Pretty soon, every season will be Fringe Season. What once was solely a summer phenomenon has blossomed into an all-year producing organization. This November, FallFRINGE is back!
This year’s FallFRINGE features nine productions returning from this past summer’s Capital Fringe Festival, as well as two new shows from previous festival stalwarts Ed Hamell and Sheldon Scott. The selection at this year’s iteration includes Izumi Ashizawa’s coldly fascinating (and Fringe Director Award-winning ), physical theater piece iKiLl and rocking prodigal Fringe favorite Hamell, who returns to Fort Fringe with The Evolution Revolution. I sat down with several producers and artists from a selection of this year’s returning Fringe participants to discuss their shows, artistic processes, and the impact that being a part of the CapFringe community has had on their careers.
Good Girls Don’t, But Indian Girls Do
Original DCTS Review:
Stand-up comedian and storyteller Vijai Nathan is a veteran and star of the DC storytelling scene. She’s been a featured performer for famed local storytelling troupe SpeakeasyDC, and routinely hosts open-mic nights. Nathan will be remounting her solo show Good Girls Don’t, But Indian Girls Do, which she’s been developing since 2000. I chatted with Nathan as she prepared to board a flight to Toronto.
DCTS: What about the storytelling format appeals to you?
VN: My early attempts at being a part of the acting community didn’t go so well. This idea of trying out and being rejected…I made a funny story out it. Stand up I was drawn to because no one could tell me that I could not be myself. I could get up and as long as I wrote something and it was entertaining… nobody could tell me I couldn’t be me. Nobody could tell me I wasn’t right for this role because it was me.
I watched performers like Eddie Murphy. I grew up in the 80s watching the 80’s comics. They made fun of their lives, the bad things that were going on in their lives. I felt that I understood them. They were talking about their personal stuff, making it funny and making that connection.
It was empowering. As a kid I just thought, “wow, this is so cool”.
They took their pain and made it funny, and in making it funny they made themselves funny. They made themselves understood. They were seen. I never felt that I had a right to speak, because while I was born here I was still viewed as a foreigner. A part of me remained “Indian”. The kids at school saw me as other and my parents perpetuated it.
DCTS: What do you consider the difference between stand-up comedy and storytelling?
VN: In stand -up, I can sneak in a joke about racism or sex or my parents. In solo performance I can do the story and give you more of the emotion that informs that joke. Solo performance for me is lot more vulnerable. In stand-up you have to maintain a sort of aggressive stance. It’s almost you against the audience. In solo the goal is that you and the audience, you are one. In stand-up you can’t be vulnerable. That’s the big difference: aggression versus vulnerability. Sadness would kill a joke. You can’t have an epiphany in the middle of a stand-up set… like “that’s when I realized that I had changed in my father’s eyes”. In solo you can do that but still have a ton of jokes and moments around it.
DCTS: How has Fringe helped your career and development as an artist?
VN: I’ve been in several Speakeasy productions for Fringe. This is the second show I’ve presented by myself at Fringe as a solo performer.
The first time I did Fringe by myself was the summer of 2010. I did a show called Give Them Vagina. [See the DCTS review here]. It allowed me to try something a little different. [When I applied] I hadn’t finished writing the show. I kept thinking, “hopefully people will come”. Out of six shows, I sold out five. I didn’t sell out the first show. It was really amazing because it was a whole new audience that didn’t know me. That was the biggest thing, getting this new audience that I didn’t know would want to come see me.
DCTS: What’s next for you?
VN: Filming a Russel Peters Christmas special for Canadian Television. I’m going to act, I’m going to do some acting!
Sisters of Ellerly Hollow
Original DCTS Review
Stephen Spotswood’s tall-tale inspired drama Sisters of Ellerly Hollow was a personal favorite of mine at this year’s Fringe Festival. Rachel Holt and Melissa Hmelnicky portray mythically-born twin sisters Elsie and Abby who regale the audience with whimsical stories of growing up in the eponymous hamlet. Spotswood’s lyrical language matched well with Jennifer John’s strong direction, making more than bearable even the heat of the post-apocalyptic Apothecary venue. I’m excited to say that Sisters makes the move to The Shop as part of FallFRINGE. I sat down with writer Stephen Spotswood and cast member Hmelnicky in separate interviews.
“I wanted to tell a story about two sisters”, Spotswood explains over coffee at cushy Atlas District coffee shop Sova, long the traditional home away from home for freelancers and creative types. It soon became clear that Spotswood is confident in his cast and crew, and suspects that the storytelling-stepped “Sisters” will work in any venue. “It’s two actors and three rehearsal blocks. It needs nothing.” That sort of confidence extends to his trust in his director, Jennifer John, and the cast. “Sisters has two stage directions and they are both ‘name of character enters’”.
Hmelnicky is thrilled by such trust and responsibility for a show’s success. “It is completely the job of the actors and director to complete the world that Steve has so wonderfully written. We can’t rely on sets and props. It’s a challenge. It’s an exciting challenge.”Asked what drew her to the project, Hmelnicky’s response was quick and decisive. “Stephen Spotswood. Honestly. Honestly, I would perform anything that man writes. He crafts beautiful intricate characters and the language in the play is so descriptive. You can picture everything.”
