Oh, man, I can't believe that the Live Arts/Philadelphia Fringe festival is over! It seems like only yesterday I was leafing through the Gutenberg Bible that is the guide, and now it's gone, with the wind, but without the southern accents, obviously. I saw punk rock musicals and telenovelas and children's stories and dance and music and all kinds of delights, and that was just in one weekend. And while there was just SO much good in this year's festival, there was also a large ratio of struggle.And I'm going to focus on that because, well, petty as it may seem, it makes me feel better to point out the short comings of others. Yes, I know, but at least I have the guts to express what we are all thinking, right? Happy Yom Kippur to ME.
And so, without further ado, I present my rules to you for how to avoid making bad theater. You know how they say only a very good actor can play a very bad actor? You will be interested to know that in my experience this is not always the case...
1. Don't offend the costumer. Seriously, don't do it. She/He/They will make you look so bad that small children will run, scared, screaming from the theater. And anyone who manages to stay and watch will be consumed the entire show with the question of what the hell you did to the costumer to PUT YOU IN THOSE SHOES. They will construct elaborate theories of how you ran over their puppy while holding their grandmother hostage and seducing their significant other and remaining at least ten pounds thinner then them at all times. And whatever else you are doing on stage will not at all matter because all they will be thinking about is that poor puppy. I promise you, this can all be avoided if you just buy the costumer a cup of coffee and compliment their shoes. Be cool, okay? Don't offend the costumer.
2. Don't write a play that is solely about your last failed relationship/job interview/search for the perfect pair of skinny jeans. No one finds it as interesting as you do, and the fact that you sit in the front row crying during each run is a dead give away. Living well is the best revenge. Setting your last personal tragedy to the music of the Beach Boys isn't.
3. Don't assume that just because it's a Fringe Festival no one will notice the lack of lights/sound/plot just because you've included nudity. They totally will notice. They may not CARE, but they will notice.
4. If you absolutely must do a pure improv show (and the jury's still out for me on this one, unless we are talking about my friend Ned, hi Ned! who is legitimately great at improv) please be legitimately great at improv. Otherwise it's like watching a young boy's bar mitzvah, it's awkward, everything is cracking, and even the after-party booze doesn't erase all the memories.
5. Don't do anything by David Mamet. Admittedly, this one might be a personal preference, rather then a real rule. Nevertheless, I'm allowing it.
So that's my advice to you. Stick to these five basic rules and you should be okay. Or, make a show that is entirely composed of these five elements and let the chips fall where they may. Who knows? It might be so deeply bad it's secretly awesome, like, say, the new 90210 or Vegemite . If that turns out to be the case, can you score me a ticket? Because I totally want to come.
If I were to be completely honest with myself, I would say that I am a person of supremely eclectic tastes. For example, I enjoy both Klezmer Music and the stylings of Jay-Z, I like a cool crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc and well whiskey, I like quiet foreign films about relationships and I like Star Wars. Simply put, if my tastes were a vehicle, they would be the town bicycle, and almost everyone would get a ride. But if I can combine things, for example, listening to Klezmer, drinking wine and watching Star Wars, that's the optimal situation. So imagine my surprise and delight when Padre Struggle suggested that we spend our Labor Day NOT burning steaks on the grill or fighting through crowds of shwasted individuals of Italian American descent at the Shore, but rather attending the Pennsylvania Renaissance Fair. I, to be frank, kvelled.
Let me explain something here. I love the Renaissance Faire. I have always loved and will always love the Renaissance Faire, and no amount of public ridicule or private humiliation will ever sway me from my vast abiding love of the Renaissance Faire. I should make Greensleeves my RINGTONE that's how much I love the Renaissance Faire. And as fairs go, Pennsylvania has a pretty amazing one. Not only is it 30 years old and ridiculously well attended, but it has it's own winery and includes at least 25 different theatrical and musical shows, including swordplay, jousting, and wenches galore. I mean, what isn't to love? They have enormous turkey legs and funny hats! They have mediocre Chardonnay and jesters! They have glassblowing and a human chess match and at least seven stalls selling WINGS! It's a strugglers paradise! I mean, good Lord, it's such a struggle that it passes through the struggle barrier (that's just before the sound barrier) and actually goes through to the other side and becomes not struggle but success! Do you know how rare that is?
And so, as I enjoyed a hearty meal of Ye Olde Pannini and the Queens Greens, I found myself twisting my head with delight like a hysterical owl, desperately trying to take it all in. And my god, was there a lot to see. There are so many people who travel all the way to Lancaster, PA to watch people in Elizabethian outfits mangle UK accents, it's insane. And who I am to judge, really, since I'm clearly one of them. But considering that judging is like a form of breathing to me, may I just raise one point of censure, not to the Faire itself, but to the other guests of the event. As everyone knows, the Ren Faire (as those in the know call it) is an opportunity to dress up in period clothing and escape the realities of 2010 while still enjoying the amenities (period clothing, yes, period toliets, not so popular for some reason). But it's called the RENAISSANCE Faire, people, not the Elven Dr. Who Battlestar Galactica Belly Dancing Victorian Goth Slutty Vampire Disney Princess Faire! I mean, how could you even fit that name on a commemorative cup? Shape up, Pennsylvania residents, and when you come to the Faire, make damn sure you come prepared. That being said, thank you so much for the Hot Topic fashion show, that was fun. But maybe I should just relax, and take some advice from one of my favorite fictional characters, Howard Wolowitz:
Howard Wolowitz: Renaissance fairs aren't about historical accuracy. They're about taking chubby girls who work at Kinkos and lacing them up in corsets so tight their bosom jumps out and says "howdy". Sheldon Cooper: Bosoms would not have said "howdy" in the Fifteenth Century. If anything, they would have said "Huzzah!" Howard Wolowitz: I don't care what the bosoms say, Sheldon. I just want to be part of the conversation.
Leah Franqui is a fairly interesting person/director/writer/reader/eater/drinker. She likes ugly dogs and dislikes her hair in the morning. She's a sucker for environmental causes and plays hardball with deals on chewing gum. She is a struggle.