The Hollywood Fringe Festival is celebrating its 10th year this year and opens today, Thursday, June 13, 2019.
Annually, for the month of June, this unique "open and uncensored" non-profit theatre festival occupies Hollywood's Theatre Row, and many more adjacent venues and spaces in the Hollywood and Media District areas. Per the non-profit's site, this "open-access, community-derived event celebrating freedom of expression and collaboration in the performing arts community" can be found in parks, community centers, churches, clubs, restaurants" housing a wide variety of productions created by new individual producers, seasoned production companies, member-fueled theatre companies and residencies, and a variety of other independent self-producers–both locally and from all over the world.
This year, there are nearly 400 participating shows, most of which are also registered on the Better Lemons Calender. Here are a few shows, opening this week and next, that talked with Better Lemons about their shows.
Vivi Thai, producer and actress of "She Kills Monsters," spoke with Monique LeBleu of Better Lemons at The BLACK bar and lounge at the Hollywood Fringe Festival Office Hours mixer on May 22, 2019.
Chris Bunyi & Matt Robinson of "Olivia Wilde Does Not Survive the Apocalypse" spoke with Monique LeBleu of Better Lemons at The BLACK bar and lounge at the Hollywood Fringe Festival Office Hours mixer on May 22, 2019.
Making his Fringe debut this year is Thomas Wortham, the writer, producer and director of An American Video Store, set in one of the titular establishments that barely exist anymore.
In the midst of beginning a new job and preparing his show for the Fringe, Mr. Wortham still found the time to talk to Better Lemons.
Better Lemons: What was the inspiration behind this piece? Personal experience? Thomas Wortham: I don't know how it works now, but in the ‘90s kids would just hang out at various retail locations, whether it be the mall, an arcade or — in my case — a video store. I got hooked at a young age by my mom's VHS collection and it just never stopped. There was a Blockbuster up the street from my house that I practically grew up in. I also worked at a Hollywood Video Store in college, which was an awesome and terrible experience all at the same time. I always wanted to write some form of this story and the mistake I always made was trying to make the plot about the actual downfall of the video store business. Something in the vein of Empire Records, where it was all about saving the store.
I finally felt I had unlocked the idea when I realized the story had to be about the characters and allow the business aspects to simply act as a foundation for what was happening.
BL: Any parallels with Clerks - which, of course, would be a perfect connection? TW: It is so funny you ask this. OF COURSE Clerks and Kevin Smith are a massive influence on myself and the play. In fact, just two nights ago I attended his Fatman Beyond podcast taping in Hollywood. They do a Q&A at the end and I was able to get up and ask a question wearing a shirt that had my play's logo on it.
Kevin is so generous with folks promoting their stuff, and with his connection to video stores, he immediately asked me about my shirt and insisted I plug all aspects of my play before and after me asking my question. It was incredible. He also had some nice things to say about the Fringe, which was cool.
But in terms of the mechanics of the play, it was crucial that the script had scenes that allowed the characters to wax intellectual about movies. Very similar to how Dante and Randal talk about Star Wars in Clerks, or how Brodie and T.S. talk about Superman in Mallrats. And you know just how shitty jobs really have an impact on how our lives play out, when we are young can, whether we recognize it or not in the moment.
BL: What does (or did) the video store symbolize in American culture? TW: I think that more than anything the video store era just represented a communal experience that sadly is the biggest thing missing when you select something through a streaming service. I'm sure the algorithms that Netflix uses are very sophisticated, but the way an organic conversation with customers and clerks could lead you down such interesting and unexpected paths was something I think is impossible to replicate.
BL: Briefly, what’s the show about? How will it resonate with audiences? TW: Taking place over three pivotal moments in the history of the American video store, our intimate story of clerks and customers examines the rise and fall of a cultural phenomenon that defined a generation. The show is an hour long - with the goal being a funny, emotional and nostalgic trip down memory lane for anyone who has ever enjoyed the experience of going to a video store to pick out a movie.
BL: Can you tell us a bit about the cast? TW: My girlfriend Aidan Rees is our lead and is also a producer. She is an incredibly talented actoress who is a regular at Second City. I'm always blown away by her ability to be such a versatile performer. Going from improv to sketch to everything scripted can be challenging for anyone to execute. We found our second lead, Jeff Coppage, through a self-tape. He has the uncanny ability to add flavor to dialogue that wasn't intended as a joke, and all of a sudden I'm laughing my ass off. So damn unique and funny.
Kristin Morris is a close friend of mine and an extremely accomplished actor. I saw her in West Side Story at Musical Theatre West in Long Beach and I always knew I would love to write a part that would be brought to life by her amazing talents. Antoine Dillard, Misao McGregor and Angelique Maurnaé were all actors that Aidan had worked with before. While I was not familiar with their work, they have all knocked it out of the park and made their characters jump off the page in a way I never could have imagined.
