A Curated Guide to the New York Fringe Festival's 20th Anniversary Season

A Curated Guide to the New York Fringe Festival's 20th Anniversary Season
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Gwynedd Vetter-Drusch in 'The Dance of Life;' Photo: James Jin

By Don Adkins, ZEALnyc Managing Editor, and Megan Wrappe, Contributing Writer, August 10, 2016

All milestones are worthy of celebrating, but in the world of experimental and developmental theater, a 20th anniversary is truly a reason to take notice and honor the individuals and/or organizations responsible. In this instance, the honored entity is the New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC) which should be applauded for its longevity and distinct role in harnessing the shear volume of creative projects it chooses from all its submissions, and then for its role in presenting the selected ones to the New York theater-going public for lo these many years. The guiding force behind the Festival is none other than its Producing Artistic Director, Elena K. Holy. Taking on this key role with the Fringe since near its inception, she has brought the Festival to the elevated status that it currently enjoys. From it's early years with only a handful of shows utilizing some sketchy venues which posed various technical and logistical challenges (bursting pipes and power outages were somewhat commonplace); fast-forwarding to now, where it is the largest multi-arts festival in North America and productions are presented in respected theaters often used by prominent Off- and off-off-Broadway companies.

This year's Festival runs from August 12-28 and boasts an amazing number of productions - 200 in all, presented in 16 different venues, with a total of 1,100 performances - whew! Through it all, the Festival has managed to keep the ticket prices very affordable--this year, actually, the same price as going to a movie theater in Manhattan ($18), but possibly giving you bragging rights to say "I saw it when it was first at the Fringe Festival." Productions that have gone on to successful lives beyond the Fringe include Urinetown (one of its biggest success stories--going from the Fringe to an Off-Broadway production and then on to Broadway), Matt & Ben, Never Swim Alone, The Jammer, Debbie Does Dallas, Dog Sees God, Brandon Teena, and Dixie's Tupperware Party, to name just a few. Notable performers and creatives who have participated in productions over the years include Bradley Cooper, Melissa Rauch ("Big Bang Theory"), Morgan Spurlock ("Supersize Me," CNN's "Inside Man"), Mindy Kaling, Tony Award winner Diane Paulus (Pippin), Alex Timbers (Rocky), Leigh Silverman (Violet), W. Kamau Bell ("Totally Biased"), Michael Urie ("Ugly Betty"), Naomi Grossman ("American Horror Story") and Chris Lowell ("Enlisted"), again, to name a few.

We were able to obtain an "inside scoop" on some of the productions that are already generating some advance buzz and would be worthy of your attention. But go see as many of these productions as you are able--it's fun getting caught up in the "festival spirit," and the Fringe offers some great ticket deals for people looking to attend more than one production.

All of this year's productions are listed in our feature: FringeNYC: Your Complete Guide to This Year's Festival; for more information go to the Festival website.

Our curated list is below, so start making your plans now!

The Gorges Motel
Schondeikkan Productions and Miracle or Two Productions in association with The Journey Company
Writer: Gretchen Cryer, Lynne Halliday, Isaac Himmelman, James Hindman, Arlene Hutton, Craig Pospisil
Director: Chris Goutman
Award-winning playwrights join favorite TV and stage actors with stories of sex, comedy and tragedy in an upstate motel that has seen better days. Fringe veterans bring the ridiculous and the sublime together with breakups, make-ups and a drone attack.

The Players Theatre (115 MacDougal Street between West 3rd and Bleecker); SAT 13 @ 2:45; WED 17 @ 7; SAT 20 @ 5; WED 24 @ 2:15; FRI 26 @ 7

Homo Sapiens Interruptus
Writer: Carlos Dengler
One-hour monologue. Behind a desk. It's smart. It's funny. And it's heartwarming. Join Carlos Dengler in an intimate setting as he talks about heavy metal, human origins, and his road from pizza delivery to rockstardom with the band Interpol.

64E4 UNDERGROUND (64 East 4th Street between Bowery & 2nd Avenue); FRI 12 @ 5; MON 15 @ 7:15; FRI 19 @ 9:30; MON 22 @ 2:45; THU 25 @ 9:30

Walken On Sunshine
Writer: Dave Droxler / Music by James Rushin / Director: Marcus Stevens
An anxiety-ridden filmmaker accidentally lies to investors about having Christopher Walken in his movie and embarks on a ridiculous quest to get Walken. Neuroses, quirky love, bad guys and cowbells emerge to derail him. Will he ever find Walken??

