Hy on the Fringe: Your Personal Guide to the
2014 New York International Fringe Festival
This FringeNYC Site Most Recently Updated: October 6th 2014
69 shows rated & ranked, 26 shows reviewed, 57 shows selling out
For FringeNYC 2014 Encores info, please click here and here
Coverage of the 18th Annual FringeNYC
Running August 8th-24th
Introduction to FringeNYC 2014
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 18th annual FringeNYC offers 196 productions running from August 8th through August 24th. The festival's shows play in 18 Lower Manhattan venues —including such historic East & West Village theatres as the Connelly, Theatre 80 St. Marks, and The Players Theatre—totaling over 1,000 performances. And they'll attract more than 75,000 people, making the Fringe the fifth largest event in NYC (after the New York International Auto Show, Tribeca Film Festival, New York City Marathon, and New York Comic Con).
The types of shows at FringeNYC run the gamut, including theatrical comedy, theatrical drama, musical, opera, sketch, improv, dance, solo, puppetry, clowning, performance art, and children's. Adding to the diversity are productions from 13 countries, including South Africa, China, Korea, Australia, Israel, Italy, Mexico, and (my favorite for two years running) Japan.
A scene from Japanese historical musical Dancing Monk Ippen
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.
Rising star comic David Carl transforms into Gary Busey to act out Shakespeare's greatest play
using puppets, video, and pop culture references in Gary Busey's One Man Hamlet (as performed by David Carl)
While Fringe productions are both low-budget and inexpensive to see ($18 per ticket—and even less if you buy in bulk), 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.")
Magic realism play The Death of Thomas Edison
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 postcards to plug their shows—and try to be open to everyone. You may well make some lifelong friends.
A scene from relationship sketch comedy Awkward Romance: The Third Evening;
Lisa Flanagan performs improvised opera (with Frank Spitznagel on piano) in La Donna Improvvisata
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.
Scenes from Marx Brothers revival I'll Say She Is and horror play Whiskey Jack
It's the latter that make the festival most worthwhile. And there's a real joy to seeking out these treasures, finding them...and thoroughly enjoying them.
Starting August 8th, the hunt is on...
Scene from dance production Wing to the Rooky Wood
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, 56 in 2011, and 68 in 2012. Last year I was recovering from knee surgery and almost skipped the festival, but ended up limping from venue to venue for a total of 50 shows. FringeNYC is hard to resist...especially considering it gets better every year.
Storyboard from horror musical Fatty Fatty No Friends
Please visit this site daily once the festival begins, as I'll be rating and ranking every show I see (and reviewing as many as I can manage), providing you with an at-a-glance guide to what's worth catching and what you might consider avoiding.
The world-class sketch comics of UCB-NY's Stone Cold Fox
Of course, there are a number of other sources of reviews besides this website. For example, you can find smart (albeit limited) coverage of FringeNYC via The New York Times, which can be read online at nytimes.com.
And reviewing most 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 other publications 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 Utah drama The Mormon Bird Play and comedic lecture The Imbible: A Spirited History of Drinking
Links to all the sections of this FringeNYC 2014 site appear at both the top and bottom of each of its pages.
I hope you find the site useful and that you thoroughly enjoy the festival. 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 like most.
Pointing you to the best—and suffering the worst so you don't have to—
Book Service: BookProposal.net
Script lay Service: HyOnYourScript.com
P.S. Special thanks to Bobby Bleustone, who helped design the postcard I'm using for this year's festival; 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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Hy's Previous FringeNYC Coverage
FringeNYC 2013 FringeNYC 2012 FringeNYC 2011 FringeNYC 2010 FringeNYC 2009
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