Time again to sink deeply into FronteraFest's exhilarating experiments in performance
FronteraFest, our annual jamboree of homegrown performance, where anyone and everyone is encouraged to take the stage, blasted off Jan. 13, and through Feb. 14, you can savor more self-written monologues, interpretive dance, improvised comedy, slam poetry, hip-hop, musicals, and who knows what else than any other time of the year. Experimentation is the order of the day, and the free-for-all spirit that has always reigned in this 16-year tradition is part of what makes it exhilarating. Where else can you see so many people taking so many risks – just because they can?
The Chronicle takes pleasure in offering you a guide to the fun. The Short Fringe – the showcase of pieces 25 minutes or less – runs Tuesdays through Saturdays, at Hyde Park Theatre, 511 W. 43rd. As always, the Saturday program offers the Best of the Week, culled from works presented Tuesday through Friday, and the fifth week features pieces judged Best of the Fest. Each Wednesday will feature a piece commissioned by the playwrights organization Austin Script Works.
The 2009 Long Fringe offers 18 full-length productions running Jan. 22-Feb. 1 at the Blue Theater, 916 Springdale, and Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Rd. Plus, there's Mi Casa Es Su Teatro, a host of original works performed in homes around Austin, on Saturday, Feb. 7. For information, call 479-PLAY, the FronteraFest hotline at 236-7511, or visit www.hydeparktheatre.org.
Thursday, Jan. 15
"No Comas Tomates Antes de Dormir Porque Tendrás Pesadillas" by Adam Martinez and Isabelle Salazar, with Todo Big Time Presents.
"She Creatures: Scenes of Mythic Women" by Sarah Saltwick. Selkies and sirens, music and food.
"A Cure for Boredom" by Bastion Carboni. A lighthearted buddy comedy – about suicide. A selection from the collection of plays A Matter of Taste.
Le Sexy by Jason Laney and Stephanie Russo. A comedic French lounge act.
Girltrap. Improvised comedy by Brent Foshee and Josh Krilov.
Friday, Jan. 16
"Time of Elements" by Mysti Jace Pride and Nisha Brown. Dance inspired by the four earthly elements.
"Letters of Compliment & Complaint" by Mocha Jean Herrup. Herrup's critical-thinking intervention strategies with corporate America. Monologue with music and PowerPoint.
"Strings" by Jeff Hernandez and Brad McEntire. Audacity Theatre Lab comically explores what happens when a writer's own creation turns on him.
Girls Girls Girls. All-female troupe improvises a full musical with the help of a keyboard player.
"Calm" by Nigel O'Hearn (book) and Michael McKelvey (lyrics). Short play for six voices and one piano in which six high school students strive to understand themselves through arson and sexual exploration.
Saturday, Jan. 17
Best of Week One
Tuesday, Jan. 20
"Patchwork" by Julianna Fry. Look at memories after a death through the disjointed words that survive.
"The Choices That We Breathe" by Kristie Schuh. A three-character play.
"Tower to Tower: The 1 Man Show" by SaulPaul. A life story told through hip-hop and spoken word.
"Coloring Outside the Lines" by Alex Garza. Stories by a messy and colorful array of characters.
"The Alcoholic Drama" by Thomas LeVrier. One act, three actresses. Directed by Chase Hodgson.
Wednesday, Jan. 21
"Reclaiming Mary" by M. Melissa Marlowe.
"Being the Right Size" by Sissy Siero and Gina Faunt-Saez. One woman's questions and epiphanies about how she "fits" into the world.
"Fenimore and Randall Get Stuck" by Aimée Gonzalez. (ASW Commission) Directed by Jamison Driskill.
"Am I Freaking JOB?" by Erin Molson. Monologues based on horrible luck in life and finding humor in it.
"A Brilliant Revolution" by Francisco Rodriguez, Amanda Garfield, and Fred Jones. KOUP Radio is on the air: We don't just report the news; we attack it.
