Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival closes, setting ticket sales record with excellent performances, sold-out shows

With numerous sold-out performances in its five venues at The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City, the fifth annual Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival closed on several record-setting notes.

Ticket sales were up more than 34 percent from last year, topping the 3,200 mark for the first time in the event’s history. Payout to the performers totaled approximately $22,000, up nearly 46 percent from last year.

Taking various festival honors were:

Best of F: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Grassroots Shakespeare Company

Best of FF: Bang Bang You’re Dead – (De)Caf Acting Company

Best of FFF: Tennessee Williams and the Battle – Ryon Sharette

Outstanding Student Production: Bang Bang You’re Dead – (De)Caf Acting Company

Outstanding One-Person Show: Genit-Hell Yeah! – Madazon Can-Can

Outstanding Ensemble: Bang Bang You’re Dead – (De)Caf Acting Company

Outstanding Original Script: Amber Alert – Julie-Anne Liechty

Audience Choice: The Night Witches – The Egyptian YouTheatre

Fringe Pick: Love, Ann – Pussycat Productions

The Utah Review offers a roundup of four reviews of performances from Fringe’s second weekend. For reviews of six other shows, see an earlier Fringe roundup at The Utah Review.

Madazon Can-Can.

Genit-Hell Yeah! – Madazon Can-Can

One of Fringe’s most compelling features is providing a humble space for artists and entertainers – in this show, the former retail location for Sur La Table – where genuine creative trials and viscerally stirring pieces overwhelm commercial concerns and moralistic prejudices with unfettered, refreshing risk-taking expression. Madazon Can-Can’s show was a tour de force for a performer self-described as a naked clown. The results were sold-out performances, even with seats added, and a Fringe award for outstanding one-person show. Furthermore, audience members were asked to complete questionnaires afterward, which is part of Madazon’s (Madison Lindgren) research for a master’s thesis in education at The University of Utah.

Working with colorful props, puppetry and audience members who fit effortlessly into the show’s boundless groove, Madazon efficiently and effectively deconstructs major archetypes in the conventional spectrum of masculinity and femininity while celebrating sexual freedom and body positivity. The opening set the tone perfectly, as Madazon encased in a butterfly costume contraption primes the audiences, with the accompanying music of Edvard Grieg’s Morning Mood from The Peer Gynt Suite. A phallic prop adds to the delicious weirdness and Madazon eventually emerges nude from the costume. There is a lot of symbolism in the show and it’s the clarion call to set aside the restrictive conceptions of sexuality and identity that puritanism has imposed upon us.

Later, two audience members are invited to switch up gender roles with costumes worn over their street clothes. They dance, respectively, to the quintessential songs for the task: Shania Twain’s Man (I Feel Like A Woman) and Aerosmith’s Dude (Looks Like A Lady). In between, there are ‘soapbox’ speeches, spoken by invited audience members, that are sensitively written heart-enriched messages, which truly animate the sensuality of any fulfilling relationship, romantically or physically. Chicago’s You’re The Inspiration loses the cheese curd shell in the context of Madazon’s presentation. Audience participants for this particular performance included Jay Perry, Fringe festival director, and his wife, Daisy Blake, in the final number of the show – Prince’s Purple Rain, as Madazon stripped down in true burlesque style.

Thanks to cable television shows such as Ru Paul’s Drag Race, a bit of a subversive cultural mentality has seeped into the mainstream but it also has been sanitized considerably. Madazon’s impressive show reminds that there should be no limits to the audacious potential of the art of burlesque. The natural magnetism of Genit-Hell Yeah! embodies a resistance that all of us should welcome.

The Jewel of the Colorado – Aidan Croft (presented by Sasquatch Theatre Company)

A Westminster College student, Aidan Croft is developing a solid portfolio in the theatrical scene. In 2018, he performed in Riot Act Theatre’s outstanding production of The Aliens, a play by Annie Baker, and later was the assistant director for that company’s production of Mopey Wrecks, a Whit Hertford play adapted from Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters.

