A Librarian’s Approach to the 2013 Indy Fringe Theatre Festival

(Update 8/26/13 – I saw twenty-seven IndyFringe shows this year at $10 each.  I got into Stewart Huff’s sold-out show because someone didn’t pick up their pre-paid ticket.  The volunteer at the box office told me as he took my ten dollar bill that he wasn’t allowed to sell over the established ticket limit so he would put my $10 for that show into the Fringe’s building fund and give me a donator’s button instead of a ticket.  No offense to the Fringe, but I would rather that $10 had gone to Stewart.  However, I didn’t see a way to argue effectively about it and the show was about to start and I wanted in, so I said okay.  I bought Stewart’s $10 CD after the show, but that was also just because I wanted it.  I saw one of the shows a second time – $10 more dollars.  I also bought two backer buttons at $5 each.  Oh!  And I also gave $5 to a busker (artist performing on the street.)  All in all, not counting refreshments, gasoline for 10 round trips between my home in Carmel and the Fringe neighborhood in downtown Indianapolis, and the occasional parking meter fee, I spent $305 on Fringe-ing this year.

It was worth every dollar.

Below I have added my thoughts on the twenty-seven shows I saw.  There were at least fifteen other shows I wanted very much to see.  Such is life.

To everyone that made Fringe13 such a pleasure this year:  Thank you!)

**********************************

2013 is the ninth year of the Indy Fringe Theatre Festival here in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I have been attending and writing about IndyFringe shows since 2007, so this will be my seventh year of Fringe-ing.  I have seen over 150 IndyFringe shows so far, some of them twice.

There are many right ways to Fringe.

One way is to do what my friend Robby Slaughter (@RobbySlaughter) does and just find a place to park, look around for a theatre, and see whatever show is running next at that theatre.   He’s seen a few duds over the years, but he’s seen more treasures.  And a lot of them were shows he probably wouldn’t have chosen if he had read about them ahead of time.

Another way is to do what my friend, Twitter buddy (and a Twitter critic of Indy Fringe shows and other events) Heather Sokol (@JustHeather), does: Invite a friend to go with you to the Fringe and then make them pick what show you’ll see.  She calls it the “Let Your Date Pick Method.”

Another way is to do what my friend, actor Adam Crowe does: See one show where you know someone in it, and one show where you don’t.

I earn my living as a readers’ advisory librarian so my instincts are to:

First make one big list of the shows in some kind of order so that individual shows are easy to find again.  Fortunately, the Indy Fringe Festival staff  have already created a “Fringe13 A to Z” directory on their website.

Then put the shows into groups based on their appeal factors, if I know them, or at least by type of show.  Librarians are always creating lists to help patrons find books that will be a good fit for them.  “If you liked The Hunger Games, try these other books…” and so on.  We talk about quality in the reviews we write, and sometimes we form committees to identify the “best” books of the year, but in our day-to-day work with patrons (customers), we try not to judge books or people.  We’re human, and we do have opinions of our own, but when we’re on the job,  “best” means “best for YOU in this moment.”

Recreational reading, like theatre-going, is a very personal thing.

Below are some groupings (in alphabetical order, of course) that occurred to me as I went through the whole “Fringe13 A to Z” list.

As your self-appointed “theatre advisory librarian,” I hope this is helpful to you.

*

*

BANANAS (8/22/13 – new category)

Just to be clear, there are two shows this year that have “Banana” or “Bananas” in the title:

  • Fruit Flies Like a BananaThe Fourth Wall Hybrid Arts Ensemble.  See full info under “Hybrids.”
  • Yelling at Bananas in Whole Foods Dan Bernitt.  See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”

BARGAINS

The following shows are by Indiana-based companies that offer exciting, innovative, and professional and/or consistently high-quality, fully-produced shows year-round.  The chance to see a sample of their work for only $10 is a bargain!

  • De Sade Q Artistry’s artistic director Ben Asaykwee wrote the music and lyrics for this ensemble musical theatre piece based on the life and/or philosophy (I won’t know for sure which until I see it) of the Marquis de Sade, the original sadist.  Although Ben himself is great with kids, and Q Artistry has produced several “Q-munity” shows for families, I assume this particular show is for adults only.  From the photos I’ve seen on the show’s Facebook, the 17th-century wigs alone are worth the price of admission.  Q Artistry is known for developing wildly creative, and often musical, adaptations of cultural icons.  Ben is the creative genius (and I don’t use that word lightly) that brought “BOT: A Robot Opera” to the 2012 IndyFringe and the “Strike! the Musical” show about bowling pins and the “Satan LIVE!” lounge act to the 2011 IndyFringe.  If you live in Indianapolis, you know Ben and his friends already, I bet.

Update 8/20/13 – Now that I’ve seen this show I can tell you that the performances are brilliant, the music haunting, and the costumes gorgeous, but the subject matter moves from funny/naughty/beautiful to shocking/disturbing/yuck.  There’s a lot to think about in this show, including: the importance of defending intellectual freedom even for ideas one abhors; the importance of owning one’s dark side; owning one’s desires vs. acting on them; the erosion of compassion through group think; abuse of power; kink between consenting adults vs. rape, torture, murder; and more. A powerful piece that is definitely for adults only.

  • Death Metal Family Radio Hour – A quick Internet search tells me nothing about this play – not even on the Bloomington Playwrights Project website(?!?) and I can’t read the playwright’s name on the image in the IndyFringe directory.  Hmm.  But I have loved BPP shows in the past, both at the Indy Fringe and at their home theatre in Bloomington.  This professional company is dedicated to developing and producing new plays.
  • Electric Romeo Dance Kaleidoscope dancers often perform at the Indiana Repertory Theatre.  DK also tours nationally.  Artistic director David Hochoy, who studied with Martha Graham, was recently named an Indiana Living Legend.
  • The Beast, the Lady, and the Sanguine Man NoExit Performance is a relatively new company but its members have firmly established themselves on everyone’s radar. (And by everyone I mean theatre groupies like myself.) Associate Artistic Director Ryan Mullins told me their 2013 Fringe show is like a silent, black-and-white film come to life.  And the Fringe directory mentions puppets.  Wha?  Anyway, intriguing.

8/20/13 – Now that I’ve seen this show I can tell you that I loved it! There are no puppets but it really is a silent, b&w film brought to life with wit and attention to detail in all aspects of the production.  The script is by Bennett Ayres, the beloved local playwright that wrote “Creatures of the Night” for last year’s Indy Fringe. I also love his “Eel Catchers” play, which I saw outside of Fringe.  I overheard one mom telling another that the “adult content” in this show is nothing that little Jimmy or whoever couldn’t handle.  And it’s true that although the cast of characters includes a vampire or two and a drunk father, the content probably isn’t going to offend anyone or give them nightmares or make them ask uncomfortable questions, which is what parents usually worry about.  However, you do have to be old enough to read fast.

8/22/13 – Okay, sorry, there ARE puppets in this show.  But they are shadow puppets, not plush puppets, and they are so seamlessly integrated into the action of the play that you don’t even notice that they are shadow puppets.  You just laugh.  Also?  I loved what Jay Harvey wrote about this piece on his blog: http://jayharveyupstage.blogspot.com/2013/08/at-indyfringe-social-life-fizzles-earth.html?m=1

  • We May Very Well Be Sued: a Dalt Wisney Tribute – When I first “met” the Three Dollar Bill Comedy people in 2009, they were doing their “Fiddle Schticks” show in the late-Friday-night, adults-only spot at ComedySportz.  I think all of the members work, or have worked, as improv players at CSz.  But they also create at least one show per year that is totally theirs.  And since 2011, they have been doing a show for IndyFringe.   In 2011 it was called “School House Wrong” and spoofed a popular children’s television show.  In 2012 it was called “School House Wrong To! Even More Wronger!”  In 2012 they also produced a Christmas show that spoofed holiday specials of the 1950s and 1960s.  Their shows are definitely for adults only, and some adults will be appalled and think, “They did NOT just go there!  Did they?!”  But all of their shows make me laugh until I hurt.

8/22/13 – Now that I have seen this show I can tell you that the streak continues: this group made me laugh until I hurt AGAIN.  These guys (and Claire Wilcher) are nuts, and have nuts, and are not afraid to use them irreverently in their comedy.  That said, this show is a little more…cerebral? than shows past.  There was one whole sketch where I had no idea what they were talking about but I had to laugh anyway.  The Sorcerer’s Apprentice number alone is worth the price of admission, though.  And while I had mixed emotions about the “Plus-Size Princess” number, that was more because of my own bad experiences with WD’s empire in real life.  I loved the 3$B sketch itself.

  • Welcome to the Monkey House – ShadowApe Theater Company does not actually do a full season every year, either.  In fact, I don’t think they’ve done a show since their 2010 IndyFringe show, “Not a Peep.”  But I’m including them in my “Bargains” category because oh, my, that show was a treat!  And because the reason these folks only do the occasional show as ShadowApe is because they are all so busy doing other work as professional actors.  I’ve seen two or three other rare and wonderful ShadowApe productions and I now think of them as a top-notch company that comes together when they can.  I loved their “Welcome to the Monkey House” show when they performed it, with a slightly different cast, at the Indiana Repertory Theatre in 2007.   I imagine it has been cut a bit to fit the Fringe’s 50-minute  time limit, but I bet it will be deeply satisfying in its own way.  If you have never read anything by Indiana native Kurt Vonnegut, or if you are already a Vonnegut fan, I bet you will enjoy this ensemble’s interpretation of some of his stories.