BL: Is this your first Fringe experience? Or have you attended in previous years, either as an audience member or talent? TW:First time Fringer in every capacity. I am so excited and thankful to be exposed to this brand new weird world.
BL: What other shows intrigue you at #hff19? TW:Lots of shows that are also at Stephanie Feury look great. I have had the chance to meet the creators of George. and Treason so I look forward to seeing those. The ladies who are putting on 2 for 1 seem to be cooking up something unique. An Excuse to Behave Badly sounds like a really smart and fun concept. I am intrigued by the ambitious premise of She Kills Monsters. I am sure there are plenty more I would love to see but honestly those are some of the folks who I have met at office hours that caught my eye.
I look forward to a Fringe year when I can be just an attendee and have more time to learn about other shows instead of focusing so much on ours.
BL: Finally, have you made the trek to the last remaining Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon? TW:I have not. I would love to. Fortunately, there are a handful of video stores still operating in the LA area that I have gone to recently to help inspire the show. In particular, Cinefile Video in Santa Monica made me feel at home, so if any of this conversation makes you miss the experience, go check ‘em out and show them some love!
An American Video Store plays June 9-29 at the Stephanie Feury Studio
Theatre, 5636 Melrose Avenue. Specific dates, show times and ticketing
information can be found on the Fringe site.
Theatrical shows registered on the Better Lemons calendar! For more shows visit our Calendar.
For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.
“GREENWOOD 1964 is a powerful, educational two man one act show which takes us into an actual trip made by Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. Two very great friends and once industry's most successful sought after duo. Sidney Poitier the first Black to win an Academy Award for best actor and Harry Belafonte, activist and first music artist ever to sell a million copies in the US & England. The show takes place in Greenwood Mississippi 1964, a time in which Dr. King called it “The year of promise” due to the rise of racial tension versus the quest for social equality. This brilliantly crafted fictional debate between Mr. Poitier and Mr. Belafonte eloquently explores the individual approaches on how to achieve liberation for people of color. The action takes place inside of an attic “safe-house” in the racially charged segregated deep south of Mississippi. Both men have traveled down to drop a bundle of cash for relief funds and show moral support for the civil rights workers who have been killed trying to register black voters.”
“Can we ever stop paying for the past? Can the person we want to ever escape the person we are now and were then? What price must be paid for not only our own crimes, but those of people close to us? Sins is a frank look at what we all deal with when we cannot overcome our own failings...This show includes prop guns, gunshots, and themes of gun violence. This show includes scenes of domestic violence, gun violence, and strong language.”
“A far-right, Pentecostal helicopter-mom struggles to keep her hell-raising son on the path of righteousness as he enters his first public school. When a powerful addiction takes over her son's life, she must accept that you can't save everyone, and that not every miracle can be left up to God.”
“Imagination or reality? Elegant stagecraft or just, well… Complications? Stephanie and her best friend Tommy are flying home together, but nothing is what it seems. As we are thrown back and forth between the rehearsals for a play Stephanie has written about her troubles and her increasingly turbulent flight home, we start to wonder: can we be saved through our art or is a crash landing inevitable? ”
“Rubicon Theatre continues the company's 21st “Coming of Age” season with the World Premiere of WOMEN BEYOND BORDERS, a play inspired by and loosely based on the remarkable journey of Lorraine Serena and a dynamic group of California-based artists who founded the non-profit Women Beyond Borders (WBB). Determined to “make art as if the world matters,” Serena and her friends fell upon the idea of box as metaphor: hope chest, treasure chest, womb, coffin, etc. They replicated a miniature wooden box no bigger than the size of a human heart and sent the boxes to curators and friends in other countries with the goal of encouraging dialogue, collaboration and community among women and honoring creativity. The founders of WBB were astonished at what came back to them – eloquent expressions of the enormous depth and variety, but also the universality, of women's experiences throughout the world.”
All in the Timing at North Coast Repertory Theatre
“Award-winning playwright David Ives, described by The New York Times as “wizardly, magical, funny, and original,” has penned six one-act comedies that examine various attempts at relationships and communication with hilarious results. Using inspired language and wordplay, Ives takes delight in pushing audiences' smart buttons and teasing their brains. Join us for non-stop laughter and brilliant witticisms.”
