A Fresh New Fest
By Megan Kosmoski
It's hard to believe the Fourth Annual Infringe Fest took place just a few weeks ago, spreading across the city of New Orleans. Venues in the Marigny-Bywater, St. Roch, Central City, and MidCity hosted a wide variety of live art!
2019 marked the first year that our New Orleans theatre festival was under the leadership of Jon Broder, Executive Director at the Big Easy Awards. While the festival stayed true to what our community knows and loves about the event: showcasing new work from local and national performing artists running the gamut from musicals to performance art, dramas and comedies, solo shows, original multimedia shows, burlesque and drag; there were also a few new aspects to the festival!
The InFringe Information hub at the Healing Center was a great addition, providing a central location to get tickets, passes, and information on what was happening. It was a little out of the way on the second floor, but once you knew where to look, it was a great resource!
Artist passes were another brilliant idea! The fact that every performing artist was given a pass for free rush tickets for any other show in the fest allowed companies to support each other and provided an incentive to see work they otherwise may have looked over.
The pre-festival happy hour was a fun event at which to mingle and hear about shows, and for artists and community members to meet each other and get excited for the festival. People exchanged postcards, local artists met out of town artists, and everyone commiserated about tech rehearsal. It was a great way to create camaraderie among the shows before a stressful weekend.
The Bardo Lounge made its debut at the happy hour! The Bardo Lounge was a moving venue at the festival, a short bus that hosted three productions in InFringe and was parked at a new location every night. It could only seat 10 people at a time so every performance was very special. We hope this will be brought back for festivals to come!
The closing night party was a rocking way to end our theatre marathon weekend! The event hosted at DBA featured drag, burlesque, and an amazing performance by Jessie Tripp and the Night Breed. Congratulations to every artist, volunteer, staff member, and contractor who worked on this year's festival, what a success! We are excited to see what is in store for inFringe Festivals to come!
New Orleans Box Office really enjoyed having six local reviewers running from venue to venue over the 4 days of the festival. This year they reviewed a total of 16 shows, next year we would love to cover the entire festival!! If you are interested in writing for us next year, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
In case you missed this year's festival, here is the entire round up of our reviews from InFringe 2019:
R+B: A Night of Synsuality! (Synamin Vixen, New Orleans)
Producer Synamin Vixen created a sexy, sensual experience with R+B: A Night of Synsuality! Each night was different, combining the skills of amazing burlesque performers and singers, focusing on styles of the African Diaspora. The genres ranged from classic jazz standards to contemporary hits, with the four themes described as Royal, Rhythm, Reggae, and Ratchet.
Each night was an absolute treat as these professional burlesque performers and vocalists surprised the audience at every turn. Synamin Vixen, along with co-host John Lacarbiere III, involved the audience as part of the show with their playful hosting and love for the performers. The vast range of talent from the performers kept the audience on their toes, from professional burlesque performer Jeez Loueez taking us to church and later giving us a tap dance treat, to the masquerading spider Anjle Latiha giving us nerdlesque Spongebob and later seducing us with a giant tentacle, the audience never knew what was going to happen.
Each night included different vocalists to add to the incredible talents on stage. Laveau Contraire left us in awe with their vocal range in “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here”. On Sunday’s performance, Mahalia Abeo Tibbs gifted us amazing original work that left us wanting more. This show included the most amazing combination of talent and genres to celebrate the range of styles within the diaspora. I hope to see many more shows produced by the talent of Synamin Vixen!
Corrijeune Collective Presents: DRIFT (Corrijeune Collective, New Orleans)
DRIFT transports the audience to another dimension to witness a very eerie, collective ritual. The cast of Corriejeune Collective works together as a mysterious and spiritual unit. The many facets of this performance worked together to assist in the shift: the obscure and mesmerizing projections, the dim yet intense lighting, the entrancing and sinister body movements, and the intense soundscape. As the audience entered the space, the ritual had already begun as if it has been eternally taking place.
