The Fringe So Far (and a Fringe Even Farther)

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Mashups and Musicals and Mimosas Oh My!

Well we’re about two thirds of the way through the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival, LemonHeads, and I have to say that overall, for me, the quality of the work has been head and shoulders above that of any of the previous years. I’ve seen almost 20 shows so far, and of course there are always going to be clunkers and worthy failures, and there have been, but overall I have been mightily impressed by the derring do and the professional execution by the artists this year. Mashups and Musicals seem to be the trend this year and I gotta say, seeing all these new musicals getting tryouts is very heartening to say the least…and I hate musicals…

As you may have heard, we had our Critics Panel this last weekend and it was quite the lively and energetic event and you can read a mostly fair reportage on it over at American Theatre. We’ll hopefully have a recording of the whole thing up on the site soon for everyone to set alight with their torches and plunge their pitchforks into. There were some factual inaccuracies and some logical ones as well in there, but unlike those that seem to get offended when a fly accidentally farts in their general direction, I am more than happy to let others report as they see fit no matter how erroneous that reporting may sometimes be. I’ve heard tell AT has made a couple of corrections since, so there’s that…

And on that note I want to especially thank all those outraged and offended folks who have for the last couple weeks been railing and gnashing against the BLI from the safety of their Twitter boxes and Facebook pages for venturing out and joining us for this public event so that they could rail and gnash face to face with us. Oh wait. Well, WE showed up and so did a very eager and engaged audience. Sorry the rest of y’all missed it, but frankly, I was unsurprised.

But major thanks and shout outs to Matthew Quinn and Theatre Asylum for hosting. Forgot to mention that at the panel. Heh.

But the Fringe! Yes, the Fringe! I just want to highlight some moments that have stuck with me on my rounds this year as I moved amongst the unwashed and dehydrated, moments like…

Little Orphan Newt singing “There’ll be no more tomorrows” in Alien vs. Musical with such subversively heartfelt passion and playfulness, that it literally altered the very chemistry of my own personal worldview in a matter of minutes. It was without a doubt the absolute pinnacle moment for me so far at the Fringe…

Or Jim Hanna delivering a paint by numbers parody of all things “one man show” in his The 7th Annual One Man Show Championships currently skewering the genre with such glee and giddiness that I wondered if perhaps each of the “contestants” might actually have created each of their own monologues from some theater exercise, but no, it was all Jimmy. Everyone doing a  one man show at this year’s Fringe should attend and get a lesson in self-awareness…

Or the Mighty Michael Shaw Fisher finally dispensing altogether with anything even resembling a “cast” and deciding to crush it alone in his beautifully rendered one man musical Shakespeare’s Last Night Out, including call and shout backs harmonies with the crowd and a touching moment between his character and his now dead son, Hamlet, that brought tears to my eyes, overall, this is the apex of this talented artist’s work up to this point and his medieval pop score is unmatched in its wit and originality…

Or the sidesplitting hilarity of Dean Cameron’s Nigerian Spam Scam Scam, in which writer/performer Cameron and his fellow actor Victor Isaac, perform a three year long word for word correspondence – including recorded phone calls – that Cameron had with his con artist counterpart on the other side of the world. Isaac, as all of the characters in Nigeria (we think), plays the roles with such straight-faced seriousness and urgency, that we almost feel sorry for him, almost…

Or the cockney confidence of Nell Gwynne serving up style and substance, or Hamlet-Mobile’s up close and personal collage of modernized Shakespeare in a van, or the ensemble excellence and Mimosa merriment of the hilarious King Dick, or the carnival romp of Charivari in Voyeurville, or the stunning duets of Marry Me a Little or the zany existential clowns doing their best to make sense of their cookie cutter world in 8:03, a show my six year old son described as a play about “People trying to be free”…

It’s been a hot and heavenly bothered time so far. Just how I like it.

