Here's hoping that Peter Sellars keeps his word about making the next Los Angeles Festival all one mix. Theater was the jumbo portion of this year's Fringe festival--with more than 150 theatrical events--and very little distinguished it from L.A. Equity Waiver theater business-as-usual, except its sheer bulk.
The Fringe made a point of disavowing responsibility for its material. As the entry flyer put it: "Remember: The Fringe is an open festival; no selection process is involved." That was a mistake. But it did generate a lot of paid entry fees, and, of course, practically everybody got in the public relations act. I caught 18 Fringe shows. Only two ("Keegan and Lloyd" on tour from New York and mime Hayward Coleman in "Across the Way") captured a special festival flavor.
Attendance was respectable, but one performance, "Mrs. Stanton and Susan", drew only two patrons (critics at that) and a Fringe lunch-hour street theater disaster, "Bombs Away!," had the homeless in Pershing Square understandably looking on dumbfounded.
The single largest coalition of theater entries, "Purple Stages," under the aegis of the Gay and Lesbian Theater Alliance, brought down groups from San Francisco. Some of the work was fine but all of it deserved better than to be narrowly packaged as gay theater, an out-of-date label that fragmented audiences.
For example, one house ("Keegan and Lloyd") was wall-to-wall male. Another ("The Rainbow Room") drew, with three exceptions, entirely female onlookers. That's fine for special interests but a waste because it doesn't break down fences. A broader spectrum could have enjoyed this as theater with a capital\o7 T\f7 .
Here's to the '89 festival when the Fringe is no longer a label. And when somebody's exercising some direction and control.