Monday, May 13, 2013

Hollywood Fringe Spotlight - Part I: Exorcistic and The Road To High Street

The third annual Hollywood Fringe Festival, Hollywood’s fearless celebration of the emerging arts is back June 13 – 30, 2013, and over the next couple of weeks I’ll be featuring some of the musical productions hoping to entice audiences to see their latest work. You’ll find every kind of show you can think of produced by local, national, and international arts companies and independent producers in venues that might be very traditional or completely unorthodox. 

Participation in the Hollywood Fringe is entirely open and uncensored. This free-for-all approach underlines the festival’s mission to be a platform for artists without the barrier of a curative body. By opening the gates to anyone with a vision, the festival is able to exhibit the most diverse and cutting-edge points-of-view the world has to offer. First up are Michael Shaw Fisher and Exorcistic: The Rock Musical Parody Experiment, and Andrew Potter with The Road to High Street.

June 6 (PREVIEW), 8, 14, 15, 16, 19, 21, 27, 29
Michael Shaw Fisher

Michael Shaw Fisher, the creator of last year’s Fringe hit Doomsday Cabaret, returns this year with a new 80-minute musical parody called Exorcistic: The Rock Musical Parody Experiment, and even the story of how the musical came to be is a riot. Check out what Fisher says about it and what you’ll see when you come to the Fringe.

“I envisioned this exorcist rock musical back in 2011 beginning with the image of a possessed profane lounge singer/possessed girl. I wrote a bunch of music and wanted to mount the show in 2012 but there was another Exorcistic themed show happening at the Geffen which was a serious play based on William Peter Blatty’s book. Even though I’m small fry compared to the Geffen they still wanted me to wait to do the musical parody. The writer of the original book and film, William Peter Blatty contacted the fringe personally about it and explained that if I was to do it next year then that would be probably be okay, so instead I wrote Doomsday Cabaret very quickly and put Exorcistic on hold.” [And we all know how successful Best of the Fringe Doomsday turned out to be.]

Flash forward to 2013. Fisher emails Blatty to let him know that he is intending to do the parody musical and a surprising thing happens. Fisher says, “In the email I gave him links to reviews of Doomsday and he responded with the exciting idea that we might possibly collaborate on a musical together based on one of his other novels “Demons Five Exorcists Nothing”. To be clear, Exorcistic is NOT a collaboration with Blatty, but it has given me this great opportunity to develop some new musical ideas for a possible future project with him, and that is great! As far as Exorcistic goes, he eventually read the script, advised me to change the character names, and gave it his blessing for the Fringe.”

The creative team is a familiar one; Ken Sawyer takes on the producer/horror expert role and Pat Towne, who directed the musical play Joe’s Garage based on Frank Zappa’s rock opera, will direct. Michael Teoli, who did arrangements and musical direction for Doomsday Cabaret, is back in the same capacity on Exorcistic. Fisher also has a great cast lined up that includes Jesse Merlin (Re-Animator the Musical, Silence! the Musical), Curt Bonnem and Jimmy Swan (both from Lovelace) and Laura Sperrazza, lead singer of the band the Glombies.

Does it have anything in common with parody musicals like Re-Animator or Silence!? According to Fisher, “This show is very different from a straight parody like Silence! and it also isn’t a direct adaptation like Re-Animator. Exorcistic is a bit like Noises Off where we meet a highbrow, pretentious theatre company going broke that hopes to capitalize on the 40th anniversary of The Exorcist in order to survive. They decide to do a rock musical experiment where they can do both parody and deconstruct the political and social relevance of its thematic layers. We watch the show go from being a staged reading to the Hollywood fringe, to becoming a huge hit – all while the company is summoning dark forces they don’t understand.

It’s a really fun ride and gives fans of the movie lots of things to refer to within a satirical theater world of bickering actors, bitter stage managers and snooty directors. It is my hope that audiences will appreciate the wacky levels of reality mirroring art in this meta-theater-piece, rock out to the 4-piece rock band and astounding vocal talent, and enjoy the creative incorporation of the pop-cultural iconography of ‘the scariest movie of all time’ into this hilarious rock parody. Above all, our show is a tribute and a celebration. Personally I think a show like this was meant to start at a Fringe Festival just like Silence! began at the New York fringe. It gives us the opportunity to attempt some really far out things and test our own boundaries and goals.”

Performances take place at the Fringe Mainstage, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd. Tickets are $12. Click Here for tickets and more information about the show.

June 7, 14, 23, 28, 30

When Andrew Potter brought The Road To High Street to last year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival he was doing more than just putting on a show about busking. He was sharing his own life’s story in a very unique way. Well, the busker’s digital rock and roll story told through music and multi-media was a hit, and he’s back again this year with more so if you missed it in 2012, you’ll get a second chance this summer.

I asked him to tell us about the show and what makes it so special, and here’s what he had to say. “The show covers a very exciting period of my life, when I was a street performer and juggler based in San Francisco, in a two person act called The High Street Circus. Not many people realize this about street performing, but we did thousands of shows over a ten year period, in front of crowds of hundreds and hundreds of people. We made a lot of money in our hat, won some big International competitions, and made enough contacts to perform all over the country, including Italy, Canada, and Japan.”

During that time, Potter says he accumulated a lot of archival material – videos, photographs, articles, and of course, the stories. After receiving an MA from Emerson College, he edited all of the material into tightly choreographed videos and images sequences that would augment his storytelling, then added music on his guitar to accompany the story and digital elements. Audiences will see the imagery projected on a large screen, next to Potter during the show.

Why will it appeal to Fringe-goers? “It’s all true, and it’s unique,” he laughs. “I have a story called ‘Living in a beer tank’, about our first very odd home, right after we moved to San Francisco. The story is bizarre enough, but the imagery is almost unbelievable, yet...there it is. Other stories about performing in Japan and Italy are equally wild, plus I have stories about many of the other wild and crazy performers we worked with over the years. Against this backdrop, I add the notion of what it is like to have such an unconventional career.”

If you ask us, it sounds like it was made for the Fringe. Performances will take place at Theatre Asylum, Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, Los Angeles, CA 90038. Click Here for tickets and more information.

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