Listening to youthfully exuberant stage entrepreneurs Gregory Crafts (managing director, Theatre Unleashed), Matthew Quinn (owner/manager, Theatre Asylum) and Gedaly GuberekÂ (communications director, Couerage Theatre Company) discuss their respective companies’ upcoming creative machinations within the Hollywood Fringe Festival 2012 can be likened to eavesdropping on three kids discussing their latest visit to Disney World. Sitting together at Starbuck’s, their enthusiasm is palpable.
“Even though the Festival is only in its third year, it has already proven to be a driving force in sustaining live theater in LA throughout the year,” Quinn affirms. “That’s what a successful Fringe does for a town. Worthwhile shows that debut at the Fringe for only a few performances can get the support for full runs in theaters after the Fringe.”
“And it works both ways,” continues Crafts. “My first full-length play, Friends Like These, premiered in September 2009 as a part of the Theatre Unleashed season. I was then given the opportunity to remount it at the 2010 Hollywood Fringe, which then created the impetus to take it later to the New York Fringe.”
“The performance ethic of the Fringe offers opportunities not available or practical in regularly produced theater,” adds Guberek, a specialist in social media integration. “As a special event at this year’s Fringe, Coeurage is presenting a Live Theatre Blog of Milk From Stone, written by Coeurage’s resident playwright Eric Czuleger, who is currently a Peace Corps volunteer in Albania, and performed by company member Deven Simonson. It will be streamed live around the world. This is a new media opportunity to connect international audiences through storytelling. Hollywood Fringe is providing a launching pad for a whole new way of presenting live performance.”
Quinn’s Asylum is located at 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., close to Fringe Central headquarters. During the course of Fringe 2012, Asylum is hosting over 100 performances, featuring 17 different national, international and local productions. “And we’re not stopping there, affirms Quinn, who also owns and manages Off-Market Theatres in San Francisco. “Theatre Asylum is very active after the Fringe. We’ll also be hosting the Best of Fringe (July 6-29).
“When my company, Combined Artform Entertainment (C.AF.E), opened Theatre Asylum in 2007 (formerly part ot the Elephant Theatre Complex), we were striving to create the kind of event that would spotlight this Los Angeles theatrical community and provide it worldwide attention. We were among the first theaters to support Hollywood Fringe while it was still in the planning stages. And we were the first of the Theater Row Hollywood spaces to volunteer to host events. Of course, we are ecstatic about the growth of Fringe in just three seasons.”
“We’re being pretty ambitious at this year’s Fringe,” volunteers Crafts, a theater graduate of Emerson College in Boston. “Theatre Unleashed was very successful at the 2011 Festival, so we are actually producing three shows this year. The Divine Madness of Isabella starring Wendy Gough (June 21, 22, 23, 24) and Round Rock (June 22, 23) are both playing at the Complex. Our short works extravaganza, 25 Plays Per Hour (June 20, 22, 23), is being hosted by Matt’s Theatre Asylum. This is obviously a showcase for us, presenting 25 original plays with company members playing over 50 characters. You can call it super fast-paced theater.”
Coeurage Theatre operates at Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood. Aside from its Milk From Stone internet broadcasts (June 21, 23), the company is presenting Is He Dead? (June 22, 23, 24), which was a long-lost work of Mark Twain for decades (International City Theatre in Long Beach presented the West Coast premiere in 2009). “This was actually written in 1898 by Twain when he was in Vienna,” says Guberek. “The manuscript wasn’t even discovered until 2003 and has been adapted by David Ives.”Â Although Guberek has been noted for his work as an actor — recently touring with Shakespeare by the Sea — and as a dialect coach and an accomplished makeup artist, he has embraced the new technology that he feels will move live performance into the future.
“Originally, I was an occasional web designer and blogger, working on small projects, trying to enhance my skills at it,” Guberek admits. “But as the internet world and social media sites have exploded in the last few years, it is apparent that they provide a natural and vital home for live performance, for both the performer and the audience.” In his capacity as communications director at the company, Guberek designed and maintains Coeurage.org, as well as www.harkblog.com, which is a popular site among Shakespeare fans, and www.onwordsandupwards.com, a website “dedicated to exploring the lesser known words of the English language in a humorous manner.”
Crafts, Quinn and Gubarek are all in accord that Hollywood Fringe Festival will eventually be a vital link in a network that will provide worldwide opportunities for both theater companies and individual performers. “Oh sure, you can see it happening already,” Quinn avows. “If a company has enough energy, good planning and finances, it could perform its way across the country, over to Europe and even Australia and South Africa.”
“When Edinburgh Fringe started [in 1947, with the name established in 1948], it set the model,” says Crafts. “It has taken a while but communities are learning what a vital asset a Fringe can be. Hollywood Fringe has taken hold and it can only get bigger and better with time.Â And if we can get a mutually advantageous interactive network going with Fringe Festivals in New York, Chicago, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Toronto and beyond, the rewards for the creative artist can be limitless.”
“This is an exciting time,” affirms Guberek. “People should come down to Fringe Central and just hang out with us. You can’t help but get absorbed by it.”
Hollywood Fringe Festival 2012 continues through June 24.