This past weekend I got to partake in the inaugural Pittsburgh Fringe Festival. Over the course of three days I got to see six of the shows that were presented throughout Shadyside, and here are my insights into those shows:
First, I got to see “Women Say Fuck, Too” produced by the Pittsburgh Lab Project. The show, written by C.S. Wyatt, tells us the story of three women’s daily lives as they graduate from college and move on to bigger and better things. The show’s director, M. Reagle, does her best with the space (Steel City Improv) to differentiate between the local bar, a yoga studio, and the girl’s backyard as the women tell of their sexual explorations and desires.
The same night I got to see the No Name Player’s production of [best imitations] by Jeremy Richter and directed by Don DiGiulio. Taking place in a Winchester Thurston classroom, the show featured a songwriter at a bar with his muses. The muses soon become self-aware and begin fighting the creative process. [best imitations] was a fabulous show, but the classroom created a few challenges that limited the small scale musical from reaching its full potential.
Across the weekend I was also able to take in “If There Were Such a Thing as Happiness” by Jenniffer Schaupp and produced by the Kaleidoscope Collective. This show had the best space of any of the shows that I saw across the weekend, in the Courtyard Theater of Winchester Thurston (aka the playground). Erby, the show’s main character, is bathing in her backyard when a newly religious man comes to return the ashes of Erby’s father that he had stolen. Erby uses this time, while still bathing, to get to know the man and discuss means of happiness and the reasons for religion.
Our next show took me to the Boys and Girls Club of Shadyside to see the Brawling Bard Theater’s world premiere of “The Compleat Guide to Murder and Mayhem by Will Shakespeare.” This theater company uses stage combat to retell Shakespeare’s stories, and ‘Murder and Mayhem’ is no different. The show was written by Alan Irvine and features Tonya Lynn’s fight choreography to show how Shakespeare found the inspiration on a large portion of his famous stories.
Later that day, after lunch I might add, I got to see a company from Scranton PA’s show, “The Darling Core,” also at the Boys and Girls Club. The show was devised by The Vintage Theater and starred Simone Daniel and Conor O’Brien (Pittsburgh Stage’s pick for best festival actor) as two Vaudeville traveling actors and their backstage problems. This Pittsburgh premiere was a dark comedy that uses classic vaudeville techniques that are incorporated with ‘modern convention and tone.’ One of my favorite shows from the festival.
After taking a little bit of a break—I will say seeing this much theater in one weekend can be overwhelming—I was able to take in Thoreau, NM-A Production Company’s show “Hell with the Lid Taken Off.” This world premiere was a collection of monologues from various Pittsburgh playwrights (Robert Eisenberg, F.J. Hartland, John Zygmunt, and quite a few others) dealing with bigger themes that were set in our local communities. The ensemble cast featured a ton of great Pittsburgh actors, Joel Ambrose, Barb Sawatis, Magie Mayer, and Robin Beruh (Pittsburgh Stage’s choice for best festival actress).
Overall the first ever Pittsburgh Fringe Festival was a great weekend of theater. I look forward to reporting on next year’s event, and seeing how new companies take the struggles of non-traditional theater spaces and using them to their advantage to create new and interesting pieces of theater. Until next year…