My first article for the Buzz, four years ago this week, was about the upcoming Hollywood Fringe Festival. I’d never been before, but as a new theater reviewer, I set out to inform readers by seeing as many plays as I could. Now, the Fringe challenge returns.
Back in those pre-pandemic days, there were 380 Fringe shows; I saw 21 of them. This year, there are 230 shows, down 40% from 2018, as Covid continues to take a toll on live theater. I’ll likely see fewer than a dozen.
Even though a lot of Fringe is amateurish and even flat-out bad, there are always gems, and even a show that doesn’t quite hit the mark usually has something that makes it worth a visit. So consider perusing the offerings. You’ll definitely find at least one that will make you say, “Now THIS I have to see!”
You’ll find the show directory here. You can drill down using a motley collection of categories, such as to find the 189 world premieres, 89 one-person shows, 15 tagged “absurd,” the dozen tagged “heartfelt” or the one about Princess Diana.
You might have to dig deep to find the show that speaks directly to you. After all the tales of gender-bending, satanic practices, killers and illness, it can be jarring to find something that looks like traditional storytelling. Classic Fringe isn’t like any other kind of classic, as the many riffs on classics illustrate.
Like music? Music-inspired Fringe shows range from The Clancy Brothers (Tommy and the Brothers) to Patti Smith to the music of David Lynch movies and even original songs. Many relate to sexuality—or the opposite. There’s even a musical about teaching a robot to love and an opera based on Henry James’ Washington Square.
One of the most prolific categories at the Hollywood Fringe is what I call “Cheaper than Therapy.” Through writing and performing, Fringe participants work out such issues as “bedwetting, anxiety and sexuality” (yes, that’s one show) to agoraphobia to extremism, to spirituality and the search for self and for love, with more than a touch of family dysfunction. This year’s Fringe Festival feels especially inward-looking, in a post-pandemic way. Help the participants celebrate their new-found self-awareness!
The Hollywood Fringe Festival runs from June 9-26, with previews opening June 2. Tickets range from $2-15 and can be purchased directly from each show’s dedicated page. Most shows take place on Theater Row: Santa Monica Blvd. west of Vine. Street parking can be dicey so consider ride shares. Inside tip: parking often opens up on Cole by Gold’s Gym (a block south of Santa Monica) and along the recreation center north of Santa Monica on Cahuenga and Cole. Proof of Covid vaccination is required; masking is at the discretion of the venue. Check the page for each show’s guidelines for specifics.