And what does that mean exactly?
Well that the sixth month in both the Julian and Gregorian calendars has arrived, the second in each to carry 30 days.
It means that National Adopt a Cat Month is in full swing as well as National Accordion Awareness Month and Caribbean American Heritage Month.
In June, you have Ireland’s Bicycle Week.
Then there’s National Doughnut Day, National Flip Flop Day, The Bahamas Labor Day †; also, World Brain Tumor Day and World Milk Day. In the United Kingdom, you have Take Your Dog to Work Day, Finnish Flag Day, and the Feast of the Sacred Heart.
In June, you have the anniversary of the Statue of Liberty’s arrival in America (June 17, 1885), the opening of the first roller coaster in the United States (June 16, 1884 at Coney Island), and the birthday of the Marquis de Sade (June 2, 1740).
But the real news is that June means—
(Insert tumultuous fanfare of trombones, castanets, electro-who-cardio-floox, slide trumpets, bongo drums, jing-tinglers, bagpipes, tum-tookers, flugelhorns, tar-tinkers and kazoos here.)
The Hollywood Fringe!west of Vine Street to North Kings Road.
Not only will there be some of the most amazing talents L.A. has to offer, but shows and artists hailing from distant shores will be on hand, including New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, Norway, France, Australia, Kenya, Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Generally running on the week nights from 6:00 pm to midnight, and on the weekends from 11:00 am to midnight the shows are scheduled (and priced) so that one can see a show or two, enjoy a dinner or a snack at anyone of the interesting eateries the area has to offer, and then return to see another couple of shows or more.
Now as regular readers of my reviews know ‡ I am a tough nosed SOB who ranks 84 percent of everything as well-polished road apples.⊕ But every year in attending the Fringe I have found a level of talent there that was inspiring, and even somewhat intimidating.
Now if you’re one of those Philistines who shuns live theatre and anxiously awaits the next installment of The Fast and The Furious franchise or the next chapter of The Pirates of the Caribbean saga, then this is your chance to brush the dirt off your knuckles and expand your horizons. The Hollywood Fringe site has a listing of all its shows. Just go to the site, check out the offerings, and if you don’t find some that spark your curiosity, tickle your fancy or catches your interest, then it’s time to check your eyelids for the coins placed over them.
Here are a few of the shows – just a few – that the Fringe will be presenting:
THE LITTLE MERMAID: A MOVEMENT PIECE
By the Boundless Artists Theatre Company the classic Hans Christian Anderson’s tale retold with movement and dance set to the music of the rock band Evanescence. Their intention is to reclaim Anderson’s story from the grip of the Disney version and return it to the disturbing darkness of the original.
The LA film collective We Make Movies’ under coordinator Ernie Charles returns with another mini film festival of shorts their members have produced. If this year’s compilation is on par with last year’s it would be well worth checking out.
Now you might expect that some artists would wish to express their views on the “Year of the Trump,” and the Fringe it seems has provided them with soap box and bullhorn to go at it.
Written by Ray Richmond with Lee Costello directing, this 75 minute play takes place in the Oval Office during the first meeting between the President and the President-Elect. With Harry S. Murphy as Trump and Joshua Wolf Coleman as President Obama it promises to be “neither sketch nor caricature but a serious attempt to envision what really happened in that room.”
From here things get a tad bit wilder…
Writer/director Mark Smith is promising to pack 90 minutes to near bursting in his indictment of how “ridiculous both sides may have been in their desperation to win the nod for President.” Smith means to run his seven actors through 34 roles from the election of King David by God, through the Utopia visionary John Humphrey Noyes, across the Nazi Germany of Adolph Hitler, finally butting up to the election victory of Donald over Hillary – and all accompanied by musical numbers. Now I don’t know which I’m more impressed by, his intention to do this all in a documentary style or that he actually knows who John Humphrey Noyes is. ⊗
ZOMBIE CLOWN TRUMP: AN APOCALYPTIC MUSICAL
A musical by Trollonymous Productions. Sometime in the very near future a slight accident in the Pharmaceutical world turns millions of Americans, including our new president into zombies (Hey, accidents happen).
It is now the year 2020 and our “Zombie Clown-In-Chief” is running for re-election against none other than Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock. With the songs of The Beatles, rapper Cee Lo Green and others being given the Weird Al treatment, and featuring a hand puppet as White House Press Secretary Sean Sphincter.