The Dragonfly has turned out to be a serviceable Fringe Central – though I will always be particular to the Tent of Year Two – and the venues – though a bit frenzied at times – have been run like well oiled machines, especially by notables Matthew Quinn and Monica Martin of the Asylum and the Complex respectively. The houses have been mostly full, the FringeMeter, while still way too positive (can everyone really like EVERYTHING?), is in full flash, and the Bitter Lemons Reviews machine has managed to cover more of the Fringe than anyone else in the city. All paid for. Yup. Paid for.

And amazingly, up north in the world of North Hollywood there’s another Fringe going on at Zombie Joe’s Underground – why they decided to throw their own party during THE Party I do not know – but I managed to catch some of their shows as well.

Urban Death continues to scare the living shit out of everyone who attends on Saturdays at 11pm and there’s another late night “seminar” called How to Be Wicked performed by Jaguar Bennett that one of our reviewers Jason Rohrer really liked. I liked it too and it certainly has the power to entertain as well as make one think. But my favorite of the ZJU fringe has to be Josh T. Ryan’s oh so twisted gender-bending glam rock Othello, the funniest Othello you will ever have the chance to see. That’s right, I said a funny Othello. That’s how the T Ryan Train rolls…

North and South, East and West, the Fringe seems to be taking over the world and as the “Godfather of the Fringe” Ezra Buzzington says, “The Fringe theatre movement is an unstoppable given”.

Hard to argue with that summation.

I’m predicting there will be a handful of long-running hits to come out of the Fringe this year. And that, my friends, will be a very good thing. Wait, what’s that sound? Oh, it’s the final death rattle of the Regional model and all the many outdated models of unsustainable infra-structure that have sustained it over the past few decades, including the endlessly eroding arts of criticism, marketing, audience building and fundraising.

We are most definitely still in a time of transformation, LemonHeads. Get on board, or get out of the way, cuz this train don’t stop for dinosaurs.

See you on the Fringes!

Comments (9)

U 48170 t 5294524

Had an odd idea driving home that might help the BLI (building upon my notions of http://cahighways.org/wordpress/?p=10360 ): What if…. you had a policy that 30-50% of the shows reviewed by the BLI team would be chosen by you independent of any payment, and the remainder would come through the BLI approach… and that the reviewers would be paid whether the show was your choice or from the BLI payments. They would not know which was which, which would provide independence (it would be like they were salaried writers), but shows would still get reviews. You would still get the complaint about charging shows, but shows would be free to pay or not pay, and they might still get reviewed either by BL or another media outlet or a blogger based on their press — so there would not be the slippery slope.

U 48170 t 5294524

Oh, and a PS: I learned when we saw Camenot that there’s going to be a North Hollywood Fringe in October.

Default user

Yeah, because any of this matters to anyone outside the tiny world of the LA Fringe Fest (or even within it, I’d guess). It’s going to be real quiet around the BL website when the Fringe Fest is over and there’s no more mud to sling, or whining to do, or “reviews” to write, or friends of the website to promote shamelessly, or enemies (cough, all other writers/websites, cough) like the LA Weekly to protest about (cough ride the coattails of), the equal of an army of ants attacking a tiger. All 18 regular viewers of BL are going to be disappointed when July comes around. Maybe Colon Mitchell and her kennel of yipping bitches can start reviewing gradeschool plays of “Wizard Of Oz” and using expletives to describe how that little bitch on-stage wasn’t ANYTHING like Judy Garland in the movie like I wanted her to be, damnit!

As anyone who remotely cares (all three of us) has figured out, the “Bitter Lemons Imperative” is actually How To Get Colon Mitchell More Attention And Money Through Yellow Journalism And Riding A Minor Controversy, furthermore known as “Those Who Could Dish It Out But Not Take It.” (“Those” being his remaining faithful writers—if there’s a whoremaster there will always be a whore willing to work for him). Futile attempts to attack an LA Weekly writer to get some attention and the lame-ass “reviews” on the site have all resulted in the same thing: silence. No one cares. Look around in a month or so—The LA Times will still be limping on, as will the LA Weekly…as will Theater Row…very few will remember any of this nonsense about the “BLI,” and of those who do remember it, less will care.

