"The FRINGES of Boston"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"The FRINGES of Boston"

Date: Mon, 09 Jul 2007 12:55:06 -0400
From: "John King" tenderex@gmail.com
Subject: RE: FEAST and FRINGE

Hi Larry -
I wanted to thank you so much for coming to our reading of Feast of Fools last week - it was a pleasure to have you there and I would certainly love to hear any more thoughts you have on the piece. I was very happy with the evening as a step in the process -- got good vibes and good ideas from everyone there -- such a blessing to have so many people come out in support!

Also wanted to thank you for your post on Theatre Mirror, about "Fringe" theatre. It galvanized some thoughts for me, as I have my hands in a few of my own projects, as well as working with several of the newer start-ups around town.

I've forwarded the article to several friends and am going to start talking with them about how we can build even more of a community. I've been in Boston just over a year and a few things strike me about the community: * No major companies are truly nurturing NEW work. * No major companies are truly nurturing NEW audiences. I think these two are the fundamental issues facing theatre today, and will prevent Boston theatre from thriving ten years from now unless something is done soon.

It's also disheartening to look at the upcoming seasons of the community as a whole . . . we've just finished a season with no less than 7 productions of MIDSUMMER; and are entering one with 3 "IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNESTs" and several other double- or triple-produced plays. As a playwright and audience member, I place a huge value on the classics, but in the largest college town in the country, to do multiple productions in a single season of plays over 100 years old, while having only a handful of new plays (and most not produced to engage new audiences) is more than a bit embarrassing, and as a playwright, more than a little frustrating.

As for Fringe companies, I think Boston is an incredibly friendly town for the individual artist (look at the cast I was able to put together for a reading of FEAST OF FOOLS -- after being here only 1 year!!!! Impossible almost anywhere else in the country!)

But as you say -- very difficult for some of the smaller groups, often because (from what I've seen) they start up as a form of rebellion or separatism, and get lost in the shuffle because they have no base or community.

As someone who's worked with the larger companies as well as some of the smaller, I've seen a lot of suffering amongst the smaller groups who don't reach out, often because they don't feel there IS anyone to reach out too! (or they aren't sure who to reach out to!). I've been very blessed to be able to work with Boston Theatre Works and Zeitgeist, where I've met such fabulous actors, and on an individual basis I've found success merely because I had the gall to call Paula Plum and say "any chance you would read this?" I've found similar support from established companies, who've given me space for readings and helped support my independent work and events.

I think the older artists here are very willing to help and nurture the smaller, younger companies -- they simply aren't ever approached!

Anyway -I agree completely with you and I love your thoughts on how the fringe companies can stand to form more of a community to mutually benefit each other. And I think this is a very ripe time to do it. For my part, I'm going to do what I can to help get some of these smaller groups that I've worked with to come aboard, and to see what else we can do to nurture the community as a whole.

But I wanted to thank you for lighting the fire under my ass a little - I think it's a great idea and I think it's high time. If you hear from any others, or if anything comes up that you think I might be able to help with, please let me know - I would love to do what I can to keep the momentum going.

And as for the weekly/monthly meetings - I love the idea. I don't know that I have any places to recommend, but will certainly stay tuned and hope to meet with you all when it formulates.
Thanks again, for everything!
Be well,
John J King

5 July '07, 07:35 a m

I marched in a parade yesterday.
And last week my second-oldest friend in all the world died unexpectedly, in a re-hab center after hip-replacement surgery in Decorah, Iowa.
And a moment ago I wrote four checks --- for rent, telephone/internet, long-distance, and the Sunday New York TIMES --- and noticed that these "Costs of Living" take almost exactly half my Social Security payments every month leaving three hundred-odd bucks for food and "luxuries".

These things may be related only in my mind, but since I am wide awake Hours before normal right now I felt like explaining what I want to try to do to save live "Fringe Theater" here in Boston. I'll explain:

I "marched" the somewhat soggy length of the Fourth of July parade in Rockport (holding up the center of a street-wide banner) with The Veterans For Peace. We were at the tail-end, but as we went by there was more applause and shouted encouragement than flipped-birds and jeers from the granite-like faces lining the streets.
I was there by accident. Feeling the need to see the sea I'd called a friend who lives in The North Shore to invite him to eat seafood and talk and he thought I could see him parade beforehand so I caught a noon train and stuffed myself silly at their annual cook-out/conversation festival in his back yard and joined them as the parade was starting, and --- I just took over when banner-holding time arrived.

This Smedley Butler VFP group is Vietnam-and-older aged with experience in several American wars, and they play as hard as they work. I enjoyed the party, was really proud to be with them stepping down the yellow centerline, and always feel privileged when they overlook my Eighteen DAYS in the Army (asthma) in 1951 (Korea) and treat me as a like-minded friend.
Actually, I almost didn't make it!
I woke in plenty of time, but I've discovered that the Internet will let me not only hear but SEE Amy Goodman's "DEMOCRACY NOW!" program, and when I turned it on they were re-broadcasting an hour's interview with Pete Seeger and, through my tears at program's end I saw I had only time to brush a tooth and comb a little hair (I did take a razor, and used it just before the parade) and rush off hoping the MBTA wouldn't get me to North Station minutes after the 12:15 to Manchester showed me its caboose. And it didn't.
In trying to wangle an old-fart's half-price ticket I told the conductor-ess I was seventy-four-and-eleven-twelfths to the day, and she wished me a happy birthday when we arrived.

Lee met me. He knew Jean Young too, but we didn't get time to talk about that.