Frankly, it doesn’t sound any stranger to me than what I’ve been reading in the newspapers for the last 70 plus days.
TRUMP IN SPACE- THE MUSICAL
Trump in Space describes itself as “Battlestar Galactica meets Star Trek meets Jesus Christ Superstar meets Trump.” Set 400 years in the future, it tells the adventures of Capt. Natasha Trump trying to find humanity a new world after her ancestor blew up the earth.
ORANGE MANGO CABARET
The Rough Riders present four short plays sandwiched between musical and vaudeville numbers that focus on those aspects “that contributed to the predicament we as a nation have found ourselves in.”
And closing off the Fringe Trump cycle are:
Writer/director Armen Pandola introduces us to that shadowy revolutionary group of the post-Trumpian world, The Rising, which is out to kill all politicians. Their program tells us “In a world that is just an explosion away,
The Rising is happening now!”
Check it out and see if they have any new recruits.
And finally there’s:
HOW TO LOVE YOUR DICTATOR: OLGA & LUDMILA’S GUIDE TO FASCISM
Those Russian TV celebrities Olga and Ludmila are taping a segment of their popular Moscow show Cτapymka! for an American audience in order to share with the people of the U.S. the finer points of how to just kick back and enjoy life under a repressive totalitarian regime. With Kate Rappoport and Andra Moldav.
Musicals have always been a huge draw for Fringe audiences, and this year has some possible gems for the offering.
NOTHING BAD: A WEREWOLF ROCK MUSICAL
Erik Blair and Daniel Sugimoto were behind one of last year’s major crowd pleasers, Broadway Noir which earned them the Hollywood Fringe Producers’ Encores Award. This year they blend a ’50s classic rock with the glam of the ’80s for a bit of lyrical lycanthropy, which they claim, “will bite hard and shake you back and forth in its teeth for a long time to come.”
One I’m planning on being front row center for this:
HELLO AGAIN! THE SONGS OF ALLAN SHERMAN
Known mainly for his Grammy winning “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh,” Allan Sherman was a brilliant satirist and wit who put out eight albums. But his popularity faded quickly after the first three in part due to the changing mood of the nation after the assassination of John F. Kennedy and, in part, to the great British Invasion in the mid-’60s, which Sherman responded to with his “Pop Hates the Beatles” (to the tune of “Pop! Goes the Weasel.”)
Sherman did some TV, had a failed Broadway show and even authored a wonderfully bizarre book The Rape of the A*P*E; a history of sexual repression in American society.
Broke, drinking heavily, and depressed Sherman died at the age of 48 in November of 1973. Linden Waddell will serve up a selection of Sherman’s tunes accompanied by musical director Marjorie Poe, directed and choreographed by Janet Miller who has been one of the brightest jewels in the Fringe’s crown. A must-see for the “diehard Sherman enthusiast.” I’m betting this show also makes a block of new ones.
Now if you’re a fan of truly bad 1950’s Sci-Fi have you got a treat in store –
ROBOT MONSTER THE MUSICAL
Yes, that’s right, singing space gorillas with TV antennas on their helmets! My thanks to producer, composer, lyricist and writer Rich Silverman and director Derek Long; I can die a happy man now.
SONGS OF THE FALL
Composer/writer Ben Boquist has chosen as his inspiration a tale that is slightly less implausible than big monkeys from outer space; the story of Adam and Eve’s fall, setting the fall from grace to music.
And on the subject of falls:
THE GIRL WHO JUMPED OFF THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN
Now, sadly, there was such a “girl.” Her name was Peg Entwistle; a Welsh actress who came to Hollywood in search of all those things people come to Hollywood in search of. She did only one film, Thirteen Women (1932). But before its release, Entwistle hiked up to the Hollywood Sign, climbed to the top of the letter “H” and leapt to her death. She was 24.
Entwistle’s tragic story has inspired other artists including Dory Previn whose album “Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign” she later mounted as a stage show. Now from the Australian Adelaide, Fringe writer and performer Joanne Hartstone and director Vince Fusco have brought their tale of “tinsel town’s” darker side back to the scene of the tragedy. The show, which has gathered an appreciable number of awards, features Hartstone performing songs composed for Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and Jean Harlow, all of whom would eventually find their own “H” to stand atop.
From France, “a warm, funny, touching, old-fashioned musical about sexual obsession”; the tale of two men who try to battle their way through their personal demons in order to stand a chance at love. Book, music and lyrics by John Freed.
Producer & writer Chrisi Talyn Saje wrote and directed the 2015 Fringe show Wombat Man: The Cereal Murders and though it enjoyed an extended run at the Eclectic Theater Company, I can’t say I was a big fan. But I’m willing to give her another look simply because a live stage redo of the classic 1980 comedy written and directed by the Zucker Brothers and Jim Abrahams’ of Kentucky Fried Theatre fame is a kinda great idea. The production apparently is intended to be a very bumpy ride and nobody is expected to pay any attention when the seat-belt light starts flashing. (A slight suggestion to Ms. Saje who will be filling the role of Elaine: Earn the good will of the ol’ guard, and do well by Johnny.)
Sticking to the theme of films on stage, there’s one show I can heartily recommend, and you can even read my review of it from last year on this site.
NOSFERATU, A SYMPHONY IN TERROR
This production was original mounted at Crown City Theatre (read my original review HERE), and now you’ll have another opportunity to enjoy director/writer William A. Reilly’s clever and faithful transposing of the German director F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent horror classic Nosferatu. In Reilly’s stylish rendering of this eerie vampire masterpiece the spoken word is still absence, but dance and great theatricality isn’t. With Michael J. Marchak and Alina Bolshakova reprising their roles as the young lovers drawn into the web of the undead, with Michelle Holmes as the sinister Count Orlok.
And if you want an appropriate selection of a double bill how about:
THE SECOND COMING OF KLAUS KINSKI
I’ll always remember the first time I saw the actor Klaus Kinski (1926-1991), as the hunchback desperado off whom Clint Eastwood lights a match by striking it on his postural kyphosis in For a Few Doillars More (1965). Kinski would go on to star in Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Woyzeck (1979), Fitzcarraldo (1982), and after his death be accused of sexually abusing his daughters.
Actor/writer Andrew Perez’s ten-year fascination with the German artist/madman promises to be an interesting evening to say the least. Eric Johnson directs.
Another show that you can read an earlier review of mine is:
OFFICE BEAT – A TAP DANCE COMEDY
This gem of a show needed a U-Haul to tote all the accolades and awards they earned in last year’s Fringe, including the Encore Producer’s and Best in Dance Awards.
If you love old MGM musicals, if you love great dancing, if you love having so much fun it makes your nose bleed then here’s a show for you and bring lots of Kleenex. Choreographers Mindy and Gabe Copeland and their sure-footed troupe of Tap Overload serve up a tale of corporate greed, office backstabbing and the travails of love among the filing cabinets entirely in the language of tap dance. It’s a workers’ revolution where the workers not only arise, but “buck and wing” and even “Shim Sham” a little.
Designed by Brandon Baruch and written and performed by Adam Kerbel and Taiko drum artist Shih-wei Willie Wu Ascent presents itself as a “dancing autopsy” which promises “daring physicality and an improvised drum score illuminating the inglorious fragility of the male psyche.”
Well now, my “male psyche” is about as fragile as a Panzer tank on meth, but these guys had me at “Taiko drum artist.”
For the unacquainted the term “Taiko” encompasses a wide range of percussion instruments that have been part of the Japanese culture since at least 500 C.E. In 1968 Seiichi Tanaka brought this stylized form of drumming to Los Angeles and began teaching at the Senshin Buddhist Temple. From there it exploded into a worldwide phenomenon, with performances whose intense excitement is difficult to convey in words. It teaches your heart to tremble the stars with its roar.
Now in pursuing the 357 shows at the Fringe you inevitably come across some that are so intriguing in concept as to drop your jaw hard enough to break a few toes. For me one was:
Language enables human beings to communicate the most complex ideas, just not talk about what’s truly important. Yet, language almost defines what it is to be us, and is so intricately a part of our existence as to be almost invisible.
Junesoo Ham informs that of all the world’s language, only “Hangul,” the Korean alphabet, is the product of a single mind who left a complete record of his motives and explanations for his linguistic creation, and his play presents the history of King Sejong the Great and his effort in the 15th century to give his people a greater means of expression.
Well, I’m just going to offer up a section of the program notes for this one:
“And then the lights go down and the moment changes. You won’t get that moment back again. Intermission is a different beast, a different head space, motivated by the competing forces of bladder and thirst. The curtain call has been choreographed. It’s the most artificial part of any play, when both sides of the footlights are at their least organic.
