Indy Fringe part 4 (plus teens)

August 26, 2009
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Last night I only made it to one Indy Fringe show, due to my misreading of the program (my fault, not the designers). This led to the last minute pick of "The Stetson Manifesto," presented by Lebenon, Indiana's Happy Holler Productions.

The story concerns Catfish, an aging cowboy fighting a system that now demands the replacement of his beloved Stetson with an equestrian helment. His efforts to keep things the same are resisted by a never-believable corporate type. Caught in between is a smarter-than-he-seems younger employee.

It's encouraging to see a sincere, scripted play in the Fringe mix. But the old-school-cowboy-whose-time-has-past story is familiar to anyone who has seen a western in the past quarter century. Here, there's an effort to freshen it up (excuse me) with some "American Pie" scatalogical action, but the result is neither revealing or compelling.

A part of the Indy Fringe that doesn't get much attention is FringeNext, which runs concurrent to the main fest. Housed this year at IndyFringe's own theater across College Ave, it offers teens a chance to Mickey and Judy their own shows.

For a sampling, I sent critic Katherine Harry. Yes, she's my daughter. And she's also a journalist in training who edits Pike High School's newspaper and recently landed a story on the national website JVibe (see it here).

Here are her thoughts on a trio of FringeNext shows.

Young Actors Theater's stereotypical “Check Please 2” played out like a long, drawn out, not funny ComedySportz sketch. The premise: a just-broken up couple goes on a series of dates. After several long, awful encounters with others, the pair declares the the dating pool just too “weird."While the main characters were well-developed and seemingly well-researched, they were almost unbearable to watch. And while between-scene music blasted, what seemed like dozens of others danced awkwardly and moved about to fill time.

With minimal story and an obvious conclusion, “Check Please 2” left its audience members as confused and regretful as its characters.

"Mean Girls" met "Rugrats" in “The Secret Life of Girls” presented by the Second Story Playhouse Players. The multi-media mix of text and e-mail projections successfully made clear the overwhelming presence of technology in teenage lives, but the promising visuals couldn't overcome the performance. Six teenage females screaming at the top of their lungs in a small theater is never a good idea. The less-than-fluid dialogue was stiff and unemotional, except when any character utilized a curse word.

Despite the loose ends (fringes perhaps?), “Every Story Has a Song” featured students from the International School expressing themselves boldly and deliberately. Leaving creative power to the students to choose their own monologues and songs, the result was passionate performances. The final song, a two-student rendition of “For Good” from "Wicked," lit up the stage and the, unfortunately, almost empty room.

The monologues didn't quite connect, but that left interpretation up to the audience, a freedom so seldom achieved by high school performers. The only tragedy in “Every Story Has a Song” was the minimal audience.

Here's hoping that more young artists participate in next year's FringeNext. This is a great opportunity being offered to students in Indy and more should take advantage of it.

Your thoughts?

  • I'm sorry to hear that Stetson Manifesto was so disappointing. It's still on my list to see this weekend, though.

    I loved reading Katherine's reviews of the FringeNext shows, although I'm sorry to hear that some of them were disappointing, too.

    I agree that FringeNext does not get enough coverage, but I go back and forth about the value and appropriateness of adults publicly reviewing teen shows. However, I definitely love the idea of a teenaged reviewer thoughtfully reviewing the teen shows. We need to be thinking about the next generation of reviewers as well as the next generation of performers, directors, playwrights, and theatrical designers.

    Hope Baugh
    Indy Theatre Habit
  • PS - I don't think I'm going to be able to see any FringeNext shows because I have already committed to seeing so many of the main Fringe shows. (I've seen and written about 15, I think, so far.) But if I could somehow be two places at once, the FringeNext shows that especially interest me are:

    Love/Out because it is written by Kelly P. Lusk, who has had a show in the FringeNext every year since its conception. I enjoy seeing artists develop, and I wish I could have been following his development all this time, but start where you are, right?

    Ready for the Future because Mathew Davis' slam poem at the Fringe Preview Party last Thursday night moved me to tears.

    Why There Are Stars in the Night Sky because the playwright, Brock Hall, is this year's Young Playwright in Process winner and Fringe director Pauline Moffat told me he is only 13!

    And Medea - the FringeNext show by some Butler students - because word on the street (hah! I love using that expression - it's so Fringe-y) is that Medea is amazing for any kind of Fringe show, let alone a FringeNext show.

    Hope Baugh
    Indy Theatre Habit
  • The first year Indianapolis hosted a Fringe Festival, all the shows were reviewed in the NUVO and it was fantastic. Most directors and actors love feedback positive or constructive. Unfortunately, as the Fringe grows there is less and less time and resources to get all shows covered. Carmel High School is performing, A Piece of My Heart for the last time on Sunday, August 30th at 7:30. If your daughter is doing any more reviewing this weekend she should check out our show. I know it will be too late to seek more audience members, but it would be great to hear an unbiased opinion. Thanks for the reviews posted on this site.
  • Thank you to those of you who came to see our show in Fringe Next. For the record, the title of our show was Selected Stories. The idea of the show was that "every story has a song". The monologues were not to have any connection. The thematic element of the show was meant to be the connection between monologue and song. We agree, it was disappointing to see (and hear!) that there was little audience turn out for NEXT. It is a great opportunity for our students to experience a theatrical event outside of their own venue. Special thanks to Indy Fringe for their continued support of the arts in the community and local schools!

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