Saturday afternoon brought more heat as we sat to see the theatrics of Woman in the Raw. I knew I would find something of interest as it became obvious we would be watching a single actress, Joanna Lowe. The play would have to be powerful, and grab our attention, and keep it by being real, raw, and significant, and it did all of that and more.
Writer, Jennifer Schaupp, along with director Sean O’Donnell wanted to present a very realistic portrayal of who and what we are with our modern society of Facebook, Pinterest, texting, emailing, and an endless parade of useless selfies. They presented it all with very strong emphasis on who women are in this wide open society where everything we do has either been digitized for presentation on the web, or frozen as an 8 mega pixel pic and then texted, or e-mailed to a friend who we haven’t seen in months or years, and yet we text them daily. Gone are the moments we would take to sip a cup of coffee with a friend, or a stroll through the park discussing our troubles as we seek an answer. How does all of this impact the woman? What are her limits? Should she even have limits? And who defines all of this, a focus group?
The actress did a fantastic job of presenting and interpreting the intent of the author. She braved the heat, which I thought so intense, and delivered a gem of a performance but now it’s gone and so is the festival. If you missed the festival, or Joanna Lowe’s performance, then you are less for not having the experience, and those who did are all the better. Woman in the Raw had been that good!
So much of our art, our music, and dance comes from, and has been influenced by a vast array of cultures from around the world. We often forget the amazing set of ingredients that have gone into the various art forms allowing them to develop into what they are today.
The Fringe Festival showcased some of the amazing inputs of out multifaceted society. Middle Eastern Culture found a platform to present itself in the Tapestry of Tales as presented by two incredible dancers. The dances were combined with rich musicianship, and the imaginative tales made famous by “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights.”
The dance and music were infused with modern beats and movements, and the richness of the individual performers thereby creating an inspiring presentation which bridged the gap of antiquity and modernity. The beauty of it all, proved the success of their efforts.
So much of the allure of the Middle East has been forgotten, or overshadowed by dark events of the current era. Thankfully, we were reminded how culture can bring so much more to the art world, and that art can ferment peace. How many of us do not know, or have forgotten about a time when Arabia had been the jewel of mankind. We must be reminded that Persia, now Iran, had once carved out an empire establishing tranquility for all. Much of what we were privy to came from these lost eras. Hence, Saturday’s presentations showed a naïve world how the magic of the desert, the moon, the camel and the oasis can lay out a world as imaginative and filled with adventure as any culture. We need only open our eyes and ears to the bedazzlement within the Folklore of this awesome land.
The time came for all seriousness to be left behind, and Tales Too Tall for Trailers fit the bill. This off kilter show came filled with hilarious songs, bizarre stories, surprising shadow puppets and a whole lot more. Paul Strickland and Erika Kate MacDonald joined the Pittsburgh Fringe for the first time and delivered a show which had the audience in tears.
Sure, this ingenious show played off on the stereotypes commonly seen in run down trailer parks, but they performed everything in a respectful manner. This show did not simply grab laughs at the expense of someone less fortunate. No, these two performers have put together a show of pure fun. Their skills were obvious, as their singing went along perfectly, and where their efforts required flawless timing, well, you could tell they had practiced and practiced to assure everything came off just so. These two are dedicated performers, and they very much deserved the applause and accolades they received.
The two, Paul and Erika, had great chemistry between them. It became obvious how much they enjoyed working together, and they appeared to feed off of each other’s energy and exuberance. Although, this had been their first time at the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival, these two are veterans of other Fringe Festivals throughout the country, and their experience paid off. What more can be said, when you are an expert at what you do it shows in the spit and polish of the performance. If you ever get the chance to take in their show, jump! Sure, they may play dumb, but these two are comedic geniuses.
Puppets, and puppeteers are they all gone? What relevance do they hold in today’s world, none? Not so, and the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival provided the stage to grant a moment once more to those who devote themselves to the not so lost art with Songs from a Lost Civilization and Other Stories.
Cheryl Capezzuti, Kellee Van Aken, and Kirsten Ervin presented to the audience the puppet, and they presented a small show to further reveal how the puppets are manipulated for laugher and enjoyment. They even included the puppeteers dressed in black so as to obscure them amidst the black back ground. This allowed the audience to imagine that the puppets are autonomous.
There seems to be something magical about the puppet. We love the puppet, and are more than willing to suspend our disbeleif. We want these small, curious looking forms to be real. We want to believe. Puppets do not have to be just for kids, and the show at the festival took the time to invite the audience to join in. They supplied puppets to small groups in the audience, and asked them to create a poem and then act out the poem with the puppet. All of us joined in and each seemed pleased with the results. This made for a memorable performance.
Sure, we think of Jim Hensen and the Muppets, and we think of Sesame Street, but there are so many more these days, and so much to consider. Remember, Jaba the Hut from “Return of the Jedi”, and certainly the hit show, The Walking Dead has used quite a few Zombie puppets. As a result, the Puppet and the Puppeteer continue on and still find a place in our modern society.