The show was split thematically and shifted between a geological and metaphysical landscape including Earth, Water, Air, and Fire. The beautiful and sinister soundscape included a keyboard, synthesizers, a harpist, and affected vocals to accentuate the eerie tone of the show. Projections included amoebic figures floating in the background, but there were times that it did not always seem to completely align with the performance. Ideally, the projections would be a seamless part of the performance, but due to logistics, they were projected on a white sheet on the back curtain.
The performers bodies moved beautifully together working as one unit. In the middle of the performance, an aerialist performed on silks in the lobby as the collective gathered underneath her. This was a highlight of the performance, watching this beautiful scene in the lobby as the “leader” of the ritual was still on stage, frantically pacing in juxtaposition.
This avant-garde dystopian performance was completely immersive and intense, becoming overwhelming at times. The audible spoken lines at the end of the show, “our bones are burning,” was representative of how I was feeling at that moment. The ritual concluded around a beautiful, haunting flame created on stage. Even after the lights came up for the curtain call, the performers and the audience took a breath together to shift back to reality, after which they gave their applause for the performance.
Love Songs for the End of the World (Caroline Fourmy, New Orleans)
Love Songs for the End of the World is an impressive force of acting and musical talent.
The music! Come for the music! Stay for the belly laughs and tears. Fourmy’s one woman show, which she also wrote and wrote original songs for, tells the story of Eve as she becomes bored with the monotony of perfection in the Garden of Eden. When she asks God if she can listen to another song rather than the repeated gorgeous music that is offered in Eden, God pushes back with a warning that she will hate him for the doubt and the suffering that will come from leaving perfection. But go she must and God obliges, promising to stay connected to her through music messages. Off Eve goes into the world and suffers she does with a montage of challenges, choices and keen and timely observations to face in the world.
Creative music narrates her new path. There is SO much to love and pull from this show but please attend if only to hear Caroline Fourmy’s skillful and effortless voice artfully being used to uphold a gorgeously hopeful and serpentine story of losing and finding oneself through a divine relationship with the great mystery of life. In addition, the clever use of music to move the play along is executed to marvelous affect—leaves you bopping your head along as the play weaves you through a complex HILARIOUS resiliency, strength and honest hope. The play is heart warming in unexpected places and got deep laughs from the opening night crowd.
You can expect: to cry and reflect, to laugh deep in your belly, to hear THE MOST AMAZING BEAUTIFUL SINGING VOICE EVER PLEASE DO NOT MISS THIS, amazing lighting design, creative use of music as a narrative force, pro acting chops. This one is a do not miss!
Unbridled & Unbossed (No Lye Comedy, New Orleans)
Respectable. Responsible. Thick but fit. These are just some of the expectations put upon black women daily. In 'Unbridled & Unbossed', a cast of all black women performers shred these expectations as they shed their clothes and bare their souls through comedic monologues and burlesque.
No Lye Comedy’s Unbridled & Unbossed is a firestorm of comedy, burlesque and vulnerability. The combination of monologues based in the women’s immediate and very real life experiences followed by a literal strip down endear us to them.
The burlesque becomes participatory, and more than just tossing dollars on the stage (which you should do!) You are cheering them on not just for showing the unmentionables but because through their monologues you’ve feel like you know them each by the end of the show. The women of No Lye Comedy quite literally hold nothing back and do not fail to give a performance we feel lucky to have seen.
LARRY (Candy Bones Theatre, Canada)
Larry is the tale of a beer guzzling Canadian dum dum guy who performs a show when the real performer is unable to make it. He figures, how hard can it be to put on an entertaining show?
Canadian clown artist Candice Roberts embodies Larry and it is clear that she has done decades of research knowing the ins and outs of men like this in her life because she nails it in a way that had me GUT laughing for the entire performance.
