Review: Atlanta Fringe Festival Turns Two

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Kelly Taylor Mitchell: Kin, Spirit, Seed on view at Westobou Gallery, Augusta

For the second consecutive year, the Atlanta Fringe Festival displayed quality performances from individuals and performance companies from all over the country that embody the experimental, the strange, the original and the courageous. Fringe—a not too familiar but appealing word, especially to many not incredibly interested in what the commercial, main stream or popular industry offers, yet still seek high quality, artistic execution. There were twenty-four performances, executed multiple times over five days, giving audiences plenty of opportunities to be awed by the festival’s artistic variety. Here are just a few performance highlights from the festival:

Chance and Choice—A “choose your own adventure” style dance performance by The W’s Project. Audience members were asked to respond to the MC through body movement or sound to determine which segment they’d see first. The show I attended was “Wave,” followed by “Wiggle,” both of which were divided into three segments. “Eve” choreographed by Jackie O’ Toole, performed by Sarah Bernard, Kimberly Parks and Camerin Watson, was dynamic and executed with great skill.

Is That Your Reel Hair?Tiffanie Bridges’s entertaining one-woman show by a self proclaimed “wig and weave connoisseur.” Bridges engages the audience as she makes several costume and hair changes, performing the songs of her superstar idols—Diana Ross, Cher, Madonna, Beyonce, Tina Turner, Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston and more. Bridges’s voice is powerful and her stage presence is at times ungraceful for intentional comic effect.

Tiffanie Bridges from "Is That Your Reel Hair?" courtesy the Atlanta Fringe Festival.
Tiffanie Bridges from Is That Your Reel Hair? courtesy the Atlanta Fringe Festival.

Face On the Barroom Floor—This thirty-minute opera is set in an old west saloon in Colorado. The live piano player adds a level of legitimacy to the performance as the singers unravel a tale about how a painting on the floor of a barroom came to be.

Kirsten Stolle's Only You Can Prevent A Forest on view at Halsey Institute through Dec 10, 2022

Them Shoes and Other Shorts–The lively five person cast out of the Horizons School is committed to weirdness and their eighteen experimental short pieces challenge everything an audience has ever expected from theatre. Four of the shorts, “Quartet 1,” “Quartet 2,” “Quartet 3” and “I’ve Run Out of Characters,” consisted solely of cast members speaking or singing nonsensically. “Comcast Channels 440-449: A Quartet for 4 Voices” received a mix of laughter and cringes as the cast read through the list of porno titles and descriptions from the Comcast channel guide. Their performances are so unpredictable that when a choreographed dance piece resulted in one of the performers getting injured the audience just sat staring for many minutes, thinking it was part of the dramatics. Even after the audience was asked to step out of the theatre for a moment so the cast member could be tended to there were still suspicions that it was part of the performance, which turned out not to be the case. The cast member did continue in the rest of the show.

#Innerology—The program for Innerology states: “Now when we’re uploaded we can live forever/Cause a social network profile never dies.” This innovative play is set up so the attendees become the audience for an “information session” put on by the members of #Innerology, a cult with a technological foundation. After a round of testimonials about how becoming “activated” saved their lives, the members divided the audience into three groups—determined by the color of the bracelet each person was given upon entrance. Each group received a short, personal presentation by the members that culminated in audience members revealing themselves as planted actors and the near sacrifice of one of the members for betraying the cult. The play climaxes with the introduction of dragons, a giant smoking egg and mass suicide of the group. “That’s what Fringe is all about,” Molly Kristyn, head of Sponsorship and Development for the festival later told me, “showing people that like all art genres, there is plenty of theatre out there that is modern, outrageous, clever, weird, horrifying, exciting, enticing and like no other piece of theatre you’ve ever seen before.”

The cast of #Innerology at the 2013 Atlanta Fringe Festival, courtesy the Atlanta Fringe Festival.
The cast of #Innerology at the 2013 Atlanta Fringe Festival, courtesy the Atlanta Fringe Festival.

And They Said I Wouldn’t Make It…A Story of Hope— Based on the experiences of Sam Roberson, writer and star of the play, this is an autobiographical account of a young boy’s three-year battle with leukemia. The six-person cast delivers an extremely powerful and effective performance, rotating characters and using minimal props and costumes. Sam narrates throughout and often synchronizes lines with the other characters, proving to be a unique and effective technique. The script is simultaneously hilarious and gut wrenching. If any performance in the festival earns the laughter, tears and standing ovation from the audience, it is this one. The play aims to educate audiences about the struggles associated with leukemia as well as provide information about how everyone can participate in the bone marrow donor registry through the Make Me a Match Project.

Overall, the festival was well organized and professionally run. Many other elements, like the nightly after parties, available discounts with a low cost button, and Fringe Radio, featuring radio plays and more, were amazing addition to the festival’s programming. “We are the only Fringe in the world with Fringe Radio,” Kristyn said.

The Atlanta Fringe Festival truly is one of a kind, but they’re not done growing. Next year may include shuttle buses, more Fringe Radio and possibly Kids Fringe. No matter what improvements are made, Atlanta should take notice and get in line for tickets now.


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