After being rejected from the Edinburgh International Festival in 1947, eight theatre companies decided to create their own edgy opportunity by conceiving the Fringe Festival. Fast forward 69 years and you’ll find thousands of acts flocking to Scotland for the annual unjuried theatre festival that has inspired hundreds of similar festivals around the globe including the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival opening this weekend. This year, the Grandview Theatre Group will be taking a bit of Pittsburgh to the UK with them as they showcase their heartbreaking yet hopeful Musical Dani Girl.
Written by Pittsburgh area native Christopher Dimond, and Michael Kooman, Dani Girl follows 9 year old Dani (inspired by Dimond’s younger cousin) through the trials and adventures of her leukemia treatment taking place in Children’s Hospital. This is a very Pittsburgh show – born, raised, and steeped in the three rivers. The Grandview Theatre Group is one uncle short of being your average Pittsburgh family. These actors’ histories go back years: from Director/Producer Stephen Santa being Connor Gillooly’s director (Playing Dani’s roommate) at Seneca Valley High School to Rob James (Multiple characters) and Natalie Hatcher (Dani) actually being cousins, “We all have histories with each other in some way that extends far beyond your normal history. Natalie and I are cousins, and I was her high school director,” James explains right before telling me he’d have to draw me a family tree. And Cynthia Dougherty is back to reprise her role of Dani’s mom from the 2013 production! Even the name of their company is an ode to the steel city. “Not only as [Grandview Avenue] the street that I grew up on but it’s the iconic Pittsburgh street where you get to see what the city is,” said Santa.
For Santa, this is an opportunity to continue working on a show he fell in love with years ago. After being in the 2013 production of the show at Stage 62, director and producer Santa found that he was just not ready to let go of the show just yet. “I just wanted to keep doing it. We only did a two week run and I would have like to have gone much longer and had more people see it. So it was one of those things that when it ended I felt like I still wanted to work on it some more” Santa explained. For Hatcher, one of the most exciting factors about going to the Fringe is the opportunity to truly live like an artist. “I get to be an artist for a whole month without having to go to a day job. I just get to live in the artist life for 28 days and I’m so excited about that,” Hatcher explained as she described her feelings after securing time off from work. “It’s not a thing I’ve ever had the opportunity to do.”
During The Fringe, Edinburgh is immersed in artistic chaos. With their early morning time slot of 10:40 a.m. the troupe will really be able live the Fringe life by exploring the country of Scotland itself, seeing a plethora of other shows, and canvassing for their own show along to infamous Royal Mile. “You go out there and there’s performances happening in the streets, there’s buskers, you walk down the street and there’s a show going on in an alleyway,” said Santa “You can get into a cab and you think you’re going to lunch but you’re in that cab and now it’s a show.”
There are a lot of factors that go into taking a show across the globe; airlines, lodging, shipping props and set pieces, securing a performance space, and a multitude of other things. So why the big Fringe? Santa was determined to challenge himself as an artist which led him to the mother of all Fringe Festivals. “Natalie and I have a mutual friend who was taking shows to the Fringe in the past 3 or 4 years and I was just on Facebook and watching their experience and seeing the posts of them in Scotland,” Santa said. “Basically what it boils down to is I turned 30 this past January and it’s milestone-ish birthday and I wanted to do something challenging artistically, professionally and out of my comfort zone.”
Want to get your Fringe fix but don’t have the budget for a Scotland trip? Check out Pittsburgh’s Fringe Festival stating Friday April 15th, get more info here. Interested in helping Grandview make it to Scotland? Donate to their Indiegogo page here OR stop by their upcoming 24 hour play festival on April 17th at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, for more info click here! Santa is fitting the bill himself right now but their Indiegogo campaign will be active until April 29th.
They will also be holding two special performances of Dani Girl on July 31st at 2:00pm and 6:00pm at the Joe Negri Auditorium in Mt. Washington! All tickets are $20. There is also a fundraiser coming up June 3rd, for details about that, click here. Check out their website www.danigirlfringe.com for anything and everything you need to know about Dani Girl, the Fringe and everything in between.
Special thanks to Isaac Crow and Jack Lake for their patience and awesome editing skills!
**Please note: This article was originally published on April 12, 2016. It was updated on May 29, 2016**