In 1956 or '57, when I was trying to claw myself out of a somewhat "New Jersey Gothic" family situation, I came to Cambridge to use the extra bed and live for a time with Jean and husband and infant son, and then much later ('80 - '85) I tried to live with her in Decorah. She was either a few months older or younger than I, prone to mystical experiences, unlucky with men, yet in her own way successful. A set of her "Altair-Designs" pictures were shown at the field-house for the Effigy Mounds preserve --- and I fully expect will stay on their walls as a memorial --- and not only did she continue to teach some Geology at Luther College, but her researches on discontinuities under that area drew a team of professionals to a small black outcrop, and the resultant paper on what they found here (including, they think, the Bodies of organisms that once deposited billions of thorn-like tiny "conedonts" so profusely that they are used to date strata the world over) --- that paper has Jean's name on it. In the sciences, and in art, and the memories of friends, she is unforgettable.
Jean had a pace-maker, walked with Two canes, and the last of her many dogs --- blind, diabetic, and upset at being boarded in a strange place --- was euthenized. I suspect she simply got tired, and couldn't face returning to a house empty of that last familiar face.
She was good friends with the couple who have built a Zen Monastery near Decorah, and services remembering her will be held there in about a month.
Never what anyone might refer to as "normal" Jean nevertheless did leave her stamp on the universe, and next time I have a perplex about something scientific, I will miss the chance to ask her about it.

I mentioned that Jean and I were the same age, and her example, that of the VFP people, even that of Pete Seeger, have all made me impatient to do Something Concrete that may Survive after me.
And that, of course, will have to have somthing to do with Theater.

Mostly, I have spent my life telling Bostonians that, despite the stolid contempt of the major media here, Boston has a healthy eager and mostly young grass-routes theater movement. And I suspect that what holds these struggling young companies (I found about ninety of them here, remember, and that was five years of strong growth back!) from wider awareness is the perceived necessity of "going it alone". Nowhere do I see people trying to band together to try to help Each Other; each individual company, each individual actor or director here is so busy with saving and promoting their own health and work that no one has time left to publicize not "my" theatre, but Theater Here In Boston --- all of it

THAT's what I want to change!

Here's what I propose:

I want to make a page on The Mirror.
Call it something like THE FRINGES OF BOSTON.
I want to start with the companies who use the "umbrella-spaces" here:


To maintain some control, I'd like all the companies that work in these spaces to "register" with me.
Then, through the magic of computers, I'd like to enter their seasons in such a way that, automatically, without they or I lifting a finger, their shows will Appear in the page on opening day and Disappear on closing; I'd like to make it so anyone looking at the page can sort plays by a)Company b)Title c)Theatre d)Date of Opening e)Price of Admission.

Each show would have this information, in this sequence, and ONLY this info:

"[Title of Show]"
[Date of Opening] - [Date of Closing]
@ [Place of Performance]
[Phone Number for tickets/info]
[PRICE of Ticket]

THEN, I want to put an ad into, say The METRO, Every Single Weekend, saying something like:


[The URL of the Fringes Page]

That's all --- but the ad will run Every Single Week-end, every theatre with something running (but ONLY theatres with something running) will be listed when they get there, they can sort by various criteria or read "press-packet" stuff on the company's website, but EVERYONE INVOLVED WILL GET AN EQUAL DOSE OF PUBLICITY.

And will pay for the privilege.
I've thought about this. I thought maybe I could divide the ad-cost every week by the number of shows up that week. That's too complicated.
What I'll ask each company with something running is:
The price of ONE Adult Week-end Ticket.
I don't think that will break even the smallest company; and, yes it will probably bring in more than the ad costs; but I can't afford to carry any deadbeats out of my $300-a-month to live on; and over time we may create a small fund this way that can pay for other ideas.

Actually, I do HAVE Other Ideas, but I want to get this in gear by, say Next September?
IF it works, the companies who use it will form a unit:
Fringe Theater In Boston will be a reality, in the minds of the theatre-loving public and the minds of the people who Make Theater here! And I can either die fulfilled, or go on to shove some Other Ideas down the throats of people too busy to cooperate with one another. [I'd like people to think about a series of "RENT PARTIES" to raise money to pay for advertising of their own.]

Okay, thanks for thinking about this.

Think about one more thing for me:

You know I love to talk with theater people. I learn a lot that way, and maybe on an informal, open-ended, regular way, "JUST TALK" can also help get people to think about cooperating.
What say, the first Monday of every month --- or maybe even every Monday! --- we pick out a specific cozy bar, or restaurant, or coffeehouse, or grille, and whoever's free and curious can come, maybe buy some drink or food, and talk with me and each other about --- Theater!!!
I don't often eat out (or drink out), but maybe you know of some quiet, congenial place we could start doing this. I'll put the address/time into The Mirror and encourage people to come --- in fact, if we can do it regularly I can maybe suggest In Advance that someone special might show up to talk about a specific expertise.
As a matter of fact, Barry Andelman, who knows more people than I do, and who did most of the interviews for That Movie, is willing to come kick-start a few informal talks. HE has suggested that THE HARVARD CLUB would be a good place to start. Do YOU have any other favorite watering-hole where we could meet? Talk To Me!

Thanks, and
Break a leg!
===Anon. $75 Hairspray $75 Twelve Angry Men $65.00 Rabbit Hole $50.00 Mauritius $50 Ice Breaker $32 Screen Play $30.00 After Ashley $30.00 Stuff Happens $28.00 Hamlet $20.00 All This Flying, All This Falling Down

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide