Wednesday, August 20, 2008

FringeNYC Isn't Just Little Plays

From today's New York Times, in an article by Anita Gates that looks at a few FringeNYC offerings:
Here are some things I have learned about the 12th annual New York International Fringe Festival recently. You do not want to arrive late for a performance. (They won’t let you in.) Six actors is considered a huge cast. The most popular (and possibly least expensive) set is a bed placed center stage. Suffolk Street is not within easy walking distance of Commerce Street.

I won't dispute the first or last of the things that Ms. Gates says she's learned, because they're true (though a quick glance at a map would have told her how far Suffolk Street is from Commerce Street; they're just where they always have been, after all).

I will dispute the assertion that a bed is the most popular set -- of the 11 plays that I have seen personally at this year's festival, I have yet to see a single bed. I HAVE seen all manner of inventive stage design, much of it spare and engaging the audience's imagination (in works like The Umbrella Plays and Krapp, 39).

But the statement that rankles most here--putting aside the fact that something along the lines of "The New York International Fringe Festival is offering [better, worse, wonderful, awful] theatre experiences for audiences this year" might have been a more appropriate opening for this article--is the one that implies that FringeNYC shows are dinky in size. This is simply not true. KNB boasts a cast of 23, more than most shows on Broadway. Of the 9 shows I've seen this year that were not solo shows, more than half had more than six people in them. And there are plenty of other shows with large casts in the festival--in part because the festival is designed to accommodate them in ways that more conventional off-off-Broadway producing arrangements cannot.

I'd love to see the Times celebrate the vitality and diversity of the FringeNYC, not complain about its inconvenience and presumed diminutiveness. Wouldn't you?

5 comments:

nytheatre mike said...

Oh, how I would love to see the NY Times theater section celebrate the theater again, instead of constantly karping about it, jabbing it, and generally lamenting what a painful bore it is to all of them. Yawn! Not useful or helpful criticism at all. They are clearly no longer of any use to the New York theater community and it would probably be best if they just closed up shop and went away. Or fired the entire staff and brought in a new one. Like perhaps some of the writing staff from nytheatre.com? Oh, how I miss Frank Rich!

Anonymous said...

martin,

i couldn't agree more...this is a labor of love for all the participants and they aren't afforded the luxury of thousand dollar budgets and weeks of previews before critics come in. they should be honored for pulling these shows together very quickly, and often times, quite effectively.

david gibbs

Crystal said...

I agree! I'm find it seriously depressing to check out what the Times has to say that this point regarding everything theatre. This lead in really got under my skin too. I can't believe they don't even care about properly reviewing at least a decent precentage of the Fringe this year. They really missed out. I've seen some of the best theatre this year at the festival - really an outstanding fringe year - especially for drama! :)

Leslie Bramm said...

Martin,

Maybe these main stream slights are nothing more than Goliath suddenly aware that David's sling is spinning, and the monster known as mammialittlemermaidlionkingphantomlegalyblonde
is about to be hit in it's glass eye.

nytheatre mike said...

Ah yes, Leslie, I like your thinking on this: the "mainstream media" knows the writing is on the wall for them. Ha ha ha ha!!!