8/20/13 – Now that I’ve seen this show I can tell you that yup, it is a treat.  Scot Greenwell’s versatility is a just-right addition to the already strong ensemble of Rob Johansen, Jen Johansen, Constance Macy, Robert Neal, Charles Goad, and Jolene Mentink Moffatt.  These actors know their craft.  And writer Kurt Vonnegut knew his.

 CABARETS AND OTHER MUSIC COLLECTIONS

I love to be sung to, don’t you?

  • Cabargay II: Cabargayer! – The Indianapolis Men’s Chorus’s IndyFringe show last year was an endearing hoot.  I’m glad they’re back.
  • Harlem Nights Cabaret –  I don’t know anything about the DANCEPartners company or Melanie Green (dancer as well as singer?) or William Engle (pianist), so I’m also filing this under “Hybrid” and “Dance.”
  • Joe’s Café – Rupert Wates and Friends had a “Joe’s Café” show in the 2010 IndyFringe that I didn’t get to see but people raved to me about it, said it was sort of a cross between a song show and a storytelling show.  I don’t think it was a solo show then, but it apparently is now, so I’m filing this under “Storytelling Men,” too.  I’m also filing this under “Circuit Riders” because according to his website, Rupert Wates has performed his show all around the country.
  • La Vie, L’amour (Life, Love) – Gail Payne says on her website that she chose a wide variety of songs, including some in French, to help her tell the story of a woman that follows love to Paris. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her work in person but she looks and sounds lovely on her website video and her show is directed by Mark Goetzinger.  I’ve seen him in several shows at the Indiana Repertory Theatre and other shows around town.  He was just in the Heartland Actors’ Repertory Theatre’s production of “The Taming of the Shrew.”  A good, professional director is often a sign of a good, polished show.

8/20/13 – Now that I’ve seen this show I can tell you that it is, indeed, polished and lovely, another Indy Fringe treat. In fact, vocalist Gail Payne performs with music director/pianist David Duncan and his agile keyboard tickling makes this two treats for the price of one.  The show is more music than spoken storytelling but the spoken transitions perfectly enrich the collection of music.  Gail’s beautiful voice and presence, the subtle yet deliberate blocking, the performers’ clothes…many aspects contribute to the elegant yet intimate feeling of this cabaret show.

  • Lashes Off..Songs of Sex, Secrets, and Stripping – created by Lynn Lupold and Kenny Shepard – produced by Red Boat Productions and Sold Out Run.  This is the Indianapolis-based group that created “465: Sex Drive…a musical” at last year’s IndyFringe.  According to their promotional materials, “Lashes Off” is about four experienced performers – Erin Cohenour, Amanda Lawson, Deb Mullins, and Carol Worcel – singing original songs that gradually reveal more and more of who they truly are, as opposed to the many roles they play.

8/22/13 – Now that I have seen this show I can tell you that although I laughed a lot and enjoyed it for many reasons, the main reason I loved it was this: It seems to be a show that encourages the audience to do the usual destructive comparison thing but actually, ultimately, subtly, it invites us to reject that toxic habit and appreciate people – and ourselves – for who we are now, honestly yet without comparison.  For example, two of the four stars are straight.  One of those two is happily on her third marriage and still friends with her former (two-time) husband.  The other is also in a mutually-committed, loving relationship but is not married.  The other two stars are lesbian.  One has been with her partner for seven years, I think she said.  The other has been with her partner for thirty years.  Which one of these four lives is “best”?  Who cares?  The show even invites us to not worry about which decade of our life will be the “best” one, but to be present for whatever is going on in our life right now.  Also, the show is visually appealing and the singing is lovely.

  • Menagerie Macabre: A Theatre du Grand Guignol – Main Street Artists’ Facebook says this is three horrifying and suspenseful vignettes about the dark side of the human condition, interspersed with folk songs sung by a Gypsy.  I’m sorry I missed this company’s gothic-y Fringe show last year.  Directed by Darrin Murrell, this year’s cast includes Lisa Marie Smith, Julie Lyn Barber, Stevie Ray Hahn, and Bill Wilkison.

CIRCUIT RIDERS

These people have performed in at least one other Fringe Festival around the world besides ours.  Some have been on the Fringe Circuit so long that they haven’t been home in months.  Or years.  I wish someone would write a book about these nomad performance artists, sometimes called “troubadours.”  I admire the heck out of them for their courage and their creativity.  A part of me envies them, too, for the gritty-romantic lives I imagine they lead.

  • Ain’t True and Uncle False – Paul Strickland is originally from Tennessee and Florida but he fell in love during one of his previous IndyFringe visits and now he is based here.  His “Any Title That Works” storytelling show was one of my favorites from 2011 and I still enjoy his “Levels of Difficulty” comedy club CD every time I listen to it.

8/22/13 – I haven’t had a chance to see Paul’s new show yet, but I did run into him at another show and he mentioned that on the final Friday and Saturday nights of the festival he will host a brief, esoteric (my word), open-mike-y (also my word) post-shows event on the stage in the Beer Tent.  I am obviously not clear on the details but it sounds like fun.

  • Burning Brothels: Sex and Death in Nevada – I admired the story crafting in Minnesota-based Katherine Glover’s “A Cynic Tells Love Stories” show in the 2009 IndyFringe, so I am eager to see what she’s done with the topic of “prostitution’s legal history.”  I’m curious to see if it’s pure comedy and tease or if it is (also) based on factual historical information.

8/20/13 – Now that I’ve seen this show I can tell you that it is not a comedy-tease show at all but I loved it even more for what it is: a bare-bones yet entertaining presentation of Katherine’s interviews and other serious research into the topic of the history of prostitution in Nevada. I overheard Katherine telling someone after the show that she usually performs it with costume elements and props but that she had been told that there would not be any place to store those things between shows so she didn’t bring them with her from Minnesota.  I hope I get to see the more theatrical version some day but I learned a lot from the show as is.  Also, I agree with Katherine that it’s worth thinking about both the rights of prostitutes and the rights of traveling Fringe performers.

  • Cathedral City – New York-based Kurt Fitzpatrick was in the inaugural IndyFringe, back in 2005, with a show called “Hurray for Speech Therapy.”  I’ve never seen any of his shows, but I made a little video interview of him when he was here doing his “The Last Straight Man In Theatre” show in 2010. As I re-watch that video now, and remember the kind, encouraging advice that he gives on it to Circuit Rider wannabes, I vow to make time for his show this year.

8/22/13 – Now that I have seen this show I can tell you that this multi-faceted riff on living and dying is brilliant, both in terms of structure and performance.  I enjoyed the eye candy (at one point, Kurt is nearly naked…mmm, nice tummy!) and I laughed a lot, but what I loved was the deft weaving together of goofy word plays, 80s pop culture references, film geek references, various characters and settings (yay, a library!), sub-themes related to health and consciousness, AND a non-cliche’ invisible time machine, all in a seamless, one-person show.  I think Kurt is a lot younger than I am, and I hope he won’t be offended, but I am also adding this to my “Midlife” category of Fringe13 shows.  Kurt’s show is not overtly a “becoming a certain age” story, and maybe it was just me, but I think this show resonated so much with me because it was at least partly about stuff I’ve only started thinking about at this stage in my life.  Hmm.  I’m not explaining this very well, but it’s the best I can do right now.

8/26/13 – This was the show I saw twice.  I loved it even more the second time.  I loved the language in it and I loved how everything was connected to everything else.  ‘Wish I could see it a third time.

  • Dirk Darrow: NCSSI (Not Completely Serious Supernatural Investigator) – I don’t know Tim Motley’s work, but his website says to think of his Dirk Darrow show as “Sin City meets X Files meets Naked Gun,” which makes me laugh.  He was born in Australia but is now based in New York City.

8/23/13 – Now that I’ve seen this show I can tell you that I was enthralled by its clever mix of comedy, magic, group detective work, and genre-esque storytelling.  It totally appealed to the Raymond Chandler fan in me.  If I were a dame in the 1930s I could fall, and fall hard, for a private dick like Dirk.  Here in 2013, I laughed a lot and enjoyed “volunteering” to help with one of the magic tricks.  I also “ooh-“ed and “ahh”-ed with everyone else at the reveals but I thought I could probably figure out how they worked if I tried hard enough so I was impressed by the smooth execution rather than by the tricks themselves, if that makes sense.  But then Dirk did a very realistic bit that involved swallowing razor blades and OH! MY! GOODNESS! I can not even begin to imagine how he did that.  Later I was chatting with a friend on a bench on Mass. Ave. and Dirk walked by.  I grabbed his hand and said, “Are you okay?  Please open your mouth!  How did you do that thing with the razor blades?”  He squeezed my hand and said, “Can you keep a secret?”  “Yes!” I promised.  “So can I,” he said.  He let go of my hand and walked out of my life.  Cue fog and noir music.

