Seattle Fringe Festival 2013: An Abbreviated Guide for the Curious

Image courtesy of the Seattle Fringe Festival.

Image courtesy of the Seattle Fringe Festival.

Due to the vagaries of scheduling, we at the Star will not be able to see as much of the Seattle Fringe Festival as we would like. However, our folly need not be yours, you have two days in which to take in what’s on offer during the revived festival’s sophomore year. (Side note: there’s a reason the out of town shows are being highlighted here, and it’s simply that the artists behind these productions are taking a big risk, coming to a strange city with virtually no discernible support for their presence here. Supporting them is extremely important for numerous reasons, not least of which is a desire to reward them for leaping into the unknown.)

Finally, there are no guarantees that the recommendations listed below will provide an unforgettable time in the theater, but that is the nature of the Fringe: the risk is half the fun.

Venue by Venue

Hugo House // 1634 11th Avenue

The draw for this venue is alluring precisely because of its uncertainty: brand new plays coming from new local companies and a couple of out of town ones. Beginning with Hunting Dinosaurs, which comes to us from Edmonds’ Bare Bones Productions, it tells the story of a young family that has just found out they have a special needs child and the travails they encounter within the ever-shifting medical world. Hope: Lost and Found, which hails from Kenmore, and consists of two world premiere one act plays — one of them directed by Doug Knoop, who is a familiar face in local musical theater circles. There is also A Passing Feeling, about a group of friends who are reuniting, possibly to fulfill a suicide pact — and features a couple of talented young actors who’ve been making an impact of late.

However, the production that has us truly intrigued at Hugo House is Will Courtney and Syniva Whitney’s Heels and Flats. This is the sole representative from Seattle’s dance community, which has spent the last decade and a half becoming both strong and distinctive, developing several distinct voices among its choreographers. The word is that Courney and Whitney’s production is an absurdist exploration of various gender roles and issues — while that does have the potential to be trite, the work from this oft-ignored community assures us that it will not likely be the case. Worth the gamble.

Eclectic Theater // 1214 10th Avenue

The former Odd Duck Theater space is typically home to the Fringe’s smaller productions, solo performers, out-of-towners and plays with potentially risque subject matter; there’s something about the intimate confines that lends power to a piece that is going well…Filling up the prurient side of the equation, you have Erin Renée Roberts, who hails from St. Louis MO, and her exploration of love and the goddess Eros, Love Lessons Learned; along with Vancouver BC’s Mark Bentley Cohen’s Bi, Hung, Fit…and Married fitting the bill. These are combined with local productions like QBC’s Pre-Date, regarding the rules of attraction in the internet age, and Theater of Self Doubt’s production of Steven Gomez’ Drawn Dead, a poker related journey of danger and redemption.

While Bi, Hung, Fit possesses a number of international plaudits to its name, the production we’re interested in is the Mothership Ensemble’s The Night Mare (In a House of Dark Dreams). The ensemble is made up of recent graduates from Dell’Arte International, a Northern Californian school of clowning, movement and physical comedy of world renown. Together they have devised a tale that “unfolds through vigorous movement sequences, exquisite imagery, and original poetry accompanied by the works of Federico Garcia Lorca, Billy Collins, Rumi, and Sharon Olds.” A possible diamond-in-the-rough.

Northwest Film Forum 1 & 2 // 1515 12th Avenue

Two venues in one building, evenly split between out-of-town productions and local ones, there is a lot of potential in this slate. Representing for the out-of-towners, we’ve got Alex Knox’s (No Static At All) which won the Best Solo Performance award at the Hollywood Fringe Festival earlier this year. There is also Hooked by Toronto’s Nicky Guadagni, in which the lives of seven controversial women are explored. The pick goes to San Francisco’s Maura Halloran and her solo piece, Pussy, any story that revolves around the opinionated nature of our feline friends is one to at least consider, especially as it concerns the lives of women we don’t normally see on stage.

The locals are represented by Outsiders Inn’s who explore language and our culture’s appropriation of it in Mac Wellman’s Three Americanism. There is also Mara Siciliano’s Proximity, the local comedienne’s look at a fictional violent event that takes place inside of a neighborhood undergoing gentrification. Puppetry and movement are at the forefront of the two stories being told in Tas de Pierres’ Grave Love; while sparrows & alchemists’ Fair Fighting and Parting Ways looks at love against the backdrop of various unusual circumstances. The folks at boom! theater are making a local appearance after losing their South Lake Union home earlier this year with Steven Ackley’s tangleplay, which is a continuation of boxplay, Ackley’s award winning play (New York Fringe 2012) that was presented at boom! late last year.

Of the local productions, we’re going to recommend Ricky Coates’ The Death of Brian: A Zombie Tale for a number of reasons. First of all, Coates is an unappreciated local talent whose presence — instinctual, sensually and emotionally oriented — tends to elevate the prose of the productions he is in. Secondly, the production is being directed by K Brian Neel, himself a master of the solo format. The potential the combination of these two talents promises is enough to allow us to ignore our hesitancy about taking in yet another piece of zombie indulgence; this has the chance to really tell us something new.

Annex Theatre // 1100 E. Pike Street

The only play not covered in our review of this year’s offerings at this venue is Printer’s Devil Theatre’s hit production, Keefee’s House of Card by Stephen Hando. A fun piece of semi-improvised story telling, Keefee, a high functioning drunk, substance abuser and black jack dealer, regales the gamblers at his table with several saucy stories while he works. This play has received numerous productions since it first debuted a couple of years back, and Hando is the reason for that.

The Seattle Fringe Festival is running through this Sunday, a complete calendar of performances can be found on their website // Several venues on Capitol Hill // Individual shows for $10, various other packages are available