Hugo Ball – A Super Spectacular Dada Adventure
Original DCTS Review
Pointless Theatre Company returns to Fringe with their summer 2011 Dada tribute/deconstruction/homage/thing “Hugo Ball – A Super Spectacular Dada Adventure”, which took home Best Experimental Play in Theatermania’s 2011 Pick of the Fringe Audience Awards. I sat down with director Matt Reckeweg and performer Sarah Wilby to discuss artistic process and the importance of being true to the spirit of Dada by purple monkey dishwasher zeitgeist supermarket.
DCTS : What are the origins of Hugo Ball?
MR: We as a company were looking for a new work to create and a bunch of us had been inspired by the Dada art movement while we were studying at [University of ] Maryland and we had this idea that we had wanted to create something of a “biography” about one of the founders of the movement, Hugo Ball. It would be, conceptually, told through a Dada lens so that it would be reflective of the art that he was creating at the time.
DCTS: What attracted you to Dada?
SW: The weirdness!
MR: One, the weirdness. Two: the search for something new. Something completely new. And the lack of seriousness.
SW: As a company, we have a philosophy of not taking anything too seriously. And that just lends itself really well to group playtime.
MR: The whole show is intended not as a Dada show but as a Pointless show. It’s a Dada show about Dada which makes it not Dada. It takes from Dada but uses the text, the images, the artwork, the imagery, and even the performance styles and shapes them in a new way that suits our own means. We didn’t want to recreate something from the past. There’s no sense in recreating. We don’t want to be antiquarian. We don’t want to glorify Dada. Besides, the best way to glorify Dada is to shit on Dada and so that’s exactly what we do. We’re looking at the past and the past is telling us to reject it. So we do! We do whatever the fuck we want.
DCTS: How has being a part of Fringe helped you develop as artists?
SW: It’s a venue. One of the hardest parts of being a young, up and coming theater company especially of recent college graduates, it’s a cheap way to get yourself out there. They provide you with a space, a box office with advertising. And you also get to be under that blanket header of “Fringe Festival” so I think it’s been a huge part of just getting our names out there.
DCTS: What’s next for Pointless?
MW: We have a show planned for March (2012) that’s based off the music of Cab Calloway. Tons of audience interaction. After Cab Calloway, we’re planning on doing Fringe again. The working title is Robots vs. Zombies.
The 2011 FallFRINGE opens November 1 and closes November 20th. All performances take place in The Shop at Fort Fringe at 607 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC. Tickets are $20 dollars, or $15 with a 2011 Fringe Button. Click here to order tickets.
Call of the Mountain, Adelind Horan/Whole Theatre
- Nov 11th 6:30 pm
- Nov 12th 4 pm
- Nov 18th 7 pm
- Nov 19th 3 pm
- Nov 20th 1 pm
Foggerty’s Fairy, Victorian Lyric Opera Company
- Nov 6th 1 pm
- Nov 12th 12 pm
- Nov 15th 6:30 pm
- Nov 16th 6:30 pm
Good Girls Don’t, But Indian Girls Do, Vijai Nathan
- Nov 3rd 9 pm
- Nov 9th 9 pm
- Nov 13th 8:30 pm
Hugo Ball – A Super Spectacular Dada Adventure, Pointless Theatre Company
- Nov 13th 4 pm
- Nov 16th 9 pm
- Nov 18th 9 pm
- Nov 19th 1 pm
- Nov 20th 7 pm
iKiLl – Izumi Ashizawa Productions
- Nov 12th 2:30 pm
- Nov 12th 6 pm
- Nov 13th 1 pm
- Nov 13th 2:30 pm
Pascal’s Aquarium, Nice-eeNice Productions
- Nov 4th 6:30 pm
- Nov 8th 7 pm
- Nov 10th 8:15 pm
- Nov 13th 6:30 pm
Shrimp & Griots, Sheldon Scott
- Nov 2nd 9 pm
- Nov 3rd 7 pm
- Nov 4th 8:15 pm
- Nov 5th 2 pm
- Nov 9th 7 pm
Sisters of Ellery Hollow, Stephen Spotswood
- Nov 5th 4 pm
- Nov 8th 9 pm
- Nov 10th 6:30 pm
- Nov 17th 7 pm
Squirrel, or The Origin of a Species, Michael Marino
- Nov 2nd 7 pm
- Nov 5th 6 pm
- Nov 6th 5:30 pm
- Nov 10th 10 pm
- Nov 11th 8:15 pm
T-O-T-A-L-L-Y, Kimleigh Productions
- Nov 12th 8 pm
- Nov 15th 9 pm
- Nov 17th 9 pm
- Nov 19th 5 pm
- Nov 20th 3 pm
The Evolution Revolution, Hamell on Trial
- Nov 5th 8 pm
- Nov 6th 7:30 pm
- Nov 18th 11 pm
- Nov 19th 7 pm
- Nov 20th 5 pm