By Sabina Mollot
On Friday, August 14, the summer theater tradition that is the Fringe Festival will return, with over 200 plays running at 16 venues throughout the East Village and the Lower East Side. This is the 19th year for the event, which will last 16 days (through August 30) with each ticket costing $18.
Elena K. Holy, the festival’s producing artistic director, who has been with the project since the beginning, said the plays that get selected are the ones that seem the most different.
“We look for innovation, vibrancy and diversity,” she said. The plays are also intentionally held each year during August when it’s normally a slow time of year for theater, and quipped Holy, when it’s an easier time “to sneak out of the office.”
Fringe has several divisions, including “Fringe Jr.,” the shows directed towards children, which are all being held at the 14th Street Y. There’s also “Fringe Al Fresco,” which are plays to take place at outdoor venues like parks and community gardens. Outdoor options this year include “The Merchant of Venice” in Tompkins Square Park by Hip to Hip Theatre Company and “Ferry Play,” a downloadable, self-scheduled play meant to be heard on the Staten Island Ferry, directed by Peter Cooper Village resident Erin Mee.
But with so many different shows to choose from, in an effort to help would-be theater goers from getting overwhelmed just from thinking about which ones they should see, this year, organizers introduced a quiz to match people to performances they might enjoy. The quiz is available online at fringenyc.org and asks six seemingly random questions such as favorite New York City landmark, dream job, which is the favorite among various selections of artwork. (We took it, and got the result: “Quirky & Eccentric” with a list of recommendations that included the shows “Hell is for Real,” “July House” and “Win for Life.”)
“It’s a fun place to start and it seems to be working really well,” said Holy, of the quiz.
In addition, Holy provided Town & Village with a few recommendations of her own.
Fans of comedy, she said, might like “Lady Winifred and Didi” by Naked Bacon Productions, playing at Drom, 85 Avenue A. This is an improv show with music that even Fringe concedes in the play’s bio is “totally tasteless.”
“They’re not for the faint of heart. They’re not politically correct, but it is very funny,” said Holy.
For those in need of a good scare, there’s “Dungeon” at 64E4 Mainstage, 64 East 4th Street, by Artistic Abandon NYC in Association with Hit the Lights Dad Theater Co.
“It’s basically a nightmare that is performed completely in the dark,” said Holy. “Creepy and crawly monsters. It’s really good.” It may be best to leave the kids at home though unless they’re older. “Older kids maybe, teens and tweens,” said Holy.
Fans of politically inspired stories might enjoy “Hick: A Love Story, The Romance of Lorena Hickock and Eleanor Roosevelt” by Lilith Theater San Francisco at Drom.
“This is about a woman who was a longtime girlfriend of Eleanor Roosevelt,” said Holy. “They wrote letters back and forth, and there are more than 2,300 letters from Eleanor to this woman.”
For those who appreciate contemporary dramas that focus on social issues of the day, like police brutality, there’s “Uniform Justice.” The show, by Chuk Obasi, running at Teatro SEA at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, looks at two men who grew up together. One later became a cop while the other ran into trouble. “Then they have to confront each other in their roles as adults,” said Holy. “It’s very personal and it forces you to confront the stories we see in the headlines.”
Kids’ shows Holy recommends are “Rapunzel in the Wild West,” a story in which the long-haired heroin must stop the Bandit Queen from robbing every town in the West and “Pedro Pan,” which is about a Cuban immigrant boy, and based on a real story. The venue, the 14th Street Y, is at 344 East 14th Street.
Another festival highlight is a musical performance by a Japanese band called “Gahou International Sunrise” by the Crazy Angel Company, running at Theatre 80, 80 St. Marks Place.
“It’s every instrument you can imagine. It’s so much fun,” said Holy.
For tickets, or more information on the festival and various shows, visit fringenyc.org. Fees apply when ordering tickets online. To avoid convenience charges, tickets can be purchased at FringeCentral at 56 East 1st Street between First and Second Avenues between 2-8 p.m. each day.