Augustus 11/11: My Hollywood Fringe Festival 2011 Experience

Now that Fringe is “over”, I have recovered from my Fringury, and I have been on vacation and back, I will reflect upon my whole Fringe experience. I’ve got to say that I had one of the best times of my life. Theatre is very important, to me and to the whole universe. I found that some people do not realize this, so I am lucky to not only be in the know, but to act upon it. My life just felt so much more right while I was Fringing. Everything in the world falls into place, if you can pay attention, even if it isn’t perfect. I even had some pretty strong déjà vu, as though I’d lived certain moments in the Fringe thousands of times. That was at once encouraging and creepy. I don’t always experience this with my theatrical adventures, either, so I figure this is something very special. I told Festival Director and Fringe Founder Ben Hill that Dionysos had blessed Fringe.


Designed by Fringe Art Director Gavin Worth

It felt right to help theatre make its way in Hollywood, promoting shows, giving curtain speeches, handing out guides to the festival, promoting the festival button program, and certainly Freaking. By Freaking, I mean becoming a Fringe Freak, who are the mascots. We attracted a whole lot of positive attention that way. We got lots of honks, waves, shout-outs, and pictures taken. Being Freaks, we let our Freak flag fly- like I’ve said, in Fringe, we know that we are all truly Freaks on the fringe of society.  Dionysos, the Greek god of theatre, is also of course the god of the fringe of society, the Other, and all liminality.  I (and I am sure many other Fringers) feel deeply connected with these things.  Yet it is not just those in theatre who are the Other- we all have an inner, individual, unique Freak just dying to express himself. While wearing a mask, it is so freeing, and so easy to express and channel Freak energy. In order to express my own individual energy and attract more attention, I did a lot of stretching, yoga poses, and I did a little dancing and some apparently very sexually attractive posing- I found that lots of men apparently dig chicks in great big mascot heads. And they weren’t shy about saying so, but oh well. Men; what are you gonna do. Anyway, it felt right to be a Freak.

Me as Red Freak.

Me as Red Freak.

Another important part of Fringing is communication. It is very important to socialize and to talk about the shows that one has seen, as that promotes further interest in shows, and that is ultimately what fills the seats of good shows by the end of the festival. It is very important to promote and offer discounts to the right people, because that will get you a lot more action too. It’s important to socialize just because of networking, besides. Not to mention it’s so much fun.

Most of this socializing took place at Fringe Central, in the cabaret tent. The tent was one of the things which gave me that creepy déjà vu. It reminded me of this awful trance I had, where all the universe seemed like one big circus tent (this tent was somehow also my family and home), and this tent was crushing me to death, and then I realized that it was only God and MySelf, and that I wasn’t dead but eternal. How silly of me- I tend to forget these important things when I get scared.  I remember that there’s some stuff in the Bible about the Tent of God.

Some days after these déjà vu experiences at Fringe, I happened to run across some one of these Bible verses or other with notes I’d had there years and years and years ago. I’d forgotten it entirely after encountering it in high school, I presume (high school was back when I was so cool that I called myself an atheist- but for some [now obvious] reason, I couldn’t stop reading scripture anyway). And now I can’t fucking find it, but anyway, the Tent of God is a place he’s got eternally prepared for us to join him and stay with him forever, having all that we need, always, and feasting with him unto infinity. So it doesn’t need to be creepy, but it still creeps me out.


The Tabernacle of God, a dwelling for his Presence

Inside this tent was Bryan’s Bar. Last year it was simply the bar at Fringe Central, which was at The Egyptian last year, in a sort of back alleyway. But we needed to expand this year, as the Fringe is so much bigger this year, and so that is why there was this nice big tent down on Santa Monica Boulevard in Theatre Row this year. The bar was also enlarged, and of course named, and dedicated to our dear, loved, and missed friend, Bryan Burgess. A sign was erected and we commemorated the occasion with a toast. Our moods were a little different that day. And every time I got a drink at Bryan’s Bar, not only did I say Grace, as I always do (to thank God, Ganymede, and Bacchus for being so kind as to bless me with such a gift from the Universe and bounty of Christ), but I also raised my glass to Bryan, remembering him.

Bryan's Bar

Sign designed by Gavin Worth, shitty photo by me.

I had dreams about Bryan again, of course. In the first dream we were riding a bus, and he told me that he was magic. He told me that, no matter where I ever went, no matter where I might hide, he would always be able to find me. We decided to play a game wherein I would test him, and so I ran off to hide, and he found me almost instantly. Again it felt as if he had never left.

