We didn't set out to visit the Seattle Fringe Festival (SFF), it just sort of happened. The adventure began with a Friday night review of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet at Book-it Theatre and a Thursday night review of Is He Dead? at Theater Schmeater. We made B&B reservations for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights to make sure we had a little down time and then everything expanded.
The festival didn't enter our plans until we had the additional assignment of reviewing Memphis at the Fifth Avenue. I glanced at a Memphis ad in the Seattle Time NW Arts section the weekend before our Seattle trip and saw an article on SFF.
The original festival went bust about nine years ago and this was the first time it was brought back. We hope it was successful enough for the participants. For a first year event, I thought it worked well, although the individual productions only get the money from ticket sales, but the largest audience we saw was about three dozen people.
Hype and advertising were almost non-existant, but I loved the explanation on their own website: "Uncensored and hands-on, the new Seattle Fringe Festival stirs up a sexy stew of new work by professional and emerging artists. During 5 days of tightly packed programming, almost anything can happen . . . For joy, not judgment. Like many fringe festivals, Seattle Fringe Festival draws its medley of performing arts from an artist lottery."
Peg and I took a look at their schedule for Saturday and Sunday (September 22nd and 23rd - 2012) and began choosing the plays we wanted to see. Each play was aloted one hour with fifteen minutes inload and fifteen minutes outload for the playgoers. The for each production was just $10 admission. The plays were being produced at four different venues all within a two-block area on Capitol Hill, which was only about four blocks from our B&B.
The first play we saw was LAPDSMU: Reunited with a Vengeance written by David van Wert. The play description: In Los Angeles, the very worst homicides are handled by an elite squad of detectives — the Serious Murders Unit. They are: LAPDSMU. This week’s episode features the elusive snake-in-the-box-killer, and Detectives Shepard and Kolwicki are faced with their most consuming challenge yet. Will help from the entire Serious Murders Unit allow them to solve the case, or will the evil villain live to kill again?
The play was a hoot. Peg and I laughed and giggled almost all the way through the production. I was a little worried when I couldn't understand a word the first character delivered through a clinched mouth and stoggie poking out from one side, but after that it was clear sailing. The group is from Ghost Light Theatricals (late night productions) of The Ballard Underground.
Peg and I were very familiar with the area. My cousin was a part of the Empty Space Theatre in the 1970s. We saw her, Kurt Beatie (before he became famous locally with Seattle's A Contemporay Theatre - ACT - now in his tenth year as managing/artistic director) and many others. Our kids loved Empty Space's production of School for Clowns. Generally, however we would come to Seattle by ourselves and drink beer at the Comet Tavern, which is still there across the street from the building that housed the Empty Space.
The Empty Space was edgy. They produced black box, or minimalist staged productions, which is pretty much what we saw at the Fringe Festival. Peg and I were having a ball.
Before seeing our second production we stopped in at Mario's Apizza. We bought three slices (pear and gorgonzola, pepperoni, and Hawaiian) and two glasses of Stella Artois. We parked our car less than a hundred feet from the theater and walked half a block to the bar.
Peg loved the pear and gorgonzola and the Hawaiian. I prefered the pepperoni and the pear. After eating the slices Peg read while I slid over from our booth to the bar and watched a little of the Washington State football game with the Colorado Buffaloes. I watched WSU score . . . perhaps if I had watched the entire game, they might have held onto their fourteen point lead. As it was, they gave up two touchdowns and a field goal to lose to the 20-point underdog 35 to 34. The Cougs can always find a way to drop another it seems.
Our second production was from Theater Simple: "An award-winning, internationally acclaimed company, theater simple was founded in with the aim of stripping the theatrical experience down to its elemental parts: the imagination of the actor and audience, the playwright's words and the director's vision. Theater Simple has built a solid artistic reputation producing provocative, literate, subversive, entertaining and original theatrical experiences. We aim to do plays that touch/challenge/change, and perhaps inspire artists and audiences that want theater simple." I like their "simple" mission statement: "We build from the imagination up."
We mentioned that the first play was a hoot, but the second play was a hoot and a half with one of the main characters being an owl. The Owl and the Pussycat is one of Peg's favorite nursery rhymes, so consequently the second production was her number one choice of best SFF play.
We ran into Andrew Litzky (Owl) and Llysa Holland (Pussycat), co-founders of Theater Simple at our final production of the day.
Andrew and I had a disagreement about his costume. I said he wore gaiters and he said he wore spats. Wikipedia: "Gaiters are garments worn over the shoe and lower pants leg, and used primarily as personal protective equipment; similar garments used primarily for display are spats." I maintain that Pussycat wore spats, but Owl wore gaiters. I don't know that we can ever work this argument out. I am never wrong, but then I don't know if I am wiser than an owl, but . . . I should be.
The Owl and the Pussycat is an ideal play for children. In fact during the marriage ceremony on stage two children, perhaps five-years old, assisted as flower girl and ring-bearer. They did a great job.
This production was held-over for another week. Contact Llysa for details on this production and others at Theater Simple.
The last play we saw was More Power to Your Knitting, Nell!. Aspiring singer Nellie can’t believe her luck when she’s hired as a radio host, to galvanize the ‘soldier girls at home’ who knit for the troops overseas. The only problem is…Nellie hates knitting! Nell is played by Melanie Gall, a coloratura soprano from Alberta. She completed her graduate studies at Manhattan School of Music in New York City and was awarded a grant from her native Canada to find and record songs about knitting.
Melanie's set merely contained a standing microphone, a stool, yarn and knitting along with a framed photo of a young man off fighting in the Second World War. Her play featured her singing We'll Meet, Again as well as other knitting songs from WWI and WWII.
Melanie has a good sweet voice and she told a nice story of a Polish family coming to America and joining the melting pot. I'm sure she shows more of her Canadian heritage when she performs up north. Contact Melanie at MelanieGall.com.
Peg and I really enjoyed our one-day adventure at the Seattle Fringe Festival. The plays/productions were consistently good. The actors were professional. The prices were more than fair.
We only saw three plays, while there were seventeen more we didn't get to see. There were sci-fi, R rated, G rated, mysteries, comedies and performance art.
We look forward to the 2013 Seattle Fringe Festival. We're going to have to keep abreast of the festival date so we can get our reservation in a four-day run of plays and good times. Next year, we'll be prepared for the long haul.