The sixth annual New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC for short) kicked off today with a press conference featuring excerpts from 11 of the 195 shows in this year's program. "We have participants coming from every inhabited continent," said FringeNYC Producing Artistic Director Elena K. Holy, adding that "we don't have little penguins."
While no flightless birds of the Antarctic appeared at the conference, there was plenty of ice courtesy of two performers from the ice-sculpting performance art piece Cryolumina, which will be presented outdoors at the East River Amphitheater during the Festival. The Incredible Edible Puppet Company offered a taste of its surreal Belly Button Dream, a kids' show which has a young girl with a detachable belly button at odds with ominous, puppet-headed people. There was more of the peculiar from Dan Piraro, creator of the nationally syndicated cartoon "Bizarro," in an excerpt from his The Bizarro Bologna Show that featured his head attached to a small, Humpty-Dumpty body.
Musicals are in good supply at this year's Fringe and four of them were on hand for the press preview. Paul Scott Goodman, whose Brights Lights, Big City played the New York Theatre Workshop a few years ago, opened the proceedings with a song from his musical Him and accompanied Liz Larsen as she sang a song from the show's companion piece, Her. The stars of Burger Boy Productions' Minimum Wage sang the snappy title song of that a cappella musical about life at Happy Burger #247. The young men of James Parker's boy band musical All American Boy busted out their moves in an N'Sync-style song and dance routine, and the cast of The Joys of Sex sang a chipper tune about sexual frustration and satisfaction.
Two of the Fringe's most hotly anticipated shows -- largely due to their high-profile stars -- are beat, a play about the life and times of Allen Ginsberg, with Dan Pintauro of TV's Who's the Boss fame; and Deviant, a comedy about extreme sexual fetishes, with Randy Harrison of Queer As Folk. Each offered up a provocative scene. Indie film actor Shiek Mahmud-Bey did a monologue from The Way Out, based on the true story of convicted murderer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. And Mad Magazine Senior Editor Joe Raiola shared some thoughts on religious (and anti-religious) extremism in a bit from his solo comedy Almost Obscene.
Between acts, Holy spoke about different aspects of FringeNYC, including its educational branch, Fringe U, and programs for children and high school students known respectively as Fringe Jr. and Fringe High. She also acknowledged the hundreds of volunteers that make FringeNYC run, noting that "everybody who works in this festival is a volunteer." It's worth noting that volunteers who work a full shift get to see a show for free; those interested should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
The New York International Fringe Festival runs August 9-25. "Given everything that New Yorkers have dealt with," comments Holy, "what better place for artists from all over the world to gather together than in downtown New York?"