Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bringing it All and Bringing it Beautifully: Fringe Wilmington

Our first Fringe Wilmington was, in many ways, a real success: we attracted some fabulous artists and performers to the area, and we showcased some of our local stars. A four-day event, running from October 1-4, the Fringe took advantage of some of Wilmington’s most exciting and also underused spaces. The New Wilmington Art Association, which occupies abandoned or empty venues, made an appearance in a warehouse on Market Street. City Theater Company, Writing Man Productions and others found themselves in OperaDelaware’s intimate black box theater. It was thrilling to see the arts spilling out everywhere!

Among the offerings were performances by a Brazilian Capoeira troupe, a poetic monologue on the closing of Newark’s Chrysler plant, a comedian’s riotous account of self-rediscovery, presentations of two Word Premier operas, a concert of Indian classical dance and music and several original dramatic productions. Perhaps we were too ambitious on our first attempt at a Fringe? Though it was well-publicized, attendance at the festival wasn’t quite what we had hoped it would be.

Michael Dutka’s opera Black Horses and The Stronger were commissioned by OperaDelaware, and performed at Saints Andrew and Matthew Episcopal Church. A winning array of singers handled Dutka’s daunting scores with ease. In Black Horses, soprano Elizabeth Zell sang beautifully and clearly the libretto adapted from Luigi Pirandello’s short story. Tenor Jeffrey Halili sang with a warm tone and possessed a natural comic talent. Alexis Cregger, in her operatic monologue in August Strindberg’s oddball play, was a pure pleasure to watch and hear. Her glorious soprano and prodigious musical talent are sure to lead her far. Martha Koeneman played Dutka’s beautiful, yet difficult music with ease, grace and musicality.

Usiloquy Dance designs brought their colorful exotic presentation to the baby grand at the Grand Opera House, The Bharatanatyam dance is a lyrical, poetic classical Indian art form that is thousands of years old. The dances are performed to original compositions, with costumes created by troupe member and costume maker Michelle Yeager. As an extra treat, Maitrayee Patel and Surya Nakella performed several songs in the Indian classical style. Their selections included compositions in Raag Bheempalasi. The duo performed their intertwining, often imitative melodies to the backdrop of a steady synthesizer beat.

If I had to pick a favorite performance, it would be Robin Gelfenbien’s My Salvation Has a First Name: A Wienermobile Journey. Not only was Robin hysterical with her physical comedy, her riotous imitations of her frat-boy Wienermobile partner and doting aunt, she was also touching with her poignant tale self-rediscovery. She carried this solo show beautifully with her observational talent.

See www.fringewilmingtonde.com

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