One of my traditions in my old East Coast city was the Philadelphia Live Arts and Fringe Festival. I went almost every year the entire time I lived there, usually with my good friend Megan. The event encompasses cutting-edge dance, live theater and more.
The venues and productions changed with the times. I remember one year going to a performance under the Ben Franklin Bridge. Another year, I saw a puppet show about terrorism. Every year, performers filled the streets, surprising you with impromptu acts and creative works on sidewalk corners, outside historical landmarks and on the edge of some of Philly’s most struggling neighborhoods.
So when I saw that Sydney, too, held a Fringe Festival in some of the Inner West suburbs this month, there was no question that I’d take in some of the offerings. Uttering the word “art” sends some people running for the nearest exit, but I was able to collect a cluster of willing participants to view four events.
The first was a “mystery” bus that took the four of us to an undisclosed location for an undisclosed performance. The bus deposited us in a barren pocket of Erskinville where a bar masquerading as a vacant warehouse opened into a wide open space and a stage. The drum set and microphones belied that a band would soon be before us. I expected something alternative, maybe a little angst-ridden.
But instead, a sextet of dudes–one looked at least 70–took the stage and struck up some world music. Someone uttered “gypsy,” and I realized I’d never heard music like that before. It was that beat that, cliche and simply put, made you feel alive. Passionate. Energized. Awake. Two older couples immediately got up and started dancing, but the singer complained there weren’t enough people out of their chairs. Then, the audience started flooding the stage, and it seemed everyone was up dancing except our crew–though two of us eventually made it up there for a brief strut.
The next day, a friend and I saw “Songs From the Musicals That Never Were,” which featured parodies of Noah’s Ark, abstinence education and Kiwis. We then went to an art/photo exhibition where we tried to make sense of depictions of severed arms, a recreation of conception and photos of startled Chinese people photographed in Beijing.
The Fringe finale for me took place last Wednesday, when after meeting up for coffee, There’s No Place Like Oz and I ventured to something that resembled an arts campus for “Hi, How Can I Help You?” We expected a comical performance, but the show, a string of stories on various customer service situations, was actually rather dark. Still, it was a decent wrap-up to a few days of invading arts events.
The Fringe is over now, but there are other arts events coming up in the next few months. See if you can check one out:
Art & About Sydney 23 Sept. to 24 Oct.
Fiesta Latin Dance and Music Festival at Darling Harbour 1 Oct. to 4 Oct.
Sydney Festival 8 Jan. to 30 Jan.