Kojo talks with author Colson Whitehead about his new novel "The Underground Railroad" and its resonance at this particular moment in history.
Now in its eighth year, the Capital Fringe Festival is underway, with more than 130 shows in venues across D.C., featuring performers from around the block and around the world. The festival welcomes the experimental and the untested, with a smorgasbord of performances that includes everything from musical theater to spoken word poetry. We get highlights from the festival and speak with some of the performers.
- Alan Harris Playwright; wrote and co-directed, "Marsha"
- Margaux Delotte-Bennett Member, Wild Women Theater; poet and songwriter
- Ron Littman Writer, Director, Performer, "Fish Outta Water," Capital Fringe Fest 2013
- Julianne Brienza Festival Director and Co-founder, Capital Fringe
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Now in its eighth year, the Capital Fringe Festival is underway featuring performers from around the block and around the world. With more than 130 shows and venues across D.C. this festival welcomes the experimental and the untested. The result? A veritable smorgasbord of performances. You can see new takes on classic text shows about race and religion and everything from musical theater to spoken word poetry.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us to discuss this all is Julianne Brienza. She is the executive director and co-founder of the Capital Fringe Festival. Julianne Brienza, thank you for joining us.
MS. JULIANNE BRIENZAThank you.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Ron Littman. He is the writer, director and performer of Fish Out of Water at the Capital Fringe Festival this year. Ron Littman, good to have you in studio.
MR. RON LITTMANGreat to be here. Listen to you every day, Kojo.
NNAMDIThank you kindly, Ron. Joining us also is Margaux Delotte-Bennett. She is a member of Wild Women Theater and a poet and songwriter. She performs in four women at the Capital Fringe Festival. Margaux, thank you for joining us.
MS. MARGAUX DELOTTE-BENNETTThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd Alan Harris is a playwright and director. He write and co-directed Marsha at the Capital Fringe Festival. Joining us -- well, joining us in studio but coming here all the way from Cardiff, Wales, Alan Harris, thank you for joining us.
MR. ALAN HARRISAfternoon, Kojo.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments, give us a call at 800-433-8850. Have you gone to any Capital Fringe Festival performances this year or in past years? What do you think, 800-433-8850? You can send us a Tweet at kojoshow or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Julianne, a lot of people wonder, when they hear the name they assume Fringe Festival means that this is connected to the original Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Is it?
BRIENZATheoretically, yeah. It's not like it's McDonald's where we're a franchise paying our dues.
NNAMDIIt's something that we do independently but it's the same...
BRIENZAYeah, all the fringe festivals around the world are all independent.
NNAMDISo tell us a little bit about the Capital Fringe Festival that you co-created eight years ago.
NNAMDIDid I say 80?
BRIENZAYou said 80.
LITTMANYou look pretty good, Julianne.
HARRISA hundred and seven.
BRIENZAWhat do you want me to tell you about it? There's so many things.
NNAMDIHow did it come into existence?
BRIENZAWell, I moved to D.C. in December of 2003 and I thought that it was -- I don't know, I was very depressed in moving here because it was a very different city at that time. It was...
NNAMDIWhere'd you move from?
BRIENZASo there wasn't much going on at night. And I sort of felt it was hard to meet people outside of going to happy hours. And then I went back to Philly for the fringe and I had worked the fringe when I was there. And I thought that was a really -- something that was really missing in the city. And so a group of us sort of kept talking about it. And then the whole idea sort of snowballed and I ended up leaving my fulltime job on October 31 of 2004. And that next -- two years after that then we had the first festival.
NNAMDIWhat was the biggest challenge of pulling it together here in Washington as opposed to Philly?
BRIENZAI think people told me a lot that it wouldn't work because people are too sophisticated here and they just wouldn't be into a festival or an environment where somebody from somewhere is already making judgments about things. But I didn't really think that was true.
NNAMDIThose people turned out to be, well, crazy. The Capital Fringe Festival is here and probably here to stay. I'm interested as performers, Ron, Margaux, Alan, how would you describe the Capital Fringe Festival? I'll start with you, Ron.
LITTMANWell, I think you described it perfectly. It's the full spectrum. you can go to see something that will blow you away and you'll think, I've never seen anything more terrific than this. You'll go across the street into another venue and go, I paid $17 for this?
LITTMANBut that's what it's about. And that's the exciting aspect. You're not quite sure what you're going to get. You buys yo' ticket, you takes yo' chances.
NNAMDIWhat do you say, Margaux?
DELOTTE-BENNETTI think the fact that it's also an un-juried festival that you decide for yourself that you want to participate. You decide for yourself that your voice needs to be heard in this way in this venue. And then you take a chance. And I think that that is very empowering for artists. It's empowering for audiences. Folks are always amazed by what they see and excited by what they see when they go.
NNAMDIWhat brought you all the way from Cardiff to this festival, Alan?
