What happens when you have 200 plays, five days in New York City to see them, and a student budget?
The answer: Choose whichever one seems promising and pray that it’s worth the inexpensive $15 ticket. And this was the conundrum I found myself in during the second week of the New York International Fringe Festival.
Fringe Theater is theater that is non-mainstream, the type that is off-Broadway and not meant for mass appeal. In other words, no Wicked or Jersey Boys.
FringeNYC (as it is known by insiders) is considered one of the largest multi-arts events in North America. It is closely modeled after the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which is the largest arts festival in the world.
Over two weeks, more than 200 shows play throughout downtown Manhattan in 20 venues. Previously, some shows that have premiered at FringeNYC have also made it to Broadway, most notably Urinetown.
In a city where the average Broadway show runs upward of $60 (and that’s usually only for the mezzanine), $15 a ticket for a play seems like a steal. Especially when you are a poor student with limited funds.
But having established that I was going to be in New York City for the festival, here was the next conundrum: how to pick two shows out of 200? Only two because 1) I am a poor student and 2) I still need to spend quality time with people I know in the city.
The New York Times offered this helpful tip: “Pick the shows out of the catalog that sound most interesting and take a chance.”
I consulted the two sidekicks I was dragging along with me. My friend from undergraduate, Jamie, who said, “I don’t care, you’re the arts expert.” My sister, Thao the lawyer, had a more specific request, “Funny, thought–provoking, and not a lot of people dying.”
So naturally, with that in mind, I naturally chose something that was nice and family-friendly, Terms of Dismemberment. The dark comedy musical about a widow forced to sell her daughter’s body parts to pay off her dead husband’s mafia debt seemed to promise to define familial relations. Or it should be funny at least.
The Times recommended it, so it should be good. Hopefully. And it also helps that three-time Tony Award winner, choreographer Hinton Battle is directing and choreographing the show.
The next selection was purely by coincidence as I was browsing through the listings and through the genres with diverse names such as literary lane and celeb-reality TV in Hollywood. I came across one particular genre that seemed promising: outer space zombie adventure, which combined my (secret) love of zombie movies with astronomy. And really, doesn’t zombies make everything more hilarious?
This led me to I Don <3 U Ne Mor. It’s another musical about personal connections in the age of technology, something that seemed relevant given today’s Facebook and Twitter-obsessed culture.
And it’s coincidence that both shows that I will be seeing are musicals. It has nothing to do with the fact that I am a complete geek. Or does it?
So with tickets bought, off I go to the Fringe Festival. Whether what I find is good or not remains to be seen. Stay tuned.