I’m happy to see that the Seattle Fringe Festival schedule has grown again. But what makes me even happier this year is not the size. It is the ambition.
Ambition has been largely invisible in the festival since it restarted in 2012. Which is precisely why I’ve been lukewarm about it. This year I feel a bit more sanguine.
I’ve long insisted that dance was a part of theater, and this year there are three dance companies who have found their way into the festival. This warms my cold, dead heart. I might even use the word “chuffed.” While I have my doubts that people who do not normally attend dance events will attend Jerboa Dance’s piece, continuum, or Squatch Tanztheater’s Hey I’m Average or Tessellation’s Dancing on the Wall, the festival nevertheless has at least taken the important step of offering the chance. In doing so, they’ve also made a quiet statement that the scope and purpose of the festival in the future will be greater still.
I feel similarly about the inclusion of “FringeProv” improvisation shows. Improvisation has been treated like a theater ghetto for years, a segregated area of performance in which no respectable performer would be found among the gypsies. Though some of that reputation has ameliorated in recent years, the division remains. Inviting in the prodigal children seems to me another attempt to remind people that “theater” is much larger than what they presume.
This year those prodigal children include Captain & Patriarch, Rock Bottom, Fools Play, Out Of The Box, Yolanda and Andy, God Bless Ya, Carskee, and Death and Taxes. It’s a fabulous group of performers in an array of different styles, and well worth checking out.
Expanding one’s personal definition of theater allows one to enjoy more things, and enjoy them more deeply. With dance and improvisation reintegrated into the program, it makes perfect sense that there is also drag and burlesque and solo performance and interdisciplinary work as well. With twenty-eight shows over two expanded weekends, there is much to behold, even an appearance by forgotten Seattle Star editor Jose Amador with his production of Nick Stokes’ Carry We Openly (the script for which debuted at The Star). For people who consider themselves “not theater people” (whatever a theater person is) the whole schedule offers an impressive smorgasbord, an opportunity to see what is really going on in town.