HARRISWell, I work for a theater in Cardiff I call Sherman Cameron. And about three years ago they took part in the Smithsonian Festival. And from that a friend of mine, a playwright, had a play at the Capital Fringe. So I knew about the festival and I had a first draft of a new one-woman show, talked to Sherman Cameron and they said, well the Capital Festival might be a good place to try it out. So that -- you know, when you start talking about something inevitably it happens eventually. So that was the start of the journey. I sort of kind of played and gone to the Capital Fringe and here we are.
NNAMDIHere he is. You too can call us at 800-433-8850 to join the conversation anyway. Do you like to take a chance seeing an unknown group or show? Tell us what's been your experience with the Capital Fringe Festival, 800-433-8850. Julianne, the fringe festival is known as pretty democratic. What's the process for getting a show into the festival?
BRIENZAIt's first come, first served up to what we can accommodate in our venues. It's a pretty simple application. You just sort of have to tell us your name, the name of your company or make up a name and a 20-word synopsis of your show. We don't allow people to switch shows once they've applied, so it's not like you're applying with a slot -- for a slot.
NNAMDIOh, you're not allowed to bait and switch.
BRIENZAYeah, because it's -- I find -- we didn't do that in the beginning. We sort of changed gears halfway through, maybe the fourth year because people were applying for slots and the shows didn't tend to be that good. So to have an idea that you work on all yearlong is sort of the best thing. So it's really open to everybody. And the part about what we can accommodate in our venues, we can't do a lot of technical things, and people only get a certain amount for tech time. And we only have a certain amount of audience, so we -- like if 500 people applied for the festival we couldn't do 500 shows.
NNAMDIUnless of course, it's my understanding that some of the performers are allowed to choose their own venues and the challenge is often up to the performers to drum up the audiences themselves, right?
BRIENZAIt's a self-producing festival. So we as Capital Fringe, we promote the festival overall, but it's up to the individual groups to figure out how to promote their shows. But we also do a lot of how-to-fringe workshops and we give them a little book that I wrote about how to fringe. I don't know how many pages it is now. It's sort of morphed over the years.
LITTMANOne of the interesting aspects that...
NNAMDIThis is Ron Littman.
LITTMAN...part of the application process is that 20 words. And I don't know about you guys...
NNAMDII thought about that.
LITTMAN..but that can be really difficult to put -- you know, you get something down, you go that's it. I'm sorry, that's 26 words. Get rid of six words. And 20, it's not easy.
HARRISYeah, it's an exercise in copywriting more than anything, yeah.
NNAMDIIt's just a part of the artistic challenge. It's my understanding -- and our listeners should know this -- that the festival is so democratic that Julianne Brienza will not be giving us highlights. So we've got a few performers here (unintelligible) ...
BRIENZAYeah, I can't do that because it's not fair.
NNAMDIIt really is not fair. You have to give everybody a chance to be -- the festival features more than 100 shows. Where do all these performers hale from? Where do they come from?
BRIENZAForty-five percent of our performers are local. And when we say local at Capital Fringe, we mean the District of Columbia. So I think that's awesome.
BRIENZAAnd then it sort of breaks down into Virginia and Maryland. And then we have a small percentage from Cardiff.
HARRISOne from Cardiff.
NNAMDIThe overseas contingent.
HARRISOne from Wales, yeah.
NNAMDIOne of those performers who is locally based is Ron Littman. It's my understanding that this was a return to D.C. for you. You studied theater somewhere around here.
LITTMANI think it was American University.
NNAMDIThat's what I heard.
LITTMANYes. And I almost graduated. I always tell people I was in my last semester and got my first job at the Arena Stage. And they said, could you start Monday and I had to think about four seconds and said yes and never looked back. But my daughter is starting AU, by the way, in 30 days.
NNAMDIIt's a family tradition.
LITTMANA family tradition.
NNAMDICourse she might graduate now and break that tradition.
LITTMANI'm going to encourage that, Kojo.
NNAMDIYou also had a show, Ron, in last year's festival, D.C. Trash, which sold out. Something of a feat in a festival of more than 100 shows. And it was your story, but also about D.C. Can you tell us about that show?
LITTMANWell, I am a real D.C. homey, born and raised, went to Wilson High School.
NNAMDIRight across the street.
LITTMANThat's right. In fact, they should put a plaque right near the flagpole as, this is where Ron hung out every morning.
HARRISNot until you're dead, Ron, I think.
LITTMANOh darn, really? Oh, gotta wait that long, huh? And then I left for 35 years, New York, Los Angeles and a six-year stint in La Crosse, Wis., which is what my show is about this year. And I came back here and my cousin Barney who owns Tenleytown Trash, which is the best trash hauling company in D.C.
BRIENZAWe use them at Capital Fringe.
LITTMANRight. And would you leave the gate open on Mondays, because I came down there to pick up the recycling and we couldn't get in the gate.
BRIENZAJust call the number -- we're all there, you just call the number.
NNAMDIThis is what the show has become. We're supposed to figure out how the trash is going to (unintelligible) ...
HARRISIt's a trash show.