SoHo Playhouse (15 Vandam Street between Sixth Avenue & Varick Street); SAT 13 @ 5:45; TUE 16 @ 2; SAT 20 @ 7:15; MON 22 @ 9:45; FRI 26 @ 2:15

From Foster Care to Fabulous
Red House Arts Center
Writer: Patrick Burns / Director: Richard Israel
In this original musical, Patrick Burns takes on the role of late-night talk show host, detailing his foster care journey with a myriad of side-splitting songs, a plethora of jaw-dropping anecdotes and a cast of horrific, hilarious and heartbreaking characters.

drom (85 Avenue A between 5th and 6th Street); FRI 12 @ 7:45; SUN 14 @ 6; THU 18 @ 3; TUE 23 @ 9; THU 25 @ 5:15

Pryor Truth
The Collective-NY
Writer: Khalil Muhammad / Director: Marcus Naylor
Pryor Truth, a one man show, is a celebration and introspection into the life and legend of comedian "Richard Pryor". Pryor Truth gives us a raw moment with one of the artist's most beloved characters: Mudbone.

Under St. Marks (94 St. Marks Pl between First Avenue and Avenue A); SAT 13 @ NOON; THU 18 @ 8:45; MON 22 @ 4:45; THU 25 @ 4:45; SAT 27 @ 8

The Radicalization of Rolfe
M & R Productions in association with Glenn Krutoff
Writer: Andrew Bergh / Director: Abigail Zealey Bess
Austria in the last golden days of the 1930's. Messenger boy Rolfe, 17 (going on 18)is about to discover that forbidden sex and Third Reich don't mix. This dark comedy proves that B-characters have a destiny, too.

The Players Theatre (115 MacDougal Street between West 3rd and Bleecker); FRI 12 @ 5; SUN 14 @ 9:45; FRI 19 @ 7; SUN 21 @ NOON; WED 24 @ 4:30

From the Deep
CMS Productions
Writer: Cassie M. Seinuk / Director: Lindsay Eagle
Fates intertwine in a new dimension, beyond space and time. Israeli POW, Ilan, believes his freedom is nearly in sight. Across continents, abductee, Andrew, awaits his captor's design. As time ticks away, they must learn to survive or disappear forever.

Teatro LATEA (107 Suffolk Street between Rivington & Delancey); FRI 12 @ 8:45; MON 15 @ 9; THU 18 @ 4; SAT 20 @ 1:45; SUN 21 @ 9:15

Love Me Forever Billy H. Tender
Produced by Jana Fredricks and Ned Moore
Writer: Jesse LaVercombe / Director: Adam Lazarus
January 31st, 2021: Enter Billy H. Tender, Canadian child-star. Billy's family has splintered; today, they'll need each other more than ever. After a sold-out premiere in Toronto, this virtuosic tragicomedy reckons with the cultural pandemic of superstardom.

Under St. Marks (94 St. Marks Pl between First Avenue and Avenue A); FRI 12 @ 6:30; MON 15 @ 3; SAT 20 @ 5; SUN 21 @ 7; THU 25 @ 9:15

Mother Emanuel
Rebel Theater Company
Writer: Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj, Adam Mace, Chrisrian Lee Branch
Director: Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj
Mother Emanuel is a docu-musical style interpretation of the tragic shooting that transpired at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015.

SoHo Playhouse (15 Vandam Street between Sixth Avenue & Varick Street); SAT 13 @ 9:45; WED 17 @ 4:45; SUN 21 @ 6:45; WED 24 @ 7:15; THU 25 @ 10:15

Creative Collaborations
Writer: Tiffany Barton/ Director: Helen Doig
June is an eccentric New York opera singer. Once celebrated, she's down on her luck. Agorophobic and unable to leave her apartment, she turns to her booze, her pills, her dead stuffed cat and her trusty vibrator Mr. Buzzy for solace.

WOW Café (59-61 East 4th St. #4 between Bowery & 2nd Avenue); WED 17 @ 7; FRI 19 @ 6; WED 24 @ 5:15; FRI 26 @ 8; SAT 27 @ 3:15

The Box Show
Writer: Dominique Salerno / Director: Sash Bischoff
One woman. 25 characters. All inside a cupboard! The doors open to reveal: a drunken couple in Vegas, a lonely Giantess, the entire Greek Army inside the Trojan Horse, & more! The space is limited, but the comedic possibilities are endless...

Abrazo Interno (107 Suffolk Street between Rivington & Delancey); SUN 14 @ 8; TUE 16 @ 8:45; THU 18 @ 9; FRI 19 @ 4:15; SUN 21 @ 12:30

Lunt and Fontanne: The Celestials of Broadway
TBE Theatrical
Writer: Mark E. Lang / Director: Owen Thompson
Meet the most famous forgotten actor-couple in theater history, Lunt and Fontanne, played by a real actor-couple. This fast-paced new play covers their extraordinary partnership, from the 1920s through WWII and the 1950s, with cameos by Olivier, Coward and Brando.

