Next month is Pride Month, as most everyone in the LGBTQ community is well-aware – but for fans of live theater, it’s a big month for another reason as well. That’s because the annual Hollywood Fringe Festival takes place June 7-24, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to see the kind of small, edgy stage performances you won’t be getting with your season subscription to the Ahmanson.
If you’re not familiar, Fringe Festivals exist throughout the world as havens for underground and emerging arts scenes. The concept was hatched in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1947, when eight performance groups appeared uninvited on the “fringes” of the exclusive Edinburgh International Festival. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival has since grown into the largest arts festival in the world; with an annual gross of over $100 million (benefiting the local economy), it stands as the biggest tourist draw in the U.K.
Fringe Festivals have since sprung up in dozens of cities across the world. The Hollywood edition is an annual, open-access, community-derived event celebrating freedom of expression and collaboration in the performing arts community. Participation is completely open and uncensored, underlining the festival’s mission to be a platform for artists without the barrier of a curative body.
It’s also completely non-profit. The festival gives 100% of box office revenue back to participating artists and venues – over 1.8 million dollars since the inaugural festival in 2010.
This year’s festival, like those before, features an enormous slate of productions. We’ve singled out a selection of specifically LGBTQ-themed plays here – but a complete list of shows, along with schedule and ticket information, is available at the Fringe website.
“Lady Parts” (by Maria Wilson and Bethany Vee): An exploration of two women’s journeys from childhood to a non-conforming adulthood as slightly awkward, mostly outrageous “ladies.” Covering everything from sexuality to religion, it addresses the expectations today’s society imposes on women about what they should be.
“The Book That I’m Going to Write, by Judy Garland” (by Jason Powell): A solo performance featuring Powell as Judy Garland. Tasked with dictating her memoirs alone to a tape recorder, the legend’s life story quickly gives way to the searing inner-rage and personal revenge fantasies of a woman left broken by decades of abuse in Hollywood.
“Blind Spots” (by Colette Freedman): Politics become personal when the homophobic, reactionary president of a small New England college tries to quiet her sister’s poison pen by blackmailing her, leading to a showdown in which dark family secrets are exposed.
“The Importance of Being Oscar” (by Brandie June): An ensemble piece that follows Oscar Wilde at the end of his life. Released from prison, he discusses love, loss, morality and lack thereof. Laced with Wilde’s own words, it’s a whimsical and heartbreaking tribute to the gay literary icon.
“Amanda the Barbarian” (by Scott Langer): A love-letter to theater, following Amanda – a superstar in her own head – who hijacks a play-within-the-play and pushes her director and co-stars (one of whom is also her girlfriend) to the end of their ropes.
“Bloodbound” (by Michael Kearns): Reviewed by the Blade in its somewhat rough premiere production, this promising play from one of LA theater’s legendary voices is likely to get more polished treatment this time around. A fictionalized memoir of secrets and shame between two brothers, it’s a transformation of the forbidden into something beautiful.
“Converted” (by William Tolan Lawrence): A one-act comedy in which Matt and Zeke get caught having sex at a gay conversion therapy camp in southern Ohio. As punishment for their sins, Brother Mike and Sister Constance devise a plot to cure them of their illness – and exorcise a few homosexual demons along the way.
“F#@k I Love U: Alive!” (by Lucky Mor): An inclusive cast tells stories delving into race, gender, sexuality, abuse and acceptance. No issue is unexplored in this dramedy having audiences laughing and crying using controversial issues of our current times.
“Just One Moment” (by David Evan Stolworthy): A dark ensemble comedy set at the Afterlife Assistance Center, where those who have not yet been processed take the calls from both the living and the departed while awaiting their own results. Anna, a recent accidental arrival, and Ryan, an abused teen hellbent on reincarnation, find forgiveness and compassion in the unlikeliest of places when everything they once believed in turns out to be not what they expected.
“Crunch” (by Katie Eiler): Three best friends from high school, run aground on lousy jobs and instability in their early twenties, try to keep their adolescent love for each other alive while caring for a fourth friend who has become a powerful, ravenous, cave-dwelling entity. Even worse, the neighborhood gay bar is a total ghost town and the Target is closed.
“A Life Behind Bars” (by Dan Ruth): A solo performance of dark comic monologues, interwoven with characters encountered while working and drinking in the bars and dives of pre-gentrified NYC. A hilarious and seedy tour-de-force roller coaster ride of after-hour whiskey shots, horror films and rock & roll.
“Lorelei: I’m Coming Out!” (by Cooper Reynolds): This raunchy “one queen musical” tells the story of Lorelei’s ascent from humble origins to the heights of drag mediocrity, all set to a toe-tapping original score! Grab yourself a drink and buckle up for an outrageous and intimate performance like no other.
“My Life in 3 Easy Payments” (by Dale Guy Madison): A one-man show, based on the author’s memoir. An award-winning educator, LGBTQ activist, playwright, author, filmmaker, performance artist, doll collector,and former QVC host, he begs the questions: What are the real costs of fame? Being the skilled salesman that he is, Madison peddles his message to the audience like a sweet deal of the day with three easy payments.
“Baby Boy” (by Adrian Eli): Another solo performance, this one following Adrian, the youngest of five in an old school Texican family, as he goes from childhood to a stunted adulthood hiding his true identity – before finally being dragged out of the closet (kicking and screaming) at 30.