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Hy on the Fringe: Your Personal Guide to the

2012 New York International Fringe Festival

This Titles Page Was Most Recently Updated: Monday August 20th 2012

What's in a Name?—Notable Show Titles

5 Lesbians Eating a QuicheTheatre of the ArcadeWomen of Smoke

A scene from comedy 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche; the poster for sketch duo Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting's
The Underdeveloped and Overexposed Life and Death of Deena Domino; and the poster for Women of Smoke

We're told to not judge a book by its cover.


When there are 187 shows to choose from, though, it's hard to resist flipping through the FringeNYC 2012 catalog and picking out the productions with the coolest names.


In fact, the single most important marketing decision a Fringe show can make is what to call itself.


For example, there are a dozen shows in this year's festival identified as being dance productions. Some have titles that sound generic and you're likely to forget as soon as you read them: ContrastsPare, Asylum, We Have Been Here Before. But others instantly grab interest and make you wonder about them: Pink Milk, COBU: Knockin' On the Cool Earth, and the longish but clever Oasis: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Middle East but Were Afraid to Dance. Which of these do you think are most likely to sell tickets?

An obvious way to grab attention is to have a very long name. The "winner" this year is Ungrateful Daughter: One Black Girl's Story of Being Adopted into a White Family...That Aren't Celebrities. This is a risky strategy, though, because the more words there are, the greater the risk of missteps. In this case, it's hard to not wince at the mismatch of Family and That—the latter should be Who. While this is a grammatical error, it also implies a deeper problem—turning the people in the family into objects. The latter is compounded by the label White Family. It's possible the actual show is a thoughtful and nuanced exploration of the topic; but that's not what's indicated by this title.


At the other end of the spectrum, there are over two dozen one-word titles this year. While they may represent fine productions, many of them are instantly forgettable as labels—Would, Shove, Falling, Below, Pieces, Salvage, Honest, Vacuum. Do any of these names make you want to stop and find out more?


A few of the short titles are eye-catching, though—such as Baldy, a one-woman show by attractive and bare-headed performer Yokko


Another great attention-grabber is a title which is simply fun. This year's winners include:


5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche: What's not to like about this title? You know right away it's a comedy, it's quirky, and it's got lesbians—at least five of them (and maybe more if some of them are vegan...). And it leaves you wondering why they're all eating the quiche, what kind of quiche it is, and what else happens beyond the communal dining. If this show is any good, people will enjoy spreading the word because they'll delight in saying its title. A job well done. (P.S. I've since seen the show—and it's one of the very best of the festival. For my review, please click here.)


Also notable: The Reluctant Lesbian.


2 Households, 2 Assholes: Shakespeare's R & J: This two-man version of Romeo and Juliet effectively gives you a sneak preview of its comedic approach in its very name—if you laughed when you read the title, then you'll probably laugh during the show. Smart.

COBU: Knockin' on the Cool Earth: This percussion/dance show, created by a cast member of Stomp, draws you in with a title that's simultaneously aggressive and poetic. And because I've seen this troupe before, I can tell you that's an accurate representation; it's a mix of forceful precision and organic artistry resulting in what's likely to be one of the very best shows of the festival.


An Evening with Kirk Douglas: The most obvious way to attract a crowd is to put the name of a beloved celebrity in your show title. This can backfire; if the production doesn't live it up to brand name it's exploiting, audiences will leave feeling betrayed, and word of mouth will quickly sink the production. But here's hoping this comedic play earns the right to be about KD. (P.S. I've since seen the show—and, sadly, it didn't, due to a rambling sketch-centric script and uninspired direction. Just as sadly, some powerhouse comedic performers are largely wasted—with the exception of Brandon Scott Jones, who is apparently incapable of doing a bad job under any circumstances. Here's hoping Jones becomes more proactive about getting into great shows...)


The Underdeveloped and Overexposed Life and Death of Deena Domino: A comedy about Hollywood that instantly gets across its attitude with its playfully silly title. The latter also applies to the name of the sketch duo who wrote and perform the show: Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting. (P.S. I've since seen the show and it earns its title, though the comedy is inconsistent. For my review, please click here.)


What I Learned From Porn: Can you read this title and not wonder what Frank Bukkwyd learned from porn? Mission accomplished.


Women of Smoke: What a juxtaposition of images! With three words, the reader's imagination is dancing. How can you not want to learn more?


Then again, two of my favorite one-woman shows ever are Eileen Kelly's My Pony's in the Garage (FringeNYC 2005) and Elna Baker's If You See Something, Say Something (FringeNYC 2006). These bland, forgettable titles initially kept me away, and it was only the recommendations of others that led me to see the productions. But I'm so grateful I did, as Eileen and Elna are two of the most wonderful women on the planet, and their shows are memories I treasure to this day.


So enjoy this year's cornucopia of titles. But make your final buying choices based on content descriptions, the talent involved, videos, production photos, buzz, and reviews...including the ones I'll be providing here.


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Key FringeNYC 2012 Info

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