendly juggling show by Brent McCoy.
Show Most Worth Seeing Twice: “Phil the Void: The Great Brain Robbery.” This intellectually-rich yet accessible show was so much more than stand-up comedy.
Most Exhilaratingly Creepy Show: “Broken, Fragile Mind” by Motus Dance Theatre. I saw this on the last day of the Fringe when I was taking a break from blogging, so I haven’t written about it before this except to tweet to my @IndyTheatre followers that it was “amazing…a layered creepy story told in dance.” It was, indeed, a creepy story about a dysfunctional family with at least one member in a mental institution. Brr! I am shivering again, remembering it.
Most Intriguing Show Structure: This is a tie between the brain sparks pattern of “murder, hope” and the Greek drama pattern of “Phi Alpha Gamma” by Dan Bernitt. (Mind you, I didn’t recognize the Greek drama pattern until Dan pointed it out to me later. I just thought it was cool and wanted to learn more about how he had created it.)
And although I enjoyed almost every show I saw for one reason or another, my own personal Best Show of the 2009 Fringe was “Waiting with M. Godot.” It was well done (good acting, good writing, good direction, staging, and costuming), it was magical (I saw an exceptionally “in the zone” performance), and it happened to be a perfect fit for where I was emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically that night (i.e. – ready to laugh and feeling hopeful about love and other mysteries of life.) Written by Ronn Johnstone; directed by Steve Pierce; performed by Nick Foreman, Kurt Owens, and Lisa Ermel; produced by Wisdom Toothe Theatre Project out of Bloomington, Indiana.
So…. Congratulations again to the performers of the top-selling 2009 Indy Fringe Festival shows, but congratulations to the winners of the newly-established Indy Theatre Habit Fringe Awards, too.
And to all of the 2009 Indy Fringe performers, whether or not you made any “best” lists, congratulations on getting your shows produced, seen, and applauded!
* I reserve the right to change the categories next year. It’s more fun to see the shows first and let them tell me what the awards should be.
** I also saw one FringeNext (youth performers) show, but since it was only one out of the twelve FringeNext shows that were offered, I am not including them in my consideration for awards. A quick directory of all the shows I saw is here on my blog.