The Cincinnati Fringe had its finale on Saturday evening in a chaotic round of thanks and kudos at Know Theatre. If you’ve never attended but want to know what it’s like, I’d compare the party to a tumultuous Saturday morning at Findlay Market. It’s a cast of characters including performers, fans, volunteers and supporters from Downtown, Over-the-Rhine and the suburbs. There are hipsters and oldsters, actors and admirers, bartenders and drinkers. In fact, beer and other drinks keep the crowd buzzing toward a midnight crescendo, a sense of relief and joy that 12 days of exhausting performances are just about over. It’s a bit like graduation in its celebratory tone, but there’s a strong feeling of community, too. The evening is hosted by two manic guys, Fringe artistic director Eric Vosmeier and Chris Wesselman, a past performer and associate director for several years. They’re quick-witted and loud, and they keep things moving — despite a lot of gratitude to be spread around.
After about 40 minutes of praise for all who make the Fringe possible, they get around to announcing the “picks,” awards voted on by various constituencies. My personal choice for the Critic’s Pick concurred with the majority decision by those who covered the Fringe for local media: Clifton Performance Theatre’s Sarge by Kevin Crowley, featuring a memorable solo performance by Christine Dye as a woman in denial about her husband’s transgressions.
General audiences vote for two pieces of recognition: one for one of the high-school produced Fringe Next shows, awarded to Ikelus, staged by students from St. Xavier High School, and the other chosen from the 31 produced shows, which went to Unity Productions’ Blogging Behind Bars, based on the true story of Whitney Smith, who wrote missives from inside a maximum-security prison.
Those who purchase “Full Frontal” passes (allowing access to all the Fringe performances) named Traffick by Pones Inc. as their favorite. The Producers’ Pick (by the Fringe staff) went to Mica Dvir’s Around Dark Matter, a work that came all the way from Tel-Aviv, Israel. The Festival’s artists vote for their favorite show by their peers; they selected a very polished, evocative and creative piece, Slut Shaming, a script about teenage rape by playwright Trey Tatum, performed by three excellent young actresses. (Read CityBeat’s reviews of all the Fringe shows on the blog site.)
The 11th annual Fringe built on a decade of success. By Saturday, most performances were sold out. Across the entire festival, more that three-quarters of the seats were sold, 8,777 tickets in all, many to attendees who came for the first time. Gross sales for the 12-day event were nearly $75,000, an impressive figure.
The 2014 had a preliminary crescendo on Friday evening when Dave Levy and Jeff Groh, the guys who produce True Theatre, presented another iteration of TrueFringe, several brief monologues by performers and Fringe participants. Up first for the sold-out crowd at Over-the-Rhine’s Coffee Emporium was Rebecca Kling (Something Something New Vagina), who talked about being interviewed by a four-year-old and her experiences as a transgendered person encountering airport security. Next was Kevin Thornton (a singer/songwriter who has performed in several Festivals over the years): He offered a fresh new piece about evolving attitudes toward gays and how it’s a challenge to adjust to new modes of acceptance. Kevin Holladay (The King & I: A Hunk of Burnin’ Love) explained that his company, Schedule C productions, was named because of his proclivity for obtaining items that are tax-deductible. (Schedule C is the IRS form used to claim such deductions.) His piece had a surprise finale when he sang an onstage marriage proposal to his girlfriend, complete with flash-mob backup and confetti.
Once the hilarity settled down, Kaiya Linkugel, who just finished her sophomore at Highlands High School, told the full house about writing her Fringe Next script, Names, and how she was surprised by the resulting satisfaction. Tanya O’Debra rushed to the Coffee Emporium from the final performance of The Ultimate Solution to deliver her tale of provided housing during the Montreal Fringe.
The evening concluded with Eric Vosmeier, the festival and Know Theatre’s artistic director, who humorously described his Segway accident during the 2011 Fringe — both of his arms were broken — and the unexpected feeling of love and community that followed. Vosmeier leaves at the end of June: I’d send him the traditional theater wish to “break a leg,” but I’m concerned he’d take me seriously. Many of us are eager to see where he lands next.
CONTACT RICK PENDER: [email protected]