  • Dr. Conundrum’s Cabaret of Miracles – I don’t know anything about this duo of Atlanta, Georgia-based magicians except what can be read on their website and Facebook. However, each seems to be a successful magician in his own right, too, and I’m always intrigued by tandem efforts by usually-solo artists.  I’m also always sympathetic whenever performers try to explain that just because their show does not include profanity does not mean it is appropriate for little kids. I also always admire successful material that is “adult” yet “clean.” So I’m curious about this show. I don’t know if they have performed at any other Fringe festival but I am including them in the “Circuit Riders” category because, according to their website, they have performed many places besides their home town.
  • I Named My Penis Linda – Stewart Huff.  I missed Stewart’s 2012 IndyFringe show, “I Donated Sperm to My Sister’s Wife,” but I caught the double feature show he did with Paul Strickland at the Indy Fringe Theatre earlier this year, and loved it.   It was in-your-mind-and- in-your-lap funny.  He grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee and is now based in Athens, Georgia.

8/26/13 – This was the very last show I saw at the 2013 Indy Fringe.  It was sold out, but I hung out at the ComedySportz door with three other people hoping that four of the pre-paid ticket holders wouldn’t show up.  And they didn’t!  We got in!  I had to squeeze in at an already-too-crowded table, surrounded by women wearing “Linda” name tags and a man that tried to talk to me during the show until I gave him my harshest librarian-esque “shh!”…and it was totally worth it.  Stewart defended intellectual freedom in a hilarious and smart yet down-to-earth and heartwarming way. He didn’t talk at all about naming his penis so the title of this show must be an inside joke related to last year’s.  I didn’t care.  I loved that he organized his funny, thought-provoking stories around the “three Cs instead of the 3Rs.” While telling real-life stories about abortion, immigration, gay marriage, and more, he encouraged us to be curious about everything, all kinds of ideas, not just the ones we already understand and agree with.  He encouraged us to be critical thinkers.  And he encouraged us to be compassionate.  Curiosity, critical thinking, and compassion are the true basics, according to Stewart.  I couldn’t agree with him more.

  • Joe’s Café – See full info under “Cabaret and Music Collections.”
  • Medea – presented by the Amber Bastards.  Directed by Lee Conrads?  I don’t know anything about this company but a quick Google search shows that they are here fresh from the Kansas City and Minnesota Fringes.
  • Questions of the Heart: Gay Mormons and the Search for Identity – According to performer/playwright Ben Abbott’s website, this solo show won “Producer’s Pick” at the 2013 Cincinnati Fringe.  He and his wife live in Bloomington, Indiana. I don’t know anything about them except what I’ve read online. His show began as his honor thesis at UC Berkeley and is based on interviews with several other Mormons.
  • Sin City Stories – I don’t know anything about Kevin Burke’s work but I’m intrigued by the idea of going from Indy to Las Vegas and back again as a comedian.

8/22/13 – I haven’t had a chance to see this show yet but another comedian, Jeff Hamilton, told me while he served me a snack at ComedySportz that TOTS (Theatre on the Square) is bringing Kevin Burke back in their main 2013-2014 season to reprise his Broadway tour of “Defending the Cavemen.”  I don’t think TOTS has any info about this up on their website yet, but here is more info about Kevin’s involvement with the tour:  http://defendingthecaveman.com/our-cavemen/kevin-burke/.

  • Stairway to Kevin – I’ve seen and loved two of Kevin Thornton’s other Fringe shows: “Sex, Dreams, and Self-Control, Part Two,” about growing up gay in Indiana, and “I Love You, We’re F*#cked,” about being gay and in love.  I’ve also enjoyed some of his podcasts.  I don’t know where he is based now, but Kevin has great storycrafting skills and an endearing fearlessness with his audiences so I’m looking forward to hearing/seeing him again.

8/23/13 – Now that I’ve seen Kevin’s latest autobiographical song-and-story show I can tell you that it was a core-shaker for me.  I am tearing up again, just thinking about its transformational qualities.  Kevin doesn’t use the word “transformation” in his show but he does refer to turning 40 and reaching other forks in his life’s road.  And last night, as he shared some of the transformations he’s been through recently, and the transformations he is bravely moving towards, and his insights on transformation in general, all through very specific, unusual, hilarious, and wise personal stories and songs shared in a gifted and fully present way, I could feel my own view of myself and my road expanding and transforming and becoming clearer, too.  I understand why some truth seekers go to the wilderness but Kevin’s show is a great example of why I often seek – and find – truth at the theatre.

  • Storyzilla: Full Frontal Human Movie – I enjoyed (loved!) Bloomington, Indiana-based Nell Weatherwax’s unique shows at the 2007, 2008, and 2012 Indy Fringe fests. Her website says she is booked for a tour in San Francisco, California next month and I know she has performed in other states as well.  I am also filing her show under “Storytelling Women” and “Hybrid” because she uses what she gets from the audience both directly and indirectly to inform her movement-filled, improvisational storytelling in the moment as she goes forward.  She is one of the most trusting (as in trust the creative process, trust the audience, trust yourself) performance artists I’ve ever seen.  Her shows always leave me feeling healed and inspired.

8/22/13 – Unfortunately, Nell was ill earlier in the festival and I have not had a chance to see her 2013 show.  However, I saw on social media that she was back on the job last night (yay, Nell!) so if you missed her show earlier, please try again this weekend.

  • Tapman: Origin – I don’t know anything about Chicago-based Tristan Bruns but I love to watch tap dancing and the clips on his website of him dancing just as himself look good.  How fun to have created a tap dancing superhero character as well!  I imagine ordinary citizens asking themselves, “What’s that sound?  Is it a woodpecker? Is it a helicopter? No! It’s Tap Man! Come to save us from evil villains!” (hee hee)

8/20/13 – Now that I’ve seen this show I can tell you that it is actually four tap dancers, not just one, and together they tell a story, AND the show includes singing!  So..I am adding it to the “Hybrids” and the “Plays and Musical Theatre” categories.  This is a fun, unique, family-friendly show.  There were some technical difficulties when it opened but the people at the Cook Theatre told me they were going to help the performers fix those by getting some on-stage monitors or something so that the performers can hear their music without it being too loud for the audience to hear what the performers are saying and singing, and so on.  But I didn’t care about the lack of polish in the staging when I saw this show because the tap dancing was just so much fun to watch. Afterwards I asked my friend Mark Szobody, who was also there and who happens to be a tap instructor, what he thought of the dancing.  He told me he, too, had enjoyed and admired it.  He gave me some good things to think about in terms of watching the whole dancer, not just the feet, and how ideally a dancer will use his or her whole body in a natural, flowing way.  If you are a tap dancer, be sure to bring your shoes because the performers invite the audience on stage at the end of this show to dance the “shim sham,” I think it was – the first dance that all tappers learn?  My only quibble with this show is that the one woman in it basically only gets to die so that her hero boyfriend can rescue her.  I would like to have seen her dance more.  But I loved this show even so.  There is tap-fighting and sand dancing as well as regular tap dancing.

  • The All-New Bonnie Bitch’s Obey Comedy Hypnosis Show – I missed Bonnie’s show the last time she was in the IndyFringe but I heard good things about it.  Based on the interview on her website, I am tempted to file this show under “Country Boys,” too, since she says she grew up on “family farms in the cornfields” in Iowa and Missouri before becoming a stand-up comic and then focusing her act by learning hypnotism and doing it in drag, but maybe it will help her best audiences find her if I file her show under “Magic and Mind Reading,” “Hybrid,” and “GSM” instead.  She is now based in Las Vegas, Nevada and tours all over the country.

8/22/13 – Now that I have seen this show I can tell you that it is a lot of fun, even if you go by yourself and stay in your seat, as I did.  I was surprised at first by the number of adults that RAN down to the stage when Bonnie called for hypnosis volunteers, but Bonnie seems to have a real knack for both taking care of the individuals and taking care of the show, if that makes sense.  I don’t mean that she doesn’t let people behave in embarassing ways, but she clamped right down on a guy that she suspected of videotaping the show.  And in terms of instructions, she rolled more outrageously with the volunteers that seemed to have given themselves more permission to be silly or sexual or whatever, rather than forcing the volunteers that had thought they were willing to play but that really just needed a good, deep nap.  Who knows?  Maybe she hypnotized me, too.  I left feeling relaxed and confident.  I also want to say that I admired the skill and attention to detail that she had put into her glamorous visual presentation as a drag artist.

  • The Billy Willy Show – I don’t know anything about this performer except what I saw of him in a video interview done while he was in the 2011 Toronto Fringe. He describes his show as a “barn dance in cyberspace” but also says that the title character is a sort of failed country music radio host who is lost on more than one level.  He also says that he got more gigs when he started calling himself a comedian instead of a performance artist but that his work is more a combination of laugh-producing comedy and thought-provoking theatre.  So I’m intrigued.

