Hy on the Fringe: Your Personal Guide to the
2011 New York International Fringe Festival
and FringeNYC 2011 Encore Series
This FringeNYC Site Was Most Recently Updated: November 22nd 2011
Comprehensive Coverage of the 15th Annual FringeNYC
That Ran August 12th-26th
Introduction to FringeNYC 2011
From relatively humble beginnings, the New York International Fringe Festival has grown to become a major force in New York theatre...and an absolutely wonderful event for anyone who loves vibrant live shows.
The largest multi-arts festival in North America, this 15th annual FringeNYC offered 193 productions running from August 12th through August 26th. The festival's shows played in 18 Lower Manhattan venues —including such superb spaces as the Connelly Theatre and Ellen Stewart Theatre—totaling over 1,000 performances. And they attracted more than 75,000 people, making the Fringe the fifth largest annual cultural event in NYC.
A scene from COBU, an all-gal Japanese-themed dance & percussion show created by one of the cast members of Stomp
Why get excited about the Fringe? Because unlike so many commercial productions tailored to inoffensively appeal to mass audiences, Fringe shows tend to be quirky, individual, and passionate. Thanks to the efforts of Producing Artistic Director Elena K. Holy, and the wonderful Fringe staffers and volunteers, the festival virtually shimmers with fresh artistic approaches, a wide range of voices and styles, high energy, and delightful surprises.
Posters for The
Bardy Bunch, which has The Partridge Family & The Brady
Bunch warring via Shakespearean plotlines;
and the most anticipated show of this year's festival, Yeast Nation, from the Tony Award-winning writers of Urinetown
While Fringe productions are both low-budget and inexpensive to see ($15 per ticket in advance—and even less if you buy in bulk—or $18 at the door), the best of them are as fine and memorable as the priciest play. And they're likely to take you to places that no show in midtown ever will. (This was epitomized by a teen visiting the Fringe years who told wealthy parents trying to lure her uptown, "But I don't want to see a show on Broadway. I want to see something cool.")
Scenes from the physical comedy show Carnival Knowledge, and the puppet & Suzuki-based movement production Dreamplay
There's also more to the Fringe experience than what's being offered on stage. The festival gives you the opportunity to enjoy the people it attracts—which includes some of the most enthusiastic theatre-goers in New York. Talk to people standing in line, chat with the venue directors and volunteers, engage with the hundreds of artists handing out cards to plug their shows—and try to be open to everyone. You may well make some lifelong friends.
Dance comedy The Bad Arm: Confessions of a Dodgy Irish Dancer and dance drama Wallstories
Of course, the untamed nature of Fringe shows means they're not for every taste...and in some cases, not for any taste. One of the most exciting aspects of the Fringe is that it positively encourages productions to take huge risks—which inevitably results in some jaw-dropping failures.
A memorable example is a late-night Fringe play I attended with a composer and an actress in 2003. Although the show lasted only an hour, it felt like days...and as soon as we left the theatre, the actress muttered her opinion dazedly in one succinct phrase: "I wanted to kill myself." She repeated this assessment—"I wanted to kill myself"—over and over for the next two blocks, until we finally managed to calm her down. And this production wasn't even the worst at that year's festival...I personally witnessed three others even more mind-wrecking.
On some level, there's a perverse thrill in seeing a show so bad that you can't believe your eyes. But more to the point, falling prey to one of these dark beasts makes you more fully appreciate the productions that are truly great—that accept the Fringe's challenge to take huge risks with brilliance and actually succeed beyond all expectations.
Posters for video game-based play Theater of the Arcade and comic book-based musical The Legend of Julie-Taymor
It's the latter that make the festival most worthwhile. And there's a real joy to hunting for these treasures, finding them...and thoroughly enjoying them.
Starting August 12th, the hunt was on...
Ali Kennedy-Scott in her one-woman show The
Day the Sky Turned Black; and one of the most
beloved companies of last year's festival, PigPen Presents, this time performs The Mountain Song
I've developed a habit of catching lots of FringeNYC shows—75 in 2002, 77 in 2003, 66 in 2004, 58 in 2005, 65 in 2006, 66 in 2007, 71 in 2008, 76 in 2009, and 72 in 2010.
This year I opted to spend extra time on this site, which cut back on shows seen; plus two days were lost when Hurricane Irene forced FringeNYC to cancel all performances on Saturday August 27th and Sunday August 28th (for details, please click here). Therefore, I've seen only 47 to date...but will be catching more during the FringeNYC 2011 Encore Series. Please keep visiting this site daily during September, as I'll be rating, ranking, and reviewing every show at the Encore Series, providing you with an at-a-glance guide to what's worth catching and what you might consider avoiding.
The cast of nerdy risque comedy Epic Win Burlesque: The Star Debate—Trek vs. Wars
Of course, there are a number of other sources of reviews besides this Web site. For example, you can find smart (albeit limited) coverage of FringeNYC via The New York Times, which can be read online at nytimes.com.
In addition, there'll be a comprehensive collection of FringeNYC reviews available via nytheatre.com. Spearheaded by the site's founder, Martin Denton, this is a terrific resource for learning about every single Fringe production. Plus you can find previews of FringeNYC shows, via questionaires answered by the productions, by clicking here.
Also admiringly taking on the task of reviewing every single FringeNYC show—for the fourth year in a row—is Time Out New York, NYC's invaluable guide to—well, pretty much everything.To read TONY's coverage, please click here.
The only downside is that nytheatre.com and TONY use a small army of writers to cover the shows. That can make it hard to get a fix on the tastes of any one reviewer and figure out whether they jibe with your own.
If you read what follows, though, you'll quickly get a sense of my tastes, which is likely to help you in judging my comments about any particular show. (For example, if you discover that you love everything I dislike and can't stand everything I recommend, that still means I'll be providing you with helpful guidance—simply believe the opposite of everything I say...)
Scenes from the dance production When the Sky Breaks 3D, and from the massage parlor comedy The Women of Tu-na House
I hope you find this site useful, and that you thoroughly enjoy both the festival and the Encores Series. I also hope to have the pleasure of bumping into you at some point during these shows so you can tell me which ones you liked most.
Pointing you to the best—and suffering the worst so you don't have to,
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P.S. Most special thanks to FringeNYC photographer extraordinaire George Rand, who supplied the photo for PigPen Presents: The Mountain Song used for this site's composite logo, and on the Notable Musicals and Show Reviews pages; the Parker & Dizzy's Fabulous Journey to the End of the Rainbow photo on the Notable Gay-Themed Shows page; and the Araby photo on the FringeNYC 2011 Encore Series page. And special thanks as well to Dixie Sheridan, who shot the photo of Gabrielle Maisels, the brilliant writer/performer of Bongani.
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Introduction to FringeNYC 2011
FringeNYC 2011 Encore Series
Beyond the Encore Series
Show Ratings & Rankings
News & Buzz
Best Video Promos & Sneak Peeks
What's In A Name?
Notable Comedy Shows
Notable Gay-Themed Shows
Shows With Stars
Rising Stars to Look For
Shows That Sold Out Performances
Shows That Received Added Performances
Key FringeNYC 2011 Info
Fast Food Recommendations
FringeNYC 2011 Awards
Hy's Previous FringeNYC Coverage:
Other Notable Pages on This Site:
Best NYC Live Comedy (Updated Daily)
Hy on Theatre Discounts
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HyReviews.com Insider Freebies & Discounts
Hy's Other Sites:
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Copyright © 2011 Hy Bender