Thursday, Jan. 22
Get Up. Master improvisers Shannon McCormick and Shana Merlin present narrative long-form improv.
"Bloomingdale's Elephants" by P. Paullette MacDougal. A 10-minute comedy.
Firth and Arjet. Improvised character comedy by Kristin Firth and Jessica Arjet.
"Out of Lines" by Christopher Lee and Christopher Michael. Two titans of slam poetry unite in a hip-hop theatre piece showing glimpses of black masculinity.
TBA by Eirik Ott. Some kind of Big Poppa E thing.
Friday, Jan. 23
"Two Young Ladies From a Small Texas Town" by Belva McKann. Sisters Lurlene and Ruby Jean in the Dead Center, Texas, trailer park.
"Harold," an excerpt by Howard Petrick. Story of a boy whose dream is to be a great concert violinist set in small-town America during the McCarthy era.
"Anarky and the Baby Ruth" by Melissa Jackson. Comedy in which two candy-bar creators meet with Anarky as they're making two human candy bars.
"T.A.G." by Stamp Lab (Cheryl Coward, Ana-Maurine Lara, and K.T. Shorb). An exploration of transgressive acts and their impact on marked bodies.
Murphy. Long-form Chicago-style improv from Lisa Jackson, Kyle Sweeney, Josh Krilov, Anthony Norton, Stephanie Russo, and Brent Foshee.
Saturday, Jan. 24
Best of Week Two
Tuesday, Jan. 27
"Nine Hundred Pound Goose" by Walter Miranda.
"The Park" by Brandon Furst.
"Open Mic" by Kerri Lendo and John Morton. Play taking place at a performance open mic.
"Play It by Ear" by Leticia Rodriguez. Solo performance regarding life in the burbs.
"A Work in Progress" by Seth Johnson and Patton Quinn. Dramatic scenes of the authors' relationship created to help them work through their problems.
Wednesday, Jan. 28
"Dress-Up" by Emma Holder and Julia Kitchen. Two-woman improv and sketch show exploring the joy and terror of getting ready for the outside world.
"Lascivious Lunches and Decadent Dinners" by Priscilla Sample (ASW Commission). Popular cook Lynn Matthews finds herself a suspect in the police investigation of her husband's death.
ratliff+jackson. John Ratliff and Lisa Jackson perform Chicago-style improvised comedy.
"Folding House" by Sheila Gordon. A real estate auction, a stroke victim, and 9/11 truth seekers converge in this solo performance.
TBA by Stephen Pruitt.
Thursday, Jan. 29
"Five 'Til" by Aimée Gonzalez. A Loaded Gun Theory performance.
"Cash Smear" by David Garcia. A socioeconomic struggle with religious connotative/symbolic elements of a hyperreal world of sex.
Lovey & Lovey. Michael Jastroch and Tami Nelson as two hopeless boozers bantering between scenes ranging from funeral heckling to awkward first dates.
"Las Vegas Girl" by Timothy Braun. Two men recall the deaths of women under an Austin moon tower.
"Midlife Narrative With a Mandolin" by Nettie Hartsock. Swallowing the Big Pill and looking for the "Big Chill."
Friday, Jan. 30
"Duty to Warn" by Teresa Stankiewicz. A young bipolar woman has attempted suicide, and her dysfunctional family fights to help her.
"Snow in the Heat of Summer" by Consuelo Samarripa. Medley of stories, legends, and myths.
"Stories From the Block" by Tim Curry. One-man show about being a prison guard.
"Reunion Musical II" by Charley and Carolyn Devany. A comedic musical about recovering from high school angst 20 years later.
"A Reluctant Tragic Hero" by Anton Chekhov. Andrew Varenhorst and Noel Gaulin of humdrum collective perform Chekhov's comic sketch.
Saturday, Jan. 31
Best of Week Three
Tuesday, Feb. 3
"McSki" by Bill Johnson. A one-person show.
