HOUSTON – On the eve of announcing Theater LaB's second annual "Houston Fringe Theater Festival," running mid June through mid July, Several Dancers Core announced it was presenting its own inaugural "Fringe Festival of Contemporary Dance and Performance Art" over Memorial Day weekend. Though LaB Artistic Director Gerald LaBita didn't want to speak ill of Several Dancers Core, LaBita was, as he said, "upset" at the fledgling organization's infringement, to use a word.
To complicate matters further, the show by Several Dancers Core, in a benefit serving the Houston Dance Coalition, occurred at DiverseWorks Artspace, which participated in last year's "Houston Fringe Theater Festival" and is hosting one of the four "Houston Fringe Theater Festival" offerings this summer. The line between coziness and co-option is a thin one.
In any case, the second "Houston Fringe Theater Festival" continues its dedication to the cutting-edge and risky. Up-and-comers from New York's avant-garde take centerstage with one of Houston's own renowned experimenters.
June 11 - 13 at DiverseWorks Artspace, Mark Dendy Dance & Theater Company do some fancy footwork, indeed, while wondering, What Becomes a Legend Most? because the Bessie Award-winning gender-bender Dendy plays Martha Graham. Vaslav Nijinksy also makes an appearance.
June 17 - 21 at Theater LaB, Tim Miller plays Shirts & Skin all by himself, in a solo performance based on his recently published book of the same name. In his autobiographical exploration as a gay man, Miller, currently artistic director Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica and professor of theater at Cal State University, bares himself, tries on lots of poses, and ACTs UP. Another type of revelation occurs June 24 - 27 at Theater LaB when Jill Morley presents her True Confessions of a Go-Go Girl. Morley was reared in a comfortable middle-class home but she was so hard up for money while pursuing a career in acting in New York that she turned to strip-teasing. Morley, who also wrote the sociological autobiography, portrays herself and other dancers in a piece that ran Off-Off Broadway at the Red Room Theater for more than a year.
July 10 - 12 at Theater LaB the seduction is in a more refined key as Ntozake Shange declaims, Ellington is not a Street. An Obie Award-winner for for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf and for an adaptation of Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children, Shange has performed Ellington is not a Street, which explores the legacy of Duke Ellington and his music and also features percussionist Kahil El-Zabar, at Center Stage in Baltimore. Also a novelist and poet, Shange is currently associate professor in the English Department at Prairie View A & M, an area school.
For tickets and information about the 1998 "Houston Fringe Theater Festival," call (713) 868-7516.
By Peter Szatmary