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The Blizzard of Odd

A day-by-day look at what to expect from the eighth Cincy Fringe Festival

By Rick Pender · May 25th, 2011 · Onstage
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Are you ready for your eighth consecutive dose of weird? The 2011 Cincinnati Fringe Festival, presented by Know Theatre, kicks off next week for 10 days and more than 30 productions. What can you expect? Well, actually, the unexpected is what makes it fun. Some acts are returning; others are completely new. About half are local, supplemented by performers who tour their acts. This year’s schedule includes 13 plays, nine solo shows, two musicals, five dance pieces, two circus/variety acts and a walking tour.

The Fringe program was a 28-page insert in CityBeat’s May 18 issue, so don’t expect me to tell you everything. But I’ll offer a quick guide to good choices using a day-by-day approach. Study all the offerings and pick performances that appeal to you. (Buy a pass, which reduces the cost to see multiple shows.) Cincy Fringe uses Facebook and Twitter to keep you informed, and there’s an “official” blog at cincyfringe.com. In particular, look for CityBeat’s Fringe blog: Nine writers will catch the first performance of each act and write quick commentary to help you choose.

Venues are throughout Over-the-Rhine. Check out 1411 Vine for an intriguing collection of work, The Body Speaks: seven photos inspire dance, film and theater. Check out an exhibit of “calligraphic photos” by Sean Dunn. Dance company Pones Inc. responds with Movement, seven dances inspired by those photos, while Performance Gallery (a group returning for its eighth consecutive Fringe) presents Scripted, a response by six playwrights to the same images. Captured offers Golden Brown Enterprises’ cinematic response to the photos. The interpretations of this unusual collaboration are all presented at the same venue. Check for dates and times.


The Fringe kicks off with a kick-ass party at 8 p.m. at Know Theatre’s Underground, Know’s gathering place and watering hole (which is really only halfway underground — you can look into it from Jackson Street). The party, sponsored by CityBeat, features music by husband-and-wife team The Bengsons from New York City, a big hit at the 2010 Fringe. Cincinnati’s own Jon Evans Collective opens. Festivities continue until 1 a.m.

The Underground is also the site of fun every night June 1-11 at around 10:30 p.m. Watch for previews (June 1), a prom (June 3), Fringe Olympics (June 6), the “22.5 Hour Play Project” (June 7) and four nights of Fringe-A-Oke (June 2, 4, 5, 10), your chance to make a fool of yourself. Hang out and see who shows up. You’re likely to meet a performer you just saw onstage.


About one-third of the festival shows kick off tonight at eight different venues. The Hanke Building (1129 Main) has two spaces; one where dance pieces are scheduled. The first, at 8:15 p.m., is S/M/L (as in “small,” “medium” and “large”) from MamLuft & Co. Dance, based here in Cincinnati. The 90-minute piece explores three choreographers’ takes on scale and size.

In the “Hanke 2” space at 9 p.m., you can see Opal Opus: Journey to Alakazoo by Tangled Leaves Theater Collective, winner of the 2010 “Audience Pick of the Fringe” for Sophie’s Dream. Opal Opus is a “pop’ra,” according to its creators — writer, composer and performer Serenity Fisher and writer and coach Robin O’Neal Kissel. Their 90-minute work is described as “navigating the dark, whimsical, romantic, eccentric, creative processes of the soul.”

The temp-venue 1423 Vine is a renovated space awaiting a new life. It’s appropriate that its first show (at 7 p.m.) is Curriculum Vitae by Jimmy Hogg, a one-man piece about entering the world of work at a young age. He calls it “a user’s guide as to how to get a job.” His A Brief History of Petty Crime was well received during the 2010 Fringe.

Another new venue is ArtWorks (20 E. Central Pkwy.), the teen artist organization that fosters murals around town. Their Vance Waddell Project Space will host Headscarf and the Angry Bitch (7:30 p.m.) and White Girl(9 p.m.). The former is an irreverent monologue about the American Muslim experience by Zehra Fazal (it won the best solo performance in the 2009 Capital Fringe in Washington, D.C.); the latter is another solo work, featuring African-American performer Maythinee Washington in a piece about beauty and race through the filter of pop culture.