"Edges" by Amy McAndrew and Cindy Vining. Reflections on female identity.
"(Dys)Connected" by Collin Bjork. Story of a mother whose search for her missing child is characterized by failed communication.
"My Darkness, My Inheritance" by Marcella Garcia. Monologue about the effects of the death of one's mother at an early age coupled with turning 30.
"Dada Space Clown" by David Jewell. A monologue.
Wednesday, Feb. 4
"After School Special: The Musical" by Rain Nox. All the specials' drama, angst, and heavy-handedness distilled into one head-spinning musical extravaganza.
"Pyretown" by John Belluso. Excerpts from the play.
"The Bitter Poet" by Kevin Draine. Poems about looking for love in all the wrong coffee shops, strip clubs, and black-box performance spaces.
One AM. Improv by Chris Trew and Tami Nelson.
"Almost Entirely Unlike Comedy" by Hank Schwemmer (ASW Commission). Is it stand-up or a deconstruction of stand-up? And why is there a 12-drink minimum?
Thursday, Feb. 5
"The Walls Are Alive (with the sound of)" by Jennifer Margulies. In her family home, a decorator finds two spirits living: an unborn baby and an unwritten play.
"Damned Avalanche" by Patrick Knisely and Jenny Carlson. Improvised comedy.
"Oh, Daddy!" by Rhonda Kulhanek. New one-woman show from the creator of "The Mommy Confessions."
"Lulu's Charms in the Dark" by Candyce Rusk. Three women dance the night away in Chicago's Riverview Ballroom in the 1940s.
TBA by Katherine Catmull.
Friday, Feb. 6
"by a quiet sea" by Wura-Natasha Ogunji. The story of eight women whose paths cross.
"57 Boyfriends" by Stephanie Denson, Kirk German, and Heather Huggins. Semiauto-biographical one-woman show.
"You're Killing Me Here" by Sheila Rinear. A woman sneaks into auditions for a Shakespearean company and outrageously tries to show what she can do.
"Travel Mugs Are Following Me" by Natalie George. Dance piece with eight to 12 performers.
"Whoom" by Emily Fordyce and Donna.
Saturday, Feb. 7
Best of Week Four
Long Fringe at the Blue Theater
The Bird and the Bee
(Capital T Theatre) Chloe and Jacob are beautifully in love. The first time they meet, they end their lives. Two plays explore the trajectory of two disaffected youths. "The Bird," by Al Smith, explores Jakob's journey; "The Bee," by Matt Hartley, tells Chloe's. Wednesday, Jan. 21, 9:15pm; Sunday, Jan. 25, 2pm; Wednesday, Jan. 28, 7:30pm; Friday, Jan. 30, 7pm.
(Buy the Whey) Do Doug and Peter have what it takes to make it as big-time Broadway playwrights? Or will Allison's constant disapproval and Roy's outlandish stories keep them from spinning their own tale? Find out on the next hilarious installment of Drywall. By David Meyers and Patrick Knisley. Saturday, Jan. 24, 2:15pm; Sunday, Jan. 25, 8:15pm; Saturday, Jan. 31, 8:45pm; Sunday, Feb. 1, 6:30pm.
The Dick Monologues
(Spike Gillespie) Since 2007, The Dick Monologues has brought together Austin's best performers, writers, and musicians to whip out and size up the many definitions of "dick." New pieces are exposed alongside old favorites for folks that love dick, hate dick, and even have one of their own. Monday, Jan. 19, 7:30pm; Friday, Jan. 23, 7pm; Saturday, Jan. 24, noon; Saturday, Jan. 31, 4:15pm.
