Fringe Day 2: Ukrainian Dance to One Man Shows to #BlackLivesMatter

St. Mary’s Lyceum, 11 am is how I began my Saturday Fringe Fest Ukie Fusion, a production by the Slava Dance Company was an eclectic mix of modern and traditional Ukrainian customs narrated by a young Ukie, Mikaela Kapeluck.  The show presents, through interpretative dance, the sways between traditional folk and modern, the fused culture of children and young adults with strong ties to their ethnic roots as well as the connection to American culture.6285494

The opening dance, Ukie Fusion offers a lot of traditional folk style and is performed by an energetic ensemble in white embroidered shirts, representing a classic dress style.   Some of the themes represented  address relationships, marriage, the handing down of heirlooms from one generation to the next and the coveting of red folk dance boots.

Artistic director, Natalie Kapeluck held a brief but insightful question and answer session with the audience afterward, sharing the history of the dance company and interesting facts about the music.

Extra credit goes to apprentice dancer Ostap Lutsiv, the only male performer, who is light on his toes and possesses impressive agility lifting the ladies and leaping across the floor.

4211598The Shades of Shel is a one man performance by Sean Miller.  I was lucky to experience this in an extra special and intimate setting, as the 1pm show was only attended by 3 audience members.  We pulled our chairs up to Miller, and listened as he recited some of the lesser known Shel Silverstein verses.  Miller’s stage presence was nothing less than professional and 100% engaging as he spoke as much with his eyes as his voice.

Reciting works such as Hamlet as Told on the Streets, The Smoke Off, a story of Pearly Sweetcake who could smoke ’em faster than anyone could roll and Yes, Mr. Rogers. Although I knew Silverstein from my childhood, and was familiar with his cartoons for Playboy, I had not previously heard any of his verse for adults.  I am a lover of poetry and was thrilled to see and hear someone recite his works so passionately.

Confessions of A Manic Pixie Dream Girl stars Anna Bennett, playing four different manic pixie dream girls.  She’s geeky gamer girl who writes musical parodies and performs them on her ukulele,  a dancer who is, ‘not much of a 9179984talker, more of a smiler and nodder’, a quirky pink haired, stero-type breaking adventure seeker gal and lastly, a classic looking blonde bombshell type.  Each character wrestles with the ideas of who they are, what they believe and how they represent themselves.  Some of the characters embrace their identity, while others struggle to break free from the labels that define them.  Each of these young women are faced with their own odd pondering, questions such as, what frame do I fit into and how can that frame be reshaped, or does art imitate life or is it life which imitates art and the painfully bizarre, ‘am I real or fiction’.

This performance is not just a ‘one woman show’. It is a full multimedia experience.  The audience is subjected to prerecorded conversations, videos of each character interacting with other people and original songs performed by Bennett on the ukulele.

The venue, YMRC, was less than desirable.  The noise of the club’s patrons was distracting and the sound quality of the video made it impossible for me to understand most of the dialogue but Bennett’s captivating performance surpassed these somewhat minor glitches. Her portrayal of each character, with all their quirks and idiosyncrasy, were made lovable through Bennett’s seamless transition from girl to girl to girl to girl.

4671909The 6pm Saturday performance of The Eulogy, written, directed and performed by Michael Burgos, was the most heavily attended Fringe show I have been to thus far. Burgos is at his good friend Thomas’ funeral and assigned the honor of delivering the eulogy.  He attempts to read what he previously wrote but fails miserably when he realizes, ‘who needs words’! He pantomimes a sequence which draws large laughter from the audience but soon enough begins to speak from the heart.  What comes from Burgos winging-it is smart, tongue and cheek wit from a lot of characters, with enormously entertaining facial expressions and varied voices with each telling stories. The audience response to The Eulogy was lots of laughter and plenty of applause.  It is easy to see why people enjoy the show so much, it’s not just funny.  The story’s intelligent humor does not come across as too lofty.  There are plenty of jokes and all different types; something to appeal to everyone.  There are no hidden meanings or morals to take away from the show, just a good time.  Burgos does a nice job incorporating audience participation into his performance.  There is absolutely nothing to not like about the The Eulogy.

To attend, If I Die I’m A Legend: A Tale of Orisha, Hoodoo and #BlackLivesMatter, by Boom Concepts meet at Arnold’s Tea for a ‘tour’ of the neighborhood.  Real estate agents, the team of Cody and Jody, reinforce the most desirable aspects of community and urban living as they guide you down E. Ohio “Lane”, on North “Beach”, drawing your attention to 1610768points of interest along the way, which may, or may not be good selling points.  Arriving at the space for sale, you climb the stairs to the second story apartment and walk through a portal into a haunting history depicted by sounds, images and smells.  The full sensory creative space rises from the dead turbulent voices, heartache and ominous stories as the tour moves from room to room forced to walk on garbage, and stand shoulder to shoulder, with other guests on the tour, it is hot and often emotionally overbearing.   Through film, art, music, spoken word, actors, and the smell of incense I am bombarded with emotion. The passion behind the rage and sadness is gulped with every breath, and permeates the air as it presses heavily down upon you.

As the imaginary tour draws to a close, we are encouraged to offer gifts to the deity, as a collective release of anger, sadness and regret  We are encouraged to chant about love in a release the past.  Walking out of the apartment, back onto E. Ohio Street, small pockets of attendants stood outside, asking each other, ‘is it over’, ‘is that all’?  I quickly sucked in a large gulp of fresh air and breathed it out slowly.  ‘Wow’ was the only word I could mutter.

For tickets and more information about the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival, click here. Stay tuned for more reviews coming soon!

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