She Kills Monsters at North Coast Rep Theatre School
“A comedic romp into the world of fantasy role-playing games, She Kills Monsters tells the story of high schooler Agnes Evans as she deals with the death of her younger sister, Tilly. When Agnes stumbles upon Tilly's Dungeons & Dragons notebook, she finds herself catapulted into a journey of discovery and action-packed adventure in the imaginary world that was her sister's refuge. In this high-octane dramatic comedy laden with homicidal fairies, nasty ogres, and 90s pop culture, acclaimed playwright Qui Nguyen offers a heart-pounding homage to the geek and warrior within us all.”
John Denver Tribute at North Coast Repertory Theatre
“Jim Curry, returns to North Coast Repertory Theatre to perform the music of the late John Denver. The music “is like an old friend, outlasting trends and standing the test of time,” says Mr. Curry. Join acclaimed performer Jim Curry for this tribute to the music of one of the most beloved singer/songwriters ever to grace the stage.”
“Tuesday Night Comics is arguably the funniest night of comedy in San Diego. Mark Christopher Lawrence taps into his extensive list of talented comedian friends and shares the North Coast Rep stage with them. The show is comprised of talent from all over the country with late-night television credits as well as credits from Comedy Central, HBO, SHOWTIME, ETC…RATED R ”
Taken at Midnight at North Coast Repertory Theatre
“Based on true events in 1931 Berlin, a courageous mother resists the rising Nazi party in order to free her imprisoned son. This riveting drama explores the heroic battle of the weak against the powerful, the truth against the lies, and mothers against murderers. ”
“East West Players presents an all-P.O.C. production of the beloved musical Mamma Mia! The magic of ABBA's disco-era hits brings us to a Greek island paradise where a mother, a daughter, and three possible dads take a trip down the aisle you'll never forget!”
“In the distant past of 2007, Casey writes fanfiction for the hit Alfie Wunderkid series of books. She writes really, really, really bad fanfiction. On purpose. The plot makes no sense, the characters are inconsistent, the dialogue is at the level of a second grader who swears, and… it's hugely popular. As the fanfiction comes to life, what started out as a joke slowly morphs into a way for her to cope...with absentee parents, an overbearing sister, and having only one friend who, let's just be honest, is a bit of a douche.”
“Fantasy collides with reality when Force of Nature presents the world premiere of Thomas J. Misuraca's 'Masters of the Dark Realm.' When a group of long-time friends end their fantasy role-playing game, Masters of the Dark Realm, they seek out new quests in the real world.
Will a tragedy bring them together to slay their dragons, or cause their fellowship to fall apart?”
“A dark comedy on the danger and absurdity of American politics.
Taking inspiration from the family drama of Arthur Miller and the gallows humor of Martin McDonagh, TREASON explores the entitled toxicity of our current president and his surrounding culture without relying on recent headlines. Synopsis- On a ranch in Nevada, Grant Wilson rules a made-up nation through empty shows of power and ridiculous propaganda, with his family as his only subjects. When his son takes the mission too far and his daughter questions everything, Grant fights for control in the face of family, country, and reality.”
Chrissy Meth ~ A Dance with the Devil and a Journey Back to Self
“Chrissy Meth is a solo show written & performed by Crystal Bush with direction & development by Jessica Lynn Johnson. It centers around a motherless child “Crystal” who grows up in the western suburbs of Chicago, she finds herself stumbling from one abusive relationship to the next, pushing her into a deep drug addiction. Somehow, from the depths, of being lost forever, she finds hope and begins to put the pieces back together. Through the use of song, multimedia, humor and multiple characters, she explores, questions and challenges beliefs and social mores surrounding identity, and self-esteem while showing that it's never too late to comeback and find one's self-worth. ”
VIOLENCE: The Misadventures of Spike Spangle, Farmer
“Originally written and performed in 1986, this no-holds-barred satire of militarism and media manipulation tells the story of Spike Spangle, a down on his luck farmer who gets sucked into a whirlwind of celebrity and patriotism. He joins Superman on billionaire Max Enormous' Celebrity Space Shuttle and a nefarious plot leads to the deification of Spike Spangle as an American hero.”
Los Angeles Women's Theatre Festival: Defining Moments
“Four women writer-performers will perform their stories, excerpted from larger pieces. Karen. A. Clark in The Women. In this encore excerpt and through music, poetry and storytelling, Ms. Clark reflects on the women in her family, particularly her mother, who provided a “wow” factor. Barbara Cole in Surviving Chrysalis. One woman reconciles aging in her journey toward self-actualization in this funny excerpt. Bellina Logan in Confessions of a Mulatto Child. This excerpted piece chronicles a bi-racial child's life with her acerbic English actor/mother and the deep bond they forged. Amy Milano in Dancing with Crazies. In this excerpt from her life experiences, one woman searches for a place to call home after being uprooted from place to place as a child. Anna Maria Horsford and Ted Lange host.”