by John Munger • July 11, 2008 • Maybe you had to be there.
So … Robin Gillette walks into the space dressed ravishing fit to kill: red hair, cheerful demeanor, modest heels and an I-double-dare-you-to-grab-me bang-wow scarlet dress and she starts introducing the evening. Thirty seconds into it Fringe Board member Anthony Paul yells from the audience, “WHO ARE YOU?” General laughter, Robin gives her name and her position as Executive Director of The Fringe and the show goes on. That was Monday night July 7 at the Ritz Theater at Fringe-For-All # 1.
Wednesday night at Bryant Lake Bowl, July 9, we had The Rabbit Show presenting “Dance Shows That Got Into The Fringe.” After our usual vaudevillian opening schtick and one of the eight pieces on the evening, I brought up house lights and wandered into the audience. “Who has never been to a dance show?” I asked, and Tony Caparelli the new Executive Director at James Sewell Ballet stuck up his hand with a wicked micro-smirk. Yeah, right. A moment later I asked, “Who has never been to The Fringe Festival” and Allegra Lingo of the Fringe Staff stuck up her hand with a grin as broad as the choppers on a randy skunk eating a pile of fresh moose mess. I confronted both of them. There was great good humor. And the show went on with gusto all around.
Now I ask you, would you tolerate that at The Guthrie? Or Orchestra Hall? Or at Northrop when Lifar-Side Ballet blows in from Uzbekistan to reinforce the right-wing punishing superior airs of the moneyed class who think they know something about good theater and dance that the rabble don’t know?
I think it would do those institutions a load of good to loosen up more than just a little.
I had a wonderful time on Monday at the Fringe-For-All and on Wednesday at The Rabbit Show even though not all the work suited my fancy. But hey. What should I expect? An endless life of seeing only shows that having me standing up (in the balcony) and swaying back and forth with nearly delirious pleasure and release as I sing along with the cast the words to Abba’s “Dancing Queen” while the touring company of “Mamma Mia” graces the incredibly expensive stage? Do I really want that product? Frankly, it’s like ….uh, I better shut up.
The performance experience should be about community. It should be cathartic, joyous, moving, tragic, hilarious, sexy, and human enough to exhibit and live through both highs and lows. I’d rather see three Fringe shows, one of which sucked and that’s the breaks, than spend seventy-five dollars to go to a major venue for a major name that comes to us packed in the theatrical equivalent of one of those clamshell-plastic nightmares that enclose newly-purchased small household items and that can’t be opened by any human agency short of a James Bond device and a violent disposition. There it is. Packaged. Perfect. Marketable. As advertised. But you can’t get at it, even after you bought it.
When I was 17 I had a girl-friend, sort of, who was like that. We need to be more mature about theater than I was about girl-friends, or than she was about being a human being, back then. That means accepting imperfection along with achievement, and it means valuing authenticity, community, and creative commitment.
But hey, we were young. The Fringe will be fifteen this summer. Waaaaahoooo..
John Munger has been performing, teaching, choreographing, researching and writing about dance for about 40 years. He teaches at Zenon, day-jobs for Dance/USA, and still hasn’t gotten much of it right.