Emily Piro is a wonder. I admired her work with other companies, and was very pleased when she auditioned to be the 2nd in a two-person show Midnight did last August, MISTAKES WERE MADE.
Director Sarah Whitney and I expanded her role of the secretary in this farce about the theatre world, and Emily focused laser-like on the role and its potential to round out the show. She did a fabulous job and it was fabulous to work with her.
During that run, an idea was forming in her mind. Fringe. I watered it with my own enthusiasm, given the run Midnight had at The Philadelphia Fringe Festival with THE HUNCHBACK VARIATIONS. Lots of theatre, lots of fun.
Emily focused laser-like on a St. Louis Fringe Festival, and through what must have been thousands of personal hours devoted to its every detail, made it happen.
30 shows/acts over a 4-day period in the Locust district.
While quality was doubtless up and down, as were crowds, overall buzz and final tally seemed very positive.
I was part of the early, early committee that got this rolling. But pulled out pretty quickly. I had legitimate conflicts: a commitment to The Black Rep season that would supercede a real investment in The Fringe.
But I also didn't agree with a few of Em's early decisions: 1) to not allow any of us committee members to participate artistically (that was one of the main reasons I was enthusiastic about this.) and 2) to have the lineup of performers completely unjuried; it was going to be a first come first service lineup – you didn't even have to say what you were doing, just that you wanted to do something in The Fringe.
I felt this would deprive the Fringe of at least a handful of quality shows/performers that audiences would want to see and that the festival could be built around. (Like me.)
Em's approach was coming more from a blast of Fringe festivity and energy that would carry the day and carry shows and audiences along with it. Everything would come out in the wash – good shows and bad – and the variety would be the spice.
I still disagree with that approach, though a few good shows certainly came out of The Fringe.
One was ours. Midnight's Sarah Whitney was nursing an idea inspired by daughter Carena about Greek myths. She decided to try to be a first come first served (she was, emailing her entry a few minutes after Midnight on the submission party night. I made sure to stay very carefully behind the scenes). She knew what show she'd be doing.
She assembled a great cast, and worked tirelessly to come up with simple stage effects that would support the stories and result in a tight, entertaining show aimed at ages 6-12. ALL EARS was an excellent show for kids.
But very few kids came. In this specific instance, that was one of the failings of the Fringe. There was nothing that came from their PR that indicated that any of their fare was for families or kids; most sailed along a hip, urban, 20-something groove.
Awareness, and some of that focus on ALL EARS, could have resulted in some of the audience this show was aimed at. We did our own marketing, but we were part of something greater, and our fine piece of children's theatre was lost a bit in the shuffle of this Fringe.
As others were, of course. I heard of some really dismal houses. I didn't get to see much (triple booked that weekend with the close of INSIDIOUS and the ongoing BOWLING EPIPHANY), but I did see a few things and one knocked me out.
It was OSGOOD REX, written and directed by Joshua Cook and presented by
Project: Wondermeant. It's really something when you're astonished in a theatre, and I was astonished by the script, the production and the consistent quality of a large and very talented cast. And astonished that though I'm Mr. theatre-guy-around-town, I'd never heard of any of these people. (One name was familiar – Nicole Angeli. Turns out she's playing my daughter in the upcoming Hot City show
GOODBYE RUBY TUESDAY.)
So that was at least two good shows at The Fringe, sure there were more.
Congrats to Midnight's pal Emily Piro and good luck on Fringe 2!