64E4 MAINSTAGE (64 East 4th Street between Bowery & 2nd Avenue); SAT 13 @ NOON; WED 17 @ 7; SAT 20 @ 7; TUE 23 @ 2:15; SAT 27 @ 4:45

Murmurs and Incantations
Emerging Artists Theatre
Writer: Dahn Hiuni, Music by Yuval Ron / Director: Dahn Hiuni
In search of peace of mind and artistic truth, a gay New York performance artist confronts the ghost of his grandfather, a rabbi killed by the Nazis. A poignant, irreverently funny drama about the Holocaust, AIDS, and existential angst.

SoHo Playhouse (15 Vandam Street between Sixth Avenue & Varick Street); SAT 20 @ 9:30; TUE 23 @ 9:15; WED 24 @ 9:30; THU 25 @ 3:45; SUN 28 @ 2:30

The Princemaker
MirrorMaker Productions
Writer: Robert Gelberg / Director: Alessandra Affinito
It's an election year. Leslie Moore, a teenager with an unlimited bank account, finances the Presidential campaign of George Lee, a down-home congressman equally noble and naive. The Princemaker explores the politics of money and the money of politics.

WOW Café (59-61 East 4th St. #4 between Bowery & 2nd Avenue); SAT 13 @ 4:45; WED 17 @ 2:30; SAT 20 @ 7:30; TUE 23 @ 9:15; THU 25 @ 4:45

The Skeleton Rep
Writer: Britton Buttrill / Director: Ria T. DiLullo
Set in a dilapidated trailer in a Southern town, Scratching is a millennial drama about the lives of two blue-collar brothers whose pasts and futures intersect, causing a downward spiral of drugs, violence, illegal tattoos, unrequited love and the chance for redemption.

The Players Theater (115 MacDougal Street between West 3rd and Bleecker); SAT 13 @ 7:15; TUE 16 @ 4:30; FRI 19 @ 2:15; SUN 21 @ 9:45; FRI 26 @ 2:15

Little y Theatre Company in Association with The Vertical Company
Writer/Director: Elena Zucker
From NYC to Palestine, Mimi's world collapses with the inadvertent like of a long-lost love's dissident Facebook status. Identities unravel, as do the boundaries between fact and fiction, Jew and Arab, time and space. A psycho-cyber thriller.

WOW Café (59-61 East 4th St. #4 between Bowery & 2nd Avenue); MON 15 @ 9; THU 18 @ 7; SUN 21 @ 12:15; WED 24 @ 3:15; FRI 26 @ 9:45

The Unusual Tale of Mary & Joseph's Baby
Firebone Theatre Company
Writer: Music and Lyrics by Don Chaffer, Book by Chris Cragin-Day
Director: Amelia Peterson
The Unusual Tale of Mary & Joseph's Baby: There really is a pregnant virgin, shepherds, angels, foreign dignitaries, a ratty inn and a bloodthirsty dictator whose menacing shadow hangs over everything. And obviously, it's a comedy.

SoHo Playhouse (15 Vandam Street between Sixth Avenue & Varick Street); SAT 13 @ 3:30; FRI 19 @ 5; MON 22 @ 7:30; FRI 26 @ 7; SAT 27 @ 12:15

Fifth Wall Productions
Writer: Elenna Stauffer / Director: Deborah Wolfson
It's the Bandits' Best Year EVER! Until...one by one, the girls succumb to a mysterious illness. As the traditional pecking order is upended, the girls' relationships are tested. A poignant, cheer-full look at life on the cusp of adulthood.

The Players Theatre (115 MacDougal Street between West 3rd and Bleecker); FRI 12 @ 9:30; MON 15 @ 2:30; THU 18 @ 4:15; SUN 21 @ 4:45; WED 24 @ 9:30

Writer: Kirk White / Director: Keith Winsted
Can't get tickets to Hamilton? Come see the second best show in NYC about non-traditional casting! An obscure, low-rent college theatre department becomes a national punch line when its sole African American professor casts a white girl as Rosa Parks.

The Players Theatre (115 MacDougal Street between West 3rd and Bleecker); SAT 13 @ 5; TUE 16 @ 9:15; SAT 20 @ 9:45; MON 22 @ 2; SAT 27 @ 7:15

Remember Me
Scandinavian American Theater Company
Writer: Minna Nurmelin / Director: Drew O'Kane
Helena is trying to move on from her past. Anna is in grave doubt about her own future. Two complete strangers struggling with identity learn to help each other in this unconventional and highly perceptive play from Finland.