Only the pre-show is pure. And since the Greeks, it has been a steady part of our tradition. That final breath before something happens.
Kinsherf’s Coat is an experiment that explores that experience.”
DEFINITION OF MAN
In what playwright Nikki Muller describes as “a sexier, more violent Waiting for Godot” the topic is the need to communicate and what occurs when that communication breaks down. To quote at length from the program notes:
“Both abstract and specific, the piece shifts between poetic-expressive language and colloquial speech, and offers a unique opportunity to see texts often preserved in intellectual amber torn from their pages and infused with physicality and meaning, marrying traditional intellectualism with organic.”
(God I hope it comes with Cliff Notes.)
Toys is another entry from Australia with dancer Christina Evans in a multi-media piece that explores the shadowy realm of child sex trafficking.
Mary Seacole (1805-1881) is one of those fascinating personalities you come across in studying history. Born in Jamaica, the daughter of a Scottish officer and a free black woman, Seacole developed an early interest in the native medicines of the Caribbean. She would marry Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole, who claimed to be the bastard son of Lord Nelson. Seacole would go on to nurse the British wounded during the Crimean War, and wrote an autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole, which is still much debated for its Munchausen-like qualities. Regardless, writer/director Matthew Robinson has chosen very fertile ground for his piece.
A bio-piece on one of baseball’s most bizarre characters, Van Lingle Mungo (1911-1985), a right-handed pitcher who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants. A pitcher of some talent, who was legendary for his wild living, heavy boozing and skirt chasing, as well as his explosive temper. Casey Stengel, when asked if his irritability made him difficult to manage, famously replied, “I won’t stand for no nonsense, and then I duck.” George Lockwood directs Brown Reyna.
Chimera Bella, if nothing else, promises a jam packed forty-five minutes as performer Sarah Bella Edson uses acrobatics, dance, aerial silks, the trapeze and stage combat in a reflection on the consequences and dangers of bringing new love into proximity with old friendships.
THE FAGGOT KING OR THE TROUBLESOME REIGN
AND LAMENTABLE DEATH OF EDWARD THE II
For vicious slaughtering, sexual double dealing, and pure old aristocratic rottenness few stories throw the royals under such an unpleasant spotlight as the history of Edward II, the sixth of England’s Plantagenet kings. Edward managed to fill his twenty-year reign (1307-1327) with enough incompetence, political in-fighting and military defeats to earn him a truly horrific fate in the end. (Oops.)
School of Night Productions, which staged last year’s superb live action Punch and Judy, offers up their reworking of Christopher Marlowe’s The Troublesome Reign and Lamentable Death of King Edward II, King of England, With the Tragical Fall of Proud Mortimer. Adapter/director Christopher Johnson and award winning combat director Jen Albert promise us “… a raucous blend of song, sex, spectacle, horror, gender-swapping, clashing steel and versified bombast such as only the most controversial playwright in the English canon could conjure.
Lust … obsession … adultery … treason … war … fabulous.”
Now magic doesn’t appeal to some folks, and I think the reason for this is that there’s an awful lot of really, amazingly bad magicians around. But that won’t be a problem at the Fringe:
JON ARMSTRONG: COMIC AMAZEMENT
The Resident Magician at Disney World when he was 20, Armstrong is now a world class magician who has taken some of the top awards in that realm including Close Up Magician of the Year in addition to headlining at Caesar’s Magical Empire. Penn of Penn and Teller has praised Armstrong’s act as “the most original I’ve ever seen.”
CHARLATAN: SECRETS OF THE VICTORIAN PSYCHICS
Here’s one not only for the magic lovers but also anyone with an interest in history. British scientist and skeptic Dr. Mark Gasson will reveal the tricks of the Victorian Age of spiritualism and promises to “reveal[s] how the most prevalent myths of the Victorian psychics re-define what we believe is possible by challenging our very sense of reality.”
NAME THIS MAGIC SHOW
An “interactive magic showdown.” Four award winning magicians will go head to head on stage with the audience deciding who takes top honors. The conjuring combatants will be Jon Armstrong, Handsome Jack, Rick Paul and Simon Coronel.
And here’s just a cross section of other shows being offered:
WHO YOU CALLING A BITCH?!?
Writer/performer Sacha Elie takes us along as she tries to investigate the impact and influences of iconic African American personalities and entertainers on her own identity, as she tussles her way through the rabbit hole of Black History.
Winner of the 2017 Hollywood Fringe Scholarship Award.
