Ah the The Fringe Festival, how you torture me so. Magnificently, every year for the past nine, the Fringe has helped stage a couple hundred works of theatre in a variety of forms from straight plays to musicals to interpretive dance to puppetry to performance art, helping give theatre folk from around the world a stage (literally) on which to show their wares. But is the damn thing just too big? Are there simply not enough good shows out there to fill all the slots necessary for a festival of this size? Because in my, granted, slightly limited experience in attending the Fringe (I've only been to a couple shows each year), the majority of what goes up should be instantly taken down. In fact, I can honestly say that the worst show I've ever seen in my life -- yes, even worse than my high school's production of Hair!, which of course was pure genius anyway! -- was a show I saw at the Fringe. I even had a friend in it -- a talented friend, at that -- and it still was absolutely the most annoying, poorly written and staged piece of trash I've ever had the misfortune to experience in a theatre. Making matters worse has always been the uncomfortable, small theatres often lacking air conditioning -- pure genius for a festival that takes place in New York in fucking August. (Thankfully, that does not seem to be as much of a problem this year as the festival has upgraded its venue list.)
Still, what the Fringe stands for is important, especially in this city where theatre has such an enormous presence, but its lifeblood -- namely the small Off-Off- productions -- is too often ignored by those who aren't actual participants in the theatre world. And plenty of the shows always sound interesting.
So this year, I decided to spend more time giving more shows at The Fringe a chance, and I'll be doing so by covering the goings-on for Gothamist. That coverage starts today with not just the opening of the Fringe Festival but also with Gothamist's loving preview of it which I cowrote with Gothamist's primary theatre writer, Mallory Jensen. Go check-it-out, and try out some of the shows at the Fringe. There's even a bunch of stuff to potentially appeal to you movie lovers who have trouble being in the same room with the life-size characters just feet away on a stage.