Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Look Back . . .

Part II: Fringe Festival

A five-part series revisiting five 2007 Cincinnati Festivals: MidPoint Music Festival, Fringe Festival, Taste of Cincinnati, Oktoberfest, and Riverfest.

As noted in this week’s print edition of the Downtowner, plans for the 2008 Fringe Festival are underway with the application deadline for performers approaching on December 7. According to the article, Eric Vosmeier is the new producing director. He is currently the theatre director for the Carnegie Visual & performing Arts Center and an associate artistic director at the Know Theatre which currently organizes the Fringe Festival.

The 2007 festival was held May 30 through June 10. There were twenty-nine individual shows performed multiple times at eight venues primarily in Over the Rhine. There was also a Visual Fringe & Celluloid Fringe component along with a Bar Series. CityBeat’s coverage indicated about 6,000 people attended the 2007 festival, a 20% increase over 2006. I tried to attend as many shows as I could that I thought looked interesting. I bought a flex pass and mapped out a strategy. It did not work out entirely as planned . . .

The first show I saw was on opening night at Below Zero, Christmas in Bakersfield. The one-man show is told by Les, a gay African American man who goes to his white boyfriend’s family for the holidays only to find out they were not informed of his race beforehand. It was at times funny but thought it needed something more to help convey and move the story along. Unfortunately I saw Woof! The Road Show on Friday, June 1 also at Below Zero. I say unfortunately because, and I hate to say it, I thought it was a real dog. It somehow got a decent review in CityBeat but there was not much about it I could recommend. What was it about? It doesn’t really matter. The concept was much better than the actual show. I know some friends who saw it later during the Festival and they left during the show. We didn’t think we could make a clean escape. The best show I saw by far was Mad, a fittingly sparse production at the New Stage Collective about a family’s struggle with schizophrenia. I’ll admit this autobiographical story hit close to home for me as my family has lived through schizophrenia. Well acted, I was just glad to see one show I really liked. A friend who attended the performance thought the "voices" in the son’s head could have been developed further but I thought overall the show was pretty good.

Now I missed two shows I really wanted to see either due to sold out performances or scheduling conflicts: The Kid in the Dark and Calculus: The Musical. Both productions were well reviewed and additional performances of Calculus were even added. And The Kid in the Dark was reprised in September as a special engagement at Know Theatre . . . which I also missed. For reviews of all shows, click here.

Awards for the 2007 Fringe Festival were as follows according to CityBeat:

"The ‘audience pick’ went to Calculus: The Musical, which sold out five performances early in the festival, causing Bruffy and his colleagues to add a performance, the first time that’s happened in four years. The ‘producers pick’ went to The Satori Group’s iLove:, a piece about love and sex in today’s electronically connected world. The ‘critics pick’ went to True + False, an array of monologues that invited audiences to vote as to whether they were real and which were made up."

I will, of course, be back next year, May 28 through June 7, 2008. I hope to have better luck in my choices and planning. Vosmeier says in the Downtowner, "We’re working on a lot of new ideas to keep the festival new, and continue to improve the number of submissions and quality of production." I will be looking forward to that.

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