Thursday, June 24, 2010

FRINGED




Steven Leigh Morris says it all in his latest, "Fringe on Top":
Our theater has been defined, wrongly, as being a hobby, an afterthought, an apology for the film and TV industries. This may have been valid 20 years ago, but that misperception has been fading. The Hollywood Fringe, if it's allowed to continue, will help to usher our city's theater from adolescence to young adulthood, where it's no longer suffering the pangs of identity crises.
I cannot tell you what a joy it has been running into people at random this week.  A few times I've just missed Theatre Unleashed's Gregory Crafts coming and going.  On Sunday he attended a performance at Comedy Sportz that started after Pamela and I left after taking in Back to You: A Dear John (Mayer) Letter.  I didn't know until I saw his tweet a little later.

It's neat.  For this ten day period, there is a very real, very tangible community of theatre people in Los Angeles.  We've seen shades of this before: At LA Stage Alliance meetings, familiar faces showing up for auditions, at the ADAs, etc.  But, as Morris points out, Ben Hill and the gang at HFF made a very smart choice in limiting the geographic scope of the festival.  It has distilled us; concentrated us in a way that just doesn't otherwise happen in Los Angeles.

I'll be honest.  When I first heard they were keeping HFF in Hollywood, excluding the vibrant theatre district in North Hollywood, the current home of Theatre Unleashed, I was irritated.  We (meaning TU) have become so enmeshed into NoHo -- ironic for a company that used to boast about being "geographically unleashed" -- that I took it as something of an affront.

Good thing I've learned some measure of patience.  I kept my comments to myself, and opened my eyes and ears to the festival.  The inclusivness, the energy and excitement that Hill and the gang bring is inescapable and intoxicating. 

Penny Starr, Jr. invited me to join the insanity that is her politically incorrect variety show, The Wrong Show I thank my lucky stars that I am a participant in Fringe, not merely a spectator.  I have been kicking myself over TU's inability to provide more material support to Crafts as he brings Friends Like These to HFF.  This will long be remembered as a turning point in Los Angeles Theatre.  This is the focus we've needed

In the past I've blogged about the lack of some hierarchical model for the advancement of Under-99 plays to larger houses.  What we lack is a greater goal, a bigger destination for the work we do.  What's the point of a four week run that only friends and family see?  Now we have Fringe; equal parts bazaar and open forum.  This is something to build towards each year; a bigger goal.

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