Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Fringe, Mostly

In my previous entry talking about junk food in media other than theatre, I can't believe I completely forgot about Road House, both the brilliantly awful movie and the recent Off-Broadway play (which may or may not be brilliantly awful but is more likely to be tongue-in-cheek camp rather than genuine junk food). What the hell is wrong with me?

(Please don't answer that.)

At any rate, I've rectified the situation in the comments section of the entry.

* * *

In other semi-news, it seems as though we are completely full on reservations for Saturday's Slow Children at Play show, which is super-cool. A free show with free beer apparently sells. Who knew? I would suggest to everyone I know coming to see this to show up super-early and snag as many seats as you can. With luck, this may be a standing-room-only free-for-all.

We'll see if I remember all of my lines.

(Again, if I don't, who cares? There'll be free beer, so I don't want to hear any complaints. I'll be funny, dammit, I swear.)

* * *

Okay, now onto something at least remotely related to theatre...

The 10th Annual New York International Fringe Festival begins tomorrow, which means I have a number of shows I'm getting ready to see. It's too soon right now to see which play will be the "Hot Ticket" even of the festival (word on that usually gets out after the first weekend), but regardless, there are already about a half-dozen shows or so that I plan on seeing (I've already purchased my ticket for Air Guitar and will buy my ticket for Vice Girl Confidential - starring Nosedive regular Christopher Yustin - sometime next week).

For some, the Fringe marks a time of excitement, where hundreds of indie shows (217 this year, to be exact) in all shapes, sizes and colors play downtown. For others, it's the beginning of a grueling endurance contest.

My attitude changes from year to year.

Ultimately, the way I see the Fringe, for good or for bad, is as a crash course in the Off-off theatre world; the downtown scene in microcosm. Although there's no way of knowing for sure (it being an impossibility for someone to see all 217 shows this year), my guess is the ratio of good-to-mediocre-to-awful would be roughly the same as the ratio for the entire year of theatre produced in the Off-off world. Also, the Fringe offers the average playgoer the same lack of quality control that the Off-off scene in total does (again, 217 freakin' shows, people. How can anybody make an informed choice as to which one to go to based solely on description [rather than recommendation]?).

Fellow playwright and blogger Adam Szymkowicz wrote something in the comments section of my "Entertainment Value" Jamespeak entry that really sums up the problem:

"I don't go to the Fringe anymore because I end up always seeing plays I hate. And I love theatre, and get to see a lot of good theatre but I have only seen one good fringe show and it involved people I already knew. Is that fair? No. But I rarely go to a show I haven't heard something good about. Because 9 times out of 10 if I go into something blind, it's not going to be good."

Sadly, I do know what he's talking about.

(I have noticed that this ties in - albeit tangentially - to the weirdness with Scott Walters' blog and Isaac Butler's entry on his pseudonymous friend "Zack" who doesn't like plays. Although I definitely love plays...I wouldn't write them if I didn't...I tend to see that the bad rep and stigma attached to theatre for those who don't regularly go is more than a little merited. Again, I'm reminded from time to time of the episode in The Simpsons where Homer goes to zoo and yells at the lackadaisical animals: "I've seen plays that were more interesting than this. Honest to God PLAYS!")

It also seems to tie in to my previous entry about theatre as junk food, our problem mainly being that few of us have much of a sense of humor when it comes to seeing really bad and inept indie/Off-off shows. The typical feeling I get after seeing a series of mediocre-to-awful plays is not one of amusement but of anger-meets-depression.

I try to keep my wits together by only limiting the number of shows I see at the festival to around six to 12. For reviewers, who often have to see 40 to 50 shows (or more) in the span of two weeks, I can see how it can be draining (to put it mildly). Of those half-a-dozen to a dozen shows I see, they're usually shows I have friends attached to them, or based on recommendations from people whose opinion I trust (hint, hint, Lucas).

Anyway, that's really all I have to say about the Fringe for now, since I haven't seen anything from it yet this year. When I start going to shows, I'll be giving reports.

In the meantime, it's time to go back to remembering sketches I wrote when I was 19.

Memorizing the funny,

James "Tao" Comtois


Anonymous Lucas Krech said...

You only say that about me because I liked your show.


3:58 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

See? You do have good taste! WUBUBUBUBUB!

Losing all credibility,

James "Dancin' Hobo" Comtois

4:01 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

No, but in all seriousness, Lucas, you're lighting/designing like, what, 15 shows for the Fringe? I think you'd have a decent insight as to which ones you've designed to definitely check out, which ones are okay and which ones to avoid at all cost.

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Jeremy said...

You still owe me a thoughtful movie report on Road House.

8:31 PM  
Blogger Jamespeak said...

Working on it, Jeremy. Working on it.

By the way, happy birthday! Ya lousy bum.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Adam said...

It loooks like I am going to try to see at least 3 fringe shows. not that I have the time. I should never say anything because I will end up taking it back.

8:47 PM  
Blogger Inkslinger said...

Glad to see you're going to see some of the NY Fringe shows. If I could recommend one, don't miss Neon Mirage. It's at Venue #5 and starts next Tuesday, August 22nd. I saw it twice at its premeire at the Louisville festival, and it's great. The same actors (this year's Actors Theatre of Louisville apprentice troupe) and director are doing the Fringe production.

As a writer, you'll be interested in the story behind the script, too (collaboration of 6 writers and a composer - and the result is amazingly consistent!).


11:08 AM  

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