Now in its second year, the New York International Fringe Festival takes over Manhattan's Lower East Side Aug. 19-30. More than 144 productions hailing from across the country and around the world will take part in the Fest, which occupies nearly every viable theatre space in the vicinity. As a way to keep up with the onslaught of offerings, in the days preceding the Fest, Playbill On-Line spotlights several unique or intriguing productions.
Queen Esther: Unemployed Superstar at the Piano Store, Aug. 19-29
Queen Esther, star of Unemployed Superstar, won't be unemployed for the next two weeks. From Aug. 19 to Aug. 30, she'll be one of the 144 acts featured in the 1998 New York International Fringe Festival.
Esther's aspirations don't match the average performer's. In the semi autobiographical Superstar, she tells of her quest to become the kind of performer who used to be seen on "The Mike Douglas Show": "a celebrity singing a few numbers from a sold-out Vegas act."
In her one-person show, which will be performed at The Piano Store Theater (158 Ludlow St.), she portrayed five different characters. Two of them she knows quite well: herself and her mother. Others are inspired by women which once employed her. These include Rowena, a rich Texas socialite; and Arlene, the manager of a New York City Garment District showroom. Through Esther's double-edged impersonations, you not only gather what these women were like, but Esther's view of how they treated her. Queen Esther is a native of the South, having grown up in Atlanta and Charleston. Her most recent theatre gig was as the "Seasons of Love" soloist and Joanne Jefferson understudy for the first national tour of Rent. However, many of her credits lie in the music world, where she has worked with such artists as Vernon Reid and James "Blood" Ulmer. For two years, she toured the Texas area with Ro-Tel and the Hot Tomatoes, an outfit which showcased girl group music of the 50's and 60's, and opened for such acts as Chuck Berry and the Temptations.
Unemployed Superstar is directed by Timothy David Cole. Showtimes are Aug. 19 at 8:15 PM; Aug. 21 at 4 PM; Aug. 23 at 3:45 PM; Aug. 25 at 10:30 PM; Aug. 27 at 8:30 PM; Aug. 28 at 7:30 PM; Aug. 29 at noon. For information, call 888-NYCFRINGE.
--By Robert Simonson