When you say August in the New York City theatre world, you're talking Fringe. At a time when Manhattan used to be dead, stage-wise, the New York International Fringe Festival now throws scores of new plays, musicals, performance acts and one-person shows at the populace.
The current event -- the fourth annual festival -- will run Aug. 16-27 at the usual array of East Village and Lower East Side theatres and venues.
Fringe 2000 will offer 175 productions, tying the number seen at last year's event. Shows hail from Chile, India, France, German, Mexico, Austria and six others countries will journey to Manhattan this August. U.S. acts will come from such states as Kentucky, Georgia and Texas. As in previous years, there will be FringeAlFresco (outdoor street performances), FringeU (panels and discussions) and FringeJr (kids activities) offerings.
Some of the more notable attractions follow:
• C.V.R. (Charlie Victor Romeo), Collective Unconscious' sleeper Off-Off-Broadway hit of last season returns. The gripping docu-drama, winner of two Drama Desk awards, creates theatre out of the real transcripts of black box recordings from planes which have crashed. • Bona Fide Conversation, Chicagoan Barrie Cole, billed as a "language gymnast," presents three original performance works about communication, contradictions and fascination.
• Buddy Movie, by Tony Vellela, who won the 1999 Fringe Excellence in Playwriting Award. Vellela returns with the story of betrayal, seduction and sacrifice -- all to get a film project done.
• Clowns in the Vagina, by ASYLUM of Chicago. Calling Eve Ensler; the title says it all.
• The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett as Found in an Envelope (Partially Burned) in a Dustbin in Paris Labeled: Never to Be Performed. Never. Ever. EVER! Or I'll Sue! I'LL SUE FROM THE GRAVE!!!, by Theatre Oobleck and the NeoFuturists, Fringe favorites and creators of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind and K. Expect zaniness.
• Doctor Faustus; Drama of Works, a Faustus from Brooklyn, enacted on a 9" by 10" puppet stage.
• Eleven Dollar Prophet, by Antonio Sacre of Los Angeles. Sacre has been represented in all four Fringe Fests, last year with My Penis -- In and Out of Trouble.
• Cruces, from Me xihc co teatro [sic] of Mexico City. It's performed on the roof and wall of a building. It involves harnesses and rigging. It's from south of the border.
• Die Ungarische Medea (The Hungarian Medea), from Ulm, Germany. Forget Vaclav Havel; meet Arpad Goncz! Goncz, the former president of Hungary (he steps down in early August) has penned this new adaptation of Euripides' Medea. Why can't the U.S. elect a playwright president?
• See Bob Run, from Daniel MacIvor, the author Never Swim Alone, currently running Off-Broadway. Featuring Australian actress Sophia Martin.
• SNAG, from Sydney, Australia, a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe. One actor performs ten roles, including a husband who finds his wife in bed with, it seems, a fish.
• Stage Door, by Salt Theatre on New York. From the looks of it, this mounting of Kaufman and Ferber's comedy, featuring a cast of 27 and director Emma Griffin, is a straightforward production, sans gimmicks of any kind. Can it be?
[Check out PBOL's daily "FRINGE WATCH" for descriptions of other attractions.]
For a while there, it seemed as though there wouldn't be a Fringe Fest in 2000. Earlier this year, the Present Company, which produces the Fringe, was presented with a Notice of Default by its landlord saying it owed over $100,000 in rent, most of it in late fees. The troupe quickly launched a fund-raising drive, and enlisted legal help to battle the landlords and keep their Stanton Street space. Eventually, the two sides agreed to a settlement of $32,000, but not before the company was given a good scare. Artistic director John Clancy told of his experiences keeping the ensemble and Fringe afloat in his autobiographical one-man show, Notice of Default and Opportunity to Cure, which ran March 31-April 22.
The venues being used in this year's Fringe include the Present Company Theatorium (198 Stanton Street), which acts as the festival's center of operations, The Henry Street Settlement, University Settlement, Surf Reality, Collective Unconscious, Context, WOW Cafe, Rod Rodgers Studio, Paradise, The Kraine Theatre, Red Room, St. Mark's Studio Theatre, Charas/El Bohio (which houses five separate spaces) and Pace University's Schaeberle Studio Theatre.
Tickets for all shows are $12 (kids under 12, seniors and locals, $7); a five-show pass is $55; a ten-show pass, $100; a Lunatic Pass, for access to everything, $350. For more information of the Fringe, call (212) 420 8877, or consult the website at www.fringenyc.org.
--By Robert Simonson