Saturday morning, I sat up front at the Beecher Road School South Auditorium to see a production of The Wizard of Oz. Fiona, my youngest daughter, was a narrator in the rainbow chorus. The floor was mostly filled with young kids with the parents in seats behind us. A few other parents joined me on the floor so they could take better pictures of their young stars and sitting next to me was Mairead, my eldest daughter.
Mairead commented about how it seemed strange to be on this side of the fourth wall as she watched her youngest sister perform. She compared the experience to her childhood performances. It was a good production, with more effort put into scenery and props than many children productions have.
Afterward, we talked about going down to Virginia, where Miranda, my middle daughter is finishing up her senior year of college. Her senior exhibition in painting was last month. Opening on Tuesday will be her senior exhibition in ceramics and next Sunday will be her senior piano recital.
What role will arts and performances take in the life of Fiona? Will it lead her in a direction similar to her sister Miranda? Will Fiona find other paths? As I reflect on the day, the words of William Carlos Williams comes to mind. About a red wheel barrow he once said, “So much depends...”
Perhaps the prop of a cow carried across the stage during the cyclone is a lot like that red wheel barrow. And so, it begins a new...
When is the last time you got a chance to see a production of one of Friedrich Schiller's plays? It has been a long time for me, so I was glad to get an opportunity to see the Demimonde Theatre & Opera Company's production of this masterpiece.
The new translation was very accessible and the acting was okay. However, the real shining moments came during musical pieces sung by Gudren Buhler as Johanna d'Arc Calncia, Valencia Pleasant as the Senator of Orleans, and Dylan Bandy as Lionel. The scenes between Buhler and Bandy were especially powerful.
This show is well worth the trip if you are looking for a clean traditional production of a great play or some wonderful singing.
Yet as I watched the play, I could not help but wonder what someone like emerging director and adapter James Presson, who put together the post apocalypse, Richard 3, could do with this show. I would love to see the classic Schiller play, recast from the Battle of Orleans to the Battle of Seattle during the 1999 WTO protests, with Johanna cast as a unknown punk rocker from Seattle's grunge scene. Another interesting mashup might be the Hurricane Katrina Comedy Festival, perhaps with a little of Presson's influence, doing The Maid of New Orleans.
Well, Richard 3 closed last night, but Maid of Orleans has two more shows, one next Tuesday and one next Friday. Hopefully, some of James and his friends will make this show. Hopefully other fringe attendees will catch this show and brush up on their Schiller, and hopefully there will be more productions like this at FringeNYC XV.
As a person who spent a lot of time playing role playing games years ago, the show Saving Throw Versus Love sounded very interesting to me.
It started off with an improbable premise. Sam and Carol are announcing their engagement and Carol thinks that Sam's Thursday evening out with the boys is about playing poker and not role playing games. I'm not sure that I've ever heard of a gamer dude getting engaged without his fiancee at least knowing about and being interested in gaming, if not being a gamer herself.
However, gamers are especially versed in the willing suspension of disbelief and are likely to forgive the diifficulties of the initial idea as well as the important device at the end of the play where the judge cannot make it to the wedding.
Instead gamers will appreciate Carol's beginners luck in the game as well as the struggles not to take a game too seriously. Yet how would non-gamers appreciate the show? One older man I spoke with after the show said he was so thoroughly involved with the show that he didn't notice these difficulties.
Saving Throw Versus Love is a light but completely enjoyable show with an amusing script and good acting. I highly recommend it to balance out seeing too many serious shows.
Wednesday, I headed into New York to see a couple more FringeNYC plays, the way I have a few other days during the festival, with one difference. My eight year old daughter, Fiona, has been fascinated by the idea that going to see plays and write about them could be a job. She's had her internet radio show for over two years and is thinking about adding play reviews to her lineup of interviews with politicians, musicians, friends and family.
The train from Milford, CT takes about an hour and a half. We started the train ride talking about the day. Fiona read for a little bit, and then got bored. I decided a good game to play would be looking at the different people on the train and making up stories about them. Are they going to New York to go shopping? See a play? Attend a meeting? Fiona really got into this game, and before we knew it, we were approaching Grand Central Terminal. We did not see any men in gabardine suits.
The first play we saw was Heron and Crane. This is a FringeJR show. The program said it was aimed at an 8-10 year old audience, but Fiona was one of the older kids there. They nearly filled up the house with about a fifty-fifty mix of adults and kids.
It was a highly interactive play with Jude Hickey, starring as Heron, no, as Crane, and Lisa del Rosario, who really did star as Heron. Jude bounced around the stage with high energy encouraging kids to make sounds of the swamp and seemingly mixing up lines which Lisa then corrected.
Fiona commented that Jude seemed really nervous. Later, I asked her if she thought the actor was nervous or the character seemed nervous. She quickly let me know that she thought the character was nervous, but that some of the younger kids might not understand the difference.