In another dream, I was sitting and speaking with him at Fringe. Others asked with whom I was speaking. I gestured to Bryan and asked, “Do you not see him?” And they did not. It was then I realized, again, that he had died and that I was dreaming… but I could still communicate with him.

There was also a stage for cabaret performances in the tent. Many shows would give a preview of their act there, so anyone could see lots of free stuff just by being in the tent every night. That was awesome. That, and the actual cabaret show, were popular with some of my friends who normally never attend theatre.

There were also the opening and closing parties- our Bacchanalia. I’ve got to say that the opening party was quite possibly one of the best Bacchanals, or parties, period, which I have ever attended, and that without even the aid of drugs! I’d been sober, except for alcohol, for awhile now. I’m sure some at the party were enjoying those other (sometimes dangerous) delights which Bacchus has to offer, but I didn’t need them. Life’s great when you don’t need anything extra. There were so many live performances- but you know what, I didn’t even need those! I would normally have loved to have watched them, but I really never got a chance. There was just too much fun to be had talking to so many friends- old friends, friends from last year’s Fringe, and new friends. Everywhere I turned there was a friendly face.


Design by Gavin Worth.

So there was everything a good Bacchanal would have in their orgiastic nature- food, drink, friends, music and performances of all kinds- now, for anyone wondering, of course, I didn’t see any sex, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t happening- I certainly enjoyed myself once my partner and I had retreated, immediately following the Bacchanal. And as for other stereotypical ideas, Bacchanalia don’t need to be like those awful ones that actually got them outlawed by Romans, for goodness’ sake; mature adults should be able to handle themselves. There’s no dangerous sex or rape or drugs or black magic Satanic rituals just hanging out all over at our parties. Those are the sorts of fears that fearful minds get up to about any sort of group’s party (I actually had someone ask me if we were a “cult” in the skewed modern negative fashion; I answered that the only cult of which I am a member is Catholicism)- Bacchantes, Christians, Jews, more cults besides those to which those three groups belong, and certainly non-religious groups, all have been blamed for seekrit Satanic baby-eating rape rituals. Who knows how often that really happened; certainly far less often than was accused. But really, that stuff’s no good at a party. Not that Satan wouldn’t be welcome at our Bacchanalia, but he’d have to behave himself. Come on, grow up, people.

Besides just bar talk, another great way to serve the Fringe is through written reviews. The website is great in that one may post one’s reviews and a one-to-five star rating on the show’s page on the website. This helps out the people putting on the shows and the theatregoers at the same time, obviously. Good feedback helps the artist improve or attract more butts in seats, and the theatregoers can decide which shows they’d rather attend. With over two hundred shows, and multiple shows going on at the same time, one must make hard decisions. There were lots of shows I wanted to see, but I just couldn’t make it.

I tried to do a review for every single show I saw and then put it on the website- I think I managed. Things got hectic; I’d literally wake up, either work or post, and then barely have time to rush off to Fringe all day and night before coming back home to start it all over again. Things got so hectic, in fact, that my body decided to slow me down with an injury. Ahh, but I’d wanted to work so hard! But the world wouldn’t have it. So I took the opportunity to relax and meditate, and I took all this time before blogging again.

Design by Gavin Worth.

Design by Gavin Worth.

One man, Luigi, was so kind as to take me to the emergency room, for which I am thankful. I was very upset, but he told me it was nothing- that I would look back on it in a few hours and laugh. (Note: I never did.) I told him that illness, injury, and the fragile, ephemeral, decaying nature of our human vessels was one of the big beefs I’d had with God throughout my life. I told him it frustrates me that I can’t instantly heal myself or others as Jesus is said to have done, and that I wish life were more like a video game in that way: So that we could just go out and harvest a magic heart to restore our health instantly. Luigi told me that it is good life is not like a video game in that fashion; Luigi told me life means more that way. He said he doesn’t think Jesus could heal quite as magically as rumoured, but that he did made lepers feel better because he actually paid attention to them and made them feel like actual, cared-about people. Luigi makes sense. Yet I still struggle with God.

But back to reviews. I’ve only recently begun writing theatre reviews. I decided, if I care so much about theatre, I might as well share my thoughts instead of just keeping them in my own personal review notebook. I thought it might help someone glean some information; help someone improve their own art. I have found this is true; some artists have come to me expressing their thanks, some artists took my suggestions (I was so surprised and pleased to see my advice and influence externalized!), and some asked me for further advice, which I was happy to give. My reviews were reproduced and retweeted and by this I was pleased and honored. Thank you to everyone who used my reviews.

