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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Share with Me Saturdays - KC Fringe Edition

Happy Saturday, all! I’m doing a special edition of “Share with Me Saturdays” to talk about KC Fringe Festival, an 11-day artistic explosion of theatre, spoken word, burlesque, visual art, music and mayhem. Over 100 artists take part in this beautiful mess, and a lot of them are friends of mine! Last year, you might remember I participated as a visual artist with my “Words are Hard” showing. 

This year, you can catch me at Just Off Broadway Theatre stage managing “A Hard Day’s Night,” a new play by Vicki Vodrey (She’s a pretty big deal at Fringe).

FB Event  
Lot in Life Productions website  
"A Hard Day's Night" tickets

I reached out to a few of my friends who continue to be involved in Fringe year after year. It’s so much work for an artist to produce a new, unique experience every year, especially since most of us have 10 other projects we’re involved in. So I had to know:

What part does Fringe play in your artistic process?

Sandy Woodson
Visual Artist/Photographer, KC Fringe operations team member, Classy McGraceful photographer (very important)

Visual Artist:
Nat Sound info

I make special plans for my Fringe project. I do try to come up with something original or more fringe-y. I spend several months thinking about it and getting ready for it. Because I know I can do whatever I want, I try to think beyond my normal stuff. It has absolutely allowed me to be more daring. :)

Tara Varney
Producer, Actor, Director, All-around Beautiful Lady 
Her work is featured in the theatre realm of Fringe. 
Here, read her blog, too.

“Red Death” Info 
“Red Death” FB Event 
“Red Death” Tickets  
“Queerios” FB Page
“Queerios” Tickets 

Performer, 7/19 and 7/22
“Bad Auditions” FB Event 
“Bad Auditions” Tickets 

Contributing Author
“Free to Be KC” Info/Tickets

Before I started becoming involved with Fringe, I had a multitude of projects in various stages of unfinished-ness. I had no means of putting them on their feet, so they languished until I lost interest and moved on to another project that would never see the light of day. I also had no way of really growing as an artist, because how was that possible, if I never finished anything, because what's the point, there's nowhere to go with it, and so no one could ever see it and give me feedback? 

Bryan and I spent 2006 and 2007 as reviewers for the Fringe Festival. We saw a bajillion shows, and posted our reviews of them online. After the 2007 festival, we said to each other, "We can totally do this." Then, as we were lying in bed one night, we giggled about a premise that maybe Jesus was an entertainer, and the rest was myth and legend. It was a perfect way to skewer celebrity worship. We produced "Jesus Christ, King of Comedy" at the 2008 KC Fringe, and have done a show every year since.
Fringe gives me a tangible goal. I know exactly when it is, I generally know what to expect (now that we've done it so long), and I know people will see what we put out there. It also gives me a place to experiment with genres that I never would have considered before. We've done satire, social commentary, campy musicals, historical drama, puppets... and, this year, opera. Because why not? It's the perfect place to take artistic risks. Sometimes when you leap, you fall.  It hurts for a bit, but then you know how to avoid that particular fall the next time you leap.

Because there must always be leaping.

Fringe, simply by being there, with its arms open to all art forms in its unjuried and uncensored way, allows me the freedom to discover new ways to tell stories. And that makes me a better storyteller, as a playwright, director, and actor.

It also challenges me as an artist because I can go see other artists taking risks, without the pressure of pleasing a particular demographic in order to keep their business doors open and the bills paid. It's a beautiful and exciting place to be.

Bryan Colley Playwright, Producer, Fringe Program Designer, Cheez-It Extraordinaire
Here is his website.

Playwright: "Red Death" (Seen above) Info/Tickets

Visual Artist: Jupiter Kansas Info

My entire life revolves around Fringe. "Red Death" will be my seventh Fringe show, and relative to other Fringe shows, everything Tara and I have produced has been very successful. Part of the reason for that might be because we spend the entire year planning and preparing for Fringe. We're dedicated to doing something new and challenging every year, and I believe what we produce is our best possible work given the miniscule budget and limited resources available to us. In addition to all that, I help Fringe with marketing and technology and create their printed program ever year, so I spend more of my free time doing Fringe than anything else.

So the artistic question is "Why Fringe?" And it has to be an artistic question because you can't make a lot of money at Fringe - at least not enough to compensate for all the time and effort you put into it. You have to get artistic validation from it. I'm someone that likes to write or envision plays, and produce them myself, and create exactly the kind of theatrical experience that I want.

I also want each experience to be fundamentally different than anything I've done before. Some people have a specific style or can say "I do this kind of theatre," and generally that's how you become successful - by finding that one thing you can do really well and doing it over and over. I don't really want that to apply to my work because I enjoy exploring different styles and different methods of producing, and I believe that every story needs to have its own style - that the substance dictates the style, and sometimes vice versa. Therefore figuring out the best way to tell a story includes the whole process of creating and producing the play.

For example, with "Red Death" we assembled a team of very talented people, and each went off and created their own piece of the show without much input from the others, and somehow it all worked when we put it together. That's a different kind of collaboration than anything we've done in the past. And truthfully it was dictated as much by schedules as it was by artistic choice.

But back to the point, Fringe gives me the opportunity to do what I want with only two restrictions: I must keep it small scale and it must be under an hour. Those limitations are challenging because I'm not a really a small scale thinker. Everything I dream of is bigger than what we do at Fringe (that's one place where Tara provides balance because she's good at thinking small). And while I actually prefer an hour long play, there's almost no market for works like that outside of other Fringe Festivals, and traveling to other Fringe Festivals is extremely difficult unless you think small scale. 

For the rest of the world, nearly all theatre is either 90 minutes or longer, or 15 minutes or less. So my challenge now is to write longer works, which is one thing I hope to get out of being part of the new Midwest Dramatists Center. Some people might say, "Why not just make your Fringe shows longer," but I choose the shows I do for Fringe specifically because they will only work as one acts. I have a list of ideas for longer plays, but they're all more ambitious than my Fringe shows, and require resources far beyond what I can do as an independent producer, so it will require seeking out bigger opportunities. In the meantime, there's always going to be another Fringe to prepare for, so there's a possibility that I'm now stuck in that annual cycle. It's not a bad place to be stuck - Fringe is an amazing showcase for local playwrights unlike anything else in Kansas City - but artistically and financially a playwright needs more.

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