Indyfringe Theater Festival has been growing by a steady 2000 attendees every
year since its inception in 2006. Fifty-eight theater groups will perform
nearly 300 shows across ten days, starting Aug. 19. Now boasting new talent, a
new venue and a brand new office, Indiana's favorite performance art festival
is sure to make an even bigger impact on the Indianapolis theater community.
always, 100% of the box office proceeds go directly to the performers
themselves. The festival starts off with a bang on Thursday, Aug. 19from
6-10 p.m. at the Indyfringe Opening Night Carnival at the Indianapolis
Firefighters Museum at 748 Mass Ave (admission to the carnival is free).
Fringe organizers and performers have always been known for their eclectic
tastes in performance art — in the past spanning from cross-dressing
magic shows to physical comedy and dark drama — a few themes have emerged
from this year's selection.
enough, there's a lot of shows with Jesus in them this year," says Pauline
Moffat, Executive Director of the festival. Three shows, to be exact: Jesus,
Shakespeare, and Lincoln Walk into a Bar,
a comedic 'what if' of epic proportions; Hurry Up, Jesus!, a farcical examination of the world's need for
faith; and Teen Jesus, a humorous
projection of the prophet's awkward high schools years
structure of this year's Fringe is marked by a number of important changes in
both the organization of the event and its venues. One striking change is the
elimination, or more accurately the consolidation, of Fringe Next — the
festival's high school-produced section.
years ago it was brought about as Fringe for high school students, giving them
the foundations for their work," says Moffat. "Well, after four years they
asked not be identified as a part of Fringe Next. Now they're going
head-to-head [with all other Fringe performers.] I think it's fantastic because
some of them are really quite excellent."
support for the high school students has been strong in the past, both within
the Fringe community and audiences, a push to be taken more seriously has
dictated the change. The audiences will have no clue whether they're watching
students or professionals.
think it will add a lot of great dynamics," says Moffat. "It will show that
they'll be judged solely on their merit as opposed to whether or not they are
new theater space
ever-growing attendance in the festival has led to the addition of a brand new
theater space, the Marian Underground. "[The building is] a former school on
New Jersey, but most people remember it as Essential Edibles, a former
vegetarian restaurant. We've run out of theater space on Mass Ave and this is
within walking distance of the other theaters. It will seat 100 and be
expansion of the Fringe has been done out of necessity, growing to meet the
demands of larger audiences. "We have a rule of thumb that if the average
attendance of the shows drops below 40, there's no real point in trying to
expand the festival," says Moffat. "We've had between 48 and 53 people per show
for the last two years. I don't want to just grow for the sake of growing, but
we've been able to comfortably expand."
making its second appearance is the renovated Indyfringe building. "We had it
completely renovated a year ago," says Moffat. "We did it little bits at a
time, in between rehearsals and shows."
building is now completely revamped with sound and light systems and plenty of
seating. Some whimsical elements of the building's former interior still
remain, including part of a large painting of a nude man right behind the
stage. Only his head is still visible, adding an interesting, dated dimension
to an otherwise fresh-looking theater space.
been there for a while, but the previous owner painted over the good parts and
left the head," Moffat jokes. "But we like it in the background, just visible
over the curtain."
in the streets
addition to the new and revamped venues, street theater has been given a new
vitality this year. "Street theater is programmed this year. Know No Stranger
will be hitting it up along with some of our other street performers who have
been with us for years now. We try to ramp it up every year and we hope that
the city will embrace street theater as an art form," says Moffat.
of the push is to help the city's problem with panhandlers, in the hope that
more street talents can be discovered and implemented. "[The panhandlers] will
have to compete with people who are singing or dancing for their supper. Anyone
who wants to embrace their talent can contribute to the street theater."
addition, "Twilight Revelers," Lydia Burris' fantastical painting will not only
grace the posters and covers of Indyfringe guides, but will also be featured as
part of a lightbox installation on the corner of Mass Ave and St. Clair.
no description of Indyfringe would be complete without a mention of the outdoor
tent, featuring music and entertainment every night of the festival. "The
Fringe tent is going to be great this year," says Moffat. "We've partnered with
Indypride, who everyone knows can throw a real party. One of the things we realize
as we mature is that our partnerships are important to us and that we need to
do things better every year.
spawned a small, vibrant theater community in this city through the Fringe
because we want the performers to stay here," adds Moffat. "They're dedicated.
They know they can come here and take advantage of it. They know they can put
on a great show here."
rotting in the state of Denmark: "Ophelia's Revenge"
by Josefa Beyer
everyone dies by the end of Hamlet,
but that doesn't have to stop the fun. In a new, comic-horror play borrowing
Shakespeare's characters, the moody dead prince becomes the King of the
Indianapolis playwrights behind Ophelia's Revenge, premiering at the Fringe this week, are Kevin Burgun
and Maria Meschi. They first met as performers in Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern Are Dead, in which Tom
Stoppard re-imagines Hamlet through the eyes of two very minor characters.
