Posts Tagged ‘Hamlettes’

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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.