WOW Café (59-61 East 4th St. #4 between Bowery & 2nd Avenue); FRI 12 @ 7:15; SUN 14 @ 2:15; FRI 19 @ 2; WED 24@ 9:15; FRI 26 @ 4

Writer: Scott T. Barsotti / Director: Jessi D. Hill
In this fast-paced thriller teetering between caustic comedy and warped kitchen-sink drama, six sisters must stir a pot. 24/7. They're tied to it. By trauma? By magic...? They stir, brutally brawl, and wonder: does this really keep Babette alive?

The Steve & Marie Sgouros Theatre (115 MacDougal Street, 3rd floor between West 3rd and Bleecker); SUN 21 @ 3:15; MON 22 @ 7; WED 24 @ 4:15; FRI 26 @ 2:30; SAT 27 @ 9:30

Dream Ticket
Theatre For America
Writer: Ryan Bernsten
Director: Kristin Skye Hoffmann; Associate Director: Marylynne Anderson-Cooper
In this political satire, populist Becky Roberts and maverick Les Sugarman compete for their party's presidential nomination--despite a history that wasn't strictly political. When the media forces them to run together, their dream ticket becomes a nightmare.

The Players Theatre (115 MacDougal Street between West 3rd and Bleecker); FRI 12 @ 7:15; SUN 14 @ NOON; THU 18 @ 2; SUN 21 @ 7:30; THU 25 @ 2:15

Off Track
Writer: James Comtois / Director: Tim Errickson
Ian, a Chicago reporter covering an impending transit strike, has a one-night stand who's found murdered the next morning. So, Ian ventures out to find the killer just as the trains shut down and strand him in a hostile neighborhood.

Teatro SEA (107 Suffolk Street between Rivington & Delancey); SAT 13 @ NOON; MON 15 @ 7:15; THU 18 @ 2; SAT 20 @ 7:30; FRI 26 @ 4:45

Pucker Up and Blow
Writer: Daniel Reitz / Director: Paul Schnee
David, a young actor with only children's theatre credits, is making his Broadway debut in a play by New York's "most inflammatory" playwright--but it means nudity and performing a lewd sex act. What's more important? Dignity or career?

The Players Theater (115 MacDougal Street between West 3rd and Bleecker); SAT 13 @ 9:30; SUN 14 @ 7:15; TUE 16 @ 6:45; FRI 19 @ 4:30; TUE 23 @ 2

Reagan's Athena
Writer: Louis Varela Nevaer / Director: Alice Spivak
1984: Ronnie's in trouble! He's smacked with Nancy's astrology, Iran-Contra and Nora Astorga! Who the hell is Nora Astorga you ask? Ask Jeane Kirkpatrick! Come see the Battle of the "Amazionian Bitches"

The Players Theatre (115 MacDougal Street between West 3rd and Bleecker); SUN 14 @ 2:15; THU 18 @ 7:15; SUN 21 @ 2:15; FRI 26 @ 9:15; SAT 27 @ 1:30

The Coward: a Madcap Fairytale
The National Theatre of MatMadia
Writer: Maddy Campbell / Director: Matt Phillips
Possessed by an insane monster, a cowardly castle maid must battle gods and demons to resurrect the King she herself killed. This experimental, absurdist comedy revels in clowns, confetti, and blood. So shield those precious eyes, you cowards.

The Theater at the 14th Street Y (344 East 14th Street at 1st Avenue); WED 17 @ 6:30; SAT 20 @ 9:15; MON 22 @ 3:45; THU 25 @ 7; SAT 27 @ 5:30

First Time, Long Time
The Disposable Theater Company
Writer/Director: Jeremy Stuart
You've tuned in to the Harland West Radio Show. All tales from the apocalypse are welcome, natural or otherwise. "...this play reminds us of the power of storytelling to provoke, engage, and jolt." Martin Denton, nytheatre.com.

64E4 MAINSTAGE (64 East 4th Street between Bowery & 2nd Avenue); SAT 13 @ 9:15; TUE 16 @ 5; SUN 21 @ 6:15; WED 24 @ 7; SAT 27 @ 12:45

Don Adkins, ZEALnyc's Managing Editor writes about various arts and cultural activities, and Megan Wrappe writes about theater and arts/entertainment related features.

Interested in new and developmental theater? Read ZEALnyc's feature: New York Musical Festival - Review Roundup

Or read ZEALnyc's review of Encores! Off-Center's rarely-produced production of God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater here.

For all the news on New York City arts and culture, visit ZEALnyc Front Page.

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