Fringe Day 2: Murder, Raw Woman and Bears, Oh My!

After the excitement of the first two shows of day one of the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival, I had to keep the momentum going. Therefore, I doubled up on shows and hydrating fluids and hit the North Side for a four show tour.

Actually, my day started in Shadyside for The Village Hotel at the Maker Theatre, written by Tyler Plosia.  I sat in the dark theater, as a strange relationship between a quiet hotel clerk and a young couple unfolds before me.  The Clerk (Chuck Timbers) is a mysterious gentleman whom, by some obscure inheritance, owns and operates the Village Hotel.  In addition to the interactions between the three characters, each of them has their own monologue. The young man(Michael Perotta) talks about his life growing up and his relationship with his father, while his girlfriend (Natalie Spanner) reflects on the abortion she underwent because he did not want the baby.  It was a solemn piece with a few holes that left me wondering.

I then make my way to Middle Street and headed to Max’s Allegheny Tavern for 5 Conversations. And a Bear. Naturally, I cooled off with a German pilsner as I waited for the show to start. Now, this show was not IN Max’s, although many of them were. This show was NEAR Max’s.  I stepped back out into the sunshine and joined a small group of people that had gathered around the people that were dressed “funny” (that’s how we found them).  5 Conversations. And a Bear is an excerpt, and even teaser, to the larger story of The Murder of Gonzago, which I got to see on Sunday.

It was fun, short sketch involving scandal and a large bohemian bear on the loose. It was my first experience with street performance and with that comes the unexpected.  Halfway through the performance, a man that looks to be a fifty year old, shirtless amateur body builder joins the crowd curiously (I confirmed this is the same man that does arm circles and lunges in Market Square during lunch rush). He laughs at the jokes and silently follows the story up until the line “where is my servant?” is shouted. Without missing a beat he yells, “Right here honey, whatever you want”.  The outburst was well played off by Gretchen Breslawski, everyone had a good laugh and the show went on.

Once the bear was subdued and the streets were safe, I made my way to Randyland for the one woman show by Jennifer Shaupp, Woman in the Raw.  Joanna Lowe performed the solo act on the raised deck, taking us through the morning routine and inner conversation of a woman questioning everything from fruits to having children.  It was a mixed bag of lighthearted and heavy pondering and Lowe connected wonderfully with the audience as if she were used to having an audience in her bathroom as she prepared for the day.

After the show, I notice a woman attending a cart littered with wax sealed envelopes; something seemed fringy about the scene. I stopped by and she explained that for a dollar, I could pick any envelope I wanted. She explained that some contained tickets, trinkets, or coins. I didn’t have to pay for parking so I went ahead and picked an envelope. It had a coin. She became very excited and told me that there was a very tall old man wandering around and that if I presented him with the coin, he would give me another with a destination on it. This was perfect – I had about an hour to get from Randyland to Neu Kirche and I had seen the old man walking around in the park the day prior. He had to be somewhere between there and Max’s.  I high tailed it through the park and caught a glimpse of him right as he turned a corner and ran to catch up. As I turned the corner and yelled “I have a coin for you!” he stops dead in his tracks and turns around slowly.  He silently inspects the coin I give to him and turns his pockets inside out. After some miming back and forth, he informs me he has run out of coins but if I find him tomorrow he will have one for me.

I walked over I-279 and landed myself almost directly in front of Neu Kirche, an old church, just before Beltane started. I ran into the cast of Intentional Icing outside and they warned me of the temperature upstairs and joking about trying to act as if you were cold while dripping with sweat.  Now, my grandparents went to a hot, stuffy church in West Virginia and I’ve spent a good amount of time in the South; the heat was manageable. Although, every other soul in the pews was sure to be seen using their programs as fans.

The show I saw was not named Beltane, as that is just a filler name. My performance was called The Body. This an improvised musical theater piece, therefore the theme and title were drawn from the audience and that was the last we saw if it. The first song included sounds and mention of the body but by the end (and I am not joking when I say this) there had been a strange revolution lead by a talking tree and a Baltic bodybuilder.  A song about healthy food turned into stealing all the lightbulbs and bombing newspapers and paper mills. I found myself laughing at my confusion for most of the show, but at times found genuine humor and entertainment in the antics of the four person act.

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