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Preview of the 2013 Capital Fringe Festival

By • Jul 1st, 2013 • Category: Reviews

Fringe is going all out, celebrating its 8th anniversary as the highlight of the DC summer season. This year’s theme, spinning cardboard into gold, is the quintessential illustration of the Fringe experience.

Whether you’ve done Fringe before, or you’ve never seen a Fringe show, you’ll find some rock solid performances and some shows that try really hard to please but somehow fall short of their goals.

You can use the Fringe Guide (online at capitalfringe.org ) to choose your own adventure, kick back and relax, or delve deep into the human psyche. Over the course of the 18-day festival, there will be dance, drama, performance art – original works, new twists on staid classics, forgotten or rarely performed works, Shakespeare, burlesque, humor, music, storytelling and more.

During the Friday night’s preview, only 21 of the 130 events received an opportunity to give four-minute highlights of their shows. At center stage, founding artistic director Julianne Brienza beat a metaphoric and also very real drum, offering strips of paper gold to each group or performer, and spreading gold glitter over the course of the evening.

Brienza’s message to Fringe fans and patrons is here, a testament to the open-arms policy of Capital Fringe Festivals past, present and future:

Our city, Washington, DC is full of committees, institutions, special event promoters and politically appointed individuals who curate and filter the performing arts. They determine ‘artistic value’ for Audiences, and often communicate to many Artists that their story/work does not have a place. We are leaving these decisions up to the people. We believe in you, the Audience and in you, the Artist. We believe in the power of artistic natural selection and we invite you to create, explore, fall short, and succeed with us. To risk. We approach our work and our mission as an organic process: things ebb and flow and we respond to energy taking its natural course. We advise you to approach the Festival in very much the same way – be adventurous! Follow your instincts and go see something you never thought you’d like – instead of being frozen in indecision for two hours. If indecision is your thing however, then come nurse a cold beverage at the Baldacchino Gypsy Tent Bar. There are many Artist and Audience folk at the Baldacchino that can give you an earful on what shows to not miss.

In my opinion, of the 21 preview performances, these 14 shows are the highlights. They represent both new and returning artists, artists with lots of Fringe experience or none at all. That’s not to say these performers are inexperienced. On the contrary, these are some of the best performers this area has to offer and it’s a treat and privilege to watch them work.

Look for these shows to sell out faster than the others, based on production values and casting, not to mention the buzz. With 130 separate events, there’s plenty to choose from during the festival, so if these don’t do it for you or they’re sold out by the time you’re ready to go, you’ll have plenty of other options.

Everything you need to know, from performance dates to ticket passes is available on the Fringe website, which includes shows sorted by genre, performance space, day or a combination of all three.

Multi-ticket passes are a great idea, but Fringe buttons are mandatory! You can’t get in the venue without one. At $7 each, they’re expensive, so don’t lose yours once you have it. The income from button sales money is divided between all the artists and discounts are offered for button holders throughout the year, at Ft. Fringe, for Clown Cabaret (a regular event at the Fort) and at retailers and food establishments in and around DC.

To truly enjoy the Fringe experience, you need to know the following:

  1. Have an umbrella handy if the weather’s looking chancy. Also weather-resistant shoes. Parking is tricky, especially during the week. Read the street signs very carefully, or take advantage of Metro when possible.
  2. Be EARLY. There is NO late admission to Fringe shows. No mercy, no exchanges. Just don’t be late. You’ve been warned.
  3. All tickets start at $17 (Multi-passes save you money on per-ticket costs, and come with a button). Tickets go to at-door sales within two hours of performance time, but you can use your pass to purchase tickets in advance. I recommend advance purchasing, especially for shows that are likely to sell out.
  4. If you’re like me and you want to maximize your Fringe time on a couple of days, you can pick a venue or an area and check out what’s playing that day.
  5. Pick up a print copy of the Capital Fringe Festival Guide. This 70+ page book is your bible. It contains the shows by genre, with cross-referencing by venue, date and time, and title.

NOTE: If the title starts with “A” you will find it in the As. If the title starts with “The” you will find it in the Ts. All words in the title are important.