Croft continues to perfect his craft in the one-person show The Jewel of the Colorado, an excellent documentary piece about the impact of the creation of the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. He synthesized multiple elements handily, incorporating the words of various voices, live songs accompanied by guitar and video footage, provided from the University of Utah’s Marriott Library Special Collections.

Croft’s substantial research was translated with good effect in this unique documentary format. He inflected his voice, poise, speaking manner and movement to match the characters and their words he spoke. They included Katie, folk singer and author; Edward Abbey, the author known particularly for Desert Solitaire and The Monkey Wrench Gang; Floyd Dominy, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation commissioner during the time of the project construction; David Brower, the Sierra Club Foundation’s first executive director, and Annette, a Utah resident. On his program notes, Croft explained why the show does not include Native American voices. His statement is sensible: “It is not my place to speak for them. Please seek out their voices and listen, listen, listen.”

Last year, documentary filmmaker Taylor Graham spoke to National Geographic, explaining how the Glen Canyon Dam-Lake Powell project became the linchpin for a new generation of environmentalists in the Intermountain West. “When they lost that battle and the Glen Canyon Dam was built, it really launched this modern consciousness of protecting our wild places in the West,” Graham said.

Croft’s piece deftly reinforces this impetus. He reminds audiences of what we lost when such incredible natural beauty was submerged for unnatural purposes.

Quango Follies. Little Man Theater Company

Quango Follies – Little Man Theater Company

There is plenty of gentle nostalgic charm in Quango Follies, a show that pays appropriate homage to the silent movie tradition as epitomized by Charlie Chaplin’s The Tramp (1915) and the French children’s classic short film, The Red Balloon (1956, Albert Lamorisse).  

Of course, not a word is spoken. The actors – Noah Kershisnik and Trevor Newsome – gesture and move effectively through various scenes, with music provided by Zach Power. Last year, the company performed A Bestiary at Fringe. The company also performed a variation of this latest show at last year’s Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.

Kershisnik is the lovable hobo, while Newsome plays various characters, including a park superintendent, a plein air painter and a costumed dog determined to not let his companion enjoy his lunch. Of course, there is a balloon that follows the hobo, just as it follows a child in the famous short film. It’s a straightforward piece of entertainment, particularly suited for kids. It is among the most amiable pieces to be performed at a Fringe venue. Sometimes, metaphors and symbolism are unnecessary. Stories in their purest form can be enjoyed with the same enrichment.

Father, Daughter & Holy Ghost – Barbara Brady

In a Fringe heavy with Utah representation, Barbara Brady’s appearance was notable. A resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, Brady nevertheless brought a show that is accessible to audiences wherever her one-person show is performed.

One can appreciate the matter-of-fact familiarity of Brady’s stories about the experiences of caring for her elderly father. She paints authentically a portrait of a man who still manages to defy the effects of dementia with his intellectual curiosity and stubbornness as a self-taught “scientific genius.” Sure, there are difficulties, occasional embarrassments and small medical crises along the way, but Brady also evinces perhaps the best advice for surviving the trials: let the worst aspects roll off the shoulders and laugh along the way. In addition, Brady recounts the experience of discovering all of Catholicism’s intrigue and quirks. Her favorite takeaway is the music of the church. And, we get glimpses of a very nice singing voice.

It’s a witty, pleasant experience. She eschews the platform to give advice, noting that none of it works but the best suggestion is to find one’s own way of “muddling” through the situation. One of her best bits is “Dating on The Road to Medicare,” referencing a promising encounter with a cab driver that is interrupted by her father’s accident in his pants. She says, “There’s a thing happening here, right? I mean, when you’re dating on the road to Medicare, there’s a whole different set of criteria for what constitutes your perfect love match.” Brady rightly does not need to exaggerate the comical possibilities of the situation. The plain-spoken account is sufficient.

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