8/20/13 – Now that I’ve seen this show I can tell you that it is odd, especially in terms of pacing, but I’m glad I saw it.  It is as if we are in the small-town radio studio with Billy Willy, sharing our love of the various country and western songs he is playing for his radio audience, and otherwise just chatting about this and that, keeping him company while he works.  Some of his little stories about his cowboy boots or his various marriages are funny, but the conversation is not laugh-a-minute, and sometimes the time drags, just as, I suppose, it does during a real broadcast of a radio show that is mostly music.  As I say, I came away thinking, “Well, that was odd.”  But it was also strangely endearing.

  • The Greatest Speech of All Time – I loved Timothy Mooney’s “Lot ‘o Shakespeare” show in the 2010 Indy Fringe.  I bet this new solo show, portraying seven famous men in history, will be carefully researched and fun, too.  I think this “Circuit Rider” is based in Chicago but after reading his blog, I think he truly lives out of his suitcase!

8/23/13 – Now that I have seen this show I can tell you that it is informative, thought-provoking, and moving.  Tim introduces the show by saying he had become interested in what famous speeches can tell us about what people cared about at various times in history, and how they cared about it.  I.e., how they talked about it.  He searched for “greatest speech” online and chose eight.  Then he memorized them, and now he recites them with oratorical skill and presence for modern live audiences.  Some of what he recites in the show are only excerpts because the original full speeches lasted hours.  His recitation of the speeches is accompanied by pictures of the speakers on a large screen next to him.  I like that he does not try to “become” the speakers but rather tries to share their words with respect, using the original speaker’s rhythms and pronunciation when he can but not trying to exactly mimic them.  I also like that he sets up each speech with just the right amount of interesting context, but he doesn’t try to explain the speeches or tell the audience what to think about them.  The speeches are powerful, and hearing them spoken live, in person, is an experience that is hugely different from merely reading them or even listening to a recording of them.  I cried during the recitation of Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” and during Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I’ve been to the mountaintop.”  I enjoyed shouting, “Read the will!” with everyone else during Mark Antony’s “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” speech via Shakespeare.  And I said, “Huh!” after hearing the others, which included “Apology” by Socrates, “The Hypocrisy of American Slavery” by Frederick Douglass, “The Leader and the Cause” by Teddy Roosevelt, “First Inaugural Address” by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and excerpts from two speeches by Winston Churchill.  The speeches are presented in chronological order, so you really do get a sense of history passing as you listen.

  • The King & I: a Hunk of Burnin’ Love – According to Schedule C’s website, they are a whole company of performers that got their start in the 2010 Indy Fringe Festival, but the website is curiously devoid of performer names or other specific information.  They seem to be based in Indiana but have also performed at other Fringes.  Unfortunately, I have not seen any of their work.
  • Trailer Park American: Story of a Progressive White Trash Liberal – I have never seen Mat Alano-Martin’s stand-up comedy in person but I laughed out loud at the video clip on his website. I don’t think this Bloomington, Indiana-based performer is exactly a Fringe “Circuit Rider” but he is definitely on the comedy club circuit.

8/20/13 – Now that I’ve seen this show I can tell you that while I laughed a lot(!), this show resonated with me on many levels beyond the jokes.  What resonated most strongly was what Mat gave me to think about in terms of what he values about growing up government “cheese” poor.  I also was interested to hear about his experiences living and teaching in Korea while his first wife was there on a Fulbright grant.  He only touches on them in this show but (he told me later) he may explore them further in a future Fringe piece.  In his show, he refers to an audience member asking him if his second wife is Asian, too.  I’ve never been married but I dated a Japanese man while I lived for five years in Tokyo/Yokohama.  I think the great thing about “international relationships,” even if they don’t last forever, is that the people involved make fewer assumptions about what their partners are trying to communicate.  On the other hand, I’ll be the first to admit that I make assumptions based on my own experiences about white men that marry Asian women.  Anyway, I loved Mat’s 2013 Indy Fringe show and hope he does come back again.

  • Underneath the Lintel – According to his website, Pat O’Brien played Mr. Dewey in the TV show “Saved By the Bell.” In his Fringe show, he plays a librarian, too!  I didn’t realize that “Underneath the Lintel” is a play by Glen Berger until another actor, Luke McConnell, mentioned to me that he had admired Rob Johansen’s performance of it at the Indiana Repertory Theatre a few years ago. Luke and I both wish we could have seen Toby Zieglar (Richard Schiff) perform it, too (which he did in London in 2007, according to Wikipedia.)

8/20/13 – Now that I’ve seen this show I can tell you that I am totally smitten with Pat O’Brien, or at least the fussy-passionate character he plays in this piece.  No, I’m crushing on the actor, too.  He seems gentle and funny and fully-present in person, too, the little I’ve seen of him working the crowds waiting in line for other Fringe shows.  Anyway, in this show you can’t daydream for a moment or you will miss some fascinating piece of “lovely evidence” in the story, but it is easy to pay attention because the actor is so droll and he, along with the script, leads you all over the world in search of..the truth?  I loved the many thought-provoking philosophical and spiritual layers in the script.  And although librarian stereotypes were not the main point of this show, I also loved how both the actor and the playwright played with them.  This show includes just-right props, costume, set pieces, and sound elements in addition to the stellar acting.

  • Waiting: a Love Story – Writer/performer Sherri Rose is based in San Francisco, California. In the video clip on her website she mentions looking for a man in his 50s or 60s.  Stories of mid-life interest me as much as coming-of-age stories do, and the “Circuit Rider” lifestyle means such stories are somewhat rare in the Fringe world. So I’m intrigued by this one, even though I don’t know this artist’s work at all.  Her website also says she had a professional director help her, which sometimes means a solo show is more polished than it would have been otherwise.

8/23/13 – Now that I have seen this show I can tell you that it is a very romantic and perhaps unintentionally ironic piece.  I wasn’t sure what to think about it as I was watching it, but now I feel affection for it.  It is about a woman that has experienced success in terms of career and motherhood but who is also divorced and wondering if, being in her early 60s (I think she said), there are any good, unmarried men left for her and if so, if any of them will find her desirable.  The irony is in the title and the fact that when she does meet a wonderful man that seems to love her in return, she can’t just wait and let the relationship unfold on its own.  There’s also irony in the fact that she has, apparently, a very good life in California, with financial independence, a comfortable home,  supportive friends, and outlets for creative self-expression, yet rather than waking up and appreciating what she has, she is determined to wait for a fairytale life. I probably sound harshly judgmental as I write this, but I feel affection for this show because I can totally relate to the loneliness in the wondering: will a man I desire ever desire me again?  What if the romantic and sexual adventures I’ve already had are all I get?  And I can totally relate to wanting things a certain way.  I also admire the thought that the performer put into presenting her story.  She uses props, blocking, music, and costume elements in effective ways to enhance her storytelling.  And finally, I enjoyed experiencing the performer’s love affair vicariously through her storytelling.  It was pleasure after pleasure while it lasted!

  • Yelling at Bananas in Whole Foods Dan Bernitt.  I first met this Brooklyn-based playwright/performer at the 2007 IndyFringe.  His show that year consisted of him sitting on a barstool and reading aloud some of his short stories.  Once I got over my surprise at the show not being more elaborate, I loved both his writing and the way that he shared it aloud.  In 2009 I admired the unusual structure of his solo show about gay bashing in fraternities.  In 2010 he was experimenting with fairy tale tropes and his Fringe show was a staged reading of a play in progress.  I don’t know anything about his 2013 show but I am curious about what he’s been thinking about.  

8/20/13 – Now that I’ve seen this show I can tell you that it is a exceptionally well-done blend of the personal and the universal.  It is an intimate 1st-person story “about” Dan’s adventures related to eating vegan but oh, my goodness, that is just the surface.  It is an endearing, heart-breaking, illuminating, richly-layered story about all kinds of relationships beyond one gay man’s relationship to food. I guess I should mention that the show as a show is just Dan reading aloud from behind a music stand.  However, he has made a lot of good artistic choices about how to embody what he wrote, and most of the time he is “off book,” putting nothing between us – him and his audience and his story, I mean – which means the appealing vulnerability and honesty in the writing can shine through in the live sharing of it, if that makes sense.  I’m not explaining this very well, but anyway, I loved this show.  Also – I am adding it to the “GSM” category and making a mental note that if I ever need to know how to find the gay men in my vicinity, I will download the Grindr app for my iPhone.  That is not the main point of this show by any means, but I had never quite understood my gay male friends’ references to “Grindr” before this.

8/22/13 – I keep thinking and thinking about Dan’s rich story.  There is so much to enjoy and percolate on: the two vibrant settings – Taos, New Mexico and New York City; the good intentions and yet missed connections in the dynamics of the two writing groups; the many kinds of yearning in the sex scene…   ‘Wish I had time to hear and see it again.

COUNTRY BOYS

I know that each of these three stand-up comedians’ work is unique but I also think they have enough experiences and wisdom in common that it would be fun to see all of their shows in one week.  Sometimes it’s more fun to notice subtle differences between pieces of performance art than obvious ones.  And what’s the word for when the sum is even better than the parts?

8/20/13 update – I didn’t realize that all three of these men knew each other already.  Yesterday, though, I met Mat and he told me that Paul Strickland had had such a good experience performing at Indy Fringe that he talked Stewart Huff into entering, and Stewart had such a good experience that he talked Mat into doing it.  Hurray for Indy Fringe audiences!