Know Theatre’s upstairs space is a nightly venue, of course. At 7 p.m., one of several circus-themed acts, Transfringement: Circus Mojo Refudiates the Norm, gets things started with politics, literary allusions, acrobatics and clowning. At 9 p.m., it’s a more traditionally theatrical piece, Denaliby Austin Bunn, winner of prestigious Pushcart Prize in 2010.

Working Group Theatre from Iowa presents the story of climbers attacking Mount McKinley in Alaska’s Denali National Park.


The FringeNext shows, assembled by Cincinnati-area high school students, will be offered today through Sunday at the black box theater at the new School for Creative and Performing Arts (108 W. Central Pkwy.). The Color of Harmony (7:30 p.m.) by an SCPA group is about a blind boy in 19th-century France; The First Book of: The Bible (at 9 p.m.), by another SCPA team, is about topics found in Genesis — sex, violence, thunder, lightning, plagues, circumcision, death and music. A group from Highlands High School presents Talk to the Hand, a satiric comedy about the mistreatment of left-handed people. (It debuts on June 3 at 9:15 p.m.)

Another third of the Fringe offerings kick off June 2. Those seeking traditional theater should check out two productions at Know. At 7 p.m., it’s Missing: the fantastical true story of my father’s disappearance and what I found when I looked for him. The “magical realist detective story” features Jessica Ferris, who performs solo pieces that connect intimate personal stories with wider social concerns.

At 9 p.m. you can see the return of New Edgecliff Theatre to the Fringe after an absence of several years. The troupe, whose home is in the East End, presents a new script, Darker, by playwright-in-residence Catie O’Keefe. The London-trained writer’s script is about a fellow with a sense of déj� vu about his new job at the Industri-Light Bulb Factory.

Artemis Exchange has had several Fringe hits (like A Perfectly Wonderful Evening in 2009 and Aberrant Reflections on the Barbarism of You & I in 2010; the latter heads to the Chicago Fringe in September). Peyote Business Lunch is this year’s offering (8:30 p.m. at ArtWorks), in which an applicant’s final interview for a job at an Indian casino turns out to be a peyote-fueled vision quest. Set at an Olive Garden, it comes with unlimited soup, salad and bread sticks.

Cara Harker, an assistant professor of dance and acting at East Tennessee State University will perform Memoir of a Mythomaniac: The True Story of a Compulsive Liar (or Tallulah Dies)at 9:15 p.m. (at Hanke 1). She fuses spoken word and dance to explore whether it’s better for a “delusional but bewitching heroine” to live in a world of her own creation or the real world.

Also at Hanke 1 is The VindleVoss Family Circus Spectacular (at 7), conceived by Karim Muasher and Carrie Brown, trained at the London International School of Performing Arts. It promises “free popcorn, belly laughs and death-defying thrills for children of all ages” as a down-at-the-heels mother and son try to reinvent the magic of a once-towering family circus. If circus acts appeal to you, you might also want to stop by Neons Unplugged (208 E. 12th St.) at 9:15 p.m. for Fire & Lightby Incendium Arts. It’s a cabaret-style fire performance by six artists using 15 props and tons of fire, set to an eclectic soundtrack.

At Media Bridges (1100 Race St., at 8 p.m.), CCM doctoral candidate Paul Schuette presents a live “experimental media barrage,” Music for Newspapers and Radios, a concert of compositions using newspapers and media to generate musical sounds, forms and ideas. John Cage’s “Water Walk” and “Radio Music” are on the program, as well as the Frequency String Quartet performing “no news is good news.”


Five more shows open today, including Rip in the Atmosphere (9:15 p.m.; Hanke 1) by Psophonia Dance Company, a piece that’s only in for three days, through June 5. The adventurous Houston-based company, back for its third Fringe, explores what happens when weightlessness ensues and everyday reality ends.