LITTMANAnd so my show was about rediscovering Washington from inside the cab of a trash truck. And my pass -- my parents had a delicatessen here for 25 years, my growing up. And then my take on what the future of D.C. could be if we don't watch out.
NNAMDIYou've been working in theater off and on your whole career, but your show in last year's festival was your first foray, it's my understanding, into autobiographical material.
NNAMDIWhat was your focus before and what moved you to focus on your own story?
LITTMANAll political stuff, issue-driven, the Supreme Court, nuclear proliferation, violence. And I would create songs and little pieces around these issues. It was a personal passion on my part but it wasn't so much about me. It was about these issues and how they affect the country and the world. And I think, you know, I'm getting to be an old guy now and it got to be more personal. And I wanted it to be more autobiographical and more revealing of my experience of these things.
NNAMDIAnd, as I said, it was a hit last year. We'll get to your current show, which is also, to some extent, autobiographical, in a moment. But first I'd like to go to the phone and talk first with Barbara in Potomac, Md. Barbara, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BARBARAHi, Kojo. I just wanted to say I'm thrilled to hear a show about the Fringe Festival. I just love the Fringe Festival. And every year I look forward to it, kind of block out my July and try to get down to as many shows as possible. I saw a stupendous show last week called Recovery that just blew me away. And the shows I saw last year, there was one about these two women in a mental institution that was absolutely brilliant. And this one was about leukemia and it was just completely amazing, funny and beautifully written and directed.
BARBARASo I'm a Fringe wannabe. I'm hoping to work on something for one of the upcoming years. But I just wanted to thank you for the show and for the people who organized Fringe and just for the whole production of it. Thank you.
NNAMDIHow many shows do you get to, Barbara?
BARBARAI try -- well, last year I probably should've signed up for the 20 or 100 pack because I crammed probably about 10 or 12 in. But this year I've only been to a few and I'm hoping to make up for it this weekend.
NNAMDIWell, you still have some time left to do that. Here's Julianne.
BRIENZABarbara, on Monday at 7:30 we're having a how-to-Fringe workshop. So if you really are interested in participating, you should just swing on by the fort and you can talk to us and other people there about how you can actually participate.
BARBARAYes. Actually I'm planning to be there. I was actually going to go to the one on Monday for solo performances but it said it was only for the people who had been doing performances already. So I skipped that one but I'm looking forward to seeing you all on Monday night.
NNAMDIBarbara, thank you very much for your call. Here's Pilar in Washington, D.C. Hi, Pilar.
PILARHi, Kojo. thank you for taking my call.
PILARI haven't been to as many shows I think as the previous just caller, but I have been -- this is my third year and I love going. I volunteered a couple years in a row and that's what really got me hooked. This year I just saw the other night Madam Macbeth and I can't rave enough about it. I think it was one of the best live Shakespeare performances I've seen ever, so kudos to that crew. I think it was the Kings Players.
PILARBut one thing I wanted to mention or ask about is the show -- as soon as it ends, because we have to get the next show onstage so quickly, there was almost no opportunity to let the performers know how much we like the show or to give them, you know, extra kudos or anything like that. I understand how limited the schedule is and how tight it is but I just wanted to share that little tidbit.
NNAMDIJulianne, not enough time to commend and applaud the performers, not enough time to boo.
BRIENZAI mean, okay. Yeah, it is a little bit like a train schedule, you know. But what I say to people is, it's always a really great thing to go to the tent and hang out, because most of the performers go there and most of the audience goes there. And a lot of people go there after shows. So you can see people there or...
NNAMDIExplain about the baltichino (sp?) tent.
BRIENZAThe Baltichino gypsy tent bar, it's right at Fort Fringe at 607 New York Avenue. It's an outdoor bar that's relatively inexpensive and it's sort of right with the hub of everything and where most of our audience hangs out.
NNAMDIAnd half of the crowd that's hanging out there are performers.
HARRISYeah, and I think also any performer at the Fringe welcomes kind of audience feedback. And I think if you put in any search engine any of the names of any of the artists performing at the Fringe, you'll inevitably find contact details for them, whether they've got their own website or it has something to do with the show. And I think just grab hold of an email and email us out of the blue. You know, it's -- and, you know, I think any performer would...
BRIENZAWell, and the performers also have all of the email addresses of everyone that came to their show. They get that so...
DELOTTE-BENNETTRight. And I think also we encourage people to just wait in the lobby after the show. We have to walk through that lobby after our 15 minutes of load out time is done. And then the conversation can also be continued through social media. We have Facebook pages and Twitter and so there's lots of ways to continue the conversation that started onstage.
HARRISI don't, Margaux.
DELOTTE-BENNETTOh, okay. We'll make one for you.
HARRISExactly. I need one, yeah.
NNAMDIAnd Margaux, your show is called Four Women after the 1966 Nina Simone song of the same name. For those who are not familiar with that song, can you tell us a little bit about it?
DELOTTE-BENNETTSure. Nina Simone writes about four archetypes of black women. There's Aunt Sarah, there's sort of an older black woman Safronia who is probably the child of rape and sort of mixed race. There is Peaches who is sort of this angry militant and then there is Sweet Thing who is possibly a sex worker but definitely a woman of the night. And so she writes these archetypes. And what we've done is use these archetypes as a catalyst for writing what does it mean to be a black woman today by using stories and songs and movement to do that.
NNAMDIWe're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation about the Capital Fringe Fest. But you can still call us, 800-433-8850 or send email to email@example.com. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWe're talking about the Capital Fringe Festival currently underway with Julianne Brienza, executive director and co-founder of the festival. Ron Littman is a writer, director and performer this year of Fish Out of Water at the festival. Margaux Delotte-Bennett is a member of Wild Women Theater, poet and songwriter. She's performing in Four Women at the festival. And Alan Harris is a playwright and director. He wrote and co-directed Marsha at the festival.
NNAMDIWe got a Tweet from Garaf (sp?) who says, "Other than Apples and Oranges, Julianne, are there any other performances that are deaf accessible?"
BRIENZAYes, there are, and you can go to our website. That's capitalfringe.org and you can search for that. There's the little hand symbol. We also have a show...
NNAMDIWe got a Tweet from Donnis (sp?) who says, "Saw Body Armor last night, moving and beautiful." Well, thank you for that, Donnis. Margaux, back to you and Wild Women Theater and Four Women. You said that this is not a straightforward play but a journey. Can you explain?
DELOTTE-BENNETTYes. We say that it's a journey because we interpret the song, we interpret the lyrics, we interpret our own stories through movement, sometimes through song, sometimes through sort of sketch comedy, short plays, as well as monologue. So there is no -- there is a definite beginning and end, but how we get there might be swirling a bit. So that's why...
NNAMDIIndeed, you and the other performers shift among characters.
NNAMDISo you do not play one particular woman.
DELOTTE-BENNETTNo, I don't. Sometimes I am Aunt Sarah, sometimes I am Peaches. I might be Sweet Thing. I'm even a man at one point in the play. So, I mean, we shift a lot.
NNAMDIIs the idea to kind of universalize these characters?
DELOTTE-BENNETTYes, and to share their many multiple dimensions to show that you might think that you see this woman and know her story, but wait until she opens her mouth and expresses it herself.
NNAMDIYou say the energy of the audience is really important to your show The Fourth Wall is Broken. Can you explain what that means?
DELOTTE-BENNETTSo we -- at the beginning of our play or our performance, we actually let folks know that we invite them to be wild with us. We want to hear them breathe, we want them to clap and sigh. And oftentimes we'll hear a mmm when we say something that resonates. So that's definitely a part of our esthetic that we want it to be co-created with our audience.
NNAMDIAnd the audience has, in fact, participated...
DELOTTE-BENNETTYes, they do.
DELOTTE-BENNETTWe even have a piece where we ask folks to write down, finish the sentence, what do black women not do. And there's a new segment which those answers are then shared. We get everything from swim, workout. The last -- on Tuesday we read fight forest fires was one thing that made us all laugh and break our character. But there's -- we want it to be interactive because we think that that's what theater should be. It should be an experience.
NNAMDIYou also, of course, sing in the show. Can you do a song for us? And while you do that, Julianne, Ron, Alan and I will be wild.
DELOTTE-BENNETTThis is a song called River Women. (singing) Strong river woman, thrash the rocks and the trees. Quiet river woman, kiss the face of the breeze. Fast river woman, twist and turn out of sight. My river woman, fill my heart with your might. My river woman, fill my heart with your might. My river woman, fill my heart with your might.
DELOTTE-BENNETTSweet river woman, quench my thirst in my mind. Still river woman, keep your secrets and mine. Deep river woman, explore the depths of your soul. My river woman, claim your banks as my home. My river woman, claim your banks as my home. My river woman, claim your blanks as my home.
NNAMDIThat's Margaux Delotte-Bennett performing River Woman. Course it reminds me of the Langston (unintelligible) rivers. But tell us about River Woman.
DELOTTE-BENNETTWell, we were talking about all these different women and what do they mean. And for me I wanted to write a love song to all the different types of women. And I think that song will actually also become some kind of epic poem that explores how did the still river woman learn to be still. How did the strong river woman learn to be strong? And so it's -- the beautiful thing about our process as Wild Women Theater is that we are open to trying things one way and then reimagining it the next time and seeing where the art takes us. And all of our stories are original. All of our pieces are self-written. And we create the space for us to create together.
NNAMDIIs it my understanding that Wild Women grew out of a performance ensemble?
DELOTTE-BENNETTYes. It grew out of another performance ensemble called The Sarky (sp?) Project, which was also in the Fringe Festival in 2009. And that group gathered and worked together between 2008 and 2012. And then we transitioned into -- a few of the members transitioned to the Wild Women Theater.
NNAMDIWild Women Theater at the Capital Fringe Festival. Here's David in Silver Spring, Md. Hi, David.
DAVIDHow you doing?
