Matthew Everett | July 2009 • If you held a gun to my head and I could only see 10 Fringe shows, what would they be and why?
A couple, Henri and Francoise, live on a planet which is undergoing a food shortage. Science (or whatever) has discovered a way to travel between different potential universes, and those in power invite Henri and Francoise to conceive of a universe in which they have everything they want. Upon being conceived, the universe exists, and Henri and Francoise receive everything they could ever want from their “newniverse” selves. However, when they realize their dream world necessitates oppression and slavery, Henri and Francoise must confront themselves and overthrow the newniverse government in a coup d’etat.
OK, even if I knew nothing else about the show, the phrasing “Science (or whatever) has discovered a way…” is pretty funny. And then they enumerate the who, what, when, where of the show (location, time, etc.), and among that list we have…
“This is the what: It is a play concerning quantum decoherence, and an apple with a mandolin. This is the why: To revel in the revolution. To get high on the hijinx. To delight in the debacle.”
And my personal favorite, which pretty much convinced me these were my kind of Fringers…
“This is the who: I. Garelik, N. Marcouiller, W. Mullaney, J. Potter, M. Riley, J. Shockley, M.D. Williams
This is The Who: R. Daltrey, J. Entwhistle, K. Moon, P. Townshend”
Hee. Some fellow theatergoers were chatting about it, and the Fringe-For-All preview, and couldn’t make up their minds, and then it seemed all the heads at the table turned to face me, as if to say, collectively, “What did you think of it?” (Well, I’d typed up a bit on it already here in the Fringe-For-All coverage) But to sum it up quickly, I responded, “It’s weird, but it’s a good kind of weird. It’s the kind of weird where you see it and think ‘this is odd, but intriguing’ not ‘why the hell am I watching this?'”
I’ve read the script since then and it is definitely something that exists in its own weird little world. But it’s a weird little world that has very specific rules, and it follows them assiduously. You can track everything. It never goes so far out into left field that it leaves you behind as an audience member on the page. It has its own logic, and your brain quickly wraps around it and incorporates that alternate universe logic as you watch. So it all makes a very strange kind of silly sense. Here’s what the playwright Maggie Williams had to say…
“This fable is an absurdist comedy on the themes of power, consumption, and false resolution (in politics). Naturally, it draws on the current international economic crisis as a tap of situations from which audiences might relate to the story. Francoise and Henri, in particular, must balance their fear of downward social mobility with their sense of responsibility toward those upon whom their high status may be an unwelcome burden. It’s the crisis of conscience afflicting fallen CEOs and washed-up celebrities, as well as the ever-growing newly-unemployed middle class.
“The resulting inner turmoil for our heroes isn’t written for laughs, as is most of the rest of the turmoil. The characters at the heart of this fairy tale for an age of recession are treated humanely; the laughably absurd day-to-day red tape, the dogma, and the dubious decisions handed down by those in charge are heightened and skewered.
“If you are a citizen of this universe (you are), you are highly encouraged to attend this show. If you are a citizen of an alternate version of this universe, you should come see this show, too, and let us know if you’re being portrayed correctly. We can only imagine.”
I’ve been corresponding with producer/actor whose name is above the title, Jeffrey Shockley. Here’s a little bit of what he had to say about the process…
“The staging involves puppetry, clowning, and live music. I am the listed producer, but we’re all students at the university attempting to put our studies into practice working collaboratively.
“Our tech is tonight, and I think we have our work cut out for us. This month we’ve added a lot of props and set decorations, which I get a little nervous about, but I think they’re really going to add a lot.
“We’ve had to dodge around not having a projector, since the script calls for video, and have opted for photorealistic 2-D puppets in a cardboard TV frame as a substitute. I’m personally far more amused by that than I think I would have been by an actual video. Sometimes limitations are good.”
[Blogger’s note – Yes. Yes they are. Fringe makes you get creative. And I find the concept of the puppets pretty amusing, too. Looking forward to seeing them. Back to Jeff…]
“All this set junk occupying my apartment, and my roommates have remarked that it reminds them of the dreamworld set from “The Science of Sleep”. That’s actually pretty spot-on, though not the intention.
“We’ve also been working on adding live music, which has been a lot of fun. Ilya Garelik, our apple, is a very talented granola-crunching mandolin jam bander who adds a lot to the physical comedy moments we’ve inserted in the transitions and intro. “
See you at Fringe (THIS WEEK?)!!”
Yes, Jeff. Yes, you will. I’ll be in your audience, probably scratching my befuddled head, but enjoying the show.
