Tying Up the Fringe

Theaters, Actors, Etc.

Jun 11, 2008 at 2:06 pm
Rodney Eggleston

Daniel J. Kiely and Karl Gregory inOatmeal and a Cigarette

After 12 days of theatergoing during the 2008 Cincinnati Fringe Festival, I need some rest. I managed to see about half the 37 productions. But I edited reviews of each one (check CityBeat's special Fringe blog (blogs.citybeat.com/fringe08/) — the most comprehensive coverage available, by the way) and, in the process, realized that the Fringe has really hit its stride. A half-dozen shows had sold-out performances. When it came time to hand out "Pick of the Fringe" awards, producers had a tough task — because there were so many choices.

Although not my favorite, the well-acted Oatmeal and a Cigarette (Bad Dog! Productions) was picked by the majority of critics. I preferred the "Audience Pick," Don't Make Me Pull This Show Over: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Parenting, a song cycle by the creative team of Richard Oberacker and Robert Taylor featuring lots of local talent. It was staged by director Richard Hess, who now has four consecutive years as a Fringe "best." (Body Language: A Radical Truth, created locally by Stacy Sims and a team of young women, trailed Don't Make Me Pull This Show Over by just a few votes.)

The "Producers' Pick" went to the darkly comic Mortem Capiendum (Four Humors Theatre), another of my favorites.

Approximately 6,500 theatergoers spent almost two weeks running from venue to venue in Over-the-Rhine (dance companies performed at the Contemporary Arts Center downtown) to see a grand total of 170 performances, plus several film screenings and a visual art gallery. That's a 12 percent increase from Fringe 2007; the sale of passes to multiple shows jumped by 44 percent. How about this: Know Theatre Board Member Beth Reiter used her IRS economic stimulus check to be a Fringe sponsor!

The atmosphere throughout the Fringe was lively: Crowds hung out in the parking lot just south of Know Theatre watching a wall mural being painted on the theater building wall. The "Bar Series" at Know's Underground was full every evening, especially during the wrap-up party on June 7. That night, actors from Cincinnati Shakespeare mingled with students and grads from CCM; artists from ETC, New Stage Collective and Know Theatre congratulated one another. Performers from out of town were astounded by the vitality of theater in Cincinnati. The casts of Oatmeal and a Cigarette (Ithaca, N.Y.) and Mortem Capiendum (Minneapolis), veterans of other Fringes, said they had not expected such a vibrant festival. You can bet they'll spread the word.

It's also a sure thing that audiences will be eager for more in 2009. Don't Make Me Pull This Show Over returns for a fuller staging at ETC next spring (April 29-May 17, 2009), no doubt whetting everyone's appetite for what the Fringe can spawn. When the next festival rolls around a year from now, more people than ever will head downtown for a fix of creativity. I guarantee it.

Contact Rick Pender: [email protected]