DAVIDI just wanted to encourage everybody to see as many Fringe shows as possible and as wide a variety as possible because it's not just a festival. It's a community that welcomes and encourages and is warm. And you don't have to be a show person. It's just all sorts of freaks and strange people come out to Fringe and have a grand time.
DAVIDAnd as members of the audience, I feel we have a responsibility to share what we see with others, to encourage others to see. And, as Julianne says, hang out at the gypsy tent and that's the way to talk to the performers and to other show goers. And just -- before you see a show you're just sitting next to someone, say what did you see? What did you think? And see tons and tons of shows.
NNAMDIHow many do you see, David?
DAVIDBetween 55 and 65 each year.
NNAMDIOh yeah, you're a trooper.
DAVIDAnd I wish I could see them all. It's my summer vacation. My wife knows I'm crazy and I just take two-and-a-half weeks off and go to Fringe.
NNAMDIHey, David, thank you very much for your call. You too can call us, 800-433-8850. What kind of performances do you enjoy, musicals, drama, comedy, one-person shows? What do you like about the Capital Fringe Festival? What do you think the festival should add, 800-433-8850? Alan, back in Wales in the UK, you've been working with one of the youngest national theaters in the world. Tell us about that.
HARRISYeah, we've never had a national theater in Wales until about three years ago. Obviously there's been a national theater of the UK but not one specifically for Wales. And that was setup under the artistic director John McCraw. I wrote their first show three years ago, A Good Night Out in the Valleys. And recently I wrote the first international collaboration, which was with the national theater of Japan, a show called The Opportunity of Efficiency, which premiered in Tokyo in April. So it's been a year of travel for me. So this fits in quite nicely.
NNAMDIAnd a lot of writing too. Tell us about your show Marsha which premiered here at Capital Fringe Festival.
HARRISThat's a one-woman show and it's kind of full of storytelling from Wales and very much like Margaux's show. A performer takes on different characters throughout the show to tell us a story. Yeah, it's a play of the imagination and it's about a small girl who goes on the same journey every day. These forces have to go on the same journey every day through an imaginary Welsh village. So, yeah, it's quite dark but...
NNAMDIWhere did the idea for this play come from?
HARRISOriginally the inspiration for the play came from -- there was a lot of news stories in Europe about parents keeping their children away from the outside world. And I think very much in today's society, even though we've got these mass communications like Twitter and Facebook, it's very easy for us to be very solitary as well and to shy ourselves away from the outside world. And I was quite interested in parents who overprotect their children. And the play takes this to an extreme where Marsha is a girl who is...
NNAMDI...basically held captive.
HARRISWell, held captive really, yeah, yeah, but out of love really, Kojo. I think it's very easy to make this a kind of a victim play. And I know in the U.S. you've heard lots of these cases of children being kidnapped, etcetera.
HARRISAnd we have the same in Europe. And that was part of the inspiration but I was more interested in the aspect that you could do this out of love as well. It might be wrong but it still comes from a different place than just kidnapping somebody. So that was a king of inspiration for the play. And of course then Marsha has her own imagination to...
NNAMDI...her own mechanisms for coping.
HARRISYeah, yeah, for -- and for creating a world. And that's what she does on stage. She creates her own world. And it was a play also about beauty, but I think during the rehearsal process we realized it was a play about the choices we make as individuals, as human beings on how we treat each other. And I think at that age, kind of eight to ten-year-old, I think we become not only aware of ourselves but also aware of what other people think of us. And I think that continues into adulthood. So it explores those themes.
NNAMDIAlan Harris is a playwright and director. He wrote and co-directed Marsha, currently at the Capital Fringe Festival. He's joined in studio by Julianne Brienza, executive director and co-founder of the festival. Margaux Delotte-Bennett is a member of Wild Women Theater, poet, songwriter. She performed in Four Women. And Ron Littman is the writer, director and performer of Fish Out of Water. We're taking your calls, 800-433-8850. Here is Matt in Gaithersburg, Md. Matt, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MATTHi. My name is Matt. I'm the producer of Godiva Dates and One Night Stands in this year's Capital Fringe Festival. I produced in the Fringe Festival before and directed in the festival before. And I found it easier to get ticket sales up when I'm doing plays with multiple characters, multiple actors. So I guess I had a question for Ron of just how do you promote a one-man show? The show that I'm doing stars Reggie Coneco (sp?) . And I'm just finding a hard time promoting a one-man show. So I just wanted to see what your success was in that.
NNAMDISame way you did. He gets on a radio show. Go ahead, Ron, please.
LITTMANBoy, I feel you, man, because I look -- I'm so envious of these shows with 12 and 15 people in them. And I go, well if each of those cast members calls ten people then that's a lot of people. I call all three of my friends and tell them, please, you know, do what you can. It's a crapshoot. What can I tell you? You know, you put it up there, you hope that there's word of mouth that somebody will pick up on an aspect, spread it around.
