Thursday, August 23, 2007

Follow Your Heart

Does something really need to have "Osage" in its title? I mean, I don't even know how to pronounce that.

So, this week, my full force week, I had a debate with Don Summa, famous press agent of Rent and Hairspray, and I was right and he was wrong and he refused to believe it. Here was what the debate was about: I got a release about the Caesar and Cleopatra at Stratford and Christopher Plummer was in the headline and somewhere buried in the middle of the release was Anika Noni Rose. My opinion was that Anika should also be in the headline because more American publications, like ones that follow more than theater, would care about her than would care about Christopher Plummer (I was not arguing that this is how it should be, but, rather, just that this was in fact the case). Don disagreed. I feel my readers should back me up here. Again, I am not arguing that Anika is a bigger star or more talented or anything like that, I am just saying that, as she is in the middle of shooting a big movie and is also voicing The Princess in The Princess and the Frog, the fact that she is returning to the stage might garner more ink among mainstream publications than yet another Christopher Plummer performance. (I sense I am going to get hate mail for this... please stop yourself. I am willing to hear well-reasoned opinions, but I'll likely always think I'm correct.)

Ok, now that that is off my chest... Let's talk about what is wrong with the Fringe. Anyone? I don't get it. Why do people want to go to European Fringe festivals and yet dread going to ours? As years have past, the campy stuff is what gets progressively more attention at our Fringe. Is that the problem? Should Fringe be more for daring things and less the home of musicals about aliens taking over farms? Is there anyway to turn Fringe around? Do we care? Today I went to a Fringe show... and then I got home and I read the big Village Voice thing on how Fringe can be improved (as two Playwrights Horizons employees insisted to me it was genius). And I realized, I could just forget about the Fringe entirely and not be any the worse for it. Is that sad? Eh.

I personally am one of those that decides what Fringe shows she is going to by the art on the postcards. I choose like 6 postcards and then I end up going to like 3 things tops. Because nothing sounds that fascinating. So there has never been a Fringe show that I thought "Wow, I can't miss this." There have been ones I really enjoyed, but, nothing so amazingly special. You know, before I started in this business, I always thought things at the Fringe were things that were produced there because they were edgy and couldn't have a commercial life anywhere. Then, when I started working in this business, I realized that most of it is just marginal entertainment. And, I don't know, maybe it's all about giving little things a shot. I'm all for that. Is that what our Fringe stands for? Is that what all of them do? If there is a way to save this Fringe, I would think it would be to do less Urinetown-esque musicals. But is that what everyone wants to see? I mean, those 3 I see are generally musicals. So, in all, I think it's just fairly impossible to come up with a plan at this point. John Clancy suggested in The Voice doing away with the judging system and just letting anything be part of Fringe... That to me just smells trouble. I don't think downtown theater owners are more capable of judging works than the Fringe people--so I don't really think that will help and I also think a little pandemonium might ensue. Then the guy from Philly said something about having two festivals at the same time--PLEASE--NO MORE FESTIVALS. I want the proliferation of festivals to stop as much as I want Kimberly Grigsby's dance conducting to stop (which is to say a lot). So, yeah, I'm against both those plans. But I offer nothing in place of them... I genuinely don't know what could turn the Fringe around. And, also, the more I think about it, I also don't know whether it matters that much. I think that is something to think about.


Anonymous said...

I ran upon your blog by mistake and was captivated by some of your bold opinions.

I do agree with you that Anika should get Top Billing- She is now an up and coming media star and Christopher Plummer is was a star 40 years ago. If you want to get people other than the 70+ geriatrics to go to theatre, you have to market the young up-and-coming starlet.

Regarding your comments re 13 winning some nominations. I saw it in LA and HATED it. I loved Parade and loved Songs from A New World. 13 is no different than Disney's High School Musical- there's no racism, no drugs, no alcohol and no sex (the boys brag about getting to first base, for crying out loud!)

As for your other far reaching Tony forecasts- I think the Farnsworth Invention has a good chance of getting a nomination. I saw the workshop production in San Diego and found it very well written and directed.

As for Catered Affair, I think John Doyle is grossly over-rated as a director, but the cast is amazing and John Bucchino is an amazing composer-lyricist. I think he'll rise up to the challenge and write some amazing songs for the show.

As for Cry-Baby, I'm a bit worried about the first time musical composer-lyricists and about Mark Brokaw directing a musical. He has very little experience directing musicals but I could be pleasantly surprised.

RLewis said...

I'm thinking that there are some things that Festivals do well and some things they don't - the nycfringe is no different than the rest of 'em. They usually do postcards well, but I'd be surprised if that gets you to a "Wow, I can't miss this" show. And since your blog rep's you as such a Broadway baby, I don't know if any Festival show is going to do it for ya.
But maybe consider that the show you're going to see had a show before it and will have a show after it - in like 10 minutes. This presents infinite pitfalls that the artists don't confront until their all-to-brief tech' rehearsal, and by then they've already had to make choices that the audience just has to live with.
Under those circumstances, musicals and big ensemble pieces might be more of a risk, whereas Festivals usually show solos and 2-handers in a much better light.
I'd say if you ever give the Fringe another shot, consider if there more than anywhere - less is much, much more.