Edinburgh started it. New York, San Francisco and Sydney followed suit. And now, Maui’s got its own Fringe Festival. “It’s a weekend marathon of original one act plays featuring local and Mainland playwrights,” says festival director Michael Pulliam. “No boundaries, no restrictions.”
In 2010, Edinburgh’s festival (which started in 1946) drew 1,400 hopefuls. Maui’s got about 10. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” says Pulliam. Our festival’s inaugural year may be humble, but the undertaking is still ambitious. And they hope to grow involvement in the years to come. “Hopefully this will be a good introduction to the idea of Fringe,” says Pulliam. “You’re not expected to love it—you’re not expected to even like it. Just appreciate the bold risk these artists are taking and enjoy something that’s generally unseen on Maui.”
The festival goes down this weekend at the historic Iao Theater, with four main acts taking the stage each day and extra vignettes sprinkled throughout. It’s the culmination of a year-and-a-half of planning, with Maui OnStage having sought and received submissions May through November of last year. Though it’s generally understood that Fringe performances can (and some might argue should) be raw, festival directors still curated submissions and turned down a few they felt needed to work out major kinks.
The four primary showcases are: Gotta Live, by Andrea Giammattei; Inside Stretched Out, by Pat Masumoto; Last Questions, by Marilynn Hirashima; and No Intention of Doing Either, by Sharyn Stone. Bonus performances include Curtis “Chino” LaForge and original theatrical pieces titled The Matterhorn, The Trojans and So Tell Me About This Guy. Plus, a special sneak peek at what’s on the horizon from Maui OnStage. (See schedule sidebar for details.) Tickets for each each show are $10, but if you were smart enough to buy a VIP pass for $50, you probably already know it’s good for you and a guest to get into any show you please—plus the pre-festival VIP party (and, if you’re not attending everything, you can “pass your pass” to a friend).
For the performers, it’s a pay-to-play deal; but for aspiring playwrights and producers, the $500 fee is still a deal. See, launching an independent production—with theater rental and technical crew among some of the weighty basic expenses—is darn-near impossible without gobs of capital or generous backers. Part of the beauty of Fringe is that it gives artists the opportunity to stage their shows on their terms at minimal cost.
“Since the time of Shakespeare, kids-at-heart have thrown caution against the wind and put on shows with their own money—praying that when they jumped off the diving board, there would be water below,” says Pulliam.
Meh. Money. That’s peripheral for Fringe. It’s all about art—“original, edgy theater,” says Pulliam. Besides, Fringe artists stand to win something better than pecuniary gains—glory. The Lilikoi Award will go to the most passionate, moving piece. The strongest, most polished piece will receive the Koa Award, and the best actor or actress will win the Hoku Award. Doling out the honors are judges Kathy Collins, Paul Janes Brown, Maui Weekly’s Sarah Ruppenthal and—believe it or not—yours truly.
Risk. Reward. Raw, staged art. Sounds like the makings of a magical weekend to me. And hopefully one of many more to come.
Friday (February 4), 6-11pm / Saturday (February 5), 2-9pm / Sunday (February 6), 2-9pm, Iao Theater, Wailuku, $10 per show
Gotta Live – Written by Andrea Giammattei. Musical direction by Clayton Logue
Friday (February 4), 9:30pm; Saturday (February 5), 8pm [preceded by Curtis “Chino” LaForge, 7:45pm, and followed by a surprise performance by Maui OnStage], 9pm; and Sunday (February 6), 2:15pm [preceded by The Trojans, 2pm].
Songs and stories about the “risky business” of life and the “heart and humor” it takes to get through it all. Andrea Giammattei, an acting teacher on Maui, originally produced Gotta Live In New York City, and says the show inspired her move to Maui in 2004. Musical director Clayton Logue is a well-known pianist whose local theater credits include ProArts’ Urinetown and Sleeping Beauty, as well as Maui OnStage’s The King & I.
Inside Stretched Out – Written by Pat Masumoto. Directed by Derek Nakagaw
Friday (February 4), 6pm; Saturday (February 5), 3:30pm; and Sunday (February 6), 6:15pm [preceded by So Tell Me About This Guy, 6pm].
Five years ago, Masumoto’s madcap production of Mad Cloak inspired her to write Inside Out. Now, Inside Stretched Out revisits the mayhem in a whole new way—“a story within a story within a story,” says Masumoto. Featuring a huge cast with lots of action, it’s replete with “grabbing, pushing, stomping weeping and violence to bodies—in a safe rehearsed way.”
Last Questions – Written by Marilynn Hirashima. Directed by Carol Summers
Friday (February 4), 7:15pm; Saturday (February 5), 2:15pm [preceded by The Trojans, 2pm]; and Sunday (February 6), 7:30pm.
Those with sneak peeks at Last Questions have effused that while the set may be simple, the writing is smart. At their father’s funeral, four sisters pause at his casket and take a moment to reflect—sometimes joyfully, sometimes painfully—on their relationship with him.
No Intention of Doing Either – Written by Sharyn Stone
Friday (February 4), 8:15pm; Saturday (February 5), 6:15pm [preceded by The Matterhorn, 6pm]; and Sunday (February 6), 3:30pm.
“Little did I know when moving to Maui in 1992 that my only theatrical outlet for the next 18 years would be testifying in front of the Maui County Council in order to legalize bed and breakfasts here. Hopefully the County found it more entertaining than I did,” says Sharyn Stone, a native of Australia with a passion for theater. No Intention of Doing Either is about Stone’s life Down Under. “We all have stories to tell that are unique. This is some of mine,” she says.