Their video trailer
Their Fringe-For-All preview
Honor. Betrayal. Foot rubs. Shakespeare and Tarantino collide in this Elizabethan retelling of Pulp Fiction. The story follows the seedy characters of Tarantino’s opus, now part of London’s underworld, in seemingly disparate plotlines that merge in unexpected ways. An internet sensation when the idea first surfaced, it appeared on numerous blogs and news sites. It has captured the attention of writers from as far away as New Zealand who wanted to take part in the collaborative effort to bring this melding of high culture and pop culture to life. For a taste of what this show has to offer, please visit and peruse A Slurry Tale, the wiki that collects much of the worldwide effort. The play has gone through several iterations and has now been edited and compiled into a single one-hour version by three of the members of Tedious Brief Productions; Aaron Greer, Ben Tallen, and Brian Watson-Jones. It is being directed by acclaimed director Carin Bratlie, and includes live musical accompaniment by folk band Lingua Luna.
I’d want to see this even if it was just someone trying to do a Corleone on Pulp Fiction (another film that, like The Godfather, is pretty complex at 2-1/2 hours, much less trying to squeeze it into a Fringe slot under an hour long, much less trying to do it in iambic pentameter)
Huzzah for a high degree of difficulty, people!
But let me run down just some of the reasons I know this is a slam dunk…
Noe and Ben Tallen, and Brian Watson-Jones (Fringe vets all) are producing.
Ben and Brian are also two of the writers Carin Bratlie, who’s helming this as well as Theatre Pro Rata’s last minute entry in the Festival, Monster, is directing
[Blogger update – oops – it was pointed out to me by Carin that she’s actually not directing, Monster, “just” producing. The director for Monster is Natalie Novacek. Apologies.]
Grant Henderson, who’s collaborated with me on a number of plays, and was so great in last Fringe’s Hue and Cry is one of the cast members
The other cast members include – Amber Bjork, Emma Gochberg, Katherine Kupiecki, Ben Layne, Jen Rand, Clarence Wethern – I could be up the rest of the night putting in links to various reviews of work I’ve seen by all these actors in the past that I’ve really liked a lot.
And that’s just the cast members I know. There’s more. B
ased on the concept alone, it was already bound to be a lark. With all these people, and more, involved, it’s bound to be damn good Fringe as well. I’m really looking forward to it.
Their website – www.bardfiction.com
Their video trailer
Jonah wakes up bruised, bloody and trapped in a seedy motel room on the outskirts of Winnemucca, Nevada. Big Chet’s extreme motivational tactics and a powerful encounter with a dancer named Suede Lucy compel Jonah to complete a task he cannot fathom. This darkly funny re-imagining asks, “How do three days in the belly make a man a prophet?”
(no pun intended)
I’ve been talking about how Visions is understated, romantic and tender. Winnemucca (three days in the belly) is just as good at being the exact opposite.
There is a Biblical Old Testament God of Wrath hovering over all the goings on in Winnemucca. And it’s a God invoked with a female pronoun. And, apparently, she is pretty pissed off.
There is a character named Jonah, who is running from his destiny as a prophet.
There is a character named Big Chet, who is wielding a baseball bat, determined that Jonah stop running.
There is a character named Suede Lucy, who hasn’t even appeared yet.
I had to force myself to stop reading it at the end of scene one. Literally force myself. Because I could very easily blow the whole night just reading, and re-reading this script. This is the kind of script that actors will be raiding for monologues for the next five to ten years (if they’re smart). This is the kind of script that I tried to read over dinner, and I quickly forgot that I was supposed to eat. My food got cold because my brain didn’t want to be bothered with anything other than reading this script.
I can understand why this company’s production of this playwright’s previous script has been nominated for over a dozen awards. I can understand why their fundraising performance of Winnemucca was sold out, and had 200 people on their feet for a standing ovation.
And I’ve just read the first scene, of an early draft.
Due to the capricious gods of scheduling, this west coast company is going to have an uphill battle to get the word out. Hopefully this will help a little. They don’t have a run that extends to the second weekend. They’ve got opening weekend performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, then their last two performances happen during the early part of the week (Monday, Wednesday). So don’t delay. There is no “later in the Fringe” for these people. And you don’t want to miss this one.
This is one of those great Fringe coincidences. I was already sort of leaning toward this one anyway, just from reading their blurb, because it’s a new play, and there are spiritual overtones. An email from the producer was passed on to me by a friend of a friend, someone who thought I might take an interest because she knows I have a soft spot for out-of-towners coming to share their art with our Minneapolis crowd. “Just passing it on since I know you take folks under your wing now and then when it comes to word of mouth…”
I’m happy to bang the drum for this one. I’m already trying to fit in a second viewing into my schedule and I haven’t seen it the first time yet. That’s how jazzed I am about this script. (I want to finish blogging quickly tonight so I can go back and finish reading it.)
Holy. Crap. See this thing.