LITTMANI was really lucky last year. I was just in the right place at the right time. Actually the parking lot when we were hauling trash and I said, Julianne, I've got to do a show in the festival. That's how I got in. But I wish there was some secret that I could tell you, you know. You put these cards -- you relentlessly promote yourself, you give the cards to people, you put your posters up. You, you know, use your Facebook friends.
BRIENZAI think it's also like in promoting shows at the tent for artists. It's really better to do it once the sun goes down because even like Wednesday night, I don't know what was going on last night, there were a ton of people there late night, you know. And a lot of them are still audience members hanging out. And that's a time when -- like basically from, like, 9:00 to whenever we close, it's basically like a time where rumors start flying and the word of mouth sort of gets like wildfire.
HARRISWord of mouth seems crucial to me anyway, you know. And then to come in from totally out of town, you know, being a proper Fish Out of Water which sounds like a great name for a show.
LITTMANYeah, wow, really.
HARRISYeah, you know, luckily we -- the only way we can kind of key into any kind of word of mouth was to bring onboard the stage management for the show from D.C. So we've got a great stage manager called Zoya Weismann (sp?) and a young ASM called Colin Manning (sp?) , and they were our only connections to D.C. But yeah, if you can get people to see your show early in the run and then get word of mouth, it helps, but it is tough.
LITTMANAnd a shout out to organizations like Maryland Theater Guide and D.C. Metro Theater Arts. They send people to review, and that's very, very important, because that gets the word out. And thank all those people who do that.
NNAMDIWe move onto Shaw in Washington D.C. I can tell you right now, Shaw, Julianne is not going to answer your question. Go ahead though.
SHAWSo I do have a question. So one of my favorite things about being a live theater performer is that there is not censors. But with -- and this is the Fringe Festival. Right now I'm in the Fringe Festival play called "McPherson Madness." We've been getting really good reviews. But our play is full of expletives, there's brief nudity, and my question for all of you is, where should the line be drawn, and this is going to vary from person to person.
NNAMDII thought you wanted to know what was the most popular show this year?
SHAWYeah. But I thought that question was kind of lame.
HARRISHe's book a slot to be honest.
BRIENZAPlus, it's not over yet. We don't know.
NNAMDIGo ahead, Shaw.
SHAWThat was just -- that's just what I said to get on.
SHAWBut yeah. I'm really questioning, like, also when it comes to nudity, when it comes to expletives, when it comes to even like gore on stage. Where do you think the line should be drawn?
BRIENZAWell, we actually have a line. We do not allow shows that slander people, like personally slander someone, or are very, like -- like personally attacking someone in a way that's not about a show or a theme or something. I mean, like, there is a show where they talk about George Bush, but I think that that's okay, sort of in a negative way. But we just -- like if someone's really attacking -- and that's a conversation that we've actually had at the United States Fringe Festival Conference because there is so much stuff that goes over the line, and, like, what's appropriate. But we don't -- that's sort of all we care about.
NNAMDIBut expletives not a problem, nudity not a problem. Shaw, thank you very much. We're going to take a short break, and when we come back we'll continue our conversation and hear a little bit of Ron Littman's performance from "Fish Out of Water." You can still call us, 800-433-8850, or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us a tweet @kojoshow. The Capital Fringe Festival runs through July 28 at venues around D.C. You can find a link at our website, kojoshow.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking about the Capital Fringe Festival with Julianne Brienza, executive director and co-founder of the festival. Ron Littman is writer, director, and performer of "Fish Out of Water" at Fringe Festival which is being performed Friday the 19th, the 20th, and the 21st at Ford Fringe Bedroom at -- no?
LITTMANNo. I'm at the Warehouse, 645 New York Avenue.
NNAMDI645 New York Avenue Northwest. Alan Harris is the playwright and director who wrote and co-directed "Marsha" at festival. "Marsha," July 19th, July 20th. Is at the Ford Fringe Bedroom?
HARRISIt is, Kojo.
NNAMDIAt 612 L Street Northwest, and Margaux Delotte-Bennett is a member of Wild Women Theater, poet and songwriter. She performs in "Four Women," July 21st, 25, 27th, at Studio Theater, Stage 4, 1501 14th Street Northwest. That's at the intersection of 14th and P Street. Here is Wayne in Washington, D.C. Wayne, your turn.
WAYNEHi. I was just in the car on the way to see my shrink. I said, what better time to talk to people about the Fringe?
BRIENZAThere you go.
WAYNEI just wanted to say hi to Julianne and Ron. I've been a supporter of the show for -- the festival for a really long time, a participant in it twice. Unfortunately, I don't have a show this year. Saw Ron's new show, it was terrific. Can't say enough about what Julianne said about get to the tent. It is a big tent in the sense that there are all kinds of people there, and it doesn't matter what level of theater person you are, they all talk to each other. They will all talk to you. There's nobody looking down their nose.
WAYNEIt is one of the best things that can ever happen in Washington, and I hope I see everybody there.
NNAMDIPlus, there are refreshments. Thank you very much for your call. Ron, your latest show which Wayne clearly enjoyed is described as a prequel. Tell us about "Fish Out of Water."
