Fringe Fest is packed with variety

Nov. 2, 2013 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition
One of the festival's features will be 'The Mister Sister Mixer Fixer,' an exclusive version of the Mister Sister troupe's Chinatown drag show. 'It's a campy musical comedy that can be best described as Martha Stewart meets 'Pee-wee's Playhouse,'' says Mister Sister's Cheyne Gallarde. --Courtesy photo

One of the O’ahu Fringe Festival’s features will be “The Mister Sister Mixer Fixer,” an exclusive version of the Mister Sister troupe’s Chinatown drag show. (Courtesy photo)

BY STEFANIE NAKASONE / snakasone@staradvertiser.com

Even event organizer Misa Tupou doesn’t know what to expect from the acts at next week’s third annual O’ahu Fringe Festival. And that’s what makes it so exciting.

O’AHU FRINGE FESTIVAL

Where: Chinatown, various locations
When: Thursday-Nov. 10
Cost: $10 for each performance; “Fringe Bites” is free (all ages unless noted)
Info: oahufringe.com

Keeping in line with Fringe’s all-inclusive nature, Tupou added all interested performers to the four-day festival even if he had never seen their acts.

“Whoever signs up, that person becomes part of the festival,” Tupou said. “It’s open to everybody, anyone can participate.”

That’s part of the beauty of the fringe festival concept, which originated in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1947 and has spread around the world.

From theater to puppetry to a drag show to multimedia collaborations, this year’s local festival is jam-packed with 13 performances from all areas of artistic expression.

“I have faith that they will produce and create good work,” Tupou said. “I’m looking forward to all of them.”

THE PURPOSE of Fringe is to promote the performing arts and advocate expression. And that was the driving force behind starting Fringe in Hawaii.

Having been exposed to the arts internationally and at home in New Zealand, Tupou was inspired a decade ago when he moved to Hawaii and discovered there was no local fringe festival.

“I noticed, ‘Wow, there are a lot of talented people here,’” he said. “I thought it was the right time to make small steps, to inquire about putting on a fringe festival here.”

He talked about the idea with his friend, theater producer Tim Bostock. However, the two decided to hold off. It wasn’t until several years later that they revisited the idea and decided to give it a go.

It was all about timing, Tupou stressed, saying that the artistic revitalization in Chinatown was a signal that the time was right.

“The energy of the art community and the wider community in supporting the arts was very uplifting,” he said.

Chinatown’s Ong King Arts Centre, The ARTS at Marks Garage and Loading Zone will be this year’s Fringe-managed performance venues.

One act found its own venue: Spatial Sculptors will present its interactive, improvisational dance performance “Still, Standing” at The Dragon Upstairs at 9 p.m. on Nov. 8.

While Tupou hopes the festival continues to grow — possibly with street performances, like those that take over the Royal Mile in Edinburgh — he said he is happy with the support he has received over the past three years, both from his small group of volunteers and from the audience.

“Last year we had repeat customers, so to me that was very heartening,” he said. “I’m hoping they’ll return again for our third one.”

Robert Yokoyama performs in the PlayBuilders of Hawai'i production 'Houseless in Paradise,' which focuses on the homeless in Hawaii and includes homeless people in its cast. --Krystle Marcellus / kmarcellus@staradvertiser.com

Robert Yokoyama performs in the PlayBuilders of Hawai’i production ‘Houseless in Paradise,’ which focuses on the homeless in Hawaii and includes homeless people in its cast. (Star-Advertiser photo by Krystle Marcellus)

PLAYBUILDERS OF HAWAI’I breaks the mold for O’ahu Fringe Festival productions, which typically are shorter than an hour, Tupou said. The PlayBuilders’ dramatic collection of stories, “Houseless in Paradise,” is a two-hour performance, shining a spotlight on the islands’ homeless using firsthand accounts and interviews.

“We feel that the issue of homelessness affects everyone in Hawaii,” director Terri Madden said. “But most of us don’t understand the other side of it. There is a lot of misunderstanding.

“The goal is to spark a conversation in our community.”

The cast consists of 12 performers — six members of Oahu’s homeless community and six members of Honolulu’s theatre community.

Madden said she has been blown away by the talent and giving nature of her performers who are homeless. But she also didn’t want to sugarcoat the experience — some participants have missed rehearsals, and not all are guaranteed to make it to opening night.

“At times, it’s been joyous, and at times it’s a struggle,” she said. Having spoken with those who work with the homeless, Madden said even if some of the homeless performers never take the stage, the experience is still a positive one for them.

And if a performer doesn’t show up, an actor is ready to step in.

“No matter what, their stories will be heard,” Madden said.

One story centers on a woman who is an ex-drug addict and criminal who, for the first time in 40 years, revealed she was sexually abused from the age of 7. She now cooks at River of Life Mission and is a star pupil in the Kapiolani Community College culinary program.