Backstage, Burgun and Meschi spent down time with the actress playing Ophelia,
a role with little dialogue that ends with the character's suicide. The only
way to get Ophelia more lines, the cast mates joked, was to bring her back from
evolved into how to make Ophelia a central character and a strong character,
not a weeping woman, pining over Hamlet," says Meschi, a first time playwright
and member of the Irvington theater troupe Q Artistry. The play she developed
with Burgun takes on a quasi-feminist bent as Ophelia enlists two other
Shakespearean heroines — Juliet and Lady MacBeth — to avenge her
father's death and defeat the zombies. Meschi hopes audiences will re-think the
way Shakespeare portrayed women and enjoy their re-working of his soliloquies,
which are repeatedly interrupted by zombies noshing on human necks.
Shakespeare and there are zombies," says Burgun, who also directs. "How can
that not be fun?" Although the play was inspired by Stoppard's work, the
writing team was emboldened by the popularity of Pride and Prejudice and
Zombies and Abraham Lincoln:
Vampire Hunter, recent novels that
pit classic heroes against the undead.
they wrote, an unintended superhero theme emerged. Burgun and Meschi wanted to
give their three leading ladies strengths that Shakespeare didn't. Rather than
making their mark on the theatrical world through relationships with men, here
Ophelia, Juliet, and "Beth" each have unique powers—one, for instance,
has a deadly sexuality-- to use against the dark forces. Costumed by Meschi,
the ladies start out in traditional medieval gowns that morph into
superhero-like costumes for battle scenes. One Fringe previewer dubbed the play
"a combination of Shakespeare and Marvel Comics."
Revenge, says Meschi, was a good fit
for Q Artistry, which formed in 2007 to produce original works, including
re-imagined classics. However, the troupe had dedicated this fall to the second
Halloween run of their gothic musical Cabaret Poe. In order to produce Ophelia's Revenge this year, Burgun and Meschi applied for a Fringe spot
as Plagued Productions. Burgun, a high school teacher, had previously directed
three teen productions in Fringe Next. This year, as youth productions merge
into the main Fringe line-up, he will have two productions in cycle: Ophelia's
Revenge, largely with Q Artistry
talent, and Hostage, with teen
a teacher, Burgun is well versed in interpreting the Bard for captive
audiences. He thinks Ophelia's Revenge has the right mix of Elizabethan wordplay and horror high jinx to hold
the attention of Shakespeare buffs and newbies alike.He would even recommend it for his students, as long as they
don't start their SAT essays with "When Ophelia rose from the dead..."
safe: Deborah Asante's first IndyFringe
Story by David
IndyFringe Festival includes a few firsts in terms of performers and programs.
Among the most eagerly anticipated firsts at this year's festival will be
hometown favorite Deborah Asante's one-woman show, Deep In Love.
For over 20
years, Asante has built a reputation as one of Indiana's most creative
storytellers. She is also embarking on her 21st season as founding
Artistic Director of the Asante Children's Theatre.
from the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area, Asante has been awarded the Aesop Cup
For Tall Tales by the National Association of Black Storytellers and has been
named breakthrough Woman in the Arts and Culture by the National Coalition of
100 Black Women.
involvement in children's theater, this next show will be a little bit
different. Deep In Love,
a show Asante says is for "adults only," got its start through a Frank Basile
Emerging Stories Fellowship she received from Storytelling Arts of Indiana. Her
original concept involved asking a group of women to share their love stories
as a source of inspiration in crafting a piece about self empowerment called Enough
telling stories to inspire me," says Asante. But the group process proved to be
more inhibiting than she anticipated. "The women were not as open as you would
think," she says. "The whole point for me is to tell with an abandonment.
That's the flavor I wanted to bring to the show. I wanted to bring it to you
like a gasp."
performing the piece, Asante realized she wanted to broaden her concept. "I
wanted more variety. My concept deepened."
Love received its first
performance a year ago at the Indianapolis Art Center. Vincent Howard, the
pianist who accompanied Asante for that piece, will be back to lend his
blues-inflected interludes to her Fringe shows, which Asante promises will be
different each time out.
part of the appeal of playing the Fringe is the opportunity to perform before
an adult audience. "That's part of the excitement. It irks me when I tell
people I'm a storyteller and they automatically assume that I only tell to
children. I am not the birthday storyteller. That's why I put in my title, Love
Stories for Adults Only.
