No performance in New York was quite as impactful as the front row seats we had for Hurricane Irene, as subdued as she was in comparison to her North Carolina appearance, and with the MTA not running and theatres large and small shuttering their windows and barring their doors, mostly everyone just stayed home and watched the lightning instead. Good thing I’d gone to see New York’s “only open-run Off-Off-Broadway show”, the Neo-Futurists’ “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind,” and the “Ostalgia” exhibit the night before, or this week’s installment would be a total washout.
Well, the 16-day New York International Fringe Festival has just wrapped up, and frankly it’s all a bit of a blur. Figuring out to watch next as the festival wound down was a delicate task as fraught with mystery as when it began. Was it worthwhile to attend “A” if it meant losing the opportunity to see “B” altogether? Wasn’t that one show about scuba-diving sewer rats supposed to be off the hook? Did the show about demonic possession in Uruguay already close? Which critic reviews or citizen commentary could be trusted? Which program blurbs can be relied upon to really reveal the truth about their show?
It’s times like these when an official program guide lexicon would come in handy, so that Fringers might have an easier time determining what they’ll truly be in for when they had over their fistful of coin and storm the theatre gates.
I’ve been flying all week and boy are my arms tired! But at last I’ve landed, soft in the lap of Brooklyn, from where I’ve been commuting to the 15th annual New York Fringe Festival (say that five times fast).
Perhaps the largest multi-arts festival in the US, the New York Fringe hosts close to 1200 performances from 194 companies, spread out in 18 venues all over the Lower East Side. Fringers pack the sidewalks and the black box venues from Bleecker Street to the Bowery -- just minutes away from Broadway, but light years apart in terms of budget, content, daring. Read more »
Somewhere at the intersection of the society for creative anachronism and the Wave Gotik Treffen resides the cello-driven, chamber-rock trio Rasputina. Founded by multi-instrumentalist Melora Creager in 1992, the band has long straddled the line between whimsy and steel, with songs that range in topic from giants to vampires, orphans to infidels, E equals MC squared to 1816, “the year without a summer.”
Decked out in corsets, ruffles, and turn-of-the-last-century fantasywear, fronted by a woman who often speaks with a faux European-High Elvish accent, Rasputina is positioned as far as possible from the center of the pop music arcana without falling completely out of the deck. Eschewing categorization, the band floats effortlessly above petty pigeon-holing, embraced by steampunk creativists, glamour Goths, strings buffs, and plain old folk alike. Read more »
The Weill Project and Will Kaufman’s Woody Guthrie sing out.
“A pamphlet, no matter how good, is never read more than once, but a song is learned by heart and repeated over and over.” –Joe Hill
As this year’s annual LaborFest draws to an end, and the organized labor movement is facing an uncertain future as exemplified by the recent Republican victory in Wisconsin regarding collective bargaining, and the disappointing conclusion to the Mott’s strike of 2010, it does the socialist spirit good to soothe the savage breast with music created with an ulterior motive. Political convictions as entertainment have had their misses, but it’s the hits we remember more, whether “learned by heart,” or not.
Thunderbird Theatre and Foul Play serve it up weird
Like swallows returning to Capistrano, there are certain annual events you can count on to lift the spirits and brighten an otherwise soggy outlook. One such anticipated delight is Thunderbird Theatre’s yearly production of an ensemble-created original comedy. Mavens of the shameless spoof, the fabulous T-birds have sent-up pulp detective fiction, lucha libre wrestling, pirate intrigues, Citizen Kane, Conan the Barbarian, vampire romance, and creepy office politics in variously hysterical ways, and a summer pilgrimage to their shows is always effort well-rewarded.
Rejecting planned obsolescence with chiptunes and Front Line Theatre
This week, The Performant turns one, so please excuse me a moment while I stick a candle in my Molotov cocktail, tie it to this big red balloon, and send it soaring. In the oft-imagined dystopian future, this may well be how all our landmark dates will be celebrated, not with a whimper but a bang. We’ll all get drunk on a rare flask of artesian well water, and play pin the tail to the Womprat. As for the party music, it’s tough to predict what we’ll be listening to in the 22nd century, but it’s a good bet that electronics are going to figure heavily into the equation—if only as a way to use up all the obsolete 21st century e-waste sure to be still piled around.
Taking in the San Francisco Mime Troupe's "2012: The Musical"
Even the most anarchic, atheistic, or contrarian among us deserve the comfort of a few holiday traditions, whatever the season -- and come the Fourth of July weekend you’ll find a kindred crowd hundreds strong camped out in the lower quadrant of Dolores Park. Unusually for Independence Day frolics, the focus is not on the consumption of grilled foodstuffs or blowing things up (fine traditions both), but on the opening of the latest San Francisco Mime Troupe show. Although the largest crowds typically show up for the official opening, always scheduled for the glorious Fourth, the preview performances are also well-attended, and it’s not unusual for folks to pick a preferred date that remains constant for years on end. And no matter how fog-bound the holiday itself, somehow the Mime Troupe opening miraculously manages to fall on one of the sunniest weekends of the year, proof perhaps of some insidious cosmic intervention, either on behalf of the Mimes or the ‘Murkins.
The time is probably coming when humans will be able to adapt animalian traits, ala “Transmetropolitan,” either as a weekend whim or on a permanent basis. The whole notion is too tempting to remain a fiction forever. Imagine possessing the smooth, insulating skin of a dolphin, the soaring wings of a peregrine falcon, the keen night vision of a bobcat. The desire for such transmogrification is as ancient as recorded history: from Centaurs to Satyrs, Mermaids to Manticores, Mami Wata to the Minotaur, there’s hardly a mythology around without some reference to human-animal hybrids, whether monsters or gods. Years from now, the very notion of “transitioning” might well have to be expanded to include folks shifting between all kinds of bodies and capabilities. Until then, we’ll have to make do with costumery, flaunting temporary feathers and furs like so much wishful thinking.
You probably won’t find a denser concentration of fantasy animal drag outside a furry convention than at a “Tranimal” contest -- particularly one hosted in the California Academy of Sciences, where accurately portraying animal characteristics is serious business.