My Picks of the Previews (in Alphabetical Order)

A Guide to Dancing Naked

Turn the world into your dance floor! Join Brynn Tucker for an irreverent pop-movement confessional, set to this summer’s spunkiest mixtape. On the road to self-acceptance, all you need is a mirror, music, and your naked self! Audiences are encouraged to stick around for a post-show dance party.

My Take: Brynn is having a blast and she’s gonna take you with her one way or the other. She’s a talented performer and the show looks like a terrific way to spend an hour.

A Guide to Dancing Naked Details

Bayou Blues

Taunted because of the color of her skin and faced with a family that hits her heart like a hurricane, this young girl must reach inside herself to overcome life’s storms. An experience inspiring us to never stop dreaming! The poetic journey of a young girl faced with discrimination because of her dark skin must learn to conquer the many storms that enter her life. Will she sink or swim? A story of inspiration for us all.

My Take: Focused, riveting Beat poetry with a Cajun flair and an ability to bring the audience with her, Shaina will keep you connected to the energy within.

Bayou Blues Details

Body Armor Presented by Unstrung Harpist Productions

Three soldiers, wounded and trapped in the belly of a downed plane in Afghanistan, are cut off from any hope of rescue, their only tie to the outside world a mysterious woman on the radio. As they examine the decisions that led them to face death on foreign soil, the line between insurgent and peacekeeper blurs. Body Armor explores the themes of misguided patriotism, military overreach and corruption, and the fallen ideals of a country that has decided it is the world’s army.

My Take: Dark psychodrama that brings military service under sharp scrutiny. Tough to watch but looks ultimately rewarding.

Body Armor Details

Dark House Presented by Tarpley Long

Absalom, Absalom! lives. Faulkner’s ruthless Colonel Sutpen is re-imagined as a DC land developer in the 1960s. Classism, racism, sexism, miscegenation, incest, murder, suicide and the twists and turns of love imperil a family living in a Logan Circle mansion. Tarpley Long, a psychoanalyst and actor, received permission from the Literary Estate of William Faulkner to use Faulkner’s language from Absalom, Absalom! in her adaptation of the novel to the stage. The dialogue is Shakespearean; the plot, a Greek tragedy. Her mission is to bring Faulkner’s timeless and compelling stories to a new generation of readers.

My Take: Dark and tragic. Looks very well done from the short taste in previews. If you love classic American literature, this is probably for you.

Dark House Details

Detective Pimbley and the Case of the Rich Dead Lady Presented by The Impressionable Players

In a world of dark and stormy nights, Detective Pimbley prefers dark and stormy cocktails, but when a rich lady is found very dead, Pimbley is caught between a ruthless adulterer, a conniving femme fatale and, most dangerously, his ex-girlfriend. Detective Pimbley and the Case of the Rich Dead Lady is a world première.

My Take: Slick send-up of Noir-style detective flicks and Washington elite all at the same time, with sharp writing and tight caricatures that will make (or break) this parody. This group has an impeccable track record. Get your tickets early for this one.

Detective Pimbley and the Case of the Rich Dead Lady Details

Double Freakquency – an interactive headphone production. Presented by AVAdventure Productions

Two channels, one room. Audio is delivered through wireless two-channel headphones. Dialogue, sound effects, music – you choose what you want to hear. And get ready to debrief with your friends: No two individual show experiences are the same.

My Take: Fascinating use of technology. One channel has one set of dialogue, the other channel has the other. You get to choose which conversation to follow, moment by moment. Wish there were enough headsets to go around during previews.

Double Freakquency Details

Fish Outta Water

Fish Outta Water is the “prequel” to DC Trash the musical, satirical one-man show that was the hit of the 2012 Capital Fringe Festival. Before Ron finds his way home to DC and his niche driving that trash truck, he lived lives in DC, New York City, LA and . . . LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Just how did a trash-talking, judgmental, opinionated, know-it-all city slicker make his way in The Heartland? Not without some singin’ and dancin’ and a whole lotta laughs.

My Take: A Rap-fueled ode to guns, with fur-lined hat, grenades and waders, hilarious? You better believe it. Riotous laughter and thunderous applause – this was one of the best-received previews in the whole show. Don’t miss it!

Fish Outta Water Details

Four Women Presented by Wild Women Theatre

When singer Nina Simone created Four Women she probably didn’t imagine it portrayed through movement, storytelling and laughter, but we did! Four Women goes beyond the lyrics, exploring black womanhood and its many dimensions. Not a performance, a journey.

