Thursday, August 27, 2009

Frenetic Fringe Festival -- Weekend 3 Bullets

I went to the final day of the Frenetic Fringe Festival on Saturday, and have been processing it ever since. This was the first night that felt distinctly fringey. This is not a value judgement, and if anything, it says more about me than about the work. But on other nights, I might have reacted "Hmmm, yes... Yes..." or "Meh," this night's show evoked a few "Holy shits" from me.

Again I apologize for no photos--they really would help. You wouldn't be forced to depend on my inadequate descriptions, delivered insultingly in bulletpoints, as if this were a memo for upper management.

So with that, away we go!

"What The Storm Brought Home" by Jere Pfister
  • A one-woman play.
  • She tells us about her mother and three aunts from New Orleans.
  • After Katrina, she had to rescue one of the aunts, Billie, from a shelter in Baton Rouge.
  • Billie is starting to go senile.
  • Billie talks to the narrator's dead mother about sexual abuse she suffered from her step-father.
  • The narrator realizes that her aunts, who seemed so puritanical and who took obsessive interest in her sex life, were protecting her.
  • They never left her alone with her grandfather.
  • But they could never say why until they were old and seriously infirm.
  • This was one of the "Hmmm, yes..." pieces. It was good but not "fringe."
"Pain, Pleasure, and a Bunny Rabbit" directed by Kieth Reynolds
  • A farce like "Spelling Bee Sluts" from the second weekend.
  • A father takes his three daughters out to one of those hunting ranches where they keep animals penned for hunters to shoot.
  • One daughter is a goth, one daughter is a curvy blonde airhead, and one daughter is a mannish lesbian.
  • The animals are mostly dancers, so whenever the ranch manager sets one free, we see some animalish dancing.
  • Which is abruptly truncated by the shooting of the four hunters.
  • There is also music and singing.
  • The music was played on a keyboard set-up and was amplified. It tended to drown out the unamplified singing.
  • While I watched this, I kept wondering, what is the point? In short, "Meh."
"Tetsujin" by Rebecca French and Robert Thoth
  • These two are the founders of FrenetiCore and the Frenetic Theater
  • This film is basically a film of three women dancing in an industrial landscape, while a man does karate movies.
  • This seems like something in the air--combining modern dance with other activities that involve the moving body.
  • So combine modern dance with kung fu, or with circus clowning.
  • It was an interesting piece of work. 
  • Tasteful, not very "fringey" except for the unusual combination of dance and martial arts.
"Forever Hold Your Piece (for Now) A.K.A. Bob Hope's Nightmare" choreographed by Rob Davidson (Kinetic Architecture)
  • This was the first piece that seemed really fringey.
  • Davidson is a dancer who presented a kind of high-camp U.S.O. show.
  • He was dressed in drag as a spike-haired Statue of Liberty.
  • His dress left his upper chest bare, so we could see his pierced nipples.
  • His clunky high-heel boots made dancing a little challenging.
  • The "chorus line" girls were dressed in frilly hot-pants and red-white-and-blue tops.
  • Davidson spoke to the audience and encouraged audience participation.
  • One of the dances was to a medley of the armed service theme songs.
  • Then he changed into a costume that would allow a little more dance-like movement.
  • He danced to "Don't Laugh at Me."
  • This is that super corny song that begs people not to laugh at other people because they are different.
  • The sentiment is unarguable, but the song is cringe-inducing.
  • In his dance of the song, he kept falling down and popping back up.
  • It was hard to tell whether he wanted us to experience the music ironically (about the only way I can experience it) or not!
  • Davidson was funny, an amazing showman, outrageous, and a hell of a dancer.
 "Alice and the Underground" written by Janet Thielke and Mark Carrier
  • A conversation between  three members of the Weather Underground on the day they accidentally blow themselves up.
  • Alice, the female member, is unconvinced about the bombing that is planned.
  • The two other guys use wacky, fractured logic to try to convince her.
  • The conversation deliberately reflects Alice, the Mad Hatter, and the Doormouse.
  • It's a clever conceit, and it sort of works.
  • But it kind of goes on too long. 
"Easy Credit Theater" by Richard Hubscher
  • This is a performance that includes "dance" broadly defined, singing, and extreme physicality.
  • It's the second Frenetic Fringe Festival that deliberately recalls Butoh.
  • Hubscher is on stage in a Butoh-like loin cloth.
  • But more important, he performs under an extreme physical constraint, one he can barely manage.
  • This gives his performance unbelievable tension.
  • He lifts a wide wooden beam onto his shoulders.
  • It must be 30 feet wide, 4" x 4".
  • He staggers under the weight.
  • It is slightly unbalanced, and when he looks like he is about to fall, he asks for help centering it.
  • He speaks into a microphone.
  • You can hear him panting.
  • He tells us that it is a beam from the floor of his house, which has been torn down.
  • He is muscular--he definitely has a dancer's body.
  • But he is staggering under the weight.
  • You can see his muscles straining, and the mike picks up his panting.
  • He then sings a torch song to a recorded accompaniment.
  • He finishes while we in the audience were grimacing, awaiting his fall.
  • Surely he is meaning to recall Jesus Christ bearing the cross through the streets to Calvary.
  • His assistants lift the beam off his shoulders.
  • He breathes hard, and slowly puts on his pants, shirt, and shoes.
  • Then he sings (rants, chants, raps) another song--an angry one about being a Texan.
  • It's for George Bush.
Untitled by Jim Pirtle
  • Another legitimately "fringe" performance.
  • Pirtle is kind of a local performance art legend.
  • He has stuff up right now at CAMH, if you want to see his tamer side.
  • For this performance, he explains that he heard somewhere that you can get drunk faster if you squirt booze up your ass.
  • Uh oh...
  • He has a squeeze bottle, lube, and a bottle of wine.
  • And "stunt pants" as he calls them.
  • And thank god for that--he doesn't actually have to take the pants off.
  • Still, we watch the entire awkward process.
  • He succeeds in getting a small quantity of wine up there (or so it seems--no way to know for sure, really).
  • He gives himself the classic pre-breathalizer sobriety test. He is still sober.
  • But he assures us it might take a few minutes before he is "rip-snorting."
  • His is the only performance that required no talent.
  • Yet he was funny and obviously knew how to keep an audience's attention.
  • Pirtle is a showman, that's for sure.

1 comment:

  1. Here is Pirtle's blog, mostly about running his bar, Notsuoh, and various philosophical/cultural/drunken musings

    Glad you got to review the booze-enema piece, but I was kind of hoping you had "caught" his body fluids piece (guess that was a couple of days earlier).