But thanks for being such a great “partner” to Fringe and spreading the good will of the Fringe (from one of the first Fringe town halls I watched when I was considering doing a show this year, said to eager participants, “Rule #1, ladies and gentlemen, no assholes!”) and doing your best to ruin things for the already ailing world of 50-seat-and-under theater and those who dwell in it with all this rancid, childish “reportage.” I was thinking of trying to do a show in the Fringe this year and contributing my money and efforts, now I’m assured…why bother? So you liked some of the Fringe Fest shows. I happen to like ice cream. Hope you’re all sleeping well and enjoying the little money and attention you’re getting, it’s not likely to last long, and I’m glad, it’s all getting rather dull.

U 48170 t 5294524

Shirley — If you want ice cream, you might try the Uncle Impossible show Thursday night. The show wasn’t to my taste, but at least they give out ice cream.

Seriously — I’m not one of Colin’s writers. I’m an audience member who pays for my tickets, and supports live theatre by going every weekend. I’ve supported the pro99 group, and I’ve interacted a bit with Colin because I believe in what they teach me at work (I do cybersecurity): Mission Success. I want theatre — small and large — in this city to thrive, and I’ll do my part. I do know Colin is deluded; he’s confused enough to grab my theatre writeups on my blog (for which I don’t get paid) for his meter.

The “childish reportage” has come from Jason R (who seems to be doing the bulk of the reviews now). His writing is no better than Charles McNulty of the Times (did you see his review of “Waterfall”?), and it hasn’t impressed me. But it is his opinion, and it is worth what I pay to read it (which is what people pay to read my opinion — nothing).

Modulo the mess of the BLI, Bitter Lemons has been a useful site for the LA Theatre community. It has provided an outlet for press releases and advertising; it has provided useful information on the kerfuffle with AEA; it has promoted and supported the Fringe Festival; and through the Lemonmeter, it has aggregated in a neutral fashion multiple reviews, which helps audiences get a more balanced idea about shows … allowing voices from all side to balance out the wacko opinions.

The BLI was not well thought out and has numerous problems in its current incarnation. It should be scrapped. I’ve suggested some potential ways to eliminate the conflict of interest, looking at models from other industries, but any approach that arises from the ashes needs to be unconnected to the previous approach, and well vetted by the community to ensure that the review team is both qualified, independent, and professional. That’s not there now.

Having read your post, my advice is: take a deep breath, and if you feel BL is useless, then ignore it and spend your energy on more fruitful endeavors. BL and its various initiatives will rise or fall based on the merits of the components, and whether the community supports. The power is in your hands.

Myself, I’ll probably stay here and comment, doing exactly what I do at work every day: focusing on mission success, calling out the problems when they exist, and attempting to derive solutions that move us to mission success.

U 46928 t 1865969

I’m so glad you found each other.

Default user

And if anyone from BL posts anything even remotely intelligent, interesting or even entertaining this WON’T be my last post on this thread.

U 35088 t 4659361

Well knowing that, Shirley, I offer this…

U 48481 t 3508801

It’s my observation that BITTER LEMONS is a scam. When our production closed, we still had nearly 70k of our 150k views unused. That was after more than 6 weeks. They just stopped running our ad. So, if you were — at the Fringe organizers recommendation — duped into using this amateur site, my sympathies. Oh, and BTW, BL, expect to be sued.

U 35088 t 4659361

Robert you bought a 45 day ad, not a 150k impression ad.

Your ad has expired because those 45 days are up. For the Fringe, we made the advertising based on a time basis rather than on an impressions basis. Our new site, however, runs on an impressions basis, to make the timing of your ad work we over-loaded the impressions on each of the ads so that they wouldn’t run out in those 45 days. Hence, the 150k. As you’ve just stated your 45 day ad received over 80k (closer to 90k actually) page views. You received tremendous value and exposure on this site, more than you would have or could have on any other site in Los Angeles. Feel free to check around.

This was all very clearly stated when you bought the ad and we have delivered on what you asked.

If this is still unclear to you feel free to contact me at [email protected]


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