Noah J Nelson on Friday, Jun. 21st
The second full weekend of the Hollywood Fringe Festival is upon us and adventurous theatre goers are flocking to this year's lineup like never before.
Earlier in the week the festival announced that is had surpassed the previous year's ticket sales just 6 days into the festival, and there's still two weekends left to go.
In our last check in on the festival I covered the "returning champions", shows by production companies that have built up big followings amongst the Fringe community.
This time out I'll be putting the spotlight on a few shows that are easy to overlook, but deserve attention.
It's Important To Leave, As Well
Last year the Will Play For Food company, headed by director Scott Marden, made a bold freshman appearance with The Nina Variations. The company's follow up, a play so new you can almost smell the printer ink, carries on their tradition of working on experimental pieces.
There's some rough edges to It's Important To Leave, As Well but rough edges are what the Fringe is about. The preview version of the show I was able to see was constructed around some beautifully executed moments, and the core company just gets stronger with each production.
I asked Marden what his great hope for Fringe was this year.
I stepped incredibly far out of my comfort zone with this show; I tend to be involved in contemporary shows which have been published, developed for at least a year, or Shakespeare, so to take on a project which eight weeks ago didn't even have a script was incredibly terrifying. So to have our preview audience respond as well as they did makes me think that we've got something worth watching, and now I just want to fill the house every night, because our play isn't for us, it's for the audience. At least, that's why it's here at Fringe, if it were just for us, we'd keep rehearsing it in our apartments and save ourselves the cost of production. So, I'll be able to sleep happy on June 30th if I am confident that I got as many people into my show as I possibly could.
Apart from my goals for the show, Fringe has also proven an excellent opportunity to meet new artists and companies for future collaborations. For example: I met the playwright of 'It's Important to Leave, as Well' last year during Theatre Unleashed's 24 hour theatre event, and I'll be directing their production of 'Trust' in the fall, having spent much of this year working with them as an Assistant Director. So, this year, I'd like to make one more connection like that, one more company who I can work with, one more artist to collaborate with.
Take Me To The Poorhouse
You're probably sick of me crowing aboutTake Me To The Poorhouse, the one woman show by Liz Fermi. I'll just say this: after taking in a few other shows I am reminded of just how much of a miracle this show is.
This new play by writer Laura Formisano marks her, along with lead actress Jamie Sara Slovon and supporting player Tay Allyn as ones to watch.
There's a post-college vibe in both theme and execution in Soh-Cah-Toa, but the unpolished nature of the piece can't hide Formisano's wit and her ability to craft an interesting emotional metaphor.
Slovan grounds the production as Lucy. Not once did I feel like she was acting, it is a subtle thing that makes a huge difference in the intimate spaces that Fringe shows unfold in.
Allen, in the supporting role of April–the prototypical ditzy Hollywood blonde–channeled Suzanne Somers' Three's Company character so effectively it was almost frightening. For extra fun catch Allen on the sidelines when those on stage talk about her character.
Philosophy in the Boudoir
It takes a special kind of audacity to stage an adaption of a Marquis de Sade story and leave all the naughty bits and philosophy intact. If you are able to handle public nudity and depictions of acts that obliterate the line between sex and violence then you might be able to handle this production.
As it was I could have used more of De Sade's scathing wit and fewer dry line readings. Keep in mind–if the name "de Sade" wasn't warning enough–this is not a show for anyone who has emotional scarring around sexual trauma.
Keep On Fringing
Before heading back out into another temperate Hollywood night I want to turn back to Will Play for Food's Scott Marden.
Like his fellow returning Fringe directors I asked Marden why he returned to the Fringe this year.
I keep Fringing because I met more people and saw more amazing theatre in the two weeks of Fringe last year than I did in the two years prior that I was in Los Angeles. It makes me want to put my very best work on the stage, and it reminds me of how many talented artists there are in this town (and around the world – shout out to the International companies at Fringe this year!) It's inspiring really to see so many people coming out to put on the show they've always wanted to direct, or star in, or write. And it keeps growing!
I think people are starting to realize that Fringe is the place to be during June, and we're seeing less and less shows trying to compete from beyond the festival. This is great because it means that audiences then get to come to one area, and see the best (and, sometimes, worst) that LA has to offer, which in this town of Film and Television is vital to continued growth of live performance.
As for me, I'll be checking out shows this weekend that are picking up some buzz: Hashtag, The Devil and Billy Markham, Cleaner Than Blood, and No Static. If you've got a hot tip on a show that I shouldn't miss ping me on Twitter (@noahjnelson).
The Hollywood Fringe Festival continues through June 30th.