LITTMANWell, I have lived in Washington D.C., New York City, and Los Angeles. I am a pure city boy, and I love it. Unfortunately, my ex-wife was born and raised in Wisconsin, and when my marriage broke up, she took the kids back to La Cross. And I had to make a choice whether to stay in L.A., where I was just such a big star, Kojo, I can't tell you.
NNAMDIWe remember. We remember (unintelligible)
LITTMAN"Wayne's World 2," I played the disc jockey in that, so...
NNAMDIGotta rent that again.
LITTMANDon't blame me, okay? So I had to make a choice. Be a long distance dad, or try to make a life in La Cross, Wisconsin. And I thought, these people will be eating out of my hand in six months, right? And boy was I wrong. Six years later I had to put my tail between my legs and bid adieu to the cheese and trees as it were. And this show is about my trying to reinvent myself to live there in small town Wisconsin, and the sensitivities and the spirituality and the faith-based community that it is, and I failed miserably. But I learned a lot.
NNAMDIThey didn't like your city slicker ways, but could you perform a little bit for "Fish Out of Water" for us?
LITTMANWell, one thing that I tried to do as a last resort, because my neighbors kept on saying, you know, Ron, you know, you gotta get out there and hunt. It's hunting. That'll just -- you'll fit in, boy. Yeah, sure. You just gotta hunt. And I had no experience with hunting, and frankly, was disdainful towards it, but I just got rid of that, and this song is my experience. Now, I don't have my music but I'll have to get...
NNAMDII cannot be your human beat box either.
LITTMAN(singing) I went hunting with my homeboys, took cheese curds and beer, gonna shoot some bear, elk, quail, mucho deer. Took my custom-made shotgun from my special leather case, then I turned and accidentally shot my best friend in the face. I like guns, uh, yeah, uh, I like guns. I'm like a ninja. I wouldn't kid you, 'cause when I get locked and loaded, I am totally devoted and you'll never know the feeling of that hot adrenaline rush with my Bushmaster blazing, turned that target into dust. I like guns, uh, yeah, uh. I like guns.
NNAMDIThat was part of your performance...
NNAMDI...of "Fish Out of Water," which I had the privilege to see at the preview of the Capital Fringe Festival when he did have his beat box accompanying him, But it looks like it's going to be quite exciting to see. Do you actually miss anything about living in the Midwest.
LITTMANYeah. You know, I really miss some of the people that I talk about in my show, and that I had conflicts with, but they're really good, simple people. And I try to be good and simple, and I'm just bad and complex, Kojo. But I miss them, and there's no better place for children to grow up and play baseball and swim and do all these outdoor activities, none of which I participate in.
NNAMDIEven though coming from cities, apparently your perspective about the people around you changed while you were there?
LITTMANYes. Because I must say, I really thought I was better than them. I thought that I was smarter, better...
LITTMANYes. Urbane. Very good word, Kojo. And I was humbled by them, that I'm not better. It's just a question of being different, and that was a big -- a very difficult learning process for me.
NNAMDIOnto the telephones. Andrew in Alexandria, Va., you're on the air, Andrew. Go ahead, please.
ANDREWYes. Hi, Kojo. This is more of a general question about the support for live theater. I'm wondering -- I think you had a speaker from Wales. Any difference between Great Britain and Wales in terms of the amount of people that go to live theater, whether it's semi-pro or pro, versus here in the U.S.? Is there any kind of statistics or ideas about that?
HARRISWell, I'm not sure I've got a full statistical rundown, but it's very difficult. Again, in Wales, we've had a bit of revival with the National Theater taken up. But again, it's very difficult to get audiences in Wales as it is, I'm sure, in D.C. What we have got in Wales and in the U.K. is an Arts Council, of course. And a lot of our shows -- so you can apply to the art -- I don't know what the system here in D.C., but you can apply to the Arts Council for a grant of X amount of money for research, development, or to put a show on.
HARRISAnd that makes our transition from, you know, rehearsing, or being a small company to putting on a larger show a lot easier. So I can't see America having its own Art Council, but that for us helps a lot.
NNAMDIJulianne, there's a lot of theater going on at any given time in D.C. How do you get people to come to the Capital Fringe Fest?
NNAMDII say that -- I know that one of your partners in this is WAMU, which is...
NNAMDI...why I was able to get in free at the Fringe Festival preview, but that's another show.
BRIENZAA lot of it is just always having a conversation, I think, with the audience and with encouraging the artists to do that as well. Like we're -- I do the social media for Capital Fringe, and luckily I have some help at this time of the year as well. So it's always talking to people and not just having organizational tweets and, you know, organizational Facebook updates. It's also making things affordable, but also making it -- because the artists receive 60 percent of the ticket revenue on average for the shows -- for the festivals. So...
NNAMDIGlad you talked affordability. We got an email from Sarah who said, "I understand that I can volunteer to get free tickets, but I'm a local actor currently rehearsing for another show right now and don't have time. Fringe prices are prohibitive for many. Between the button discount $7 and the price of a discount -- and the price of a ticket, I can't afford to see a show let alone more than one. I want people to get paid for their work, and I want to support my friends, but it's too expensive. Will this ever change?
