Fringe Festival to showcase naked ambition

By Matthew McQuilkin
Managing Editor

Now in its 11th year, the Seattle Fringe Festival will offer 91 productions by theatre companies a little bit to the left of the mainstream. This year's "Fringe Oddity" will yield plenty of the weirdest things imaginable, from a pyrotechnic bonanza to an underwear factory - and plenty of nudity.

According to Fringe Executive Director Kibby Munson, she hadn't noticed such a prevalence, but "people do use it as a marketing gimmick. In fact, 13 of the 91 productions - nearly 15 percent - have warnings of nudity in their content. One is even called See Me Naked. Munson said that kind of thing has always been common, and "we try and put complete warnings on these shows so that people know and are not upset by these things." Not that nudity per se is particularly upsetting to us; it's just a pretty clear demonstration of the Fringe sensibility.

More importantly, the festival has its share of LGBT performers and material alike. Manual Arts Theatre will present Spare Change, featuring a closeted gay man who comes out after dying and returning as a ghost. Repertory Actors Theatre will return with their gay and lesbian actors to present a sequel to a previous Fringe production called All in the Timing, this one aptly titled "MORE" All in the Timing, a series of one-act plays dealing with time, relationships, fate and love.

Damn/Savage Productions will present Christmas Brotherhood, about a lesbian who seduces her partner's brother in an effort to get pregnant - and ends up falling in love with him. In honor of gay playwright Oscar Wilde, the Home Stage Theatre Co. will present The Importance of Being Earnest.

According to Munson, tickets for Spare Change are already selling well, along with the Young Fringe shows and the return of Burnt Studio Productions, which produced last year's smash hit ISO (In Search Of), and Fat Pigeon Theatre's Burn Man Now, about an underwear factory worker.

"Fringe Festival audiences are actually very adventurous," Munson said. It's an adventurousness clearly refelcting that of the performers, if the Fringe Festival Parade on Broadway March 3 was any indication - Fat Pigeon Theatre's clothing line of briefs was but one example of this group of people's special brand of festive atmosphere.

"It's a really accesible venue," said Pauline Luppert, director of Spare Change. "It's an inexpensive way to produce work, and audiences are open minded to plays experimental in their nature or socially challenging in their thinking. It also has a really fun festival feel to it."

David Hsieh, director of "MORE" All in the Timing, concurred. "It's a nice way of getting additional exposure to our theatre company that's quick and dirty and fun," he said. "The types of shows we can do are a little more out there."

Hsieh said most of his show does not include gay-specific content, although one of the plays features a transvestite character. By contrast, Chirstmas Brotherhood lesbian characters (one of whom could be construed as bisexual), but no one involved in the production is gay.

Christmas Brotherhood playwright Jorj Savage said he has been writing plays for 40 years and developed this one based on audience response to previous productions. "Some lesbians have seen it and given feedback," he said, noting one such lesbian's assertion that if a lesbian character truly falls in love with a man, then she's bisexual.

"I haven't dealt a lot with lesbian issues," he added. "It's like a romantic story from another point of view."

Other possibly high-interest plays in the festival for the LGBT audience include Keri Healey's Cherry, Cherry, Lemon described as both "Sense and Sensibility meets Sex in the City" and "the wonderment of Pussy 101," and Sirens Theatre Company's The Dianalogues, about the impact Princess Diana's image has had on women's lives.

Of course, LGBT people see non-gay productions as well, and one certain crowd pleaser will be Cirque de Flambé - "New and improved, or the clowns burn!" This broad spectacle of flaming jugglers and tricks proved itself in past years as one not to be missed. The only ones to be advised to stay away from this would be the many other performers who plan to get naked at one time or another.

For those who prefer the nakedness, don't miss the acrobatics of sex workers in The Fallen Women Follies or the exploration of dichotomy in The Virgin Slut Actuality, among many others.

Information on dozens of other, less gratuitous shows in the March 8-18 festival can be found on the Fringe Festival Web site, Tickets are $12 each and can be purchased at the Fringe Web site, at, by calling Ticket Window at (206) 325-6500, or at the central box office located at the Broadway Performance Hall on Pine and Broadway. Box office is open from noon to 8 p.m. daily.

March 9, 2001


© 2001 Seattle Gay Standard. Reprinted with permission by ReAct.

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