"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Friday, August 11, 2006

NYC Fringe Festival

The New York International Fringe Festival opens today in the city that never sleeps, kicking off 16 days of theater in 20 venues. It's an offshoot of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which I wrote about recently in these pages. As I've noted earlier on this site (here and here), an interesting and essential aspect of the Omniculture is that "the counterculture continuously becomes the culture. If you want to know what is going to surround you tomorrow in American culture, look at what is on the fringes today."

Confirming this tendency of the counterculture to become the culture, the New York Daily News reports that "the Fringe Festival didn't start out as a breeding ground for the Great White Way. The Present Company, a nonprofit Off-Off-Broadway organization, began hosting festivals in Scotland in 1966 in order to showcase unspoken talent."

But the fringe has become increasingly absorbed into the mainstream:

Since then, the Fringe has exploded into a world-famous phenomenon, much to its founders' surprise. "To last 10 years as a cultural institution in this city is very impressive," says Lasko.

An important element of that absorption has been the effect on the Festival's content. With big theatrical producers, critics, media, and financial interests prowling the venues, the Festival has become a very effective place for playwrights and producers to audition their wares before people who can help them enter the real mainstream, moneymaking world of culture. That means that many of the plays presented will be not much different from what is already making money on Broadway and off. Or perhaps not at all different. For example, the Daily News story lists the following offerings the writers find most interesting:

"The Bicycle Men," a musical about an American who crashes his two-wheeler and ends up in a wacky French town.
Why we're psyched: It won a Fringe award for excellence a couple years back.

"Faded," about a tabloid reporter on the trail of a scandalous photo of a U.S. President and a sex goddess. (JFK and Marilyn Monroe, anyone?)
Why we're psyched: The author, Robert Dominguez, is a Daily News staffer.

"The Fan Tan King," a musical about a Chinatown gambling bigwig.
Why we're psyched: The book is by C.Y. Lee, who wrote "Flower Drum Song."

"Perfect Harmony," a mockumentary about a high-school a cappella group.
Why we're psyched: The high-school musical has never been a trendier genre.

"Only a Lad," a musical about a punk teenager accused of murder.
Why we're psyched: The score is based on songs by 1980s rock band Oingo Boingo - which gave us film composer Danny Elfman.

"Don't Ask," about an affair between a U.S. Army private and his superior in Iraq.
Why we're psyched: Several hot topics in one.

"Infliction of Cruelty," about some dark doings at a family reunion.
Why we're psyched: Secrets. Lies. Vengeance. Good times.

"Walmartopia," a time-tripping musical set in 2036 about a single mom who goes up against the world's largest corporation.
Why we're psyched: We dig an underdog story - even one that sounds this weird.

"Oblivious to Everyone," about a trashy Paris Hilton wanna-be.
Why we're psyched: Paris-bashing is always a kick.

"I Coulda Been a Kennedy," about an ambitious family scheming to get a kid into the Oval Office.
Why we're psyched: If only to see if there are bad Boston accents.

The Daily News story reports that "Tickets are $15 each at (212) 279-4488 or fringenyc.com, which has a complete schedule."

From Karnick on Culture.

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