It’s that time of year again, when our hometown version of the Fringe Festival takes over Hollywood with hundreds of performances of never-before-seen live theater experiences. (Most of which defy any more specific categorization.)
For most of June, the streets are filled with hopeful theater types and the friends they’ve begged to come see them perform as Moms Mabley, accountants of Death, four young women coping with an LA Halloween gone bad, or in their one-man portrayal of a husband’s crawl down the Hallway of Mid-Life. Among the offerings, this year’s Fringe has 126 solo performances and one immersive horror experience, Internal, where you’re the solo performer: “Alone on the streets of Hollywood, you will face a darkness that may devour you whole.” (Sorry, I’m not reviewing that one!)
There’s no way to see it all, and little guidance as to what might work and what might give you a “Springtime for Hitler” moment. This intrepid theatergoer will sample a few productions and share some impressions, but you’re encouraged to browse the Fringe website to find something the speaks to you.
See below for some insider tips to make your experience easier and richer.
But first, to give you a taste, here’s a review of a show I caught in previews over the weekend:
Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?
A cast of 14 – one for every word and punctuation mark in the famous riddle and its answer – offers wordplay, movement and a little existential philosophy. Over the course of 90 minutes, each word struggles with its meaning. Is it the actual thing, or just a series of words representing that thing? And what are “the” and “did” to make of themselves? It took me back to third grade when the teacher insisted that we couldn’t write numbers on the blackboard. We could only write numerals, because numbers are abstract concepts.
The actors somehow manage to embody the word (or mark) emblazoning his or her shirt. Together they examine how they all fit together, and whether finding and bonding with their sentence-mates will somehow change their lives.
Written by Matthew Hennigar, who also plays “Other” from the riddle’s answer, Why Did the Chicken veers from entertaining and insightful to redundant and overwrought. By the end, though, you share this struggling group’s triumph. They’ve come a long way.
Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road is playing June 13, 14, 22 and 29 at varying times at the Flight Theatre (so-named because it’s up a flight of stairs) at the Complex, 6472 Santa Monica Blvd.
Fringe Insider Tips
The Fringe Festival is uncurated and uncensored. Meet the deadlines, pay the (low) fee, pull your show together, and you’re in. Some shows seem like jokes being played on the audience. Some seem designed to get back at parents. Most are heartfelt and amateurish.
Lengths range from 15 minutes to 2 hours.
You can see a show on almost any topic you could name, and many you’d never think of. For example, #HFF2019 features:
- an adaptation of a piece of Toy Story fanfiction
- a musical tribute to the Netflix series Stranger Things
- a Bollywood musical about a love story struggling to survive in the war-torn valleys of Kashmir
- a musical retaliation by the founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis
- an ensemble play that asks the wordy question, “How does digital communication hamper or enhance analog components of life like love, family, depression, self-exploration and fulfillment?”
…and, as the old ads used to say, MANY MORE!!!
Pessimists, proceed at your own risk. Optimists, go find that diamond in the rough! Good luck – and a word to the wise: sit near the exit, just in case.
Start with the Website
Head on over to http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/. You can search by category (see a cabaret show, musical or ensemble piece!), schedule (set aside a Sunday to see multiple shows) or venue (maybe start with something close to home, at the Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre, 5636 Melrose Ave, just east of Larchmont).
Each show’s page has a Tickets tab showing its location and all performances. Performances run through June 30, so you’ll have several opportunities to see each show. Most tickets are $10-20, and some are as low as $5.
Online sales end a few hours before the start time. Tickets to all shows also may be purchased by calling (323) 455-4585 (additional fee applies). And tickets are sold at the door of most performances.
Leave Time to Park
Parking is famously terrible in the Santa Monica Blvd. small theater district, where many of the productions are located, but here are a few suggestions, assuming you don’t want to take the easy way out and use Uber or Lyft.
Most shows are in the area around Santa Monica and Wilcox. Theaters there include the Complex, the Hudson, the Broadwater and the Three Clubs. You can often find parking on side streets south of Santa Monica, west of Cahuenga. I’ve had good luck on Hudson, Cole and Romaine, between Willoughby and Santa Monica. There’s a Gold’s Gym on Cole and Romaine where diagonal street parking opens up regularly.
Spaces on Cole and Cahuenga along the Hollywood Recreation Center just north of Santa Monica are often available; the ones on Cole have no meters or time limits.
Other shows are scattered as far north as Franklin and as far east as Normandie, and all I can tell you for those is “good luck.” Most small theaters in LA have no parking lots, and there are few public lots nearby. An exception is Actors Company on Formosa, which has its own parking lot.
Eating and Drinking
Make a night (or day) of it! Here are some nearby restaurants walking distance from the primary Fringe location on Santa Monica Blvd.
Eat This Café, part of the Hudson Theater complex at 6547 Santa Monica Blvd, open 10 am-8 pm weekdays, 9am-8pm Saturday, 9am-4pm Sunday. Salads and sandwiches. Serves wine.
Rao’s, 1006 Seward St., open 6-10pm weekdays, 5-10pm Saturday, 5-9pm Sunday. High-end New York-bred Italian. Full bar.
Grub, 911 Seward St., open 11am-3pm weekdays, 9-3 weekends. Yummy comfort food. Serves wine and beer.
Hunter & Charlie’s, 1050 Vine St. on the corner of Santa Monica, open 8am-8pm weekdays, 10am-8pm Saturday, 10am-3pm Sunday. Salads, sandwiches, rotisserie chicken and more.
Spoonfed/Bar Joe, 959 Seward St. at Romaine, open 7am-6:30pm seven days a week. Something delicious for everyone.
Write a Review
Fringe is crowd-sourced theater, and participants love audience reviews. Promote a show you loved and help its team get seen. You can write reviews for individual Fringe shows on the Fringe website (you’ll need to register), or post about it on social media using #hff18. You can also post on the Fringe Facebook page.
I’ll be back next week with some more reviews. Enjoy!