My Atlanta Fringe Festival Experience

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Charis Wiltshire, Travis Draper, and Wala Hassan perform in the opening of Ember

The 2016 Atlanta Fringe Festival returned June 9 – 12 in various venues in and around Atlanta’s Inman Park neighborhood. During this year’s festival, a group of Theater at Emory students and alums (members of Corpulent Porpoise Productions) mounted Ember, a new play by playwriting major Max McCreary. Below, members of the production recount their experience taking part in Atlanta’s annual festival of edgy, new work.

The 2016 Atlanta Fringe Festival was my first Fringe festival as a performer.  Working with a group of students all studying at Theater Emory, we enjoyed an easy rehearsal chemistry, since we all spoke the same language and knew the same shorthand.  This certainly streamlined our brief rehearsal process, since we only met about eight times.  Going into the piece, none of us knew much about Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) nor could we ask our playwright for frequent clarifications on the script, as he was occupied elsewhere.  Therefore, with Adam Friedman at the helm, we were given liberty to explore our own blocking and pacing, to determine dramatically how symptoms of DID might manifest.  I believe a major take-away from our production, certainly something to enrich the playwright’s future drafts, was our discovery of how ineffectual immobility can be in a drama of language.  After weeks of deliberation, our director made the call to mobilize the alternate identities, opening up a fruitful discussion about cognitive movement as well as providing a wealth of acting opportunities.  Rehearsal and development was both satisfying and very entertaining, but the major draw of Fringe Festival for the artists has to be the unlimited, free access to all other fringe shows during the festival.  While I hope our work will help the playwright better his play and provide the director with future insights, I gathered my pearls out in the audience. – Travis Draper, Class of 2015

 

The Atlanta Fringe Festival was a wonderful opportunity in a community venue that provided a great atmosphere for the performances. Our rehearsal process was concentrated on realizing the script written by our student author; giving him a reading with staging to further his work. Because of this, we communicated closely with Max McCreary about what experiments in rehearsal would be the most helpful as he continued to develop this work. Though our venue lacked AC, our performances were smooth to run with good audiences as well. Fringe is certainly a piece of work, but the commitment to make something unique, new, and worthwhile makes the festival a really fun workspace. – Ginny Loeffler, Class of 2017

 

Working on the Atlanta Fringe Festival was an experience I’ll always be grateful for. I had a stellar time with my ensemble trying to put on a fellow student’s play. We started with just regular rehearsals and as the date got closer we began to do previews with the festival. These were great because I got to see some of what the other companies were working on and I got to meet a lot of cool talented people. I even ran into an old friend of mine! We got artist passes so I was able to see some of the other shows which were all really good. It was a really great professional experience that I think all students should do and can do with ease and I would highly recommend and do again! – Wala Hassan, Class of 2017

 

Being able to participate in the Atlanta Fringe Festival was a really cool experience. Before Fringe I never tapped into the vast extent of artistic opportunities happening in Atlanta and the festival really helped open my eyes to that.  It was awesome being welcomed into a community of artists who are encouraging, supportive, and love what they’re doing. We got to see a few of the extremely talented performers for free, which was awesome and much appreciated. Also, being able to work with such good friends throughout the whole process, from playwright to director to actors, really made the experience as dope as it could possibly be. – Charis Wiltshire, Class of 2018

 

This year has been one of firsts for me, and it is only fitting that my first year at Emory is punctuated with my experience at Atlanta Fringe. My imagination, for a long time, has been excited by scenes of people blocking freshly-written scripts in plainclothes, in rehearsal halls long after the sun has set, creating, with force and determination, artful theater, bringing it, so to speak, from thin air. Theater-making, in my mind, is synonymous with tension and release, roughness and vigor and vitality, and these words come to mind as I reflect on the experience I had helping bring Ember to the Fringe stage. I feel immensely honored to have been trusted with Ember, and I’m thankful to have been brought into the project. My familiarity with my cast mates, the director, and the writer brought a palpable chemistry to the project. I trusted all of them, and that was ultimately empowering. To work with a script that was energetically new and unvarnished in places, finding the inspirations and forces my friend had written, and watching my cast mates extract it all before my eyes was a compelling thing to behold.

The festival itself was a whole other experience, an exhilarating one. The works I watched ranged from rowdy and comedic to deeply written drama, and they all impressed me by their sense of inspiration, each piece had something ingeniously unique about it that imbued the festival with an air of electric novelty. Watching fresh and new pieces, knowing I was with a company and cast that had new work of their own to offer, brought to life an experience I had only been able to imagine. It drove home an idea that art doesn’t just happen in a vacuum, that we find ourselves as a community of theatre-makers, not insular productions. Everything about the experience was real and untethered, and deeply unforgettable. – Josh Oberlander, Class of 2019

 

The Atlanta Fringe Festival was my first experience directing a professional production, which brought a whole load of lessons with it.  The process was much more streamlined than a production, and rehearsals were a bit sparser, as we were working around everyone’s working schedule.  However, this was balanced out by the fact that we were all used to working with each other from previous productions and classes.  Another lesson learned was how much can be left open and up to interpretation when developing new work.  This is both good and bad, as it provides unique opportunities to shape an audience’s interpretation of the work, while also posing unique challenges as how to best portray the writer’s intents.

The festival itself was an incredible experience.  From kickoff to closing, it was filled with an infectious energy from performers and organizers alike.  The festival’s organizers did an excellent job of providing the artists with opportunities to promote their work through a night of previews, as well as individualized previews throughout the weekend.  In addition, all of the artists were put together in a room, giving us the chance to connect with each other and learn about all the shows that were going on.  I think that may have ultimately been what was the most valuable part of the experience – meeting and connecting with so many exciting artists in the Atlanta area.  – Adam Friedman, Class of 2018

 

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