During this I learned more about Twitter, which I had never really used before. I knew it was an important part of modern technology, but I had just never seen reason to use it until now. Finally, I had a really good reason to be promoting something and tweeting things, that others might pay them attention. Of course, I did so amateurishly at first and only learned after the festival about these things called hashtags. Now I know.

Orange Freak in Theatre Row on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Orange Freak in Theatre Row on Santa Monica Boulevard.

I also discovered that I dislike doing negative reviews. I try to encourage the positive, but I cannot lie if I have a criticism. I really don’t want to be “that guy” around whom everyone cringes when I enter, because they’re afraid I’ll rip them a new one, but I have to be honest. Art deserves that much. During Fringe I read an article in Backstage, in Michael Kostroff’s column “The Working Actor”, in which he advises not being a jerk in that he says that it’s okay to be dishonest, that it’s better to have others associate a “feel-good” feeling with you because you falsely complimented them, and he strongly suggests extending only praise, because, oh God forbid, you might end up like he did one evening when a friend sulked at him the whole night. Yes, because all that ego shit is so important! No. It’s okay if you hurt your friend’s ego. If you’re too much of a pussy to be honest, art suffers. Some of those I reviewed, I asked about this, and they agreed. They would rather I were honest so that art might improve. I heard some saying that they wished Fringe reviewers were more honest instead of always just showering praise, which gets no one anywhere. Constant praise only gets us a monochrome, talentless, cowardly, reality-tv sort of art, in the end.

You know, I wish more clerics were as open-minded as theatre artists. I don’t know how often I’ve tried to give them much-needed religious/spiritual/whatever criticism, and their poor little egos get so hurt that they refuse to speak with me- and often accuse me of being of Satan. If only they knew what that’s really about. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to offer religious criticism. We should all be striving for improvement. But some people seem to think it’s horrible and awful that I should dare suggest they might improve upon something. Probably because they think whatever it is I’m criticising is Ever So Holy and Perfect, and if I show them that perhaps they could have a whole new way of thinking, this Ever So Holy and Perfect Idea, with which they had been so wholly identified, seems to die. Therefore, since they were so wholly identified with this Idea, they get this feeling that they themselves are dying as well, or, as some have said, it feels like I am raping them. This is entirely illusory. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I believe in the law of love. But even with this law of love, there is a definite need for a Devil’s Advocate- there is a need for Satan, or, as Satan is translated from Hebrew to English: An adversary. A prosecuting attorney. Otherwise we stagnate and atrophy.

So as for just a little bit of review here, I will mention a couple of shows that I saw more than once. It wasn’t because I really loved them and wanted to see them again so much as it was convenient with my schedule. I found that upon subsequent viewings of Full Frontal Music, I began to enjoy the music more. That’s the way music tends to go if it is any good. I found that some of James’ transitions eased up, but still, the show continued to have a slightly unfinished, work-in-progress quality. That’s cool, though. It’s nice and intimate to see an artist at that stage. Another play I saw again was The Barking Pig. I had written that I thought they needed more rehearsals- I later found out that they’d only had two weeks of rehearsal, which is mind-boggling to me. A play needs at least a month, if not more- so, they had it pretty together for only having had two weeks, but I still say they could have used more rehearsal. The show did improve by the time I saw it again at the end of Fringe. Yet there were still a few of the actors who wouldn’t have been better after months of rehearsal, as one cast member told me, and I think this is perhaps true. But some of the actors had really good performances. Thirdly, I had tried to attend a commedia workshop with Tim Robbins’ actor group, but they cancelled at the last minute. Thus proving the rumour that… I don’t want to be rude. I found the actors to be nice, friendly people at Bryan’s Bar, but I was disappointed and so were my friends. Sad.

Freaks on Parade

Freaks on Parade

Finally, I would like to speak of the Pride Parade. Being Fringe, and theatre, and so many of us not being “normal”, whatever “normal” is, of course we wanted to proudly march in the parade. Fringe got its own section, and we marched with a big banner, and with our mascots the Fringe Freaks, and some of the rest of us came dressed up in costumes, some came dressed in regular clothing, and we handed out Fringe guides and show flyers.

