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Six productions featured in Maui Fringe Theater Festival

Maui Belly Dance Company;

Even after serving for 10 years as the Maui Fringe Theater Festival coordinator, I’m still repeatedly asked, “What is a fringe festival?” The easy answer is that it is the same thing as a film festival but with plays. However, it is more. Fringe is a worldwide theater-on-the-edge gathering of independent artists, and Fringe festivals have been happening every weekend somewhere in the world since 1947.

As I have previously said in this column, Fringe is like a tribe of performing artists holding hands at the edge of a cliff, jumping in unison and praying there is water below. Audiences are the water. So why jump? The answer is that it’s hard to make it in show business, but the only way to ensure that you’ll never make it is to never try. The tenth annual Maui Fringe hosts six original productions starting tonight at Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku.

Opening the festival is “Chemo Barbie” by Heather Keller of Los Angeles, immediately followed by another Los Angeles production, “Cave Girl the Musical” by Glennis McCarthy. From San Francisco comes “He Wants To Run” by David Kleinberg on Friday, followed by a dual Maui and Los Angeles production, “How Can I Help?” by Victoria McGee, based on the book by Ram Dass and Paul Gorman. On Saturday, “Maui Bellydance Company” will be in performance and “My Name Is Mommy” by April Wish, also from Los Angeles, closes the festival on Sunday night.

I chatted with three of the playwrights to learn more about their original one-act plays. “Two years ago, I hit bottom. The only thing I wanted for my life was to live alone in a cave and drink myself to death, if you don’t understand that, congratulations,” shared McCarthy. “I really love to isolate, so part of my recovery was contrary action, which meant getting back on stage. This show (“Cave Girl the Musical“) imagines the path I could have taken had I not gotten sober. It has everything I love to do — singing, comedy and characters, and (it) was written using improvisation,” she explained. “The show flowed out of me in about a week and hasn’t changed much in all the Los Angeles or N.Y. performances. I hope audiences laugh and feel a connection with my character, Gloria, and all people who struggle with addiction,” McCarthy added.

Audiences might recognize former Maui resident McGee from performances with Free Range Comedy, and as the former drama instructor and director of Kamehameha Schools Maui. “I have long been a spiritual seeker and read much of Ram Dass’ works, and I also have a theater background, so as I read the book, the first-person stories became monologues and scenes in my mind,” said McGee. “I made notes and outlines over the years and finally put it together in 2019.  I hope people come away newly invigorated to respond with compassion to others, to be of service when and where they can, and to carry on Ram Dass’ legacy of loving kindness,” she expressed. Kristi Scott directs the world-premier production which stars local actors Shane Borge, Patty Lee Silva, Hoku Pavao, Leighanna Locke, Tina Kailiponi, Jefferson Davis and Jonathan Yudis.

Glennis McCarthy in “Cave Girl The Musical,” Wolfe Erickson photo;

Kleinberg’s “He Wants to Run” is the story of a man who hates running and dogs yet ends up running with his neighbor’s dog Butler. “Butler and I ran for 13 years around Cloverdale, Cailf. Together. Even though he wasn’t my dog, he was a remarkably special dog that people immediately recognized. He could be fierce in defense of those he loved, but gentle when a little toddler approached with a fat juicy hot dog, gently taking the sausage, slowly chewing it down, and leaving a little girl’s fingers entirely intact,” Kleinberg shared. “I hope through this vehicle that audiences will recognize that life is short — even if a man lives six times longer than a dog, and that we are all tied to all the elements of the world as they unfold in our short run through life,” he added. 

Drawn from Keller’s journals, blogs, social media posts, the award-winning “Chemo Barbie” is the uplifting journey of a young woman conquering cancer, while living life as normal as possible. Another award winner, “My Name Is Mommy,” is a one-woman show written and performed by Wish and directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson. The autobiographical play celebrates the exhilaration of motherhood with humorous detours into the modern realities of raising small children. Also in performance, Maui Bellydance Company makes its theatrical debut fusing concepts from modern dance and movement with classical and folkloric dance of the Middle East. “We are a dedicated group of dancers who thrive on developing strong technical skills for polished performances,” says producer and dancer Lynette Day.

McCarthy and McGee shared why they Fringe, and why they chose Maui’s. “I have been to many festivals in the U.S. and I always have the best time, so it’s really exciting to experience another festival, and the fact that it’s on Maui is a double win! So far, the Maui Fringe Theater Festival is the best,” said McCarthy. “After living on Maui for several years and performing in a former Maui Fringe Festival with Free Range Comedy, this was the most natural theater festival for me to apply to. And, of course, Maui was Ram Dass’ home, his beautiful spirit graced this island for many years, so it is only fitting that this play has its premier at the Maui Fringe Theater Festival,” shared McGee.

* Maui OnStage and Surf Rents Trucks presents the Maui Fringe Theater Festival 2020. General admission tickets are $15 per show. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event, call 242-6969 or order at www.mauionstage.com. The Maui Fringe Theater Festival contains adult content and may not appropriate for children.

FRINGE SCHEDULE

Heather Keller in “Chemo Barbie;”

Thursday

6:30 p.m. “Chemo Barbie”

7:45 p.m. “Cave Girl the Musical”

Friday

6:30 p.m. “He Wants To Run”

David Kleinberg in “He Wants to Run.” These and other artists will be featured in the Maui Fringe Theater Festival.

7:45 p.m. “How Can I Help?”

Saturday

1 p.m. “He Wants To Run”

2:15 p.m. “Chemo Barbie”

3:30 p.m. “Cave Girl the Musical”

4:45 p.m. “How Can I Help?”

6:30 p.m. “He Wants To Run”

7:45 p.m. “Maui Belly Dance Company”

Sunday

2:15 p.m. “Cave Girl the Musical”

3:30 p.m. “How Can I Help?”

4:45 p.m. “Chemo Barbie”

6:30 p.m. “My Name Is Mommy”

ALSO THIS WEEK

King Kekaulike High School concludes “The Outsiders,” adapted by Christopher Sergel, based on the book by teen author S.E. Hinton, directed by Chris Kepler. Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday at the Performing Arts Center on the King Kekaulike High School campus in Pukalani. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 students and are available at the box office only 30 minutes before show time. “The Outsiders” contains adult content and may not appropriate for children.

ProArts concludes “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” by Simon Stephens, based on the novel by Mark Haddon, directed by Mark Collmer. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday at ProArts Playhouse. Tickets are $27. For more information or to purchase tickets for any ProArts event, call 463-6550 or visit www.proartsmaui.com.

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