I’m staring out my picturesque window at the downtown cityscape of Cincinnati, thinking about the next two weeks and how much time I’m going to spend on the north side of all those buildings, watching an amazing array of local, national, and international talent perform their original works as the Cincinnati Fringe Festival 2017 begins. I’ve got my schedule formalized; in years past, my eyes have been bigger than my stomach. But this year I intend to pace myself and see all twenty-two of the productions I’ve mapped out. No promises, other than I’m gonna try.
This festival is a major undertaking; Know Theatre and Fringe Producer Chris Wesselman pull off a miraculous two-weeks every year. I thought this weekend would be a good time to run down some of the things I’m looking forward to the most.
First is Queen City Flash’s (Trey Tatum and Bridget Leak) new play (and longest title), THE DISAPPEARANCE OF NICOLE JACOBS PART ONE: THE SISTER. Tatum and Leak have had a steady streak of Fringe hits and this one, starring the popular Miranda McGee and Xavier University theatre students Henry Eden and Cassie Delicath, is almost certain to be another hit. They’re playing in a new Fringe space, Memorial Hall’s Studio (except for their last performance which has to move to the Art Academy – hey, it’s Fringe!). Click here for more info.
Another highlight of this year’s festival is the first entry by Cincinnati LAB Theatre. As a disclaimer, I’ve been involved behind the scenes with this group ever since they produced my play, CHASE THE DRAGON, as part of their New Works Festival last year. I’m partial to the group, but also am objectively interested in this piece. Titled IS THAT ALL THERE IS?, the script was written by Sara Mackie will feature Jared D. Doren, Danielle Muething, and Sean Michael Flowers. Mackie and Doren conceived the idea awhile ago; it’s come a long way from that incarnation and based on what I’ve seen in rehearsal I think audiences are going to find it an interesting drama. More information can be found here.
HOME, a new piece from the mind of Ben Dudley, will be produced by Homegrown Theatre. They are responsible for the wonderful BOO BOO from last year and the workplace comedy OCCUPATIONAL PLEASURES in 2015. Directed by Buz Davis and featuring Leah Strasser, Mark Bowen, David Levy, and Tricia Allen, this is billed as a psychological thriller told through “text and live sound effects.”
Local playwright Robert Macke and Tongue of the Mind brings us a workshopped play as part of the FringeDevelopment series. IF A TREE FALLS will be performed just once on July 9th at Gabriel’s Corner at 6:30pm. The premise is golden: “Gayle and Arnisha are happily married, except they have nothing to talk about. When a tree falls through their home, Gayle hires Ann, an arborist, to remove it. Arnisha find herself drawn to Ann, being able to have conversations with the arborist that Arnisha once had with Gayle.” I won’t miss this one.
There’s tons of solo shows this year, too. There’s 8×10, a show about solitary confinement. There’s Alexx Rouse’s BUSTED BUMPERS AND OTHER METAPHORS and there’s an piece called RUMI’S FIELD, performed by one dancer. Paul Strickland, one of my favorites, brings us a new show called BALLS OF YARN and Jim Hopkins will perform his first Fringe show – a far cry from his usual gig at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, I have a feeling – called WHITE PRIVILEGE. And it’s directed by Torie Wiggins.
There’s a little something for everyone at Fringe. Do you like avantgarde dance? There’s FLOATBRILLIANCE or PLACE/SETTING or WHAT SHE FOUND THERE. Or maybe you’re a fan of sillier things, like clowns singing about monsters? THE MONSTER SONGS might just be for you. Puppets? Check out Sean Mette’s MY DARLING DILOPHASARUS. Do you like historical drama? Check out FIGHT FOR 52₵. There’s certainly no shortage of plays about “women’s issues” this year – not surprising in our current political and cultural climate. For me, though, perhaps the most intriguing show on the roster is WILDERNESS SURVIVAL, a one-man show from Philadelphia’s Jimmy Grzelak, an Eagle Scout and “spiritual voyager.” I’m curious on what kind of journey he takes us.
The Cincinnati Fringe Festival is a theatre marathon; we all set our own pace. After all, some may “run” a 3k or a 5k. Others – like me – will do more of a half-marathon. And then there’ll be those hardcore Fringers who will see almost all of the offerings with their “Full Frontal” passes. Regardless, we’re all going to have a wonderful time. I’ll see ya in Know Theatre’s Underground between productions!
The 14th Cincinnati Fringe Festival begins May 31st and runs through Sunday, June 11th (a day that will feature an encore of the Picks of the Fringe!). Click here for full details including ticket options and schedules.