[Blogger’s update – I’m about two-thirds of way through the script now. Suede Lucy is in full effect. Ho. ly. Cr. ap. See. this. thing.]
Their website – www.shelbycompany.org
Their facebook group – give them some love
Their facebook event listing– get the word out
Two strangers have a romantic encounter. A cancerous lump is discovered. What happens next? Explore the complexities of unexpected relationships and the challenges of a disease with drama, humor and innovation.
I’ve written about this one in the Fringe-For-All coverage as well. I still contend it’s one of the more beautifully written scripts on display in the Fringe this year. How the production itself will turn out, well, we shall see. I’ve got high hopes. That’s why, despite a moment of doubt, it remains in my Top 10 this year.
Fringe – it’s all about taking chances – onstage and off.
His Fringe-For-All preview
From the creators of AUDISH comes an all new comedy… Secrets, Sexuality, and the Pinewood Derby. Deep within the darkness of the Chessapeake Hills, a troop’s misadventure to scatter the ashes of a fellow scout takes a dangerous turn for the worst when they become entangled with “Thin Mint dealers”.
I’ve talked about this one in the Fringe-For-All coverage, too. The blurb (much like the one above) which they used at the Fringe Lottery way back when hooked me. Their preview just reinforced it (see the videos below). Dylan Frederick (co-author of the script with Anders Nerheim) dropped me a note to say…
“Although it’s a comedy, it’s also quite dark…a dark comedy… Without giving anything away, I will say, prepare yourself for anything when you come to see the show. It’s crazy, It’s funny, it’s gross, it’s mysterious, it’s absurd but most of all, it’s downright delicious. After producing Audish, we knew we wanted to do more play creation. We took everything we learned from Audish (and believe me, it was quite the learning experience) and applied it to another project. This time, we wanted something a little more plot driven than last years. We’ve definitely accomplished this goal. If you miss even a second of this piece (walking in late is no good), you’ll probably be a bit confused. Every moment counts in this one…oh boy…”
At this point, I’m just counting the days. Heh heh.
Peruse, and you, too, may be seduced by this band of twisted boy scouts.
(Wow, I totally just ended up on NAMBLA’s mailing list, didn’t I? Damn you, Fringe!)
Their video trailer
Their Fringe-For-All preview
Paul von Stoetzel
Written by 2005 Nobel Award winner Harold Pinter, two professional killers wait in a seemingly abandoned house for their next “job” until a descending dumbwaiter changes everything for the worse.
and as writer/director for Uknighted Artists’ The Underachiever’s Manifesto
An adaptation of the funny but true wisdom that demonstrates how striving for mediocrity is the key to happiness. Embrace underachievement with strategies and tips for accomplishing little and feeling great.
This is double-dipping, I know. But it’s only because Paul von Stoetzel is insane. The man’s directing not one, but two Fringe shows. One of them’s Pinter. The other, in addition to directing, he wrote the adaptation. This, on top of directing Dawn’s Inferno at the Bryant Lake Bowl which, quite literally, just closed. See? Insane. So this Top 10 entry is a two-for-one deal. If only to keep up with the guy.
I’ve ruminated on Paul, and The Dumbwaiter, in the previous Fringe-For-All coverage, so I’ll just link you over to that to get us started. (The variations on Dumbwaiter, Dumb Waiter, confuse me, but only because I start thinking of a person in food service who’s really bad at his job, which the Pinter play is not about at all.)
For Underachiever’s Manifesto, Paul has a cast of overachievers, in Alex Cole & David Tufford.
So, honestly, this is a win-win. If you go to just one, or (if you’re smart) both, you’ll get a dark comic valentine (or two) to the violence and struggles of the modern world. Doesn’t get much Fringier than that.
Some other resources to help you make up your mind…
Fringe-For-All Dumbwaiter preview…
If you put a gun to my head and I could only see 10 Fringe shows, what would they be and why?
Tales of life on the lower end of the economic scale. Quail in the face of red tape. Cheer at creative solutions to hunger (and a bonus of true love). Take note of survival tips. Triumph. Heartbreak. Snacks.
When I last heard Lane’s spoken word work in a Fringe show…
2005 – At Least One Shoe
I said this, “I want to hear more spoken word from Lane, in the Fringe or out.”
At last he returns to the Fringe. Content, not surprisingly, notes it is – Queer/GLBT, Political He lists himself as a Weaver of Words and co-conspirator Katie Burgess as – Juggling and other Amazement Lane has always been tremendously supportive of my work as a writer. As a blogger and eager audience member, I’m happy to return the favor. If you haven’t heard Lane, you really should. The fact that he’s taking the stage solo, rather than being a smaller part of a multi-person showcase indicates to me that the time has come for the big story. Can’t wait.
Plus, you know, snacks.