Volume 74, Number 16 | August 18 - 24 , 2004


New York International Fringe Festival
212-279-4488; www.fringenyc.org.

The Fringe continues . . .

By Davida Singer

Photo by Vivian Cooper Smith

A scene from “Granola! The Muscial.” A proud group of granola farmers who dance and sing, battle the dark forces of “EvilCorp” in a fierce struggle to save their land. Playing at Pace University, Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts, 13 Spruce St, (East of Park Row, near Gold St.), Sun, Aug. 22 at 9:15 pm and Fri, Aug. 27 at 8 pm.

Fringe rules! The 8th New York Internationl Fringe Festival continues to run thru Aug. 29, hosting roughly 200 shows at 20 downtown venues, from Pace University to West 11th Street. More than 1300 performers in a wide range of disciplines, including theater, dance, comedy, buskers, multi-media and spoken word. The tagline for this year’s FringeNYC, the largest multi-arts festival in North America, is “Defy Convention.”

“This time, among applicants, we saw a preponderance of people with a lot of personal stories to tell,” says Producing Artistic Director, Elena Holy. “We’re 16 days prior to the Republican convention in the same city, and it’s interesting that so many performers are doing social themes, and all in different genres.”

According to Holy, FringeNYC always strives to represent as many voices as possible, and for the 8th Festival “the variation has increased”, with international companies from Cyprus, Iceland, Germany and Spain, and work from such diverse national cities as Boise, Minneapolis, Miami and Fort Worth.

“In this day and age,” she elaborates, “it’s so important to have all of these performers come and join us in New York City, especially the international ones. It’s an important way to show the reality of who we are, because of how unflattering the picture of Americans has been lately around the world.”

Holy stresses that the current FringeNYC has “such an extraordinary body of work,” it’s been difficult to create highlights this time around. Instead, she notes a sampling of shows representing the enormous variety present at the Festival.

There’s “Hanging Chad”, by Greg Klein, the true story of a guy named Chad who moved from Harlem to Florida, which became an issue when his vote wasn’t counted. “Womyn in Three”, written by Caren Lyn Manuel, recounts her transformational experience and the hypothesis that Mary Magdalene and Jesus had a sexual connection. Manuel tracked down the story, and formed a very personal piece out of it. Steven Fales’ autobiographical work is called “Confession of a Mormon Boy”, and deals with his religious background, marriage, and realization that he was gay.

“From Australia, comes “Black Swans of Tresspass”, which is almost an installation, with video, slides and puppets,” adds Holy. “It’s a literary hoax about modern Australian poets, where the more traditional writers produce a made-up poet and his work. The dance company from Cyprus with choreographer, Elena Christodoulidou, is doing “Lifetime”, about our relationship with time, and one of our Canadian companies has a comedy called “Pith”, about a high society widow and the sailor who takes her on an imaginary journey without leaving her house. There’s a great mix of emerging and experienced artists here. We look for passion, diversity and innovation when we choose, and now we even draw lots of celebrities -soap stars, Broadway people- who want to be part of all this.”

Special added attractions to FringeNYC also return with gusto. FringeJR for children offers a musical version of “Rapunzel” and “In My Country”, a free, multi-media presentation by international participants. Fringe High has shows appropriate for high school kids, and FringeART boasts an interactive canvas on wheels, “So everyone can be part of this finger painting.” Also free are the outdoor performances of FringeAL FRESCO, including “American Oligopoly”, a 20’ by 20’ live action monopoly game using world politics, “Voices of Juarez”, based on the recent disappearance of young, Mexican women, and the Suitcase Players with their 15 minute condensed versions of Americans classics like “The Glass Menagerie” and “Death of a Salesman”.

This year, the information hub of the Festival, FringeCENTRAL, is located at 127 MacDougal Street, between West 3rd and West 4th Streets, and accessible by all subways. There one can get a leg up on what’s happening in the vast schedule of shows running from 3 p.m. to midnight on weekdays and 12 noon to midnight on weekends.

“New Yorkers have taken responsibility for FringeNYC for a long time,” Holy says. “Now we have others stepping in to help us. Pace University has contributed four venues and Leslie Garfield Real Estate donated the FringeCENTRAL space. There are 400-500 volunteers again, and our “work a shift, see a show” policy still holds. We’ve done our best to keep prices down too, with most shows at $15, and the Flex Pass- $110. for 10 shows- is our best deal. The real challenge as our reputation and size grows, is to maintain the spirit, and passion of the festival and the community we’ve created.”

And what does the Artistic Director see as this FringeNYC’s special essence?

“I think we’re fortunate we can gather and create in this way,” she answers. “It’s time right now for us to celebrate our rights as human beings and our freedoms. I feel for these 16 days we become stewards of all these artists’ dreams. The joy of meeting them and seeing them light up and become part of something so special, brings such gratification. Significantly, our applications are always due on Valentine’s Day, so it’s like getting valentines from all over the world. It’s really hard to have a down day with all of this energy and talent flooding over everything.”

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