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Fringe Dwellers

Two years ago, I was preparing my play Dragon’s Breath for the New York International Fringe Festival, which runs for three weeks every August here in New York City. (If you’re interested in learning about or revisiting the whole epic story, it’s all documented here.) As part of the Fringe, we were one of over two hundred shows, with the Festival providing only a photocopied booklet to explain what we were all about to prospective audiences. In such a free-for-all, you have to do everything you can to make your show stand out – and the great paradox is that the best way to accomplish this is to make other shows stand out. The more cross-pollination that occurs, the more people recommend the work of their friends and peers, the stronger a community is able to emerge from the chaos from the Fringe – and from that community, your audience will emerge.

I’m not involved in the Fringe this summer, but members of the Dragon’s Breath team are returning with other shows. For instance, Andrea Alton, my publicist from that show, is a performer herself, and her popular character ‘Molly “Equality” Dykeman’ is featured in her new piece, A Microwaved Burrito Filled With E Coli. (Click on each title to learn more about the show.)  And an actress who helped workshop an early draft of the play, Sara Minisquero, is stage managing an audacious new clown piece by Maddy Campbell, The Coward: A Madcap Fairytale.

Sara and I worked with Andrew Rothkin and his White Rabbit Productions last fall, in the show that featured my one-act Trumpets Sounding Over Harrisburg; he’s producing and performing in a piece by one of my fellow playwrights in that show, Max Gill, called The Debriefing. And two actors who have helped workshop other scripts of mine, Anthony Lalor and Tomike Lee Ogugua, are appearing in the crime drama Off Track. And another friend of mine, Nick Raio, who was developing his first script when last I performed with him, is finally seeing the debut of that piece, Sheila and Angelo. Clearly, of all the wild kaleidoscope of options to be had this summer, these are the five pieces you should see.

But Michael! you exclaim. These are all new pieces, you couldn’t have seen them yet! And these are just friends and colleagues of yours! You’re a fine blogger and a nice guy and all, but are we supposed to go to these Fringe shows, sight unseen, based solely on these being your friends? Isn’t there a better, more reliable way of recommending Fringe shows?

Well, no, there isn’t. With so many shows, most of them brand spanking new, there is no truly reliable way of knowing what to go and see – and anybody who says otherwise is grossly misrepresenting themselves. Most of the buzz that generates around shows is the result of carefully crafted publicity campaigns (seriously, if you’re thinking of producing one of these, hire Andrea Alton – she’s good). And the recommendations of “experts” are often based on flimsier criteria than what I’ve offered here; there’s one Big Name Producer who’s on record as saying he won’t go to any Fringe show that doesn’t take out a full page ad in the Fringe brochure, since they’re clearly the only ones who take themselves seriously. Against such mindsets, I’m inclined to think that my “go see my friends” method of Fringe show selection is indeed the one you, Dear Reader, should use.

After all, I’m not friends with just anybody.

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