At some point I will talk with her about the willing suspension of disbelief. This kids show was good enough so that even some parents appeared willing to suspend disbelief and enter the swamp where Heron and Crane learned about making friends.
After the show there was a brief chance to talk with the actors. I asked Kirk German, the playwright and co-director if I could do a quick interview with Fiona on the stage while they were striking the set. They were in a rush, since soon the stage would be transformed into the setting for a different play. Yet there was a little time to record Fiona's observations.
Unfortunately, the noise inside the theatre as well as some internet connection problems made the recording useless. I tried again outside without much better luck. We did get into a few discussions about good shows to see with kids as well as about kids having their own internet radio shows.
Swaha: Rituals of Union
One play I recommended was Swaha: Rituals of Union. I had seen this show on Sunday. It is a beautiful dance production although at an hour and ten minutes, younger kids might get distracted after a while. As I watched Swaha, I thought about how wonderful it is when rituals and religious beliefs create art instead of war.
However, Fiona was very hungry, so we gave up on recording an insta-review, finished our discussions and headed off for a burger.
After lunch we walked to Washington Square Park and then to Fringe Central. As I headed off to the bathroom, Fiona found Kirk and entered into a lively discussion with him. We talked the props used in Heron and Crane. If you see the show, keep an eye on the suitcase that Crane carries as well as the magazine he reads. It is attention to small details like this that add to a show. We talked about other shows. Uba Dance sounds promising, especially for younger aspiring critics. I spoke about The Battle of Spanktown, which is a wonderful whimsical play well suited for kids, providing the adult humor goes over their heads.
This play was panned by Backstage a little over a year ago and the house was nearly empty. Fiona was the only kid there.
This is not a play that most parents would want to bring most kids to. However, Fiona, with her Kiss T-shirt and knee high black leather boots managed to fit in. There were plenty of adult themes that fortunately went right over Fiona's head. There was a reference to iCarly, which Fiona appreciated, and the contrast of the struggling punk rocker to the Disney portrayals of musicians was striking, and I believe very important.
Yes, there was a bit of tedium listening to a struggling artist try to make it. The Fringe is full of struggling artists trying to make it. In fact, I had just gotten a text message about a writing job I had bid on that fell through right before the show. I had enough of my own struggles going on. I didn't really want to deal with William's.
Yet William and the Tradesmen is an enjoyable show and Fiona enjoyed it as much as I did. It is a play that should appeal to a younger audience that is trying to make sense of the art, music, and theatre scene. However, the adult themes will prevent many parents from taking their kids to see it, so the best audience might be older kids sneaking out to see a play they shouldn't see.
However, this gives me an idea for an interesting mashup. It would be great to see a contrast between the life of William and that of Hannah Montana. A PG-13 version of this could be a great FringeHigh hit.
With two plays under our belts and Fiona getting a bit tired, it was time to head home. I would have loved to stick around and see Kimleigh in T-O-T-A-L-L-Y!. Kimleigh is a powerful woman and seems like the perfect contrast or perhaps antidote to Eli James' play.
It was a different day at the Fringe for me, but it was a wonderful day and I hope people get out and seem some shows, especially shows that stretch their viewing experiences.
Insurmountable Simplicities lived up to its name. It was insurmountable and it was simplistic. It earns one of the criticisms most hated by high school kids, "Fails to live up to potential".
Indeed, the performance has great potential, and the actors do what they can with a lame script. The show starts off with a 'Zombie Sleeping Pills' skit. The idea is fascinating; a woman gets on a plane and takes a 'zombie sleeping pill'. This pill completely shuts off down her consciousness and she enters what feels to her, like deep sleep. Yet it leaves her fully responsive to converse with the man sitting next to her, who is a bit freaked out by the idea. With the scene set and the actors apparently ready to explore this concept, the skit ends and they move on to the next skit.
In this, an insignificant bookkeeper is visited by a man from the future who has come to interview him about how he became such a great writer. The man is disappointed not to find any great clues about what inspired the writer. No great books of literature line his shelves, no inspiring views, moments, or anything else is left. In his disappointment, and hurry, the man from the future leaves behind a book which contains the writer's complete work. The young man copies these and they end up being what makes him great. Like with the first skit, this one ends right where it has the potential to become interesting.
Another skit is of a man who has possibility added a poison to his wife's cake. There is antidote, which has bad side effects if taken when the poison has not been ingested. The man explains to his wife that he decided whether or not to add the poison based on his prediction of whether or not she will take the antidote, yet he does not reveal his prediction. Should she, or should she not take the antidote. Yet again, with the interesting problem set up, the performance moves on to another conundrum.
I'm probably forgetting some of the skits. When they moved to a tedious exploration of word play, such as the liars paradox, I found myself counting the number of green LEDs on the emergency lighting. Yeah, it was that bad.
Insurmountable Simplicities had so much potential. It could have been three or four different interesting plays. Instead it was none. Maybe some day a man from the future will return and give the author the option of rewriting it. I hope so.