How did Larry do this? I am still so blown away, there was a moment half way through where I was like, I want to not like this as much as I do! Why did I think that? Cause Roberts as Larry is leaning SO heavily into hyper masculine stereotypes while Larry journeys to be a woke guy, that I want to not like this dad joke making, out of touch, over the top, clown. But that is just it. Roberts is a PRO clown, bringing so much to this character and making such a unlikeable, stereotypical person very lovable and very personal. JEEZ I really want to give away the surprises laced throughout the show but I can not because that is not how reviews work but I urge you to see this.
You can expect to laugh your ass off and love this character and be surprised. The set design and props made were a delight to watch be unveiled, the use of minimal things to change a seemingly simple set into a full on spectacle blew me away. Light design was amazing, set design was amazing! Check it out.
EAT ME by Jen Pagan, New Orleans
Eat Me is a delectable tribute to food and sex. Jen Pagan takes us through an intimate history of her experiences learning how to find pleasure in cooking and making love, all while whipping up an exquisite pasta puttanesca and strawberry chocolate cake, which the audience gets to share in a communal feast at the end of the show.
Integrating excerpts of video from well known films and lesser known corners of the food porn archive, Jen weaves mythology of creation and cultural representation into an amusing and heartfelt story, exploring her mistakes and joys in love and in the kitchen. Calling in characters from her family, including both her grandmothers and her father, as well as a litany of former partners, from her first boyfriend to her most recent ex, she achieves a rare balance of personal revelation and communal joy in the most essential human pleasures.
The line, “The smell from the kitchen affected everyone who came into the house” captures the audience’s experience of infectious sautéed garlic saturating the theater and setting us all at ease. Delicious in every sense.
PERSONAL SPACE (Ben Fox, New Orleans)
An absolute delight! Quirky and funny and heartwarming, this sci-fi musical written by New Orleans local Ben Fox, was a great way to start off day two at the InFringe Fest!
PERSONAL SPACE is Douglas Addams meets book musical meets British gay sitcom, with catchy lyrics, jazz hands, and big dance numbers, extreme pessimism, a decapitated ghost, falling meteorites, has-been pop stars, gay bars, the drag dimension, and an impending supernova of the entire universe. The musical talents onstage are amazing and are accompanied by a live upright bass setting the perfect mood and tone for this eerie and campy show.
The characters are endearing and at the end you may even tear up (if not from feelings, from giggles... how could you not with lines like. “If being a gay man were an art form, anal expression would be my medium”)
ALL 100 FIRES (Donna Oblongata, Philadephia, PA)
Comedy, Solo Show
Donna Oblongata draws on traditions of clowning and military history (hailing from Philly feels important to note) to create All 100 Fires, a one-person show depicting a revolutionary fighter at the end of his rope, mourning the loss of his brother and struggling to find meaning in the senseless fight as he trains new recruits (the audience) through exercises like “pass the sponge,” a hilarious maneuver I’ll let you experience for yourself.
All audience participation balances on the thrilling precipice of pleasure and danger, as the revolutionary character is simultaneously aggressive and compassionate towards the plight of his comrades. After all, the rules of the revolution as stated are, “no insubordination, desertion, or being defeatist,” creating a militaristic Lord of the Flies-esque atmosphere that is both hilarious, poking fun at its own absurdity, and deeply sincere, envisioning a better world. As the unnamed character tells us, “You can’t win [the war] without some delusion,” and fantastical elements like delicate bird puppetry, Mozart wafting from a boombox, and shadow puppetry on an overhead projector (à la Manual Cinema) lend softness and idealism to the otherwise grisly, apocalyptic world of the play.
Tongue-in-cheek and deadly serious, this gripping work makes you question both what is worth fighting for, and just how little you know about ornithology.
OUT OF SYNC (CC Falcon, New Orleans)
Out of Sync breaks the drag rules by giving us not just singular song performances but a narrative to lace them together with a well coiffed bow.
We follow a diverse group of queens that immediately push our expectations. We watch the performers get drugged and cursed, left to speak only in an inner voice they’ve never shown the world. I wanted more at the jump to establish who these queens were pre-curse/drug so I could feel a bit more attached to their dramatic changes. Even missing that bit of backstory I felt we had reached a new destination by the last two numbers.
