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.
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.