On my way home from Fringe on Saturday night, I experienced my most authentic moment in days. Some guy, in the gravelly voice of a life lived too hard asked the bewildered Chinese tourists standing next to a stray sack of garbage, “Excuse me, is that your bag?” with perfect inflection. The attractive woman sitting next to me in the over-lit bus shelter—we shared a grin and a chuckle. Such small words can mean so much.
Late Night Fringe Cabaret was crowded on Friday. I was able to at least snag a spot on the bench outside to sit and watch and listen—mostly listen, lots of people started standing in front of me. The musical performers outside were the Nightingale Trio, who specialize in singing Eastern European folk music. I have an addiction to Balkan folk music, so I close my eyes and bask in the wonderful sound. This group performs the complex rhythms and harmonies of this type of music deftly and delightfully. When they ask you to come in for a closer listen, do so. The richness of their voices is best appreciated in an intimate setting.
When I first heard Balkan folk music, I couldn’t get enough of it to the extent that I joined a Balkan women’s vocal ensemble myself. Do you want to try it? You should totally try it. Join us. After chatting a bit with the women of Nightingale Trio and spending my beer money on their CD, I checked out what was going on inside.
What was going on inside? A whole hell of a damn production was getting ready to perform. The guy I had seen wandering around outside earlier, the one in the maroon suit, was setting up onstage along with like half a dozen other people. Bosley is going to put on quite the show. You can tell as he tries out some dance moves, cracks some jokes and adjusts his levels. Before leaving to the green room, from which the band will make their entrance, he advises the audience to get on their feet in preparation to dance. The audience complies beautifully. Bosley’s music is bubbly and infectious, luring even more people in from the outside.
So I almost went to the Brookland Farmer’s market the following Saturday morning to see the Nightingale Trio again. The thought was to perhaps catch the Capital Fringe Space Shuttle from there to the Fringe headquarters. But I didn’t, because it was raining. No getting caught in a downpour for me this time!
I spent the time working on my actual vocation, which is compelling children to think about the way that they think until their resentment grows strong enough that they in turn compel me to drink hemlock. Nice work if you can get it. While I was doing that, my roommate and my roommate’s boyfriend were discussing their dreams—my particular favorite was wolfing down a bowl of raw squid like it’s spaghetti while everybody around you sings Hare Krishna. Now that’s a dream.
Eventually I took the regular bus and not the Space Shuttle to catch a burlesque show at Fringe headquarters. While waiting for my show to start seating, I sipped an ice cold beer and scribbled down some thoughts and observations. An older couple showed up at headquarters asking questions. Where do we buy tickets? Is this where we can talk to the artists? Can we talk to the artists? Maybe we should get a beer?
The show was delightfully entertaining. I love burlesque when it’s done in the original spirit of burlesque, which I think is less about sexiness and more about naughtiness. It’s about playing around with boundaries in a spirit of fun. That’s exactly what this group did. They joked around with the audience and the more seasoned audience members gave as good as they got. Apparently when a theater-goer reaches a certain age, they really know how to play along. That increases the fun exponentially. People around my age, I don’t know, they’re either like me and bad at people or they’re trying too hard, which makes it more like work than play. Maybe it’s just an issue of practice.
After burlesque, pie. Because pie. I nearly exploded from the sugar overload. If I had, it would have been totally worth it. Eventually I recovered enough to walk over to Argonaut because that’s where the next play was. I had a terrible time getting a drink because there had been a crisis in the basement and everyone was at loose ends. In petulant princess mode I ask if anyone would like to sell me alcohol and end up with a cheap beer on the house with which to watch the performance upstairs.
While waiting to be let upstairs, I had a conversation with a couple of devoted Fringe-goers and patrons of the arts in general. They had a neat system for choosing which plays to see together—an assortment of the ones that they agree on and ones that they disagree on. For example, I am the Gentry was a play that they disagreed on. It made them uncomfortable—in a good way or a bad way depending on the gender.
Another couple and long-time patrons of the arts sat next to me in the audience. They had been married for 24 years with a great sense of humor about it. I cannot but be envious of all these people who have someone to share these experiences with.
The play was entertaining. I shared a cigarette with the first couple outside, who said that they never pay attention to reviews when choosing what to see. Indeed, they really liked the play, better than the reviewers had. I think that it’s interesting that they don’t let the reviewers pick which shows to see but they still check to see what the reviewers have to say. It’s like how they see these plays together even though they might disagree on what to see. It’s interesting to see how another person looks at art and engage in a dialog about it. They bade me goodbye and encouraged me to go check out whatever I can.
DC is a wonderful place to experience culture, they added. You just have to go out and do it.