My Take: Soul sisters, biting wit and fabulous singing: These four women tell the gospel like it is, about life, love and living. See it if you can.

Four Women Details

Godiva Dates & One Night Stands

Regie Cabico’s latest spoken word play, Godiva Dates & One Night Stands chronicles his encounters with poet stalkers, Canadian Thanksgiving, sextings and astrological whimsy. Trying not to have his life turn into a Barbara Streisand movie, Regie is on an eternal mission to get his groove back. Godiva Dates & One Night Stands is a tour de force of poetic virtuosity & comic gold performed by the fairy godmother of DC spoken word.

My Take: No question. If you have a ticket to this show, you’re going to laugh. I guarantee it. Regie’s comic timing and delivery will guarantee an hour well-spent.

Godiva Dates & One Night Stands Details

Mirabilia Presented by Eclectic Mayhem Productions

Two friends, separated in a storm, journey in search of each other and write letters describing their odd, magical and often comic encounters. Through props, movement and variety performance, the cast brings to life these tales of a fantastic world.

My Take: Light, fluffy storytelling midst a good deal of fare for older kids or adults.

Mirabilia Details

One Night in New York! Presented by Belle Époque Productions and the New Musical Foundation

Michael is 23, gay and looking for his first hookup. Aided by a fabulous fairy godmother, he searches New York for a hottie and finds much more. Singing, dancing and maybe even a Grindr production number! This story was inspired by classic Broadway musicals such as On The Town, as well as recent LGBT genre films like Trick. One Night in New York! may be set in present day, but will look and feel like an old-fashioned Broadway musical. The production features twelve singing and dancing men and a show stopping Grindr-themed number – fairies, bear cubs and twinks…oh my!

My Take: A fabulous trip through the wild streets of New York City and a whole bunch of talent is going to make this a must-see show.

One Night in New York! Details

The Shirt of Happiness Presented by InterAct Story Theatre

Prince Parsley has lost his spice — he’s just flat and sour all the time. Then a mysterious jester sends him on a quest: If you want to be happy, find a truly happy person, and ask for his shirt! But how will he find a truly happy person? Where do you look for happiness? Based on Armenian and Italian folktales, The Shirt of Happiness follows a young prince’s search for true happiness The play is performed by two zany actors onstage with the help of everyone in the audience, who become part of the show right from their seats! Suitable for children and adults ages 3 and up.

My Take: Looks like high-energy, quality family fun with storytelling and audience participation.

The Shirt of Happiness Details

The Snuff Musical Presented by Muse Theatre Co. and Jay Lavely

An unhinged theatre composer and his out-of-work director friend set out to turn a notorious snuff film into a Broadway musical, but then the shadowy man who made the film shows up to take over – and ruin their lives.

My Take: Over the top metatheatre with a murderous twist and some seriously decent music. I don’t know whether it will be good or not, but the singing will be worth it and they’ll have a great time performing, from the looks of things.

The Snuff Musical Details

To Know a Veil Presented by Emma Crane Jaster

From the desert of Morocco to the centerfold of Vogue. Why do women veil and reveal themselves? This intercultural show melds interviews, dance, installation, stunning imagery, and party games. Inspired by her travels and personal encounters with women in all walks of life, Jaster creates a powerful yet touchingly immersive event, exploring the question: Why do women veil and reveal themselves? To Know a Veil has evolved over several workshop performances, two of them for the Soapbox performing arts series at Hillyer Art Space in Washington, DC in early 2013. Try on a burka, take off your shoes. A-veil yourself of an intimate evening.

My Take: Multimedia dance, performance art, exploration of assumptions and expectations. Leave your preconceived notions of sex and attraction at the door.

To Know a Veil Details

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is founder and Artistic Director of OutOftheBlackBox Theatre Company (O2B2) and General Manager of the Greenbelt Arts Center. Since 2006 Betsy has worked as a director, producer, designer and more. Betsy has also worked with Washington Revels, Arena Stage, the now-defunct Harlequin Dinner Theatre and with community theatre companies both in Maryland and in upstate New York. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Technical Theatre from SUNY New Paltz. Through Hawkeswood Productions, Betsy produces archival performance videos and YouTube highlight spots.

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