Hy on the Fringe: Your Personal Guide to the
2012 New York International Fringe Festival
And the FringeNYC September Encore Series
This FringeNYC Site Most Recently Updated: Sunday September 30th 2012
Comprehensive Coverage of the 16th Annual FringeNYC
That Ran August 10th-26th, and
The FringeNYC Encore Series Running September 7-30
Introduction to FringeNYC 2012
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 16th annual FringeNYC offered 187 productions running from August 10th through August 26th. The festival's shows played in 19 Lower Manhattan venues —including such historic East & West Village theatres as the Connelly, The Cherry Lane, Theatre 80 St. Marks, and the Soho Playhouse—totaling over 1,000 performances. And they'll attracted more than 75,000 people, making the Fringe the fifth largest annual cultural event in NYC.
COBU, a fabulous all-gal Japanese-themed dance & percussion troupe led by a star from Stomp
Why get excited about FringeNYC? 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.
Nejla Y. Yatkin (via photographer Lois Greenfield), star & choreographer
of dance/multimedia show
Oasis: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The Middle East But Were Afraid to Dance
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 ago 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.")
TV star Lee Meriwether raises the dead in
The Women of Spoon River: Their Voices from the Hill,
and Tim Intravia tells true tales about his seven years as a street performer in From Busk Till Dawn
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.
Dark comedy sketch duo Skinny Bitch Jesus Meeting in The
Underdeveloped and Overexposed Life and Death of Deena Domino,
and a scene from the musical Blanche: The Bittersweet Life of a Wild Prairie Dame
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 back 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.
Rachael Dease's one-woman show City of Shadows, and dance drama Women of Smoke
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 10th, the hunt was on...
Scenes from dark comedy Fantasy
Artists and Three Penny Opera Japanese takeoff
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, 72 in 2010, and 56 in 2011 (relatively few due to Hurricane Irene cutting the festival short last year...).
Please visit this site daily, as I'll be rating and ranking every show I see (and reviewing as many as I can manage), including every single show in the September Encore Series, providing you with an at-a-glance guide to what's worth catching and what you might consider avoiding.
Scenes from Independents: The Musical and Yokko in her one-woman show Baldy
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.
And reviewing most (though not necessarily all) FringeNYC shows 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...)
A new way to play the guitar from Six String Sonics; and a new way to see Wonderland via Alice and the Bunny Hole
I hope you find this site useful, that you thoroughly enjoyed the festival, and that you also take full advantage of the Encore Series to see some of the finest productions of the fest. 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—
Book Service: HyOnYourBook.com
P.S. Most special thanks to Susan Handman, who designed the striking postcard I'm using for this year's festival and who you should hire for your own design needs; and to FringeNYC photographers extraordinaire George Rand and Dixie Sheridan, who will be supplying photos of FringeNYC productions throughout the festival.
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Introduction to FringeNYC 2012
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Notable Comedy Shows
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Key FringeNYC 2012 Info
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Copyright © 2012 Hy Bender