I spent yesterday roaming around the North Side for the kickoff of the second annual Pittsburgh Fringe Festival. The Pittsburgh Fringe is designed to give small and independent artists a place to showcase their work, where they otherwise may not have that opportunity. This is my first experience with the Pittsburgh Fringe, and I will admit I was uncertain as to what I had gotten myself into. I have been to “alternative” showcases before and never know what to expect. If the rest of the weekend is anything last night, I am going to be upset when it is over.
The evening began in a rather eventful way. As I was checking in at the “box office” in Allegheny Commons Park North for my first show #ViralContentGenerator (by Matthew Russak and Shannon Knapp), a misguided young man decided to run off with the donation box. Luckily, Matthew Russak’s (co-writer) father was able to retrieve the money, becoming the hero of the evening, receiving the first round of applause. The audience honestly expected this ordeal to be part of the show, but when the police officers never took their bow, they understood.
#ViralContentGernerator could have also been named “2084”, as many of the motifs and reminded me or Orwell’s famous novel. It involved a group of girls that practically live in a social media detention center. They spend their waking hours feeding garbage content into the social sphere of the internet, driven by a mysterious manager to rack up shares. I laughed a lot during this show; the satirical portrayal of click-bait headlines is dead on. I wouldn’t quite categorize this show as” immersive theater”; a few actresses moved around the audience, but there was not a lot of interaction. That being said, the shows format worked well as it was, so nothing was really lost. It was also really nice to be able to sit under the shade of a tree and enjoy this show on a beautiful day, and you can too!
After #ViralContentGenerator I rushed over to East Ohio Street because I was running late for St. Jimmy Celebrates “Food at Our Feet” at Bistro to Go. Unfortunately, I missed curtain and the volunteers seemed suspicious of my “the last show was literally robbed” story. Lesson of the day: Do not be late! Fortunately our other writers Corey and John will be seeing it today and will fill you in. However sad I was about not being admitted into the show, it gave me the opportunity to satisfy my rumbling stomach. I popped into The Park House for a gyro and a beer where I met Billy the nicest German-Irish door man you’ve ever met and Jonny, who rolls his own cigarettes and is part of a “punk-folk” ensemble. None of this is relevant, only in that Pittsburgh Fringe is all about experience. Right?
I made sure I was the first in the door for Tales too Tall for Trailers; it too was held at Bistro to Go. I took my seat and became part of an audience of a trailer park variety show. Paul Strickland and Erika Kate MacDonald tell delightful stories while performing puppet shows and singing folk songs. The show is full of wit and puns and does not depend on stereotypes to get its laughs. The pair have a great chemistry between one another and the audience and the lighthearted atmosphere made for the perfect end to my first day of Pittsburgh Fringe.
We’ve got two more days left of nonstop action –can you keep up? I have four shows to hit today and will be back tomorrow with a report. I encourage you to see the shows and talk with the writers and actors; the venues and audience are very intimate. Let us know what you think, we would love to hear from you on online on our social sites or under #TPSdoesFringe.Ticket and show information for the Pittsburgh Fringe can be found HERE.