A Matter of Taste
(Poison Apple Initiative) Cannibalism. Incest. Suicide. Someone will be offended by this play (possibly vegetarians/vegans, performance artists, gay men with active lifestyles, Larrys, etc.), though that's not really the intention. We predict there will be snort-laughing and that you'll enjoy yourself. Written by Bastion Carboni. Sunday, Jan. 25, 6:30pm; Thursday, Jan. 29, 7pm; Saturday, Jan. 31, 10:45pm; Sunday, Feb. 1, 8:30pm.
Sex, With Benefits
(Daniel Huntley Solon) In an abandoned New Jersey summer home, two young cyber fuck-buddies meet for the first time. Battling to understand and fulfill their fantasies, they find themselves limited by stubborn desires and paralyzed by years of expectation. Can there be a happy ending, or is each just another loveless bedmate? Thursday, Jan. 22, 9pm; Saturday, Jan. 24, 8:30pm; Tuesday, Jan. 27, 7:30pm; Saturday, Jan. 31, noon.
Kill Will: The Lost Diary of Shakespeare
(Strike Theatre) Shakespeare's lost diary drops into the hands of a petty thief in London, with gangsters and scholars tearing through one another to get this priceless relic from him. Intrigue, violence, murder, and humor, courtesy of Austin Alexander, who co-directs with Nathan Osborn. Tuesday, Jan. 20, 7:30pm; Saturday, Jan. 24, 4:15pm; Thursday, Jan. 29, 8:45pm; Sunday, Feb. 1, noon.
The Science of Suggestion
(Christina Houle) The cast solicited more than 200 suggestions in various locations, then created text, movement, and visual imagery to reflect the broad spectrum of input received. Written by Layne Tanner, Mellissa Watt, Tanya Winters, Leigh Gaymon-Jones, Lindsay Robinson, and Christina Houle, who directs. Thursday, Jan. 22, 7pm; Friday, Jan. 23, 9:15pm; Sunday, Jan. 25, noon; Sunday, Feb. 1, 4:30pm.
The Drowned World
(Ken Webster) The Southwest premiere of Gary Owen's hauntingly powerful vision of a futuristic world where the beautiful are hunted down and destroyed. Hyde Park Theatre Artistic Director Ken Webster directs an all-star cast of local actors. Wednesday, Jan. 21, 7pm; Sunday, Jan. 25, 4:15pm; Saturday, Jan. 31, 6:30pm; Sunday, Feb. 1, 2:15pm.
(The Green Room Theatre) Would you bet it all for $10 million? One contestant will take that chance and run through the gantlet of the courts and pass the jury – vicious, judgmental jerks you are. Yes, you are the jury, and one of you will be the accused. Written by John and Tracy Medberry. Saturday, Jan. 24, 6:30pm; Monday, Jan. 26, 7:30pm; Friday, Jan. 30, 9:15pm; Saturday, Jan. 31, 2:15pm.
Long Fringe at Salvage Vanguard Theater
(Spank Dance Company/Austin Independent Choreographers) A showcase of 10 local dance artists, each creating four one-minute dances, for a total of 40 one-minute new movement pieces. Tuesday, Jan. 20, 7:30pm; Friday, Jan. 23, 7pm; Sunday, Jan. 25, 1:45pm; Saturday, Jan. 31, 4:15pm.
Our Angle in Heaven
(Maggie Gallant) In this one-woman show, Gallant presents painfully honest and funny stories of eight Brits whose lives turned odd corners when Princess Diana died. Plus the greatest conspiracy theory you'll ever hear. Lou Rigler directs. Saturday, Jan. 24, 6pm; Sunday, Jan. 25, noon: Wednesday, Jan. 28, 9:15pm; Sunday, Feb. 1, 4pm.
Things in Life
(Ben Prager) Actor/playwright Prager uses a series of monologues to portray, with unblinking realism, a half-dozen familiar types in various stages of life. Friday, Jan. 23, 9pm; Saturday, Jan. 24, 4:15pm; Thursday, Jan. 29, 7pm; Sunday, Feb. 1, noon.