Another monologue is titled “I Made Mazie Hirono Cry on Accident,” told by a young woman who is raising her three children alone at Weinberg Village. The woman also was raised by a single mom on beaches and at Weinberg Village. She was sent to Washington to thank senators for the Job Corps program, where she is learning to be an auto mechanic.

PlayBuilders’ Mark Tjarks conducted more than 60 interviews with members of the homeless community as well as community leaders including state Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, coordinator of the Homeless Working Group, state homeless coordinator Colin Kippen and Jun Yang, the mayor’s director of housing.

The performance at Fringe is just the first of several for “Houseless in Paradise” this month. For a schedule and tickets, visit playbuilders.org.

A FRINGE EXCLUSIVE is “The Mister Sister Mixer Fixer,” a special version of the Mister Sister troupe’s monthly Chinatown drag show.

“It’s a campy musical comedy that can be best described as Martha Stewart meets ‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse,’” said Mister Sister’s Cheyne Gallarde.

Video is an essential element of “Kardia,” a multimedia dance show directed by Michelle Jericho Poppler in collaboration with Hawai’i Women in Filmmaking. It incorporates artistic video projected onto dancers.

Poppler said the project is highly experimental and very improvisational.

“It’s about opening up your heart, letting go of negativity,” Poppler said. Dancers will perform in “their own style … just having fun with it.”

The show incorporates live music and includes aerial performance, as well as a burlesque aspect with dancers from the Cherry Blossom Cabaret.

The festival’s lone mainland performer is Katy Rydell. The storyteller from Portland, Maine, will talk about the highly combustible subject of flatulence in “The Other ‘F’ Word.”

While Tupou said all performances at the O’ahu Fringe Festival are family-friendly. Nov. 10 is focused on keiki with Bonnie Kim’s “Long Long Ago, When Tiger Smoked: Animal Tales from Korea.” The Hilo storyteller uses puppetry to tell a collection of Korean folk tales.

“It’s a solo act, but in a way it is not,” Tupou said. “When Bonnie is working with a puppet, it comes alive.”

Kim, along with her rabbit, tiger and turtle puppet friends, takes the stage at Mark’s Garage at 2 p.m.

For “Fringe Bites,” a free taste of all of next week’s acts at the Fringe Festival opening party, go to NextDoor on Thursday. Each group will have five minutes to show off and promote its performance.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Thursday, Nov. 1

» Island Oasis Middle Eastern Dance, 6 p.m., The ARTS at Marks Garage, ages 16 and older

» “Houseless in Paradise,” PlayBuilders production (special 1-hour performance), 7:30 p.m., The ARTS at Marks Garage, 10 and older

» Samadhi Aerial Dance and Volary Aerial Burlesque, 7:30 p.m., NextDoor

» “Fringe Bites,” opening party, all acts, 9 p.m., NextDoor; free

Nov. 8

» “The Other ‘F’ Word,” storytelling by Katy Rydell, 6 p.m., The ARTS at Mark’s Garage

» Tiare FIT Dance Fusion, 6 p.m., Ong King Arts Centre

» “Houseless in Paradise,” PlayBuilders production, 7:30 p.m., The ARTS at Marks Garage, ages 10 and older

» “For All Generations,” music and hula by Nicholas Jon Navales and ohana, 7:30 p.m., Ong King Arts Centre

» “Still, Standing,” living sculptures/dance by Spatial Sculptors, 9 p.m., The Dragon Upstairs

» On The Spot Improv, comedy, 10:30 p.m., The ARTS at Marks Garage

» “Mister Sister Mixer Fixer,” drag show, 10:30 p.m., Ong King Arts Centre, 18 and older

Nov. 9

» “The Other ‘F’ Word,” storytelling by Katy Rydell, 6 p.m., The ARTS at Mark’s Garage

» “Role Play: A Sci Fi Radio Play,” presented by Pacific Invasion Media, 6 p.m., Loading Zone, 12 and older

» “Return of the Feminine…,” Badra Belly Dance, 7:30 p.m., The ARTS at Mark’s Garage

» “Mister Sister Mixer Fixer,” drag show, 7:30 p.m., Ong King Arts Centre, 18 and older

» “Music of the World” ballroom dance by Divino Ritmo Dance, 7:30 p.m., Loading Zone, 8 and older

» Island Oasis Middle Eastern Dance, 9 p.m., The ARTS at Marks Garage, 16 and older

» “Kardia,” multimedia dance by Michelle Poppler with Hawaii Women in Filmmaking, 9 p.m. Ong King Arts Centre

Nov. 10

» “Long Long Ago, When Tiger Smoked: Animal Tales from Korea,” puppetry by Bonnie Kim, 2 p.m., The ARTS at Marks Garage

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