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Review: WTF’s Virtual Fringe Festival is Off to a Strong Start

Embracing both the challenges and opportunities of technology, the Women’s Theatre Festival Fringe series streamed a variety of “live” performances on Saturday night, providing a possible glimpse of how we might be experiencing theatre as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Eileen Tull offers a humorous and incredibly brave narrative of her addiction story in Mommy, Give me Pills. With the kind of details and digressions you might get if you were having a late-night conversation with a friend, Tull’s delivery engages us in her struggle. She balances her honesty with a bit of comedy that keeps it from becoming too heavy-handed. And while there are moments that are revealing and often beautifully detailed, this piece also feels also limited by its very confessional nature. 

In (Un)Civilized Nation, Part 1: Dirty Laundry, Nicole Lawson combines movement and text in a short solo performance that explores and dramatizes her work to unlearn racism and dismantle white supremacy. From her powerful reenactment of police brutality to exposing the myths we often tell ourselves, Lawson’s finely choreographed piece is an unapologetic acknowledgement of her faults and the work that she believes must be done to move forward. During the talkback following the performance, she noted that this “snapshot” reflects her own experience and is part of a larger work she hopes to develop.

Adventures of the Red Wolves is an imaginative and thought-provoking response to the Black Lives Matter protests. After securing an audience member to participate in the immersive production, members of the Red Wolves ensemble appear as empowered female historical and fictional figures: Carla BaNu Dejesus is Harriet Tubman, Rachel Custer is Princess Leia, and Lydia Lea Real is Mary Magdalene. While each actor appears on their own screen, with Carrie Klewin performing the voice-over narration, the audience is presented with a virtual “this or that” scenario, which not only works to underscore our complicity in current events but also decides the show’s outcome. Despite some minor technical difficulties, the mix of scripted material and improvisation seemed to work well, especially considering all of the performers were not only in different places but also in different time zones. 

Camille Thomas tackles the real cost of higher education, as well as navigating between family expectations and her own artistic aspirations, in yOU CaN TAke ouT a PArEnT pLUs lOaN. Her performance is captivating as she exposes the raw, unattractive faults, biases, and broken promises of educational institutions. Although noted as “a work in progress,” this piece already wields a lot of power.

Undeniably, the work kicking off this year’s virtual Women’s Theatre Festival Fringe is yielding some notable possibilities for the future of theater. WTF’s Fringe Festival continues through the end of the month.

For more information on the Women’s Theatre Festival and a complete scheule of events, visit https://www.womenstheatrefestival.com/.

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