Running from June 17-27, 2010, the inaugural Hollywood Fringe Festival carved out a space in the LA arts calendar with the intention of becoming an annual celebration of the emerging arts and a theatrical extravaganza.
Staged by Executive Director Ben Hill, and his dedicated team, and modeled along the same lines as the highly successful Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Hollywood Fringe Festival aimed for an inclusive atmosphere rather than a curated one. In other words, no artist was rejected from participation.
Hill stated that the intention of the Fringe was to unite the disparate art communities throughout Los Angeles. The Festival was held in over thirty venues, most of which were in and around Hollywood, (all fringe events were staged in theatres and open areas within the Franklin/Melrose, La Brea/Gower area). Â A staggering 175 productions and events were on offer with a mere eleven days to cram in as much live theatre experience as possible. Shows ranged from solo and ensemble theatre and comedy to musical, opera and live music performances.Â Sadly, this critic barely sampled a fraction of the diverse theatrical experiences on offer, yet the Festival attracted audiences and artists from all over Los Angeles and abroad.
As the Festival progressed, attendance grew. This was thanks to audience and participant”™s reviews posted on the Fringe Fest”™s home website, and other LA-based theatrical blogs and review sites, as well as strong word of mouth reports. Many participants and attendees commented on how impressed they were with the high standard of local shows as well as visiting Fringe shows.
In keeping with the format of all International “Fringe” theatre festivals, the majority of theatrical offerings were single act solo shows. Almost every show ran for 60 minutes, with a few notable exceptions, and this made for a fun and fast-paced vibe.
[Fun Fact:Â Unlike the strict rules of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, no one was fined 10 quid for every minute their show ran over the restricted one hour running time. Ha!]
With almost all the venues based in Hollywood, this made it convenient for audiences to hop around from show to show and immerse themselves in as much theatre as humanly possible. The Festival”™s HQ was based on Las Palmas Ave, at the Theatre of Arts, and this proved to be the heart and center for comedy events, panels and forums and even a lively bar scene. Street performances were staged in the courtyard of the Egyptian Theatre right next door, drawing the attention of passing crowds and tourists to the eventful ten days of festivities.
Highlights of the Fringe included Mission of Flowers (Australia), which played at Theatre Asylum. Written by Gerry Greenland and starring Leof Kingsford-Smith, Mission of Flowers tells the true story of intrepid adventurer and aviator, Bill Lancaster, who, during the 1930s, strove for fame, love and survival.
Lancaster purchased an Avro Avian plane, known as the Southern Cross Minor, from Charles Kingsford Smith, a well-known early Australian aviator (who, incidentally, is a direct ancestor of our leading man). Spooky!
After Lancaster”™s plane crashes somewhere in the remote and blistering Sahara Desert, he reminisces over the key incidents in his life thus far. Stranded with scant water and a plane log that he uses as a journal, Lancaster pours out his heart to his mother and the love of his life, aviatrix Jessie “Chubbie” Miller.
Greenland”™s accessible play incorporates a pleasing use of language, e.g. “brittle cold,” and avoids the overuse of local and era-specific idiom while nicely positing the story within its early 20th Century period. In fact, some sections of the monologue were taken directly from the plane”™s recovered logbooks. Kingsford-Smith holds our attention with his gentle, authentic and beautifully modulated performance.
While obviously similar in theme – and contemporaneous – to the story of Amelia Earhart, the true tale of this virtually unknown explorer capitalizes on our ignorance, maintaining tension over the outcome – will our flawed hero survive or perish? – until the final moments of the play.
feeling sorry for roman POLANSKI, (catchy title!) also played at Theatre Asylum and was another highlight for this critic. Set sometime during the seventies, this domestic dramedy starred Michael Whitney, Danielle Fink and Joel Brady and was directed by Michael A. Stock. Playwright Sue Cargill demonstrates a perfect ear for creating realistic dialogue in an edgy comedy that presents an insightful examination of the dynamic between couples.
When a distraught Bink (Michael Whitney) returns home after a devastating day at work performing as a Gorilla Gram, his garrulous wife Myrna (Danielle Fink) wants to know what”™s up. Yet Myrna cannot help interjecting with contemporary pop-culture references, such as the current scandal involving Roman Polanski and his rape trial, which followed the shocking murder of his wife Sharon Tate by the Manson clan.
Cargill keeps the focus on our couple and this marvelous play was notable for its first-rate acting, characters and dialogue. Whitney was especially good, with his stony silences and expressive Buster Keaton-esque performance. The show was also notable for its ingenious staging, including a fantastic dream sequence and a clever set-piece of a double bed standing on its end so we could see the players as they conversed. Brilliant!
The Rendezvous, which played for one night at King King nightclub, on Hollywood Blvd., was a sizzling burlesque show known as Cherry Boom Boom, a highly polished and high-energy show that plays once a month at King King.
Re-tooled slightly for inclusion in 2010″™s Hollywood Fringe Festival, creator and star Lindsley Allen”™s rockin”™ and sexy concoction is fun, exciting and pure entertainment. During the Fringe the show played to a packed house of vocal and enthusiastic insta-fans. Eight incredibly talented and sexy female dancers performing a slick and upbeat show of back-to-back burlesque dance numbers in various stages of undress – what”™s not to like? Add a trapeze act and a sweet storyline of a pair of shy young lovers, and you have a brilliantly conceived and perfectly executed night of rowdy entertainment. (Full review here.)
Other Fringe shows that received a lot of buzz were The Packer (New Zealand); Alive Theatre”™s 4 Clowns; the multimedia madness of The Wolf Girls; Basic Training; need theatre”™s The Event and the Life of Si, which was part of the British Invasion comedy series.
On the last day of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, which was Sunday June 27th, the LA Theatre Review (LATR) hosted a panel to discuss the theatre critic”™s role and responsibility, the current state of theatre in Los Angeles and the impact of the Hollywood Fringe on this city and its theatre scene.
Filling the chairs on the critic”™s panel were Don Shirley from LA Stage Blog; Harvey Perr from Stage and Cinema; Colin Mitchell and Enci from Bitter Lemons; Steven Leigh Morris from LA Weekly; and LATR”™s editor-in-chief Geoff Hoff. The panel discussion was moderated by Kat Primeau and a lively discussion ensued, both amongst the panel members and sparked by questions and opinions from the audience.
This panel was notable for being populated exclusively by male theatre critics, excluding the female moderator, although Primeau is apparently a sometime reviewer and actress and Enci (one of the representatives from Bitter Lemons) who is also an actress.
Additionally, the Bitter Lemons website doesn”™t actually review theatrical productions, but collates and compiles reviews and serves, in a sense, to review LA critics themselves.
Nevetheless it was a fine and informative discussion and provided a great ending to the inaugural 2010 Hollywood Fringe Festival, with the hopes of more years to follow.
Following the conclusion of the Festival events, the LA Theatre Review site handed out four “˜La Fringe”™ awards, all for outstanding contribution to theatre in Los Angeles.
Outstanding Contribution to Theatre in Los Angeles in an Ensemble Show
1. The Birthday Boys
3. The Wolf Girls
The Ensemble La Fringe went to: Medea
Outstanding Contribution to Theatre in Los Angeles, International
1. The Packer
2. British Invasion
3. Mission of Flowers
The International La Fringe went to: The British Invasion
Overall Outstanding Contribution to Theatre in Los Angeles
1. The Wolf Girls
2. Friends Like These
3. The Birthday Boys
The Overall La Fringe went to: The Birthday Boys
Review by Pauline Adamek