Posts Tagged ‘Fringe Festival’

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Back on the Fringe

September 3, 2010

By Lian Farrer, Vice President for Education

Your intrepid Vice President for Education has been running herself ragged scouting out fabulous new shows for the State Theatre. There are all kinds of showcases and conventions where performing artists display their wares, but for sheer density, none can compare with the New York Fringe Festival. Close to 650 performances in just 17 days, at 18 tiny venues scattered across Greenwich Village, Soho, the East Village, and the Lower East Side. Despite my best efforts, I was not able to see all 197 productions. I did manage to pack in 21 shows in 6 days, which you must admit is pretty impressive.

So, how did it go? Pretty much what I’ve come to expect from my annual Fringe Binge. About 90 percent of the shows fell into one of two categories: just plain awful (no, I’m not going to name names, so don’t bother to ask), or not quite good enough/not a good fit for the State Theatre. The remaining 10 percent passed both the “great theater” and “right for us” tests. I’ll talk about those.

Of my three winners, two of them were companies I saw at last year’s Fringe and booked at the State Theatre this season. Run, do not walk, to BAMA Theatre’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, playing here April 1-2. These nimble actors speak “Shakespearian” so naturally and fluently that you’ll forget the lines were written in the 16th-century. I’ve seen a lot of productions of this play—but none that makes the complicated plot so crystal clear, and none with such a sense of fun. Think I’m exaggerating? Read the Wall Street Journal’s review of BAMA’s latest production, As You Like It. I rest my case.

My other discovery from last year’s Fringe is the Project Girl Performance Collective in a show called Voices of Our Generation. The ensemble, made up of 16 girls ranging in age from 13 to about 20, is smart, outspoken, and immensely talented. In 40+ short pieces—spoken word poetry, songs, monologues, and ensemble scenes—they explore issues important to young women today. Some of the material is pretty heavy, but the overarching message is one of strength and empowerment. You’d be smart to skip out of class or work to catch the State Theatre’s school-day performance (Monday, April 4 at 10:30am). Bring your teenage daughters—sons, too.

New to me at this year’s Fringe was a solo play, For Kingdom and Fatherland. In one of those truth-is stranger-than-fiction stories, Shabana Rehman recounts her autobiographical tale of being a Pakistani Muslim female standup comic in Norway. A survivor of childhood abuse, death threats, and other ordeals too numerous to mention, Shabana speaks out against Islamist fundamentalism, government bureaucracy, and the oppression of women. The show is by turns provocative, inspiring, and really, really funny. I’m keeping my eye on this one.

My assistant Jenn (like me, a real theater junkie) scouted some additional shows that simply wouldn’t fit into my schedule. She’s pretty excited about a show called Hamlettes. According to the description, “Three pre-pubescent girls decide to stage a production of Hamlet. When, as an exercise, they decide to never drop character, the dramas of their middle-school quibbles magnify, resulting in a very real tween tragedy.” Shakespeare meets Mean Girls? Gotta check this show out for myself.

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Review of 2009 NYC Fringe Festival Events

August 27, 2009

New York City’s Annual Fringe Festival is a chance for artists to come together to showcase what they have been working on to friends, family, industry and theater fans. I attended two shows at the Connelly Theater on the East Side at this year’s festival to see if there was anything out there that our school groups might enjoy seeing in future seasons and I was pleasantly surprised. The first show, Sinking Ship Production’s Powerhouse, is the story of composer Raymond Scott and his passion in discovering new ways to create music. Actually, the entire play leads up to his invention of “The Electronium” (a machine that produced sounds and melodies randomly so you could always listen to something new). The show, which naturally incorporated a lot of Scott’s own music along with other sounds of the time, was well done and well acted with some very amusing puppets acting out the cartoons that Scott had composed for (even though sometimes I wasn’t really sure what the puppets were doing). It was touching and I laughed, but I don’t think school groups would be too interested in seeing this show with slightly more adult themes.

Later that day I got to see a great musical version of the Edgar Allan Poe classic, The Fall of the House of Usher from the Woodberry Forest School. When I decided to go see it, I thought, as I’m sure many high schoolers think, that Poe is going to be dark and depressing and kind of boring. I was pleasantly surprised. The music covered several different genres and added a definite tone to the show that helped the audience get into the mindset of the original poet who wrote over 200 years ago. I was impressed with the acting and how passionate they were in their roles and how exciting it was compared to other Poe works, such as “The Raven”. I thought this version is one that high schoolers could very much enjoy if they don’t think so much that they are “learning.”

All in all, I think it was a pretty successful first outing at the Fringe Festival. I enjoyed both shows and got to see what people in the industry were doing. The Festival only runs until August 30th, but I’m already looking forward to next year.

–Jenn Cunha, Education

The State Theatre is located at 15 Livingston Ave in New Brunswick, NJ. For information or to purchase tickets call 732-246-SHOW (7469) or visit http://www.statetheatrenj.org/. Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, and YouTube.