The Playgoer: Carded

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Monday, August 11, 2008


by Brook Stowe

It begins with postcards. Big, fat pack of them in the mail. And I know it is that time again.

And though the pack is substantial -- maybe around 100 or so cards -- it's still less than half the total number of performers participating. Is it a random sampling, I wonder? Postage considerations? A lot of folks missed the deadline? One of those divine summer mysteries.

And though the mad abandon with which I attacked my first full Fringe Fest here five years ago has been tempered not insignificantly by an inordinate percentage of rampant, rattleheaded silliness and just plain BAD theater each year, hope springs anew with every early August when that pack of postcards arrives.

I like sorting through them. I like to see how each performer(s) represent themselves on a single, double-sided slab of slick, 4x6" card stock. Or not. The Redheaded Man -- to deal from the top of the deck -- offers a rather clinical diagram of a human brain whilst promising a "darkly funny" tale about a man with a "unique mental illness," which actually sounds a lot like my day-to-day life here in Gotham. The Home for Wayward Girls and Fallen Women promises "Thrilling Tassles, Flying Underpants and a Swell Time!" (I know, I know, I was just getting snarky about too much silliness, but done right, with the appropriate lack of good taste and, hey, airborne underwear ... ) The same might be said about The Gay No More Telethon where they aim to "get one thing straight ... YOU!"

Not that there won't be some meat to chew on this year, I hope I hope. Please, God, I hope. Imported from Baghdad by the Bay is Jennifer Jajeh's I Heart Hamas and Other Things I'm Afraid to Tell You and the Raptor Pack's Extraordinary Rendition -- which, from their blurbs and site links, look promising.

Almost all the cards have a URL. Most have a brief blurb. Present Tense Productions (no, not these folks) has neither. No blurb. No URL. Just a guy with red-ribboned blonde pigtails sucking a lollipop and a street address in Brooklyn. Minimalist. And probably my new neighbor.

I like to divide the cards into groups. I have this organizational thing, this earnest if ultimately futile desire to bring some semblance of order to an insistently chaotic world. I look for similarities and contrasts. Personal quirks and eccentricities (I systematically and with extreme prejudice rip all cards threatening "audience participation!" or "you decide the ending!" into toast crumbs lest I wander into my worst nightmare by mistake.) I look for ways I can write about groups of plays in one piece. Similarities. Differences. A glimpse, perhaps, into the way we really live, now.

And it's all underway! Now! And none of the plays and performances I'm either sure to see or already have seen (yes, my beauties, I have already partaken and shall share with you soonsoonsoon) -- none of these were represented in my postcard packet -- for whatever that might be worth -- but ones that were I hadn't yet heard of, ones like Carol Lempert's That Dorothy Parker, Rob Florence's Mirrors of Chartres Street and David Stallings' Anais Nin Goes to Hell, instill a fragile yet ardent desire within me to once again soldier on into the Fringe Binge.

And while I'm on the subject of shameless namedropping, here's a collective thanks to all who responded to my email of last weekend -- or whenever that was -- the one where I asked for suggestions of stuff to write about here. I kept up for awhile with individual thanks, but the response grew so overwhelming, I shrank away into a dark corner and sobbed uncontrollably.

But they were sobs of gratitude, and it didn't go on for too long. So if you sent in some 411 and I haven't gotten back to you, I hope this communal thanks will suffice, and please know I have saved everyone's responses in a "Playgoer" folder, which I am referring to often. August t'ain't all about the Fringe, y'know.

And while I'm on the subject of me, look what finally came my way today. Nine months later. Sheesh, that's time enough to hatch one of these.

Til next ...

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