While there are numerous awards for Fringe productions, I would like to honor some individual and group performances that made the 2010 Capital Fringe Festival a memorable experience for me. However, I only saw 27 productions (i.e., only 20% of the 132 total) so please chip in with your own comments on who should receive these awards or, better yet, create some award categories yourself and name the deserving recipients.
So here they are – my McKnights:
Favorite Male Acting Performance (Equity): Jeff Baker, A Walk in the Woods. His nuanced performance as the Soviet negotiator Andrey Botvinnick expressed all of the humor, warmth, and intelligence that author Lee Blessing intended.
Favorite Male Acting Performance (Non-Equity): Jayme Bell, Romeo and Juliet: Choose Your Own Adventure. Rarely have I seen a young actor make being funny seem as effortless as Jayme did while portraying both Mercutio and the Nurse in this farcical funhouse.
Favorite Female Acting Performance (Equity): Sarah Holt, SEX AND EDUCATION: A Learning Experience in One Act. Her terrific performance as the departing teacher determined to make a difference to one final student was fascinating, never hitting a false note.
Favorite Female Acting Performance (Non-Equity): Tie, between Melissa Fenton (Medea), and Jo Firestone (Ridgefield Middle School Talent Nite). These two extremely different performances were both indicative of tremendous incipient talent. Melissa Fenton was an emotional powerhouse as Medea while Jo Firestone is the most talented young comedic actress I have seen in a long time.
Favorite Vocalist (Rock): Emily Webbe, When E.T. Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Move over Ann Wilson and Pat Benatar, Emily Webbe can command the stage with her voice and attitude like few artists performing today.
Favorite Vocalist (Pop): Bligh Voth, Duet. Her voice is so sweet and pure it could even make me forget the heat of the venue, while creating a different kind of heat with her co-star Jonny Price.
Favorite Ensemble, Comedy: The cast of Carrie Potter and the New Moon Prom. Of all of the parody shows Carrie Potter and the New Moon Prom was the best I saw at this year’s Fringe (or last year’s Fringe, or the one before, or . . .). While the script wonderfully mashed up several different films, this cast milked it thoroughly and often made me laugh with just a single facial expression, so I chose to recognize it here even though it is a musical comedy.
Favorite Ensemble, Drama: The cast of Eight. As much as I admire the writing of Ella Hickson (see below), these thematically connected monologues would not have been so memorable without the talented cast that worked under the direction of Ryan S. Taylor. [Note: you can still catch this production of Eight during a short extended run at the DC Arts Center from August 5 – 14.]
Favorite Ensemble, Musical: The cast and band of When ET Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. A collection of amazing voices paired with a kick-ass band resulted in one of my favorite Fringe productions.
Favorite New Fringe Writer (International): Ella Hickson, Eight. This writing is so talented and mature I find it hard to believe British author Ella Hickson wrote it for the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe Festival at the age of 23. She is a writer I will be following.
Favorite New Fringe Writer (National): Lissa Levin, SEX AND EDUCATION: A Learning Experience in One Act. While Lissa Levin has had a long and successful career in television, the stage needs more individuals with her talent. Let’s hope that we seen more theatrical works from her in the future.
Favorite New Fringe Writer (Local): Tie, between Hunter Styles (Freud Meets Girl) and Brett Steven Abelman (The Water Plays). Hunter’s play was very imaginative and polished while Brett’s three works with a common theme demonstrated both talent and versatility, even if they might benefit from a little more work.
The Social Consciousness Award: Tie, between Patricia Davis (Alternative Methods) and Jennifer S. Jones (Letters to Clio – Part II, Margarita). Two intelligent and impassioned women presented thoughtful works about the role of the individual in resisting state-sponsored imprisonment and torture.
Person I Would Most Like to Have at a Dinner Party: John Feffer, Edible Rex. Any man who can speak in such a charming and intelligent manner about food, family, international culture, and public policy belongs at the finest salons in DC.
Person I would Most Like to Go Drinking With: Ed Hammel, This is Your Brain On Rock and Roll. This Sigma Award could probably be retired in Ed Hammel’s honor. Given how funny and profane he can be and his ability to spout spontaneous ad libs and stories, I can only imagine what he would be like off stage after a few drinks.
Favorite Production Program: When ET Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. While I appreciated the song list, the glossary, and the author’s “hommages and reflections,” I truly loved the fact that the program included a page full of Top 5 lists (inspired by Nick Hornsby’s High Fidelity). That program inspired the next award.
Five Shows I Missed That I Wish I Could Have Seen (or Hope I Can See in the Future): In alphabetical order, my most painful personal Fringe viewing omissions were:
(4) Tales of Love and Sausages
(5) The Imaginary Autopsee
Best/Worst Fringe Venue: The Clinic. This venue seemed to have the highest percentage of winners (After the Garden, Duets, Freud Meets Girl, Romeo and Juliet: Choose Your Own Adventure, SEX AND EDUCATION: A Learning Experience in One Act) of any place where I watched shows (and I didn’t even get the chance to see GS-14 or The Imaginary Autopsee). Only the quality of the shows kept me coming back to this miserably hot and uncomfortable location.
Classiest Act of the Fringe: I admired the way that Dylan Marron and Jo Firestone ended their show (Ridgefield Middle School Talent Nite) by recognizing the other Fringe performers in the audience and giving them a chance to plug their shows. That action was in keeping with the true spirit of the Fringe. Runner-Up: Free water from the Fringe Festival during the final heat wave weekend.
Congratulations to everyone.
If you haven’t voted for the DC Theatre Scene’s “2010 BEST OF THE FRINGE AWARDS” for Best Play, Best Musical, Best Solo Performance, and Best Dance Performance, voting closes Monday July 26th at 10 PM. (If you are reading this while the polls are still open, look to your right.) The results will be posted here Tuesday morning.