It is not new for me to tell sexy stories. I grew up telling them."
that when she was in fourth grade, she found herself stuck in detention with
two boys. "I was in a situation where I felt in jeopardy. The teacher left the
room and those boys were bullying me. I started telling the stories and I
watched their reactions. I had to take it up a notch because they were not
trying to enjoy my story. So I got sexual with it, started telling stuff about
girls. That's when I thought, 'I have hit the jackpot!' I saw them freeze. They
were captivated. That's the first erotic story I told and those guys left me
alone because they were sitting there, listening to me."
storytelling constitutes a kind of power. "Storytelling has always been some
way of connecting myself or becoming the focal point by being able to speak at
a certain level that was not allowed to me at my age."
forward to expanding her boundaries at this year's Fringe. To that end, she's
been both adapting her repertoire and creating new work to possibly premier
during her run, including a sequence of short monologues "about being aware of
somebody being sexual, but it's not your experience," she says. "A neighbor,
the people next door...a little kid hearing their parents."
her Fringe performances as an opportunity. "I've looked at this show as a
liberating force anyway. But then to be part of the Fringe! It's not that the
stories are vulgar, but they're adult concepts, and if I can feel the comfort
in the audience, I am going to do some erotica. That's part of the draw of an
adult audience for me. To be able to speak in terms of your adult experiences
and being who I am now: A woman who is confident, who's lived a varied
of the audience for any given show will have a lot to do with what Asante
chooses to present. "You have an exchange – it's a conversation with the
audience. You never tell the same story twice. It all depends on who is
listening and how they respond. You go deeper one place if the audience yearns
for it. Or you skip over and go someplace else. You can feel them."
forward to being part of the community of artists participating in this year's
IndyFringe. "Being in that community of artists is very exciting to me. I'm
hoping that the energy drives me to stretch. That's what I'm trying to do, not
just play it safe."
[very] sexual content: Boy in the Basement
Story by Jeff Cox
The Wisdom Tooth Theatre
Project has been involved with Indyfringe in some form or another since the
festival's inception in 2006. This year, the Anderson University-based troupe
returns with Boy in the Basement, a darkly-comic
play by New York-based playwright Katharine Heller.
In it, four women discover a
man burglarizing their house and decide to keep him trapped in the basement
until they figure out what to do with him. Problems arise when each of the
women — a dominatrix, a hippie, a cynical sex pot, and a Christian pig
farmer's daughter — has a different take on how to pay the intruder back.
Plenty of raunchy surprises keep the dialogue fresh and interesting, while the
energetic performers set a quick pace.
Boy in the Basement was part of the New York City Fringe two years ago,
where it won several audience choice awards and was extended into the
festival's Encore series. Callie Burk, this production's director, was drawn to
the play initially through her friendship with the playwright.
"When I was asked to direct a
Fringe show I immediately thought of Katharine's play and asked if I could
bring a little more New York City here," she says. The show aims to appeal not
only to those who frequent the theater circuit, but fans of other kinds of
comedy as well.
"We really wanted to try to
market this play to different groups of people than just regular
theater-goers," says Burk, an instructor at Anderson University. "We want all
different kinds of people to come see it."
Its immediate appeal approaches
stand-up at times, but the play at its core offers the best elements of sketch
comedy. The scenes are repeated and polished during rehearsals, but no two
renditions are the same. The play performs like fixed-dialogue improvisation.
"There's some improv in there,
but it's mostly just physical improv," observes one of the actresses. "We
changed around a word or two here and there, but mostly it's just as written."
Much of the actors' physical
improvisation occurs when the play's narrator is speaking. As the narrator is
describing the scene's actions in detail — like the narration of a comic
book — the actors are free to tweak their actions as they see fit for the
"You have to go at it with your
own style," says Burk. "It's a play about sexuality and sexuality is something
that's very individual. Everyone responds to it differently. Everyone brings
their different talents to this show."
The slapstick sex in the play
certainly seems to be one of the major aspects of the show's marketing. "It's a
play that features sex slaves and unicorns," says one of the actresses. "Who
wouldn't want to come see that?"
The raunchiness comes with
caveats, of course. "I would say it's definitely a show for only the most mature
of children," warns Burk.
Parents should be aware it
features both adult language and [very] sexual content.
Reverie Estates, August 20 – 21 & 26 – 28;
Thursday/Friday/Saturday 6-11 p.m. Located at College & Mass Ave outside
the Indianapolis Historic Fire Museum and Memorial, 748 Mass Ave. FREE
with festival Backer Button or $1 with wrist band.
ClubFringe will feature
live music, dancing, DJs, performance artists and more. The social hotspot will
be the place for all Fringe goers to stop by and get a drink with performers or
a bite to eat from Hoaglin Catering. Entertainment programmed by Indy Pride,
NUVO & IndyFringe.
Thurs Aug 19
- Opening Night Carnival
Come early to get your seat, drink and food
Fringe Festival Kickoff and Previews
10:00 Fringe Carnival Fun!
Open all night long!
Fri Aug 2
p.m. Tonos Triad
p.m. Walk the Moon
p.m. Mark Alexander
p.m. Brandon Whyde
Sat Aug 21
Thurs, Aug 26
- Sponsored by Indianapolis Rainbow Chamber of Commerce
p.m. Back Action
p.m. The Last Domino
p.m. Neon Love Life
p.m. Night Jar
p.m. The Working Hour
p.m. DJ Logan
p.m. IndyPride Bag Ladies
& Indy Cog Night - Extra perks for bike riders!
p.m. Motus Dance Theatre
p.m. Foreal Art Breakdancers
p.m. DJ Kyle Long and Artur Silva
Graffiti Pit all night long!