Tells the story of Saint Anthony of Egypt, who withdrew from the world in 286 C.E. and spent the next 20 years in absolute solitude. He is considered the first Christian hermit and the founder of organized Christian monasticism. Written by Ed Sharrow, directed by Kevin F. Story with Charles Gonzales and Adrian Burks.
THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF DRAG IN A FEW MO-MO
David LeBarron plays Auntie, a drag queen in her golden years, who recounts her own coming of age along with the legacy of “queer history” in NYC. “You came from a people. A betrayed race of glitter and tucking, of illusion and bone crushing, throat throttling, reality.” Directed by Marc Silvia.
AN EVENING WITH JOHN WILKES BOOTH
One of our history’s most fascinating figures is brought center stage in Lloyd Schwartz and Clinton Case’s study, as the famed actor and assassin of Lincoln tells his side of the story and what led him to the actions he took. Stephen Spiegel is Booth.
SECRET IDENTITY CRISIS
Paul Yen addresses the challenges faced by an Asian American actor in Hollywood and how his need for a secret identity relates to those of Superman, Batman and Spiderman. Jessica Lynn Johnson directs. (She gets around, doesn’t she?)
NIC & BROOKE’S COMEDY DANCE PARTY
Promises us the comedy and variety of the classic Sonny & Cher Show only with soul and a thoroughly modern framing. Featuring Nic Hodges and Brooke Brewer.
INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Harriet Jacobs (1813 — 1897) was born into slavery and her account of her life and her struggles to win her freedom and protect her children was one of the first books to address the plight of the female slave. Cherita Armstong tells her story of triumphing over the bondage of her birth.
And finally, one show that sounds to me like a real winner:
The greatest American you’ve never heard of. Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899) was the most influential intellectual in American history; a civil war veteran and Republican powerbroker he fought for the rights of black Americans, denounced the Chinese Exclusionary Act, demanded votes for women, opposed capital punishment, called for prison reform, condemned animal cruelty, favored an individual’s right to die and was the inspiration for both the U.N. and “the pill.”
Prior to the advent of film and radio, his speaking tours put him before more Americans than any man in our history. He was also the most outspoken foe of religion this country has ever known and the father of America’s Golden Age of Free-thought. Adapted from his actual speeches and performed by Ernest Kearney.
I wish I could herald all 357 (and counting) shows scheduled to be at the Fringe, but alas. Here is a sampling of just a few more titles that intrigued me and hopefully will you:
THE BRICK: A ONE-MAN MUSICAL
50% SCOTTISH, 100% CRAZY, LET’S LAUGH
BEHIND THE PULPIT
ROBERT DE NIRO IS OLDER THAN ME
HERPES: A LOVE STORY
SOMEWHERE BETWEEN COSMO AND THE BIBLE
CHEMO BARBIE: MY LADY BITS’ JOURNEY THROUGH BREAST CANCER.
SECRET HONOR – THE LAST TESTAMENT OF RICHARD M. NIXON
PIGEON MAN APOCALYPSE
TOO MANY HITLERS OR: THE DECOY DECAMERON
THE EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE: A MAGIC SCHOOL BUS MUSICAL PARODY
MARTHA WASHINGTON KILLED A REDCOAT
So, what have we covered here?
40 shows –
14 titles –
My apologies to the 312 shows not mentioned, but I promise that we at The TVolution will try to see and review more than is humanly possible; and we usually do.
Last year we saw 69 shows.
You don’t get those sorta odds in Vegas, folks.
Tickets go on sale May 1 through www.HollywoodFringe.org and the central box office phone line.
Go online and check out the whole range of dance, cabaret, plays, solo shows and theatrical experiences available and I’m sure you’ll find a couple that will have you moaning, “How did that jerk Kearney miss this one?”
But most importantly, cross out all of June on your day planner, tear that month off your wall calendar and come and celebrate with about 50,000 of your fellow L.A.ers the joy, the talent and the magic that is our city.
Salle Forth Fringers!
♦ ♦ ♦
† No, that’s not a typo. The nation’s official name is “The Bahamas.”
‡ I’m told I have four or five.
⊕ Since the Trump election, this has increased to 89 percent.
⊗ His followers founded the Oneida Community which was infamous for “group marriages” and their belief in free love. Apparently, their only member who couldn’t hook up was Charles Guiteau who took out his frustrations by assassinating President James A. Garfield.
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