Fringe POP [Performance over Projection] is an interesting and laudable new theatrical experiment from the Capital Fringe creative team. Fringe POP, which launched last night at the Logan Fringe Arts Space, explores ways to combine projections, theater and film onstage, offering audiences an innovative new take on theater.
The series contains two separate performance tracks entitled PUBLIC and PRIVATE which will be presented in alternating performances all weekend. Each track contains four short films and four 10-minute plays that incorporate live camera shots of the actors at work. Last night I saw the PUBLIC track of the show: Eight short works that all deal with life as it plays out in a public sphere be it social media, a coffee shop or a park bench.
This is an inaugural venture and the creative minds at Capital Fringe, led by Fringe founder and CEO Julianne Brienza, approach the melding of live theater and film from a healthy perspective of experimentation, encouraging audiences to critically examine their own reaction to the works and to share their perspectives after the show.
I really enjoyed the combination of film and live theater. Jumping back and forth between the two forms definitely required a greater degree of audience engagement and self-awareness that added to my theater-going experience.
During the plays, a cameraman moved stealthily through the action, beaming close ups and artistic shots onto a screen placed stage left. This was an effective tool in bridging the differences between film and theater, adding a film-like dimension to the plays which allowed the audience to see actors in a way that live theater is usually incapable of producing. I liked it.
I was less enthralled when the video screen was employed as a scenic backdrop, beaming in images of neighborhood venues as part of the set. It was an intriguing concept and a part of the show I was most eager to see but the execution left me disappointed. I think the fault was more in the size of the screen than the concept. The screen employed was about five feet by four feet and standing to one side of the stage it just made it difficult to focus on the actors on the other side of the stage. I can see this concept working really well if there were a way to project the outside images on a larger screen across the entire back of the stage but on the small screen the concept fizzled.
Regarding the eight works presented last night in the PUBLIC show: The 4 plays and 4 films were all skillfully acted, directed and produced. According to co-producer Lee Cromwell, a majority of the pieces are new works commissioned for this show. In terms of interest level, the pieces ran the gamut from really bloody good (the play Scout’s Honor and the film Poets) to what on Earth did I just see and why did I see it (the play Klara and the Park Bench and the film Escalators Become Stairs). All eight pieces brought up issues of what it means to live your life in public and overall, the night was enjoyable and thought provoking.
Scout’s Honor by Ken Preuss, directed by Nick Martin.
The strongest play of the bunch, this story of a young man who accidentally becomes an internet sensation fits perfectly into the theme of what is public and what is private. Great acting job by Andrew Flurer as the quirky teenage Boy Scout.
Klara and the Park Bench by Elizabeth Jordan, directed by Nick Martin.
What the what? For a 10-minute play, the first several minutes include no dialogue. When the plot did move forward, I was left scratching my head as to what the point was. Not my favorite.
Roof of Heaven by Robert Kangas, directed by Renana Fox.
Three locals shoot the breeze at a local gas station. Beautiful dialogue but not much in the way of plot development. Frank Britton’s excellent performance as a blind man was really fun to watch.
Talking Trash by Emma Choi, directed by Renana Fox
Really entertaining! Christine Callsen plays Amy, a proper lady who has a minor breakdown in a parking garage in the company of a talking orange peel. Clever idea to employ a talking puppet as the orange peel to whom Amy confesses her problems (Voiced to great comedic effect by Reginald Richard). One question though: Is there no orange felt in DC? It took me several minutes to realize that the red puppet was an orange peel and not a crab.
The Poets by Branden Hubbard.
Really, really funny and great. Great script. Great acting. Great editing. This alone was worth the price of admission.
Escalators Become Stairs by Paul Moon.
A reading of Walt Whitman’s The Wound Dresser accompanies video of people on escalators at Dupont Station. My least favorite. For me this was a concept that just didn’t gel.
The Ring Thing by Sandra Seeling.
Very funny and well-done film in which a misunderstanding over a ring causes repercussions to two relationships.
Split End by Eddie Shieh.
Another fun little film detailing a day in the life of a young woman. I think we missed half of the plot though since the story played out through texts which were printed on the screen in white font against a white background.
Overall, this is a really fun night out. As an initial artistic experiment, the Capital Fringe team has put together an innovative and thought-provoking event that hits the mark on most levels.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.
Fringe POP [Performance over Projection] plays one weekend only through October 9, 2016, at Capital Fringe Logan Fringe Arts Space – 1358 Florida Avenue, NE, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 737-7230, or purchase them online.