Binging the Fringe
by STEPHANIE POWERS, May 8, 2018
We are a few days into Tampa International Fringe Festival, the second year of the outside-the-box performance art fest which hosts many local acts as well as some from Seattle, Pittsburgh, New York and as far away as Japan and Australia. They’ve got puppetry in a moving van, sketch comedy, magic, musical theater, and so much more. I was able to check out three performances, all completely different but pretty brilliant in their own right.
My day started at the Attic at Rock Brothers, with Schwasted Shakespeare from Off Kilter Theatre out of Tarpon Springs. Though my Shakespeare experience is pretty limited to my high school drama days, and most of his plays lose my attention within the first act, the premise of this show sounded very enticing. Four actors perform a Shakespeare play, one of said actors gets drunk during said play. The sober actors try and hold the play together. All in 60 minutes. Sounded like my kind of Shakespeare. Upon arrival, the performers pass out a piece of paper and the audience is asked to write down their best “Yo mama” jokes. Being a child of the ’80s, I had plenty to choose from. The audience is also encouraged to get a drink from the bar, but with the disclaimer to take a Lyft/Uber if partaking in booze. They didn’t have to twist my arm hard to get a pint.
The play starts with the actors introducing themselves. My performance’s drunk actor was Jaime Giangrande-Holcom who claimed she was onto her second bottle of red wine. Her stained lips and boisterous manner complimented the statement. The play was Hamlet, and they used a mix of pop culture references, Disney songs and the like to modern up the play a bit.
In between two acts, they played the drinking game “Never, Have I Ever” and encouraged the audience to join in. It was fun, and the audience seemed to be having a great time. I still had a hard time following the story because even modern, drunk Shakespeare is still Shakespeare. But it was a good time, and I bet an even better time at night when you feel less guilty about chugging a 7.7 % IPA. (Next performances at The Attic: 8 p.m. Tues. May 8; 8:30 p.m. Weds. May 9; 6 p.m. Thurs. May 6; 7 p.m. Sat. May 12)
Next, I cruised over to the Silver Meteor Gallery for the one-man show, The Gay Uncle Explains it All To You. Colorful paintings of the Jackson Five, Liza and Judy, The Beatles, Peter Pan and Dick Cavett scattered the stage of the intimate black box theater. From the moment Jeffrey Robert, a humorist out of Seattle, started speaking and telling his stories, I was enamored. There was such humorous sincerity with the stories that Roberts told, holding up his art to go along the way with a great backing soundtrack to boot. He took us through his personal and general LGBT history with poignant stories from Stonewall to The Castro, from Lily Tomlin to Tom Waits. I’m not sure if he has an agent, but he needs merchandise stat. I’m desperate to buy a piece of his art, especially the glittery one of The Supremes. And I enjoyed his show so much, if I wasn’t working Friday and Saturday night, I’d go back to see it again. It made me all warm, fuzzy and teary. It was definitely my favorite of the day. (Next performances at SMG: 11 p.m. on Fri., May 11, and 9 p.m. on Sat., May 12.)
The last show I caught was recommended to me earlier in the day from a Fringe volunteer, “Ruthie in the Shadow” also at the Silver Meteor Gallery. Local theater legend Ami Sallee stars in this seriously intense drama, about a woman going through some serious sh*t. With homages to Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung throughout, Sallee’s character goes through memories of her life, both good and bad. Sallee’s acting was, as always, superb as well as was her co-stars Brian Chenard and Holly Marie Weber. The play, a self-described “mind-f*#k” was just that. So much so, it gave me quite a bit of anxiety. But I get anxiety watching Animal Planet, so don’t let that dissuade you. (Next performances at SMG: 7:30 p.m. on Fri., May 11, and 2:30 p.m. on Sat., May 12.)
During my day’s journey I met Grant Knutson, a Theater producer out of Seattle that provides support to Fringe productions and artists. “I provide support to touring fringe artists. I help them get organized, learn about the various North American fests, and collaborate with each other. I do also produce a few events throughout the year that use fringe-style shows. But I don’t work with any particular festival,” to be exact. Knuston is not on staff this week, but enjoying the productions. Since he has been to sixteen prior Fringes, I asked him his expert opinion on the shows he recommends and is looking most forward to. “ I’ve seen several fun shows, but of the eight I’ve seen so far, I was most impressed by The Sybil of Mars by Nicol Cabe. And I’m most looking forward to Kevin, King of Egypt by Rob Gee. I’ve seen his work before and it’s wonderful.” Sybil can be seen at Crowbar 6 p.m. Tues., May 8, and 10:15 p.m.on Wed., May 9. ‘Kevin’ can be seen at The Attic at 6:30 p.m. on Tues., May 8; 7 p.m., Wed. May 9; 9 p.m.. Thurs. May 10; 6:30 Fri.. May 11. and 10 p.m. on Sat., May 12.
For show information, times and venue locations visit tampafringe.org