Far be it from me to return from a protracted absence with an unctuous vituperation targeted at one of my favorite generative endeavors, but shit is fucked and I have to rail. Come with me to the Fringe, where in the near past I am sitting, despondent yet without words to spit. I’m painting with a broad brush here mostly to embellish otherwise mild impressions for dramatic effect.
I’ve simply had it all of the way up to here with previously published material performed at Fringe.
It’s just not quite the thing it could be.
It’s always a lesser version of a fully-produced effort. It could be because not enough time was spent rehearsing. It could be a lack of close examination of the scenes, beat-by-beat. It could be because design was not adequately realized or even considered. Ultimately, it says to me that we should have been a part of something scrappy and cool, but we landed around here-a-parts, so let’s just play the “It’s just Fringe” card and bail into the warmer waters of casual mediocrity. It’s warmer because somebody peed in the pool.
I’ve probably seen it before, and better.
STOP DOING “THE LAST FIVE YEARS.” I saw the definitive version of this production at UCLA a half-dozen years ago and my heart is still singing from the experience. You’re both very good-looking people, but I would forgive you far more easily for writing your own relationship-melting musical that just didn’t quite get there than I would forgive you for doing an okay version of this particular show. It’s going to sound like I’m picking on just that show – which I simply didn’t see – but that goes for anybody who thinks it’s time to get their hot friends together and do that show they love without respecting the fact that they have a far more important story to tell: something we haven’t seen before.
Try something truly daring and weird.
Unicycle Shakespeare. Tennessee Williams rap pastiche. Do a goddamn Beckett musical. I don’t even care; take advantage of this magical-ass chunk of the year to take your passion project and grind it to the next level in awesomeness. Just don’t cast yourself in True West then expect me to drop everything and go.
Unless you cross-gender cast. I heard Sammy hates that shit, and that tickles me.
Or go further!
Do six simultaneous one-person shows, with full tech. Do a musical scored entirely with plumbing utensils. Do a series of scenes based on Twitter conversations that didn’t even exist before Fringe started. Do a rock opera using only five notes. Do a clandestine “happening” piece at Fringe Central or some other main event that is never fully explained but somehow involved twenty-seven people in pinstripe suits discussing the weather and sipping martinis with a dance break. Do an extended monologue about how your cat is the best cat in the world and provide adequate evidence to support it. Do a dance piece where everyone just stands still for forty-eight minutes (but for the love of baby Jesus, start and finish on time).
Look, homie: we’re not all prototyping new-ass work or using Fringe to raise awareness for our theatre companies. That’s fine. You can totally do a short run of a show that you love and have always wanted to do. In fact, you should! Get your friends together and do something cool. Maybe even dare to knock it out of the park and give people a reason not to listen to me.
Just sell that shit as the passion project that it is, because there are people who are pouring their heart and soul into something raw, something new, something that JUST DOESN’T QUITE WORK YET but shows a glimmer of promise.
The damn thing is, they’re trying to grab hold of the same audience that you’re bogarting with your just-for-funsies bullshit. All of the Facebook pimping you’re doing is burning butts in someone else’s seats. Your meager attendance comprised of friends, well-wishers and people you’re sleeping with are actively burning out on theatre that is truly innovative, unless you step up and collaborate. Help them. Help the brave soldiers on the tragic battlefield of art. Everything you don’t do gets in the way of their development and success.
Share your audience. Walk the streets and tell the people. Go see other people’s shows, for fuck’s sake. Find the weirdest thing you can and find the gold buried deep in the under-rehearsed, half-baked crazy that holds it all together. Give and give, then give a little bit more. You will grow and mature as an artist yourself in this cauldron of concepts, this forge of raw ideas, but only if you look deep into it.
Courage, my friends. We are all Fringe.