Fringe, Stage Right

Is Prague ready for the new kids?

What’s in a festival? If I told you in verse, that’d be your license to kill. Judging by the plague of posters that descends on the city every spring, a festival is any event featuring more than three performers, where the number of performers is equal to, or greater than the number of spectators. Judging by the efforts of Steven Gove and Angus Coull, co-directors of the Prague Fringe Festival, a festival is sensory overload—confetti dusts the streets and feathers float from the seams on the fringe.

The Prague installment, like its respectably aging Edinburgh namesake, started small. Now in its sophomore year, it’s still small, but if the dedicated vision of the directors, quality of the programming, and very apparent gap in the local scene means anything at all, this thing is on the rise. Focusing again on non-verbal theater, the festival defies any real rubric other than “new, good theater” —to call it alternative would be, well, tasteless.

While the organizers dream big dreams, some of the acts aren’t looking forward to getting any bigger. New York’s Tiny Ninja Theater Company, for example, will perform Romeo and Juliet using miniature action figures. “They hand out binoculars to audience members,” Gove says, but still, better book front row and leave the kids at home lest they choke on the lead actor.

Proponents of “traditional” theater (meaning productions wherein an actor, or number of actors, deliver intelligible lines and perform actions on-stage to detail a narrative) need not fear the Fringe: myopia-inducing stage design is not the order of the day. Shining among the highlights imported from Edinburgh’s festival is Krement X, a Norwegian company that will put on their “One Night Stand.” “Happy with Half your Life,” from Beautiful Butterfly Productions, relates the coming-of-age story of a young Australian woman who finds herself caring for an elderly woman in Britain. The Prodigal Theater Company will also premier the second part of its internationally acclaimed “Tragedian” piece, the story of the legendary thespian Edmund Keane.

The substantial children’s program should be welcomed; especially by families who have already discovered the beautifully redone Divadlo Minor. The Fringe offers primarily non-verbal performances for kids, many performed by local troupes like Minor’s house company and Divadlo Drak, which will guide the audience through an African fairy tale, scored with African drumming.

And the Fringe comes from noble stock, as far as theater festivals go; actually, it’s fair to say this one’s the crown prince. Scotland’s original Fringe, now going into its 58th season, helped launched the careers of the Monty Python troupe and Rowan Atkinson, among others, and spawned a slew of imitators around the globe. Every year, Edinburgh is flooded with talent scouts and theater reps from around the world, many of who will also be here in Prague. Stunningly, last year more than one million tickets were sold for festival events in Edinburgh. The huge draw pumped nearly TKTK euros into the city’s economy—one more good reason for the financially embattled City Magistrate’s office to have lent such generous support to the local fledgling.

One of the best things about the Festival is that the local audience plays a large part in setting the mood, and even helps to define the performances themselves. Audience participation? What’s that mean? That means you’ll have to keep up with local reactions if you want to get the most out of the performances, and occasionally you’ll have to strip and dance onstage. Keep tabs, check schedules and post your own reviews in real time on Prague TV (www.prague.tv), the unofficial online home of Prague Fringe. The festival will be hosted primarily at Studio Damuza, Divadlo Minor and Studio Rubin, with some performances at the NoD space (check venue finder for details).

Select Performances

Romeo and Julie
Tiny Ninja Theater Company
June 5 and 6 at Divadlo Minor

One Night Stand
Krement X
June 5, 6 and 7 at Divadlo Minor

Tragedian II—World Premier
Prodigal Theater Company
Friday, June 6 at NoD

Wherefore art Micah Jayne? At micah@pill.cz

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