(Hat Shop Productions/John M. Lively) In Lively's play, an elderly couple crippled by the memory of a lost child creates a magical world of hope and artifice, moving from one reality to the next, unaware that the last vestiges of their lives will soon come down – progress knocks on their door. Thursday, Jan. 22, 8:45pm; Saturday, Jan. 24, noon; Friday, Jan. 30, 7pm; Sunday, Feb. 1, 5:45pm.
Let's Get Real
(Michael Kranes) "How many of you are completely happy in your lives?" This simple question has been asked worldwide to millions by master teacher Ted Jiles. Let's Get Real will give you very real tools to "explore an opportunity for levels of happiness you only dreamed about." Thursday, Jan. 22, 7pm; Saturday, Jan. 24, 10pm; Sunday, Jan. 25, 3:45pm; Saturday, Jan. 31, 6:15pm.
52 Pick Up
(Gemma Wilcox Productions) Gemma Wilcox and Sam Elmore perform this piece by T.J. Dawe and Rita Bozi. There are 52 cards in a deck and 52 scenes about a couple's relationship. The title of each scene is written on a card. Two actors shuffle them, throw them, pick them up, and play all 52 scenes. Wednesday, Jan. 28, 7pm; Friday, Jan. 30, 9:15pm; Saturday, Jan. 31, 8pm; Sunday, Feb. 1, 1:45pm.
(Gemma Wilcox Productions) Wilcox portrays 20 characters in this newly extended version of her award-winning comedy-drama The Honeymoon Period Is Officially Over. Tuesday, Jan. 27, 7:30pm; Thursday, Jan. 29, 8:45pm; Saturday, Jan. 31, 2:15pm; Sunday, Feb. 1, 8pm.
My Bugatti Story
(Paul Ehrmann) A man regains his sanity through the persona of a pre-World War II race-car driver who became a hero of the French Resis-tance. Close to 71% of Ehrmann's script is true. We travel through space and time with the main character/writer and four actors in multiple roles. Monday, Jan. 19, 7:30pm; Saturday, Jan. 24, 7:45pm; Sunday, Jan. 25, 5:45pm; Saturday, Jan. 31, noon.
(Improv for Evil) A fully improvised Seventies cop show. Detective John Cochise is a loose cannon scouring the streets of Metro City looking for trouble, and he won't stop until justice is served. We get the leads, shake down the witnesses, chase the bad guy, and take down Mr. Big. Wednesday, Jan. 21, 7:30pm; Saturday, Jan. 24, 2:15pm; Sunday, Jan. 25, 8pm; Saturday, Jan. 31, 10:15pm.
'Leela's Wheel'/ '52 Pick Up'
Gemma Wilcox, a former Austin resident now living in Boulder, Colo., wants to make her living as a performer. "Ten years ago, I toured the Canadian Fringe Theatre circuit as a stage manager with my aunt and her theatre partner," says Wilcox, who will be acting in two shows, Leela's Wheel and 52 Pick Up, during the Long Fringe. "We toured across Canada for two summers in a row. We also did the Edinburgh Festival and Adelaide Festival. I was quite young – 19, 20 years old – and it was so incredible, so amazing. I got to experience and learn a lot."
So much that she put together a tour of her own material a couple of years ago. In Wheel, much of which was written while Wilcox was in Austin, "it's just me and a chair. I play 20 characters. Inanimate objects, men, women, children, animals. There's a cat and hamster and peacock and Scottish chickens and a single father and a heroin addict ex-wife. I play a saxophone character, I play a guy playing the saxophone, and I play a woman singing along to the saxophone."
Wheel is part of Wilcox's 2009 tour, which is traveling all around North America, along with 52, in which she appears with Sam Elmore. "It's 52 scenes about a relationship. The titles of the scenes are written on 52 cards. We throw the cards up in the air, they fall on the ground, and we pick the cards up randomly and perform all 52 scenes."