BRIENZAThe world is a complicated place, and no. We don't do -- we don't really do free shows because we do want the artists to make money, and it's also we are a business. But we do -- you can volunteer. We have about 300 volunteers this year which is more than we've ever had, and for every volunteer shift you do, you get a free show. So I wish we could live in a utopian society where...
NNAMDIEverything was free and the artists still got paid.
BRIENZAYeah. But it -- it unfortunately...
BRIENZA...doesn't -- and it's also if you go with the multipasses, like if you get the (word?) pass, you get -- all the passes, you get a free button with that, and then you -- it saves on the individual single ticket price. You can get it actually down to $11 and you can bring people with you. You can also take your button and go get half-price Sangrias at La Tosca, or one of the various 30 establishments that are on our -- the button discount page on our website.
BRIENZAAnd then you can also use the button throughout the year to get discounts. I was just working on the August -- Julia and I, my intern, were working on the August button discounts. So...
NNAMDIWell, hopefully Sarah, you'll be able to take advantage of one or more of those things. Here is Mary in Silver Spring, Md. Hi, Mary.
MARYHi. Thanks for taking my call. I wanted to thank the organizers of the Fringe Festival for providing opportunities for performers of all ages, and to encourage people to come out and see "Fireball XL" which is a production written by a local playwright David Mitten (sp?) , and directed by Richie Porter (sp?) and it's got a cast of teenagers between the ages of probably about 14 and 20, and it's a great show. It's a takeoff on "Star Trek" and other science fiction fantasy.
MARYIt's got a nice review from D.C. Metro Theater Scene and it's playing Friday, Sunday night, and next Saturday at the Warehouse at 645 New York Avenue.
NNAMDIThere you go, Mary. Thank you very much for your call. Here is Bob in Rehoboth Beach, De.
BRIENZAI love Rehoboth.
NNAMDIBob, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BOBHello. I've been listening to your show, and it's been quite entertaining, and I wanted to ask Ron if he has anything else in the works, if he's writing on anything else right now. Also, he mentioned that his daughter was starting American University next month, I presume as a freshman, and I was curious if she had any interest in the theater.
NNAMDIBob, in his wild, creative imagination, Ron somehow thinks he knows you.
LITTMANYeah. I recognize that voice. It's my brother, I think.
BRIENZADoes your brother live in Rehoboth?
LITTMANHe lives in Rehoboth, and you can't go there.
BRIENZAI want to -- can I...
LITTMANYes. You can stay. If you're nice to me, Julianne, we'll both go up and stay at Bob's house in Rehoboth.
BOBSo answer my question.
LITTMANI'm the younger brother and I have to answer. Yes. I do have all sorts of things in my head for the next show, whenever that is. I can't tell you at the moment, but they're there, and yes. And my daughter, Hannah, was originally going to be a theater major, and she wanted to be a singer on Broadway, but instead she has chosen international service, and what better place than American University?
NNAMDISchool of International Service here is where she'll be. Well, Bob, we're glad we could bring you two together.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call.
LITTMANSee you later, Bob.
NNAMDIYou were saying something else.
HARRISI just wondered if Ron's next show might be -- have something to do with the family. There might be family secrets coming out.
LITTMANActually, my next show is going to be asking for money to pay the tuition at American University.
NNAMDIBefore we go, Julianne, there are also workshops, training sessions as part of the Fringe Festival. You mentioned that earlier, but it's my understanding that you also have a dream of a collective space for artists.
BRIENZAYes, I do.
NNAMDIWhat would the idea be?
BRIENZAWell, we actually looking at a few buildings right now in the Union Market area because we -- I think Union Market is a really -- has a really good vibe to it with the street size and the lower buildings. But I really want to have a space that's next to other creative businesses, and has a bar that's like a legitimate business and is just open all the time, not the way we sort of run the bar now.
BRIENZABut also, it can kind of be a mix of different levels of artists, also visual art, performance art, stuff that you can't come up with words for, and a place that people can come, sort of like the -- like a coffee house or something like that. But it's also low-cost, accessible, and not curated or, you know, figured out already.
NNAMDIWell, she had a dream for a Capital Fringe Festival now, and it's been going on for eight or 80 years depending on who you're listening too. So this too could become a reality. Julianne Brienza, thank you for joining us.
BRIENZAThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIShe is the executive director and co-founder of the Capital Fringe Festival. Ron Littman is writer, director, and performer of "Fish Out of Water" at Fringe Festival. Ron, thank you for joining us. Margaux Delotte-Bennett is a member of Wild Women Theater, poet and songwriter. She performs in "Four Women," at the Festival. Good luck to you. And Alan Harris is a playwright and director. He wrote and co-directed "Marsha" at the Capital Fringe Festival. Good luck to you.
NNAMDIGo out and catch some of the Capital Fringe Festival. Thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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