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After seeing dozens of shows each week of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, Ashley Steed shares her top picks in a series called “Fringe Raw”.

by Ashley Steed

Do You: Migration of The Monarchs

Originally from South Korea, LA-based performance artist and costume designer Yozmit has created a stunning theatrical cornucopia that continually surprises and amazes throughout its 55-minute run time. As a transgender artist, she’s created a multifaceted piece depicting her migration from South Korea to the US, migration between genders, and even through cultures, styles, and influences. It’s clear that her transgender identity is at the core of this piece as the male and female are often depicted as fluid or amorphous. She uses various “Pop Star” iconography, channeling glam rock, David Bowie, Cher, Lady Gaga, and Madonna (when she was still fun and raunchy and making sex books). This motif helps to unite the pieces and thread together the themes of gender, identity, and the sacred/profane. 

Yozmit doesn’t depict her multiple migrations as hardships, but as opportunities for unique expression. This compilation of eight pieces showcases a weird and wonderfully vibrant world where we can all embrace the absurdities within ourselves. Oftentimes performance art can take itself too seriously, but here there is no sense of pretentiousness, and bits of humor throughout make the play accessible. The costumes (designed by Yozmit) alone are well worth the experience: the costume pieces combine a Victorian and burlesque aesthetic mixed in with an alien-like futurism.

There are so many images, ideas and, iconography that crosses the stage in the 55 minutes, that I’m still processing it all. Yozmit is definitely an artists whose career I will be following.

Complex Theatres, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd. Running time 55 minutes. Final performance June 24. Visit:  http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4704

 

Fallen Stars at the Charity Sale

We may think of LARP (live action role playing) as something more akin to Ren Faire costumes, tabletop games, and fake sword play. But Nordic-style LARP tends to investigate psychology and cares more about examining feelings and the inner life of characters. Veteran LARPer Aaron Vanek has adapted a Norwegian live action role play piece to fit more within the realm of theatre.

Five actors each represent a different object for sale at a charity shop, and relate stories for their object. At any time an audience member can go up to “purchase” an object (audience members are given fake money as we enter). If you buy an actor-object, then that actor leaves the stage. This could go wrong — actor-objects could be bought before they even get to tell their stories or interact. Thankfully our group seemed to understand this, so people waited to go up until after stories were performed. As soon as I realized I had enough to buy the pogo stick (Shelby Monaghan), I eagerly waited for her to tell her story. Her owner, a young boy, had fallen and scraped his knee. She felt so bad that she never wanted to be used again and hopes to just live in a garage. Hence, when I went up to purchase her (it?), I commented that I had a nice garage to put her in.

Overall this is a charming idea which highlights themes of materialism without being dogmatic. Kudos to the ensemble who must make up new stories for each show. There were some delightful improvisations: one object, a toy monkey, was in the middle of explaining heaven when he was bought which created a fun panic scene afterwards of never knowing what heaven is. That being said, more work is needed in structuring the piece as it drags in-between monologues, and it was clear this audience wanted to hear all of their stories.

Complex Theatres, 6472 Santa Monica Blvd. Running time 60 minutes. Final performance June 24. Visit:  http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4187

 

Pagliaccis

The 1892 Italian opera Pagliacci (the Clowns) showcases how underneath all the makeup, clowns are real people too. The clown might appear to be happy, but underneath holds deep sorrow. This iconic clown is used as a template for Zane, a party clown and part-time stand-up, who has recently committed suicide. His best friend Tarik comes to Zane’s apartment to help clean up and get things in order, but Zane’s spirit lingers (still hanging in the noose). Together, Tarik and Suzanne (Zane’s sister) try to uncover why he committed suicide.

There’s great potential here for a darkly comic story, but Harim Sanchez’s script needs more refinement. Tarik’s workaholic excuse for being an absent friend falls flat, and the relationships are under-developed. Eric Barnard shines as the troubled Zane, who’s understated comedic timing works well both in his interactions with Tarik and his stand-up routines.

Actors Company 916 N.Formosa Ave. Running time 60 minutes. Final performance June 24. Visit:  http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4465

 

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