  • Ain’t True and Uncle False – Paul Strickland. See full info under “Circuit Rider.”
  • I Named My Penis Linda – Stewart Huff.  See full info and review under “Circuit Rider.”
  • Trailer Park American: Story of a Progressive White Trash Liberal –  Mat Alano-Martin.  See full info and review under “Circuit Rider.”

DANCE

Each of these shows offers a different kind of dancing. Hurray for variety within a fairly specialized category!

  • Come Dance With Me (But First Can I Borrow Your Pants?) – Michelle Freed – See full info under “Storytelling Women.”
  • Electric Romeo – Dance Kaleidoscope – See full info under “Bargains.”
  • Harlem Nights Cabaret – See full info under “Cabaret and Music Collections.”
  • Tapman: Origin – See full info under  “Circuit Riders.”
  • The Princess Wore Pasties – Angel Burlesque – See full info under “Storytelling Women.”

 GSM – GENDER AND SEXUAL MINORITIES

A young (20s) friend told me that GSM is the preferred acronym now.  It is preferred because it is more inclusive than GLBTQ.

  • De Sade by Ben Asaykwee – Q Artistry – See full info and review under “Bargains.”
  • The Laramie Project – Students from Carmel High School perform this play about the 1998 murder of a gay college student, Matthew Shepard.
  • Lashes Off: Songs of Sex, Secrets, and Stripping – See full info and review under “Cabarets and Other Music Collections.”
  • Rough Sex, and Other Bad Words – Indianapolis actor Michael Todd Swinford told me quietly at the Phoenix Theatre’s 30th Anniversary picnic last fall that he had started working on a solo, semi-autobiographical show and hoped to get a spot for it in this year’s IndyFringe.  He shared some of his hopes and fears for the work.  So now, even if his solo show didn’t include nudity (which is does, according to the Indy Fringe directory), I would admire Michael’s courage in completing and performing this show.

8/26/13 – Now that I’ve seen this show I can tell you that I’m glad I saw and heard it, but it took me a long time to process it.  Actually, I’m still processing it, so first I want to describe it.  Michael starts the show by jumping out in front of the audience wearing only shoes and a shirt.  He dances joyfully around on the fully lit stage, inviting us to enjoy the sight of his “junk.”  He has a very nice penis and he is very comfortable showing it off, so this is not a  (pardon the expression) hardship for the audience.  Michael says affectionately that he owes his career in show business to his penis: whenever a roll called for nudity, Michael was both attractive and willing, so he was cast often.  He makes a little dig at people that call themselves supporters of “the arts” when in reality all they support are shows with nude men in them, but he made sure his own show included this hook, too.  Then he puts his pants on as he tells us a little about being bullied in school when he was growing up in Chesterton, Indiana.  The lights change to a spotlight surrounded by deep darkness, and we go back in time and Michael is a very young boy.  We relive with him a humiliating experience with a verbally abusive Little League baseball “coach.”  The lights come back up and Michael tells us about what a relief it was to discover his local community theatre.  The adults there welcomed him, and we share his pleasure at finally finding his place in the world.  But then the lights change again…and we are with 13-year-old Michael as one of the theatre men, a man he admires and trusts, takes Michael to his house and…rapes him.  13-year-old Michael doesn’t use the word “rape,” though.  He tells us matter-of-factly exactly what the man did to him.  We share young Michael’s shock and pain and confusion: his penis is hard so doesn’t that mean he wants the physical abuse to happen?  And our adult hearts break for him.  “No,” we want to say to 13-year-old Michael.  “It does not mean you wanted it to happen.  It does not mean you deserved it.  It does not mean it was right or even okay.”  Our hearts break again when Michael tells us that he never told anyone (until now) because he knew it would mean losing the theatre community and that was the only place he knew where he could be himself.  The lights come up again and Michael shrugs.  “I moved on,” he says, without giving the audience much time to react.  He tries to lighten the mood by joking in a general way about the many, many men he has truly enjoyed (or not) being with since.  He also shares a little about what it’s like to realize one day that you are no longer a hot, young thing (I forget the exact phrase he used) with all the power and ease that goes with that, but he doesn’t spend a long time reflecting on what or who he might be becoming.  I think this show is paving the way for that.  Then he changes gears (and the lights) again and reads us an allegorical story from a book that he wrote to honor the memory of friends that have died.  And that’s the show.  I confess that I didn’t follow all of the final story because I was distracted by wondering how he could read the book, oversized though it was, in such dim light.  However, I came back into the story at the end.  Michael looks up at the audience and says, ‘To be continued” and smiles.  I LOVE that ending.  The ending ties the whole show together for me, and frees me to enjoy it as a work of art.  At the same time, it frees me to say: I am glad Michael is still here, I’m glad he knows his story is not finished yet, and I hope he knows that three of the things that are most attractive about him are his playfulness, his honesty, and his acting skills, and these three things have nothing to do with his age or even his body.  I was never attractive in the way that Michael was when we were younger but I, too, am trying to figure out how to live in the world now that I’m older.  Hearing other people’s “coming of middle age” stories helps me tap into the freedom, wisdom, and power that are unique to the second half of life.  I am glad I got to hear and see Michael’s.

  • Questions of the Heart: Gay Mormons and the Search for Identity – Ben Abbott – See full info under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Stairway to Kevin – Kevin Thornton – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • The All-New Bonnie Bitch’s Obey Comedy Hypnosis Show See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Yelling at Bananas in Whole Foods Dan Bernitt – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”

HISTORY BUFFS (8/23/13 new category)

  • Abraham Lincoln: Hoosier Hero – Danny Russell – See full info and review under “Informational Entertainment.”
  • Burning Brothels: Sex and Death in Nevada – Katherine Glover – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • The Greatest Speech of All Time – Timothy Mooney – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • HISSTTATA – A Wing and a Prayer Productions – history of theatre – See full info and review under “Plays and Musical Theatre.”
  • The Laramie Project – Carmel High School – See full info under “GSM.”
  • Wry” – Kim McCann – See full info and review under “Lit Lovers.”

HYBRIDS

Almost every Fringe show combines more than one form of performance art – storytelling and music, for example – but the shows in this category either combine several forms and/or their combination is unusual.

  • Fruit Flies Like a BananaThe Fourth Wall Hybrid Arts Ensemble.  I loved these three musican-dancer-actors’ contributions to the Phoenix Theatre’s most recent holiday show.  Joyful, skillful, interdisciplinary fun!
  • Harlem Nights Cabaret –  See full info under “Cabaret and Music Collections.”
  • Menagerie Macabre: A Theatre du Grand Guignol – Main Street Artists – See full info under “Cabarets and Music Collections.”
  • Mysteries and Smaller Pieces – This sounds like the “fringeiest” (and therefore most intriguing) of the 2013 Indy Fringe shows.  Here is what I could find online:  Duzer Du is the DePauw University chapter of Alpha Psi Omega, the National Theatre Honor Society.  “Mysteries and Smaller Pieces” was developed by The Living Theatre in 1964 as “one of the original non-linear plays created the original experimental theater movement.”  Here is a fascinating article about the DePauw professor, Tim Good, who brought the revival of this “physical poetry” piece to Greencastle, Indiana a year ago February: http://www.depauw.edu/news-media/latest-news/details/28082/.  The DePauw students will re-stage it back in Greencastle when they return from the IndyFringe.  There are rituals and breathing and “strong aromas” and who knows what else.  Could it be the ultimate in audience participation shows?  Don’t you want to go to one of their performances to find out? (hee hee)
  • Storyzilla: Full Frontal Human Movie – Nell Weatherwax – See full info under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Tapman: Origin – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • The All-New Bonnie Bitch’s Obey Comedy Hypnosis Show – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • The Beast, the Lady, and the Sanguine Man – NoExit Performance – See full info and review under  “Bargains.”

IMPROV/SKETCH COMEDY 

  • Act A Foo’ Improv Crew!I don’t know anything about this Indianapolis-based group but I heard positive buzz on social media about them after the first Fringe13 Preview Night.
  • Going…Going…Goner: A Live Action Comedy – This is a continuation of a series of improv events that started at the 2012 IndyFringe as “Going..Going..Gone!” and continued monthly through this spring at the Indy Fringe Theatre.  The concept was developed by Lou Harry (arts editor for the Indianapolis Business Journal) and John Thomas but it showcases different professional actors every time.  The audience gets a packet of Monopoly money at the door. The actors pretend to be specific people at an auction house, sorting through a deceased relation’s stuff (which they have never seen before in real life) and telling the audience little stories about it (or refusing to give it up!) so that we can bid on it with our paper money.  Sometimes fights break out, other times strangers pool their fake dollars to let one person outbid everyone else for the kitsch of her dreams.  I’ve been to four or five iterations of this show.  The energy has been different every time but/and I have enjoyed it every time.  Last summer a high school boy came up to me on Mass Ave during the Fringe and said, “Hope! Look at this great tomato I got in ‘Going..Going..Gone!’ It’s a kitchen timer!  I’m going back for more stuff!”  I don’t need any more stuff, but I do love seeing some of my favorite destination actors doing improv.  From the original show’s Facebook, here’s the Fringe13 schedule of performers:

Aug. 16 at 7:30pm : Q Artistry’s Ben Asaykwee with Julie Lyn Barber and a player to be named later.