Melancholy Play by award-winning playwright Sarah Ruhl is the offering by the acting interns at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati (ETC). Tilly, a melancholic banker, spreads her sad influence all over town, then confuses everyone when she finds happiness. Ruhl’s worlds of magical realism have entertained Cincinnati theatergoers (The Clean House at Cincinnati Playhouse, Eurydice at Know Theatre and Dead Man’s Cell Phone at ETC), and this production ought to be worth seeing. (Friday-Sunday at 8 p.m.)

Kevin J. Thornton sings, tells jokes and entertains — in 2009 he offered the popular Sex, Dreams and Self-Control. This year it’s I Love You (We’re Fucked) (9:30 p.m. at ArtWorks), about a gay man looking back over the greatest loves (and sex) of his life. The show includes original music from his 2011 recording, January Dreams.

And if you want something that defies categorization, I suggest you try OTR 2081at MOTR Pub (1345 Main St.). Starting in 2081, you’ll take a trip “back in time” to 2011 Cincinnati. This walking tour will feature guides and re-enactors who provide insights into “pre-environmental meltdown city life,” checking out a coffeehouse, a parking garage and a nightspot in Over-the-Rhine. This one is from the folks who created the iPod-guided tour InnerCity in 2008 and Call Me, a 2009 film noir set in 1947 OTR.


On Fringe’s weekends you’ll find performances in the afternoons as well as the evening. The first weekend is also your only chance to catch one of two evening dance performances of Recurrence Plotby the Space/Movement Project from Chicago (Hanke 1). It’s a piece comprised of polarized solos, weight-sharing and layered gestures that reveal how predictability is elusive.

At Media Bridges (Saturday at 7 p.m.), The Lydia Etudes: About Loving Anton Chekhov, a solo piece by Dawn Arnold from Chicago, presents an intimate look at the Russian playwright through the eyes of a woman who might have been his one true love. Arnold, a veteran writer and performer, teaches acting techniques around the country.

Miss Magnolia Beaumont Goes to Provincetown (1423 Vine St.; Saturday at 7:30 p.m.) is an award-winning Fringe show about a Southern debutante who finds herself trapped in the body of a gay New Yorker. Joe Hutcheson’s solo show earned a 2010 Fringe NYC overall excellence award.

Early Sunday evening you’ll find debuts by two Cincy Fringe veterans: Four Humors Theater opens You Only Live Forever Once(1423 Vine, at 5:30 p.m.) a new ridiculous comedy from the Minneapolis troupe featuring danger, intrigue and the end of the world. The Venzin-Althaus Explosion comes back from New York City to offer 101 Rules for Dating (of which you will hear 20 or so …). It’s a hilarious instruction manual surveying dos, don’ts and watch-outs for the ever-changing world of dating. (Art Academy at 5 p.m.)


A quieter day, but don’t miss the Fringe Olympics at Know’ Underground around 10:30 p.m.


Two interesting one-time events tonight. The 22.5 Hour Play Project, which started June 6, culminates with plays that have been written, directed and rehearsed in less than a day. Show up at the Underground around 10:30 p.m. to see the results.

Earlier in the evening, you’re invited to a visual food art show at 1401 Vine St., Yes, You Can Eat It. Mayberry Chef Joshua Campbell presents a creative way to look at what you eat — with inventive twists on the appearance, taste and smell of many familiar foods. (Three seatings: 7, 7:30 and 8 p.m.)


Catch up with shows you haven’t seen yet.


Last chance for that show you’ve heard everyone else raving about. Then head to Know Theatre for the closing night party at 11 p.m. There, the ever-popular awards ceremony will hip you to which shows were the “picks” by producers, critics and — most importantly — the audience. (Remember to vote for you favorite.)

I leave you with the advice of Eric Vosmeier, Know Theatre’s producing artistic director and the ringmaster of the Fringe three-ring circus: “Stay weird, weirdoes.”

CINCY FRINGE FESTIVAL runs June 1-11 at various venues throughout Over-the-Rhine. For times, dates, full venue details and more, visit www.cincyfringe.com. Don’t miss the KICK-OFF PARTY at Know Theatre (sponsored by CityBeat) Tuesday, May 31.



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