Noah J Nelson on Wednesday, Jun. 12th
Maybe I'm just exceptionally lucky.
If the first five shows I've seen from this year's Hollywood Fringe crop are any indication, the festival has hit it's stride.
From experimental pieces to full on rock musicals, the work that was already on display during preview weekend was proof that the members of the Fringe community have grown their skill set year over year.
I've already talked with the creator and producer of Take Me To The Poorhouse, a masterfully put together solo show that shows off the acting range of writer-star Liz Femi. That production is part of the freshman class at Fringe.
Right now I want to talk about some of the returning companies. Like Hollywood itself, the Fringe has franchise hits of its own. Some companies have been working the festival since it's inception, and others that have risen to prominence in the sophomore and junior years.
They are, for all intents and purposes, the Fringe headliners. The can't-miss shows. With the opening night party unfolding tonight, I wanted to give a quick glimpse of three of these productions.
Four Clowns: Me Rich, You Learn
The Four Clowns company has won numerous awards at previous editions of the Hollywood Fringe. While last year's offering was an all ages affair this show, about a tax dodging self-help guru and his only friend/IRS minder, returns to the troupe's raunchy roots.
I checked in with company founder Jeremy Aluma, whose savvy marketing techniques have been adopted by other Fringers, about what he wants out of the 2013 Fringe.
I hope that the Fringe provides us with the momentum needed to take Me Rich You Learn on the road. On a broader level, I hope the Fringe continues to nurture young artists, giving them not only a platform to explore an idea, but a place to develop a company. In the long run I hope it strengthens and unites the wider LA theater community.
I keep Fringing because the audiences are so excited and supportive, which creates a great place for us to continuously experiment. I also love feeling like the LA theater community is connected beyond the award season. It's a great time to see–and perhaps steal–new artists and ideas."
Exorcistic: The Rock Musical Parody Experiment
I need to start here with a confession. I've known writer Michael Shaw Fisher of the Orgasmico Theatre Company for a very long time. Longer than I care to admit.
His production at the Fringe last year–Doomsday Cabaret–won Best Musical at the Fringe awards ceremony. That production was actually his second choice. His first was a rock musical adaptation of the horror classic The Exorcist. Fisher held off from producing after the writer of the original novel and film, William Peter Blatty, asked him to until an official dramatic adaptation bowed at the Geffen Playhouse here in Los Angeles.
The delay gave Fisher time to hone his Fringe skills, gather collaborators, and earn an audience with Doomsday's success. I can be a particularly incisive critic of my friend's work–ask any of them–so I'm happy to write this: the show is a hoot.
Lost Moon Radio: Roger Wodehouse's Androgymnasium
As director Lauren Ludwig likes to say LOst Moon Radio specializes in dry comedy and wet rock n' roll. Nothing in their production history epitomizes this more than Roger Wodehouse's Androgymnasium.
This year's show is a bold departure from Lost Moon Radio's usual format–that of an off-the-rails late night radio show which allows them to sandwich skits in between a light narrative arc–and the production is all the better for it.
The Roger Wodehouse character, played by writer/performer Ryan Harrison, has been a running gag throughout Lost Moon's shows. A riff on David Bowie in the 70's glam era, the comedic conceit here is that Wodehouse was given a children's television programme by the BBC in 1975.
It didn't last long, and the production shows why. The phrase "delightfully inappropriate" comes to mind. The best part, however, is that while the usual Lost Moon fare has the company sitting in front of music stands with their scripts, this format calls for a fully staged production.
I put the same questions to Ludwig that I gave Aluma. What is her great hope for this year's Fringe, and why does she keep coming back for more?
I want the Hollywood Fringe to continue to grow in recognition in LA and across the country. I want knew and exciting work to come out of it, that goes on to have a wider audience. Fringe festivals are exciting when they are an incubator for new shows and new relationships. I hope this year's Festival leads to more opportunities and collaborations between the participants after the festival. In past years, Fringe has felt like a wonderful summer camp; amazing, but short-lived. I think it has the potential to influence LA theater year round.
Noah: Why do you keep Fringing?
Because it's important to be in a community where theater and live performance are celebrated. Especially in a film and television mecca like Los Angeles. Especially in a country like the US, where theater is often bottom of the totem pole. At Fringe festivals everywhere, for a few weeks a year, theater is god. It's inspiring and it pushes the participants to keep making work, interesting work, and to keep the faith that what they're doing is important.
The Fringe begins tonight, and these shows are just the tip of the iceberg. The best part, inevitably, will be discovering new talents that will become stars of the Fringe community for years to come.
Exorcistic: The Rock Musical Parody Experiment • Four Clowns • Hollywood Fringe Festival • Jeremy Aluma • Lauren Ludwig • Lost Moon Radio • Me Rich You Learn • Michael Shaw Fisher • Roger Wodehouse's Androgymnasium • toplogo