Maui Fringe Theater Festival
Friday through Sunday at Historic Iao Theater
I’m compelled to wave the “conflict of interest” white flag every January for the reason that, in addition to writing about the Maui Fringe Theater Festival, I’ve also served as festival coordinator for the past six years. The Maui Fringe is a passion project for me because fringe theater allows artists who fund their own original plays to transform unconventional, uncompromised visions into reality.
I asked three of the 2017 producers why they choose the bare-bones fringe format.
“I write and perform my shows, so I’m a one-woman band,” said New York City-based actress and playwright Kate Robards, multi-award winner at the 2015 Maui Fringe and first-place winner at Washington’s 2016 Capital Fringe.
“Being able to perform at a fringe festival means I get help producing and with tech, plus the festivals do their own promotions and usually have an audience that I can tap into. A few years ago, I applied with my first solo play. It was my first time to Hawaii. To get to travel to that paradise to do something you love was more than I could possibly ask for. Little did I know the rainbow-on-the-beach view was going to be the people of the Maui fringe.” she added.
Heather Booth, who performs with Maui Aerial Arts, offered her thoughts.
“Fringe festivals give a home to orphan shows that no one knows what to do with, like our show ‘FADO.’ Without the Maui Fringe Theater Festival, I’m not sure this show would have ever existed anywhere except my own head. The festival is truly about the art and the vision of the piece.”
Basil Considine of Really Spicy Opera, author of the 2016 Minnesota Fringe award-winning musical-comedy, “Game of Thrones: The Musical,” explained why he chose to bring his piece to both the Oahu Fringe and Maui Fringe.
“Really Spicy Opera almost exclusively stages world premieres of new musicals and operas,” he said. “Fringe festivals tend to attract audiences who want something off the beaten path that they haven’t seen before, so this is perfect. It’s also a great opportunity to see a lot of fellow artists’ work in a short period of time, which is very inspiring and creates some interesting artistic fermentation.
“Also, there is 5 inches of snow falling in Minneapolis — and that’s just today,” he added.
“I’ve been obsessed with the haves and have-nots and why that is, my entire life,” says Robards. “I have traveled around the world and when people see a white, blonde American, they usually have a predetermined idea of who I am.” “Ain’t That Rich,” explores the unique perspective of a formerly broke small-town Texan after marrying a one-percenter.
“As an American, our types of poverty are different from those in Syria, India, Aleppo and other parts of the world, yet we can be in this all-encompassing bubble where we want to share the delicious hot chocolate, or shave ice if you’re in Hawaii, that you just enjoyed on instagram. I’m frequently disgusted at my own desire and longing for material objects, and it can be insatiable.”
“The concept for this show evolved out of my own personal experience with profound loss and grief,” said Booth regarding “FADO.” “The world continues after loss — you still need to eat, you still need to work, you still need to live in the world. Those basic needs are hard to meet when you are processing grief and this show is about the emotions that rage when we grieve. I felt that aerial dance was a great way to show how unreal life feels while a person is grieving. Fado means fate in Portuguese and it is a type of music in Portugal that dates back over 300 years — it is music about longing.”
Fate certainly played a role in “Game of Thrones: The Musical.”
“I surprised my parents with a Thanksgiving visit in 2015,” Considine said. “At the end of the visit, my sister Malia gave me a copy of the book ‘A Game of Thrones’ to read on the flight and I was hooked. The Minnesota Fringe Festival uses a lottery system and I wrote down ‘Game of Thrones: The Musical’ as an attention-grabbing placeholder, but I quickly realized that it would be a great subject for a show.”
This skewering puppeteered parody was developed in workshop format by Considine and director Mark Monfils resulting in the choice of female characters driving the narrative.
“There are a lot of badass women in ‘Game of Thrones,’ but they’re fighting an uphill battle against the social pressures of that world,” said Considine. “That provided a lot of fodder for us to poke fun at while also shining a light on some of the problems in our own contemporary society. As far as the puppets go, that began as a practical device for killing off lots of characters quickly with limited time for cleanup. My childhood experience with puppets was ‘Sesame Street’ and ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,’ so I wrote one scene as if it appeared in one of those shows. We had to run it several times because my cast kept laughing too hard. That’s how I ended up creating a pro-feminist, revisionist parody of ‘Game of Thrones’ in the style of ‘Sesame Street.’ “
Opening this year’s fringe is 2014 award winner Anthony Pignataro’s “Small Town Lawyer.” This 1940s period play shares the disheartened thoughts of a rising young lawyer after a particularly stressful afternoon. His seeking of advice from a senior attorney and mentor leads to a surprising comical ending.
Local playwright and 2011 first-place winner Sharyn Stone also returns to the fringe with “Old Girls Looking Hot.” In this musical-comedy featuring local pianist Fulton Tashombe, Stone addresses the self-worth issues on women and aging.
“What constitutes being hot? Or not? And how does it dictate a life,” she said.
From the Big Island, and making his Maui debut, is standup comedian Malcolm Grissom. His “Me, My Song and I” is a personal narrative about finding freedom, identity and inspiration. The one-man show was awarded both producer’s and critic’s choice in the Atlanta Fringe Festival at the Kansas City Fringe Festival.
Closing the festival is an encore performance of “Dream” by Francis Tau’a. “Dream” is an intimate comedy-drama that examines the affects of Alzheimer’s on a long-married couple. His performance will be followed by the 2017 Maui Fringe Theater Festival awards ceremony.
* Unfortunately, at press time, Laura Hedli of “Too Old To Be This young” suffered a burst ear drum and will be canceling her performances due to being unable to fly.
* Maui OnStage and Surf Rents Trucks present the 2017 Maui Fringe Theater Festival from Friday to Sunday at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. General admission tickets are $10 per performance (plus applicable fees) and are available by calling 242-6969 or by visiting www.mauionstage.com.
ALSO THIS WEEK
Internationally lauded Cirque du Soleil veteran Jamie Adkins brings his one-man show “Circus Incognitus” to Maui. An expert at comedy born of desperation and reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, Adkins deftly escorts the audience along his poetic journey with sidesplitting wit for audiences of all ages.
* The performance will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului. Tickets are $35 (plus applicable fees) and are available at the box office, by calling 242-7469 or by visiting www.mauiarts.org.
King Kekaulike Drama has rescheduled its production of “Pillow Talk,” adapted by Christopher Sergel and based on the Rock Hudson and Doris Day film, directed by Chris Kepler.
* Performances are now scheduled for 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays from Jan. 27 through Feb. 5 in the cafetorium on the King Kekaulike High School campus in Pukalani. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students and are available at the door 30 minutes before the show.
7 p.m. – “Small Town Lawyer” by Anthony Pignataro
8 p.m. – “Ain’t That Rich” by Kate Robards
9:15 p.m. – “Old Girls Looking Hot” by Sharyn Stone
1 p.m. – “Old Girls Looking Hot”
3:30 p.m. – “Game of Thrones: The Musical” by Really Spicy Opera
4:45 p.m. – “Ain’t That Rich”
6:30 p.m. – “FADO” by Maui Aerial Arts
7:15 p.m. – “Small Town Lawyer”
8 p.m. – “Game of Thrones: The Musical”
9:15 p.m. – “Me, My Song and I” by Malcolm Grissom
1 p.m. – “Small Town Lawyer”
2 p.m. – “Ain’t That Rich”
3:15 p.m. – “Old Girls Looking Hot”
4:30 p.m. – “Me, My Song and I”
6 p.m. – “Game of Thrones: The Musical”
7:15 p.m. – “Dream” by Francis Tau’a