Aug. 18 at 3 pm: $3 Bill Comedy’s Claire Wilcher, Jeff Clawson, Todd Kenworthy, Chad Woodward, and Will Pfaffenberger.

Aug. 21 at 9pm: Georganna Smith and other members of No Exit Performance.

Aug. 22 at 6pm: Arden Theatre’s Ty Stover, Brian G. Hartz, and another player to be named later.

Aug. 24 at 4:30pm: ShadowApe’s Jen Johansen, Constance Macy, Rob Johansen, Jolene Metink Moffatt, and Charles Goad.

Aug. 25 at 3: Chicago improv-ers Mark Campbell, Benji Orlanski, and Nico Carter.

  • The University tWits – Indiana University’s sketch comedy group.  I’m sorry I don’t know anything about them.
  • We May very Well Be Sued: a Dalt Wisney Tribute – Three Dollar Bill Comedy – See full info and review under “Bargains.” 

INFORMATIONAL ENTERTAINMENT

Sometimes you’re just in the mood to learn a little something along with being entertained.

  • Abraham Lincoln: Hoosier HeroI think Danny Russell performed his Lincoln show at last year’s IndyFringe, too, or was it the year before?  Anyway, I was sorry to miss it.  I think he also performed it at the Carmel Community Playhouse and I missed it then, too.  I am interested in all things Lincoln (is there anyone that isn’t?) so maybe I will finally make it to Danny’s show this Fringe.  I think he is smart to do these public performances so that teachers and principals that are thinking of hiring him for school performances can see his work in front of live audiences.

8/23/13 – Now that I have seen this show I can tell you that while I found it satisfying, I didn’t see it under the best of circumstances.  This is a relatively quiet show and there was a very loud show happening on TOTS’ other stage at the same time, with a lot of distracting sound bleed.  Also, a backstage phone rang loudly during this show – another distraction.  Danny didn’t let any of this affect his performance, which make me admire his professionalism, but it did affect my ability to pay attention and get caught up in the performance.  That said, I think Danny nailed Lincoln’s eye twinkle and self-effacing sense of humor (or at least what I imagine of them based on what I’ve read about our 16th president.)  He included several important, widely-accepted aspects of Lincoln’s personal life and political career without challenging any of them or digging very deeply, which gave this piece a comfortable, trustworthy, appropriate-for-all-ages feel.  He had excellent, natural rapport with his audience.  He used props, costume elements, and song recordings to good effect as well.

  • Burning Brothels: Sex and Death in Nevada – Katherine Glover – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Questions of the Heart: Gay Mormons and the Search for Identity – Ben Abbott – See full info under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Saving the World Through Bumper Stickers –  The Indy Fringe directory says about this show:  Planet Earth is suffering multiple challenges, from climate change to industrial pollution to overpopulation. Who knew these problems could be solved with bumper stickers! Climate reality leader and Indiana Living Green editor, Jim Poyser, will detail our planetary predicament and point toward solutions with an entertaining and educational slideshow presentation.  That sounds interesting enough on its own.  The only thing I have to add is Jim Poyser is also the managing editor of Nuvo
  • The Greatest Speech of All Time – Timothy Mooney – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.” 

LIT LOVERS’ SHOWS

We lit lovers always read the book before we see the movie, but once we have read the original, we enjoy experiencing other interpretations of it.

  • Medea – presented by the Amber Bastards.  See full info under “Circuit Riders.”
  • The Greatest Speech of All Time – Timothy Mooney – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • The High Impact Infidelity Diet produced by Two First Names Production, aka Lou Harry and John Thomas, the creators of another Fringe13 show, “Going..Going..Goner.”   I learned from John Thomas’ wife’s Facebook page (I’m such a stalker!) that this is John’s directorial debut.  The play is based on a 2005 novel by the same name that was written by Lou Harry and Eric Pfeffinger.  I learned from Lou’s FB page (or somewhere) that he adapted the novel with Eric’s blessing.  I learned from Eric’s FB page that his day job is librarian!  But I digress.  The play stars destination actor Paul Hansen.
  • Underneath the Lintel –  Pat O’Brien.  See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Welcome to the Monkey House – ShadowApe – Vonegut stories. See full info and review under “Bargains.”
  • Wry – Sarsparilla Shook Productions – This is the company that produced last year’s “Screw You, Nancy Drew” which I ended up loving, although I had to percolate on it a bit to get there.  I don’t know for sure if Kim McCann also wrote and stars in “Wry” (about Holden Caulfield’s sister turning 40!) because Sarsparilla Shook also produced the thought-provoking ensemble piece “Like Fire Shut Up In My Bones” for the 2011 Indy Fringe. However, the company’s Facebook page seems to indicate that “Wry” is another solo show by Kim.  Intriguing!  I wonder if it will make me want to re-read A Catcher in the Rye.

8/26/13 – Now that I’ve seen this show I can tell you that yes, it did made me want to re-read A Catcher in the Rye.  I also need to tell you that I was not at my best as an audience member when I saw this show.  I was freezing, it was 10:30pm after an already long day, and I had just come out of hearing about the rape of a 13-year-old boy in the show before this one. (See “Rough Sex and other bad words.”)  Kim McCann portrayed 40-year-old, just-divorced Phoebe as worn out, and it was contagious.  But she also perfectly nailed the feeling of the title in the character and also made us believe adult Phoebe’s anguish as she relived for a therapist that day when she was a helpless little girl, begging her big brother to take her with him when he left.  I wish I had the chance to see this again when I could give it my full attention.

See also the “Shakespeare” category.

LOVE AND ROMANCE (8/23/13 new category)

  • A Baptist Girl’s Guide to Sex, Love and Happiness – Lou Ann Homan – See full info and review under “Storytelling Women.”
  • Electric Romeo – Dance Kaleidoscope – See full info under “Bargains.”
  • La Vie, L’Amour (Life, Love) – Gail Payne – See full info and review under “Cabarets and Other Music Collections.”
  • TapMan: Origin – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Waiting: a Love Story – Sherri Rose – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”

MAGIC, HYPNOSIS AND MIND READING

The Indy Fringe’s resident magician, Taylor Martin, will not have his own show for the first time this year so that he can coordinate the street performers instead.  However, there are five other magic shows this year:

  • The All-New Bonnie Bitch’s Obey Comedy Hypnosis Show – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Dirk Darrow: NCSSI (Not Completely Serious Supernatural Investigator) – Tim Motley – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Dr. Conundrum’s Cabaret of Miracles – See full info under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Dreadful Things – The Amazing Berry – I think this magician is based in Fishers, Indiana.  I don’t know him but I admit I am curious how he survives all that rolling around in broken glass.
  • The Con – Ryan Seibert – I don’t know this Indianapolis-based magician, either, but his website is very slick and includes an impressive client list.

MIDLIFE

I will probably always love reading and hearing coming-of-age stories but lately I’ve become equally interested in stories of other people that are entering their 50s, as I am.  (8/22/13 – Or at least they are no longer in their teens, 20s, or early 30s.  I’m beginning to realize that there are actually all kinds of stages and happenings and things going on here in the second half of life that are not necessarily connected to a particular decade.)   This year’s IndyFringe has at least six possibilities:

  • Cathedral City – Kurt Fitzpatrick.  See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • I Said “NO!” by Susan Bennett. I don’t know this Indianapolis-based performer but in her promotional materials she says she is dusting off dreams that she had set aside to raise her five daughters.  They have almost all left the nest now, so here she is with a show at the IndyFringe!
  • The Dealer Smiles: a Comedy of Biblical Proportions – a play by Larry Adams.  I have not seen this show but “A Seat On the Aisle” blogger Ken Klingenmeier wrote about it after seeing a production of it at Westfield Playhouse.  Read Ken’s review here: http://asota.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/the-dealer-smiles-at-westfield-playhouse/.
  • Rough Sex, and Other Bad Words – Michael Todd Swinford – For complete info and review, see “GSM.”
  • The Solidarity – This is playwright Casey Ross’s fourth play for IndyFringe.  I loved her “Gallery” back in 2007, liked her “Tortillo!” in 2009, and thought her “Queue” in 2010 had potential but she hadn’t budgeted enough time to get it where it needed to be before premiering it at the Fringe that year.  I admire her for continuing to write and draw and create.  Stage and film actor Dane Rogers directs “The Solidarity.”  I think it is his directorial debut, so I’m curious about that, too.  Jim Lucas is the middle-aged man in the story.  I think he is dealing with not only his own changes but changes in his workplace.  (I could be wrong about that, though, since I haven’t seen this show.)  The cast also includes Sarah Hoffman, Davey Pelsue, and Sarah Hoback.
  • Stairway to Kevin – Kevin J. Thornton – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Waiting: a Love Story – Sherri Rose – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”

OURS NOW

I am sure that these two performers did not plan to move to Indianapolis when they first performed in the IndyFringe, but…they have!  Paul Strickland fell in love with someone on the Fringe board, I think, and moved here to be with her.  (I’m not gossiping.  He talked about it during his spring show at the Indy Fringe Theatre.)  Phil Van Hest fell in love with Indianapolis audiences and decided to move here from Los Angeles, California with his girlfriend to raise a family. He proposed to her during his Fringe12 show and now they have a baby!  (Okay, now I’m gossiping.)