I must say, it was a truly wonderful experience. I had such an amazing time. There’s nothing quite like dressing as yourself- yourself when you are truly vulnerable, because you are expressing your human, sexual nature- and being cheered by thousands and thousands and thousands of people. In my case, considering my proclivities, I dressed as transgender, and, because I was marching with theatre in a parade, I of course harkened back to the ancient days of Dionysos’ celebratory phallic parades which began theatre in the first place. I dressed as a horned satyr with a giant penis- Sarah Grace says she’ll never think of me without a big black cock again. (Because of such silliness, I also had the balloon-maker at our opening Bacchanal make me one for the party, and many came to know my satyr self that evening too.) I was not the only Fringer to celebrate the holy magical phallos in their costume.

Mah balloon, on mah yoga mat.  I think it went well with my pretty dress.

Mah balloon, on mah yoga mat. I think it went well with my pretty dress.

There’s nothing quite like wearing a giant erect phallos on national television and being totally accepted for it. Even my parents were proud. I’m very lucky in that regard. I pity anyone who lives in a family of the sort who are of the same mindset as some protesters who came to the parade. They were kept cordoned off and security was careful. In fact, I almost did not even notice the poor souls. I was so busy feeling elated and prancing around with my friends while people waved and screamed at us, and so many came to us to take pictures with us. I saw many holding signs that said such things as “God loves fags” to which I myself screamed and cheered in approval. It was them I noticed first, before I saw that a long way off behind them were people holding signs of the opposite variety. I promptly ignored the poor dears, for I wanted nothing to interfere with my holy, sacred, good mood. I remember a television miniseries from long ago- Merlin, with Sam Neill. Merlin decided to defeat his evil adoptive black-magic witch-goddess mother through the power of ignoring her. You see, if one does not pay attention to something, it will not be attracted into your life. Only that to which you pay attention is attracted, like gravity. It takes both faith and deeds; it’s not quite always like that somewhat silly movie The Secret makes it out to be, but that’s mathematically and physically the way the world works. Once Merlin ignored Queen Mab, she dissolved into nothingness. Indeed I hope that we can all do that with the negative, black-magic portions of our various cults and religions. I hope that we can all feel accepted for being ourselves, our varied as the rainbow selves, as I felt strongly that day.

Hollywood Fringe Festival in the Pride Parade 2011

This is a little sketch I drew and colored, featuring some of the Fringe Freaks, Toad, and myself during the Pride Parade.

Then God  said to Noah and to his  sons with him,As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your  descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, thdomestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.  I establish my covenant with you, that  never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.  God said, This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and  you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:  I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.  When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.  God said to Noah,  ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth. – Genesis 9:8-17, NRSV

lol god r redundant sumtiemz

I also found an old poem from my Catholic youth Catechismish upbringing: “God of imagination and color, only you could come up with the idea of a rainbow! Rainbow and sunshine, harmony and diversity, mercy and hope, promise and joy, wonder and awe. Are these inside me, the wondrous creation you delight in? Guide me to the rainbows in my life!”

I saw a gay friend of mine from college; I ran up to him and we hugged one another. Lots of people complimented me and wanted to take pictures with me- more than one person grabbed me in a way that would have seriously hurt if my phallos were real. One such couple who took a picture with me were a priest and a nun, and the nun did something to me in their picture that made even me wonder “omg is this wrong?” Only because nuns are supposed to be married to Jesus, and, well, what she did would have necessitated an open marriage. It all just happened so fast! I’m hoping Jesus won’t mind what I did with his wife; it wasn’t real anyway and was all in good fun. There were lots of ministers from various faiths at the parade, which I thought was wonderful. It is wonderful how so many realize God’s special relationship with sexuality- so long as it is love, it abides by the law. Love one another, and have a good time.

Satyr at a phallic parade.

Satyr at a phallic parade.

Something I wondered about is children at the parade. I am so used to being around children that I wanted to trot up to them, greet them, and smile at them and say hi, because they’re generally so much more friendly and outgoing than adults, who are more bogged down by their Srs Bsns Egos. Yet I had to stop myself, for I realized that I was wearing a giant erect phallos, which could be very inappropriate. Long ago, children were not spared from nudity, and children marched naked in ancient Greek parades dressed as little Cupids or whatever, but our modern society is different. Here, we shelter children and keep them innocent. I want to respect that; I do not want to force any child to grow up faster than necessary. But these children would have seen a LOT in this parade- I mean, what with all the people dressing as they would to engage in their special fetishes. I wonder if any strange questions were asked of parents that day about pony play and so forth. I hope these parents were more honest than mine; who would never answer my questions, and so I found out about sex through some random, clinical pamphlet in one of those fifth grade classes that teaches you about how you’re growing up and changing so you have to start wearing deoderant. It’s a tough line to ride; introducing children to sex properly. It’s tough helping them grow up at all properly.

If I had one criticism about the parade it would be that I heard Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” far more times than is ever necessary (once is more than is necessary). I understand that people identify with the message, and I saw lots of shirts with that slogan on it, which is fine. But God, couldn’t we find a better anthem? One that doesn’t make my soul cringe every time I hear it? The way my soul cringes at 99¢ Store window displays, which, like Warhol’s Campbell Soup painting, reflect our modern, plastic, consumerist, banal society? Well. We can’t have everything, and I must accept that so many people want this to happen. Such is free will. I musn’t judge too harshly.

After the parade was over, a friend and I walked back through the crowded streets, looking at everyone in their fun costumes. And others looked at us. More than once I heard in tones of awe, “Wow. The Devil has a big dick.” I hadn’t really meant to be The Devil, but, well, the only horns I had were devil horns. I tried to balance it out with my rosary, but maybe that only made it seem more devilish. So I guess I was not just a satyr, but also The Devil. Well alright, sure- I guess it was a good costume, hooray. What fun. My friend and I walked down past private parties who’d rented out entire restaurants and had male and female strippers dancing on tables. (I wonder how those strippers feel about that? Maybe they’re having a good time, maybe not. I have complicated feelings there too. I don’t want anyone to be having a bad time, but I won’t deny that I like looking at it.) My friend and I got caught up in a spontaneous public spanking spree that spread itself down the street as someone had been handing out paddles.

Pride Parade

Some Fringers at Pride.

But, after that, we went to go dine at a perfectly nice family restaurant, and there was no adult language or activity. We had a perfectly normal, lovely brunch. A good clean brunch, you might say, though we were still partially dressed in our costumes. We had a perfectly good, mature time discussing the finer points of theatre and philosophy regarding the Universe. My friend told me of how he’d studied with Del Close briefly before his death, and I told him that my ego was flaring up ever so slightly in jealousy, as he’d died before I could get to him. I only have his students. My friend told me that one of Del’s other students had told him that Del was into black magic, at which I was aghast and surprised beyond measure. That was the first I had heard of this. I expressed my disbelief. I told my friend that it seemed completely contrary to Del’s nature, as Del had been such a figurehead in improvisation and theatre, and those are mass heal spells. My friend agreed- those are mass heal spells. Mass heal spells are entirely contrary to black magic, and black magic is no good for anyone, caster or castee. What an entirely mysterious rumour.

At the end of Fringe, before our closing party, we had an awards ceremony. It was totally laid back- no speeches allowed. Thank God. For every official category of plays, such as Best Comedy or what have you, you’d win a little wooden statue of a Fringe Freak. I myself was honored briefly, not with a Fringe Freak award, but with a Soter-type title, and the lovely lady who’d awarded me this title told me I’d been making Bacchus happy since 1986. I felt so pleased and warm and fuzzy to be recognized, and even shy and embarrassed as my friends asked me to stand up for my applause. Maybe I’ve gone so long avoiding praise that I almost don’t think I should get it. But really, I was honored- and I mentioned later that it is really everyone at Fringe, all those making theatre, who are the ones saving the world. Although in all seriousness it was a good thing I was there to save everyone from the rampaging shark with the flamethrower.

Ben and Stacy

Ben Hill and Stacy Jones are ready to give out little Blue Freaks.

For our closing bacchanal we had a live band karaoke, which is always fun. It was fun to see all my friends singing, unpracticed, just for the hell of it. I sang myself. I didn’t really know many of the songs on the list, but I knew one well enough, and yeah, it was fun to sing raucously with a band playing behind me. I was bittersweetly reminded of one of the drummers I’ve been dating- he’s a Libra, constantly seeking balance and finding none, slow and judging, all the way across the Zodiac from me and hard to touch or see. Oh well. The last thing I need to do is fret over an adorable yet egocentric, flaky little manchild who doesn’t realize how much he should value me on those scales of his. You can’t change people, and I have better ways to spend my time. So I will. Especially when I have so much to be grateful for and so much to keep me happy and in pleasure- thank you, God. Thank you for the many satellites who keep a close orbit to me. This party was a little slower than the opening party, and I wished so badly that I could have danced, but my injury prevented me. Afterward I went home and enjoyed a denoument of making love to one of my percussionists.

How wonderful do I find the world of theatre.

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~ by korakaos on August 11, 2011.

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