East Village Fringe Festival expands west


By Davida Singer

Cast of “Booted,” a dance piece at FringeNYC 2003

East meets west this August, for the 7th annual New York International Fringe Festival. The largest multi-arts gathering in North America, presenting shows by some of the world’s best emerging artists and companies. FringeNYC has expanded west to the West Village this year, and Fringe Central, the festival’s hub and information center, will be located at Manhattan Theater Source on MacDougal Street.

“We’ve gone to the West Village partially because a lot of East Village spaces are gone,” says Elena K. Holy, Producing Artistic Director of The Present Company and FringeNYC. “Also because some West Village spaces wanted us for a while. This year we took them up on it.”

It’s been quite a ride for Holy, who, with John Clancy, conceived of the first FringeNYC in 1996. “We were a little theater company who couldn’t afford to take a show to the Edinborough Festival, so we decided to start our own.

“We knew it would have to be big,” she said. “There were so many small companies here like us. That first year we ended up with one hundred seventy five shows in venues all over the East Village. We’ve grown steadily, and this year’s Fringe is the largest by far, two hundred and ten shows at twenty venues and runs sixteen days.”

According to Holy, there are fifteen states and ten countries represented in the current festival, with artists and groups from Massachusetts, Virginia, California, Hawaii, France, India, Czech Republic, Venezuela, and Japan.

“New York is such an international city,” she says. “Some of our international companies are made up of expatriate Americans, and some local companies are made up of people who just came here, so great mixtures exist. It’s all about people from different places working together in a joyful collision and jumble of styles and aesthetics. Last year, New York discovered they wanted this festival, so it was a huge celebration of creativity and community. This year, I feel they deserve it. Politically, it’s been difficult, and New Yorkers have struggled. Our job and goal as co-producers and artists is to put on the very best festival we can for them.”

This year’s performances run the gambit from new musicals to film noir puppetry, and everything in between, including dance, theater, solo performance and multi-media. Holy encourages people to use the festival website’s popular “Slice-o-matic”, a quick means of searching through shows to find “what you want to see at any given moment.”

Not to be missed highlights?

“There’s so much quality work here,” notes Holy. “Staggering Toward America” by Rik Reppe, is one man’s cross-country journey after 9/11, with stories about the people he met.

“Shirtwaist” is an intriguing musical about the Triangle Shirt Factory Fire in Manhattan. Then there are two comedies about corporate America- “Shredders”, about document shredders, and “Natural Selection”, about two women who put together gift boxes.

Fringe vet, Pat Candaras returns with her unique comedic style and a new show, “Panic Is Not A Disorder”, about life’s daily rituals set against current events.

Angel Abcede’s “The Semen Tree”, is an autobiographical sketch of a young teen growing up and discovering his sexuality in 1970’s Honolulu.

“Booted” is an inventive dance piece by Eva Dean, returning with her company this year. It’s partially danced in combat boots, and deals with freedom of expression and liberation.”

Besides the dizzying array of shows, FringeNYC has a host of special added attractions. There’s FringeAlFresco, a series of outdoor events and free show samplers on various days between 4 and 6, all in Washington Square Park. FringeU is a collection of workshops and panel discussions at 440 Lafayette, led by Fringe participants. Broads With Swords, an all female sword fighting crew from the UK, will be on hand for a demo, and there will be a panel on publishing work. For children, FringeJr offers samplers of Junior shows on weekends at noon in the Washington Square Park playground.

For a detailed listing of all the happenings, grab a Fringe program guide, available at Fringe Central on August 1, and don’t forget to check out local restaurants noted on the map.

“This is a big miracle we pull off every summer,” Holy adds. It’s sort of become a local institution. But there’s often a misconception that we’re funded by the City. In reality, it’s a festival run almost entirely by volunteers. It’s just all of us, and a large dose of love of theater and New York.”