  • Ain’t True and Uncle False – Paul Strickland – See full info under “Circuit Riders,”
  • What Biscuits – Phil Van Hest has written and performed a new stand-up comedy show for every single IndyFringe Festival.  I have seen all of them from 2007 on and LOVED every single one.  His humor is uber-smart and endearingly pushy.  Last year he mentioned how hard it is to write a funny show when you’re now basically happy, but he managed it.  I expect that his show this year will again be brilliant and hilarious, maybe not as enraged as before he became a happy family man, but unique and thought-provoking nonetheless.  (No pressure, Phil.)

8/26/13 – Now that I’ve seen this new show I can tell you that I still think I would love Phil’s work no matter what he decided to create a show about.  This show was a little loopy and ragged, but that tone subtly and perfectly fit the whole sleep-deprived new dad thing.  Approximately 50% of this show was about babies and fatherhood, but shared in Phil’s trademark, science-y, in-your-face (“babies are dicks! I wish women would leave me alone in the park!”) way, which I loved because this whole year I’ve been curious about what Phil was thinking about becoming a dad.  Turns out he was freaking a little bit over how “ordinary” he was becoming.  He has always prided himself on being different, but millions of men worry that they will be inadequate as fathers, and millions of men rebel against losing their spot as the center of the family’s universe, so for him to do that, too, is (to him) boring. He even brought out some math and galaxies talk to convince us that it is statistically impossible for him to be unique, so that we would fully understand his despair.  I just laughed.  As far as I’m concerned, Phil is still one-of-a-kind.

PLAYS AND MUSICAL THEATRE

Playwright Matthew Roland told me once that he hates solo shows where one person tells a story from a barstool or whatever.  “When I go to the theatre, I want the works,” he said, or something like that, meaning he wants dialogue and action and costumes and so on.  For Matt and others like him (which includes me, sometimes, although I love solo storytelling shows, too), here are this year’s IndyFringe shows that include two or more actors acting out a story, with varying degrees of set pieces, sound and lighting design, props, and other theatrical razzle-dazzle.  (There can’t be too much razzle-dazzle, though, because the performers have less than 15 minutes to set up and strike!)

  • De Sade by Ben Asaykwee – Q Artistry – See full info and review under “Bargains.”
  • Death Metal Family Radio Hour – Bloomington Playwrights Project – See full info under “Bargains.”
  • HISSTTATA Historical Sketches of Theatre Throughout the Ages – A Wing and A Prayer Productions by Bob Berry.  I think this another anthology piece from the same company that brought us a collection of original audition monologues in “Singular Sensations” last year.
  • Invitationswritten by Sharla Steiman – produced by Arden Theatre Union – This is Ty Stover’s company.  I missed the Sharla Steiman show, “Slammed,” that they did for last year’s Fringe but I heard good things about it.
  • Lashes Off..Songs of Sex, Secrets, and Stripping – Red Boat Productions – See also “Cabaret and Music Collections” and “GSM.”
  • Underneath the Lintel – Pat O’Brien – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Medea – Amber Bastards – See full info under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Menagerie Macabre: A Theatre du Grand Guignol – Main Street Artists – See full info under “Cabarets and Music Collections.”
  • Tapman: Origin – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • The Dealer Smiles: a Comedy of Biblical Proportions – Larry Adams and company – See full info under “Midlife.”
  • The Laramie Project – Carmel High School – See full info under “GSM.”
  • The Pureville Townhall Meeting So far, I haven’t been able to find much about who “Jack” and “Jill” are in real life, but I love that their SquinchyFace Productions channel on YouTube has several videos of their goofy Pureville characters earnestly “learning about the Internet” with various other Fringe13 performers.

8/23/13 – Now that I have seen this show I can tell you it’s another odd one.  The surface premise, I think, is that we are in a community that has been isolated from the rest of the world for several decades in order to maintain its citizens’ 1950s-esque “purity” as part of some top-secret government project and/or accident.  But now the citizens somehow suddenly have access to the Internet and all its memes and they have called this meeting because they can feel their purity slipping away and they aren’t sure how to cope.  I thought this might be a show about intellectual freedom but it’s more a show about distraction.  Oh, look! A funny cat photo!  Oh, look!  Girls dancing in their underwear!  Oh, look!  We have just frittered away an hour looking at the bizarre stuff we found on the Internet rather than talking with each other about stuff that really matters to us.  The “meta” of the show is about diluting boundaries and/or expanding the “multi” in multi-media.  For example, the show “started” before the Fringe in the form of the videos I mentioned in above in my preview comments.  The show won’t have “ended” even after the Fringe ends because the performers plan to conduct a poll or two about what should happen to Rusty, a delinquent character in the story.  Video elements in the officially scheduled Fringe show include appearances by at least one person from another Fringe show.  The show includes video as well as live characters plus set, costumes, props, and other live theatre elements.  There is a strip tease photo in the video element and we get to see Rusty’s bare-chested stripper moves in the live element.  And so on.  I appreciate the large amount of work that went into making this show, and I also appreciate that maybe the unfocused quality was part of the point, but for me this show didn’t quite satisfy..

8/27/13 – But I also remember laughing a lot during this show, and I’m obviously still thinking about it, which means something, too.  Hmm.  I’d like to talk with the creators, Susan and Rex Wolfley, some day about what they intended for this show.  Maybe they “just” wanted to make people laugh.  I admire that.

  • The Rwandans’ Visit – AV Productions – Playwright Daniel Sauermilch won the John Cauble Award for Outstanding Short Play for this piece during the 2011 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.  I don’t know if the playwright has anything to do with the IndyFringe production but the award is cool either way.  The show’s Facebook page says that the director is Ansley Valentine. The two dysfunctional couples on the couch (the cast) are Jean Arnold, Beverly Roche, Benjamin Schuetz, and Woody Rau. Amanda Lane is the stage manager.  You can read more about the play and the award here:  http://www.middlebury.edu/arts/news/node/275782
  • The Solidarity – See full info under “Midlife.”
  • The Witch of the Place Intimate Opera of Indianapolis – I think this is the company that did “The Impressario” at the 2011 IndyFringe.  I enjoyed the, yes, intimacy of that show.  I love any chance I get to hear opera singers up close.  Such power and beauty!
  • Two M@therf#ck*rs On a Ledge – Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project – Playwright Ronn Johnstone’s “Waiting with M. Godot” was my favorite show in the 2009 IndyFringe. I was delighted to receive an email from him inviting me to see this new show by him.  (Why doesn’t the Fringe directory say he wrote it, I wonder.)  Ronn Johnstone is also the director of theatre arts at Anderson University in Anderson, Indiana.  I don’t know anything about who is directing this or performing it.

8/23/13 – Now that I have seen this show I can tell you that Callie Burk directed it! She is now on IUPUI’s faculty but Fringe audiences may know her more as the director of the popular Wisdom Tooth production of “Boy in the Basement” at the 2010 Indy Fringe.  Also: playwright Ronnie Johnstone (that’s how his name appears in this show’s program) is in the cast of this year’s show, along with Kelsey Leigh Miller and the voice of Chick McGee.  As Ronn warned me, this play is very different from his “Waiting with M. Godot” piece.  This piece is about a troubled middle-aged man, Allyn, who flees an upsetting therapy session by climbing out the window of his therapist’s office onto the 5th-floor ledge overlooking Meridian Street here in Indianapolis.  His young therapist, Mattie, who claims her focus is research and who has therefore only been talking with him as part of her PhD dissertation on people with hero issues, reluctantly climbs out on the window ledge, too, in the hopes of getting him safely back inside.  He at first resists her “curveball” questions and she at first resists his attempts to “be my therapist,” but eventually they both stop worrying about who is in control and share honest stories about their fathers and more.  This intense show offers a lot of good food for thought about the psychological aspects of heroism and about the importance of at some point becoming your own parent, no matter what your biological parents were like.  Christian McKinney’s set design is both portable and evocative – just right for a Fringe show.  I’m still a little stuck on the title.  Neither of the characters strikes me as a “mo-fo.”  Ronn told me it is in homage to a certain conversation he had with the guys he worked with when he was involved with the Arden Theatre Company.  I guess you had to be there.

See also the Shakespeare category.

SHAKESPEARE

  • (Selections From) the Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) – I don’t know anything about the Shakespeare’s Follies company but their Facebook says they are “three grads from Depauw.”
  • Shakespeare Wrote What…? – I laughed a lot at Eclectic Pond Theatre Company’s “10 x 10: Brevity Is the Soul of Wit” show earlier this year.  It was a fast-paced mash-up of Shakespearean plots and quotes with pop culture references.  Their 2013 IndyFringe show promises to be equally fun.