You leave feeling endeared to the cast’s journey to self-acceptance and with more than one song stuck in your head. For the drag and theatre fan alike, check out Out of Sync.
Mary Full of Gray (Brittany N Williams, New Orleans)
Drama, Solo Show
The best thing I have seen at the InFringe so far! Stunning and captivating.
Brittany N. Williams’ solo show is masterful, in only one hour she takes the audience on a journey through the complicated life of Mary Jane Richards: born a slave, given “freedom,” sent to Libera, brought back, married off, asked to spy for the union, and finally sees liberation. Williams is a brilliant performer switching between characters seamlessly, an endearing and cunning Mary, the reserved and proper Miss Van Lew, an intimidating and terrifying police officer, the manic and threatening Davis. From physicality, to her voice, her characterizations were impeccable.
The Wonderland was the perfect venue, you automatically feel like you are transported to another time, the audience comes in to this beautiful big southern home, sit on lavish couches in a warm living room and then they hear Williams beautiful voice carry the gospel “Down By The Riverside.” From beginning to end I was hooked. Prepare to fall in love with an incredible woman and her unbelievable story.
HOW TO EAT A BEAR (Luke Balagia and Mack Stine, Orlando, FL)
How to Eat a Bear is the bro-comedy-satire-musical we didn't know we all needed.
Mark and Dave are best friends with something to prove, that everyone's version of adulting isn't all that fun. If they could just kill and eat a bear everyone will know they have their shit together. Their persistent chemistry through their misadventures and over-the-top hyper-masculinity is the tie that binds this show together, their comedy is unrelenting and perfectly timed.
As an audience there is hardly anything that beats, people on stage having just as much fun as you. The entire show the audience is in on their inside joke: the incredible ability to laugh at not only themselves but the expectations that external narratives pressed on our lives by some script no one asked for. By their words "one song makes it a musical," and considering this one has three it's essentially broadway bound. The songs are surprising and mostly unnecessary but I'm not mad about it considering the level of performance this cast pumps into every second of this show.
How to Eat a Bear is great, I'd definitely seek out anything these guys write again. Go see this show if you want to laugh and eat free gummy bears.
CANDY COTTON (Daiquiri Rene Jones, New Orleans)
Beautiful Daiquiri Rene Jones and his banjo do not disappoint in this poetic, mellifluous, meandering, anecdotal personal history of blackness, identity, and dreams.
Reckoning with New Orleans’ history of slavery and gently exploring Afrofuturistic themes (both through subaquatic comic book magic and a trip to space), Daiquiri delicately intertwines threads of deeply intimate experience with systemic realities (psychology, algorithms, racial profiling, etc.), and original music on the harp, banjo, and various foley instruments, making good use of a loop pedal.
In Friday’s performance, Lolly Mariah/Natalie Tolbert acted as a female counterpart to Daiquiri’s narration, singing exquisitely and expressively moving to embody the storytelling. In an off-the-cuff remark Friday night, Daiquiri said, “It’s funny, but it’s also sad,” which perfectly summarizes the experience of Candy Cotton: it’s just as easy to get swept up in the delight as the tragedy.
Our Unmentionables (Artivism Dance Theatre, New Orleans)
Dance/ Performance Art
Through a combination of movement pieces and brief scenes, Our Unmentionables, explores the impact of creating taboo topics in a society that strives for a sense of equality as opposed to equity.
Supported by music across genres, Peggy Orienstein’s 2016 TEDWomen talk, a news clip featuring PEPSICO’s former CEO Indra Nooyi, and a few company produced voice-overs, the company of five performers, through movement, initiate a discussion around topics that go undiscussed, unnamed, and unsolved. At Ashe’s Cultural Center this latest production from Artivism’s Dance Theater will lead you to examine and question the part you play in remaining silent or speaking out against unexamined themes connected to gender, sex, and reproductive justice.