Sounds ambitious – just like Wilcox. Don't miss her, because there's no telling when she might travel through again. – Barry Pineo
'The Dick Monologues'
So, what's a girl to do after a particularly ugly dating experience? Why, put on a show, of course! Spike Gillespie created The Dick Monologues "after a particularly dicky experience with an especially dicky man." The longtime local author, filmmaker, ordained minister, nuclear physicist, and militant knitter invited some of her performer friends to stage "revenge as art" at Hyde Park Theatre one summer night in 2006.
"The only rule was that they do a piece interpreting the word 'dick' any way they saw fit," says Gillespie. She supposed that maybe a few people would attend. The show was sold out, and "people asked us to do it again. And then again," she says.
The Dick Monologues still runs monthly with a regular lineup of writers, performers, singer-songwriters, and special guests, such as Lauren Lane, formerly of TV show The Nanny and recently star of Zach Theatre's The Clean House; musician and "whimsicologist" Southpaw Jones; Rudy Ramirez, "token gay Latino"; How Perfect Is That author Sarah Bird; slam poet Diane Fleming; and Austin American-Statesman columnist Sarah Barnes. The atmosphere at Dick is loose and informal and maybe just an excuse to eat and drink: Performers read their stories, potluck on stage, set up shots of likker, and Gillespie brings her knitting. There's almost the feeling of a revival meeting, and why not? "We've all had dicky experiences," Gillespie notes. – Mary Jo Pehl
'My Bugatti Story'
Imagine you are a handsome race-car driver. Now imagine you use your race-car driving skills to help fight the Nazis. Your imagination has just inhabited the life of Robert Benoist and the inspiration for Paul Ehrmann's new play, My Bugatti Story. Benoist was a renowned French race-car driver who, during World War II, became an agent with England's Special Operations Executive. Legend and history have it that Benoist parachuted into France, helped smuggle information and arms for the French Resistance, and even jumped from a moving car to flee the Gestapo. A real-life spy thriller.
Ehrmann first learned of Benoist when he was living in Los Angeles and writing for network television. Fascinated by the story, he wrote a screenplay complete with "some classic action sequences," such as a '57 Bugatti race car pursuing a steam locomotive. Though financing for the project never came through, Ehrmann jokes, "My work has been chasing the dime out in Hollywood like some natural fool." The story continued to grip his imagination, and when Ehrmann moved to Austin four years ago, he refashioned the screenplay into a play. Reworking the story for the stage strengthened it. "The voice of the narrator, most often hidden in a movie script, most prominent in a novel, least finds an arena in this stage production. Also, my jokes have gotten funnier," Ehrmann concludes. "It may be the Austin air or good nutrition, but I think the challenge and reward of facing a live audience makes us writers better!" – Hannah Kenah
'Our Angle in Heaven'
Anyone perusing the title of this Long Fringe entry might think there's been a mistake, but there's no typo. "The crowds lining the street for Diana's funeral were proudly holding up various signs for the TV cameras," says Maggie Gallant, the writer of and sole performer in Angle. "People had put a lot of work into them, but I was amused by some of the misspellings, especially the one that read 'angle' rather than 'angel,' and I thought it would make a good show title."
Gallant, an English expat, only started writing and performing a few years ago: "I've always wanted to. Had my parents given in to my nagging to send me to stage school when I was an 11-year-old, I'm sure I'd be a star by now. But I fell into a public relations job, the only bearable parts of which were when I got to do television interviews and give presentations and new business pitches. I'm secretly a bit of a show-off."
A natural mimic, Gallant gets to show off quite a bit in this dark comedy, which she's been working on for a couple of years, performing a shorter version of it in last year's Short Fringe. This time, it has eight characters, including a Pakistani, an Irish woman, a Diana impersonator, and Gallant herself. And while the show might appear to be about all things Diana, "the impetus to start writing this piece was to tell my story," Gallant says. But if you want to know what that story is, you'll have to find out for yourself. – Barry Pineo