8/22/13 – This was my Fringe13 opening show and a great start.  ‘Sorry I am only now getting around to writing about it.  It fulfilled its promise of fun, and then some.  I had to ask my friend Melissa what “cake or death” referred to but everyone else around me laughed during that part so maybe I am the only one that had never heard of Eddie Izzard before this.  Fast-paced, packed with cultural references of all kinds, this show has relatively few quotes from Shakespeare but it did give me an introduction to the plots of five of William’s lesser-known (completely unknown to me!) plays.  I left feeling educated and delighted.

  • Something Wicked This Way Comes – Produced by the Indianapolis-based company No Holds Bard.  Based on what I read on the show’s Facebook, this show was directed (and written?) by Tristan Ross. The “three weird women” that “portray Shakespeare’s greatest femme fatales” are Amy Pettinella, Liz Porter, and Abbie Wright.

STAND-UP COMEDY

  • Ain’t True and Uncle False – Paul Strickland – See full info under  “Circuit Riders.”
  • Dirk Darrow: NCSSI (Not Completely Serious Supernatural Investigator) – Tim Motley – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • I Named My Penis Linda – Stewart Huff – See full info under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Sin City Stories – Kevin Burke – See full info under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Trailer Park American: Story of a Progressive White Trash Liberal – Mat Alano-Martin – See full info and review under  “Circuit Riders.”

STORYTELLING MEN

One man on a stage, taking us with him on some kind of journey.

  • Abraham Lincoln: Hoosier HeroDanny Russell – See full info and review under “Informational Entertainment.”
  • Cathedral City –Kurt Fitzpatrick – See full info and review under  “Circuit Riders.”
  • Joe’s Café – Rupert Wates – See full info under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Rough Sex, and Other Bad Words – Michael Swinford – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Sin City Stories – Kevin Burke – See full info under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Stairway to Kevin – Kevin Thornton – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • The Billy Willy Show – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • The Greatest Speech of All Time – Timothy Mooney – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • The High Impact Infidelity Diet – Paul Hansen – See full info under “Lit Lovers’ Shows.”
  • I Named My Penis Linda – Stewart Huff – See full info and review under  “Circuit Riders.”
  • Underneath the Lintel – Pat O’Brien – See full info and review under  “Circuit Riders.”
  • What Biscuits – Phil Van Hest –See full info and review under “Ours Now.”
  • Yelling at Bananas in Whole Foods – Dan Bernitt – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”

STORYTELLING WOMEN

One woman on a stage, taking us with her on some kind of journey.

  • A Baptist Girl’s Guide to Sex, Love and Happiness Lou Ann Homan is a professional storyteller based in Angola, Indiana.  Lou Ann shared her “I Was a Virgin Nudist” piece at the 2011 Indy Fringe.  I have heard her tell many other times, too.  It is a cliché to say a storyteller weaves words, but Lou Ann truly does.  She weaves humble details into rich, warming cloth.

8/23/13 – I was in the sold-out house the night Lou Ann’s show opened at this year’s Indy Fringe.  I’m sorry I didn’t write about it sooner!  This show has Lou Ann’s trademark sweetly sassy storytelling style but there is less in the content about becoming Baptist than I had expected.  It is more about Lou Ann’s thinking about the question, “Is there such a thing as living happily ever after?” and the answers she finds as she looks back over her life.  In other words, the piece is more about the second half of the show’s title than the first.  However, judging by what I’ve overheard from other audience members then and since, no one minds at all.  One of the volunteer ushers told Lou Ann, “I could listen to you all day!”  I don’t think there is any higher compliment for a storyteller.  Later in the week, Lou Ann told me that she worked on this piece with storytelling coach Nancy Donoval before she brought it to Indy Fringe.

  • Burning Brothels: Sex and Death in Nevada – Katherine Glover – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”
  • Bursting the Abscess – I don’t know Cynthia Budyn Schaefer but a quick Google search shows she is on the Communication Studies faculty at IUPUI.  How cool that she is walking the talk by writing and performing a Fringe show!  In other news, this may be the first IndyFringe show that relates life to caring for horses.
  • Come Dance With Me (But First Can I Borrow Your Pants?) – I don’t know Michelle Freed but when I watched her promotional trailer on the IndyFringe YouTube channel I thought, “Hey! I could add this to my “Dance” category of IndyFringe shows!”  I don’t know if she actually dances in her show or just tells about it, but it sounds relatable either way.
  • I Said “NO!” – Susan Bennett – See full info under “Midlife.”
  • If You Really Knew Me – Beth St. Clair. I don’t know anything about this Indianapolis-based performer but I like that in her promotional video on the IndyFringe YouTube channel she calls her collection of personal stories “a spoken memoir.”
  • La Vie, L’amour (Life, Love) – See full info and review under “Cabaret and Music Collections.”
  • Lashes Off..Songs of Sex, Secrets, and Stripping – Red Boat Productions – See full info and review under “Cabaret and Music Collections”
  • Storyzilla: Full Frontal Human Movie – Nell Weatherwax – See full info under “Circuit Riders.”
  • The Princess Wore Pasties Angel Burlesque – If burlesque is different from stripping, then I have never seen a live burlesque show.  I think the difference is that burlesque performers take off less clothes and tell more story.  Hmm.  Maybe I’ll have to go to this show to find out.  The Angel Burlesque company is based in Indianapolis.
  • Waiting: a Love Story –Sherri Rose – See full info and review under “Circuit Riders.”

STUDENTS AND RECENT GRADS

  • (Selections From) the Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) – I don’t know anything about the Shakespeare’s Follies company but their Facebook says they are “three grads from Depauw.”
  • CandylandYoung Actors Theatre is based in Indianapolis.  I wonder why I don’t see any information about their Fringe show on their website?
  • Mysteries and Smaller Pieces – Duzer Du from DePauw University – See full info under “Hybrid.”
  • The Laramie Project – Carmel High School – See full info under “GSM.”
  • The University tWitsIndiana Univeristy’s sketch comedy group – See full info under “Improv/Sketch Comedy.”
  • Two M@therf#ck*rs On a Ledge –  See full info and review under “Plays and Musical Theatre.”  Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project is apparently a professional company that is separate from Anderson University but populated by AU students.  I’d like to read more about it.

Whew!  It took me a lot longer to create this guide than I expected.  Many, MANY hours went into the research for it.  However, I had a wonderful time exploring all of the performers’ websites, promotional videos, and so on.  And now, whichever shows I actually see this year, I bet it will feel as if I am finally meeting (or seeing again) a dear online friend in person.

I’ll keep adding artists’ names as I learn them.  If you know of any artists’ names to add, please either email me (amarylliswriter at gmail dot com) or leave word below in the Comments.

In the meantime, have a great Fringe13, everyone!  ‘See you at the theatres!

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

©2013 Hope Baugh

10 thoughts on “A Librarian’s Approach to the 2013 Indy Fringe Theatre Festival”

  1. Thanks very much, Justin! I’ll look forward to reading your and your team’s reviews, too! ‘See you around the fest.

  2. This is a great list! I tried to make several lists but then I got overwhelmed in the middle and give up. Oh by the way I am “Jill” from Pureville. I just filled out the “About” section on Squinchy faces’s facebook page with tiny bios of me and my hubby.

  3. Yea it’s Fringe! Hope, great info! Gonna see De Sade for sure now that I know they did the Bot show last year. The Bargain section makes sense – you can’t beat quality. We saw ‘…the Monkey House’ today. The acting group is tremendous. It’s a must see (I think they did a Xmas show at the Phoenix). Another must see – Dance Kaleidoscope. The Romeo & Juliet part is not just dance but intense emotion woven into the movements, they are so good. Another great bargain – Gail Payne in La Vie L’amour. You’ll pay an arm & a leg to see a polished Cabaret act like hers. And the Cook theatre – wow! Also saw Dr Conundrum. If you can tolerate a couple ‘groaner’ jokes, the magic will blow you away. Lot’s of fun audience participation and most of the show is wrapped in very clever humor. He really is an audience charmer.

  4. Rich! I am delighted to “see” you again! Thanks for sharing your theatre experiences on my blog. I am glad to read about them, and glad to know you’re having another good Fringe experience overall. I am, too!

  5. Didn’t get to see as many shows as we wanted during the week but did see Lincoln and The 4th Wall. I’m a Lincoln fan so somewhat biased but the show was way better than what I expected. First, if you knew little of Lincoln’s history this was a great primer. Second, he found ways to engage the audience. Third, the pace moved fast enough to get you interested. The 4th Wall was as good as I thought it would be. The house was packed at Cook. The energy was high. There was a lot of audience participation and the randomness of “pick a card to see what we do next”. It’s cleverest thing I’ve ever seen where music is intertwined with acting, comedy, gymnastics and audience participation. PS: My wife and I chit-chatted with someone who looked like you, someone who was first in line at the Monday night Lincoln show. Was that you Hope?

  6. Hah! I think it probably was. As always, thanks for your comments on my blog, Rich! ‘See you and your wife next year, I hope.

  7. Hello and thank you! As a first time writer, a big fear was, would people
    even care what I had to say….
    And now, validation in wanting to write more.
    Grateful.
    Michael S.

Leave a Reply