After experiencing and fully enjoying day one of the Fringe festival, I think it goes without saying that I was looking forward to day two. After loading up on coffee, I headed out to see my first show of the day, Shades of Shel at St. Mary’s Lyceum. Now, when most people (at least most younger people) think of Shel Silverstein, we think of the Giving Tree; how wonderfully he crafts poetic stories for children! Little did I know, Shel Silverstein also wrote tons of poetry to adults as well (his work was often featured in Playboy magazine). The man bringing these little known gems to life was named Sean Miller, and, in the intimate setting of me, two other audience members, and him sitting in a circle, he captured all of us as he wove through Silverstein’s words. The way Miller utilized the possibilities of the voice created a crystal clear movie reel in my head. His delivery of not only the words, but also of Silverstein’s original characters, was smooth and natural. Although there was only one man on stage, I felt like I met many characters that day. It’s one thing to memorize an hour’s worth of poetry, but it’s even more brilliant when that poetry is successfully brought to life, which Miller definitely did. A wonderful kick off to my day.
Following a small break in my day, I returned to St. Mary’s to see Ukie Fusion by the Slava Dance Company. The brainchild of artistic director, Natalie Kapeluck, this performance explored what it is like to grow up “a Ukie fusion,” raised in the US, but with Ukranian background. The way the dancers brought Kapeluck’s choreography to life juxtaposed modern dance with traditional Ukranian dance clearly and beautifully. With the addition of a narrator, telling audience members between numbers about what it’s like to grow up a Ukie fusion, I felt like I was truly learning about something I knew nothing about. For me, being able to learn about others through movement and artistic expression is one of the deepest ways to understand a person or idea and I felt that the expression and passion of this performance was incredibly strong. Having a modern dance background myself, I was amazed at the technicality and skill of the dancers. Not only that, but they all seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves and their time dancing with each other. I was also taken by the music. At the end I found out that most of it was fusion music, only a couple songs were traditional Ukranian. The music along with the dance paid homage to the brilliance of culture and the ways our cultures mix. I left Ukie Fusion wanting to dance (which is always the sign of a great show)!
Later that night I headed to see Passing Through at the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy. This was a show written by a group of friends and artists bouncing off of their own personal experiences with friendship, love, and art. By setting the show in the James Street pub around the premise of open mic nights, the actors developed a comedic drama between friends that I felt myself feeling like I was truly witnessing. The show also featured a house band and various other musical performers, all of which were amazing, adding much energy to the rest of the show. The chemistry between the actors and their relationship with the space flowed really, really well. Utilizing the whole room, I found myself always turning my head to see what was going to happen next— where are they going? What are they doing? By immersing the audience in a relatable and engaging atmosphere, the creators of this performance really succeeded in their exploration of life, friends, and change.
My last Fringe festival show, and quite possibly the funniest performance I have ever seen in my life, was a one-man show called The Eulogy. Michael Burgos, a performer from Washington D.C. wrote and self-directed his genius parody of a funeral. The story is that he is burying his old “friend,” who he actually hated. The words themselves were hilarious and Burgos delved fully into his quirky, almost off-putting character through his use of meticulous body movements and blocking. Although he was one person the whole time, Burgos incorporated many different characters into that one man, adding to the craziness of the character. I was astounded at how much energy he not only kept himself, but also all of the energy he transferred to me as an audience member. The way Burgos interacted with audience members through eye contact as well as words was impressive to say the least. Burgos presented a fully developed, unique, and hilarious show. As I said, I’m not sure if I’ve ever laughed that hard at a performance and that’s saying a lot. I was so glad I didn’t miss this!