San Francisco Fringe Festival
San Francisco Chronicle -- North Bay Edition
(August 31, 2001)
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- Performers go out on a 'Fringe'
North Bay acts join citywide S.F.
- Daedalus Howell, Special to The Chronicle
- No, the 10th annual San Francisco Fringe Festival
is not a celebration of an erstwhile fashion
statement. That is, you'll find no suede or beaded
tassels amid this theatrical cavalcade of 53 groups
and artists, presenting 256 performances over 11
days at various downtown San Francisco venues.
- Among the international talent pool in the festival
two North Bay acts, each bringing its unique vision
to the stage.
- "This is a great way for new companies to try
themselves out on the public without having to max
out their credit cards to rent a performance space,"
says Mica Jennings, producer of The Church of
Carbon Theater Company, which will perform
playwright David Ives' philosophical comic suite "All
in the Timing."
- "More importantly, the Fringe Festival lends
notoriety because it's been happening for so long,"
she adds. "No one's ever heard of The Church of
Carbon before, but plenty of people have heard of
the Fringe Festival, so they'll come see our show
because they know it will be fun and cheap."
- Jennings' company was formed two years ago with
Zea Ewert-Bean at Sonoma State University. The
duo decided to "stop waiting around for directors
cast us in their shows and took matters into our own
hands," says Jennings, who has been mentored by
Paul Draper, SSU's assistant professor of theater
arts, who is also the producing director of
Abydos/Directors Theater of San Francisco.
- Together, Draper and Jennings put together the
application and split the expense of mounting The
Church of Carbon's vision on the festival
- "These women have a great drive to produce their
own projects, which is one of the most (important)
ingredients for making theater happen," says
Draper. "It takes a special kind of imagination from
directors and actors to make sure there are enough
decisions in a production to make it intriguing and
exciting, but without answering everything so that
audiences have no place for their own imaginations.
I mean, what's left for the audience to do in
'Titanic?' James Cameron did everything, so what's
- Keeping theater vital and new is a mainstay of
Jennings' aesthetic -- notions echoed by the Fringe
Festival's necessarily eclectic lineup.
- "I think any art form needs fresh perspective
if it's to
remain culturally relevant. As students, we spend all
day living and breathing theater, all the while trying
to look at our work objectively," Jennings said.
"Theater is highly interactive; it takes a lot of
imagination and concentration to watch a live
- Moreover, Jennings adds, "We're young and
energetic, and the world hasn't crushed our spirits
yet, so it should be a pretty good time. We've had
so much fun rehearsing this show that I know our
audiences will have just as much fun watching it."
- Veteran husband and wife theater creators Errol
and Rochelle Strider make their first foray into San
Francisco with this year's festival. The couple
proffers their own brand of theater dubbed "
- "Our work operates on two or more levels. It
highly entertaining yet captures -- for those looking
for it -- the inner workings of the human condition,
philosophically, psychologically and theologically,"
Rochelle Strider said. "We have been working
together 27 years and have been married 25 years.
Three years ago, we renewed our marriage vows to
be a 'comedy team' and not take ourselves or each
other seriously. Some of our characters and
situations are born out of our comedic relationship."
- Indeed, the genesis of the Striders' work is often
found in the intimate dialogues between life partners.
- "We can be in the middle of an argument and one
us will stop and say, 'This is a great bit. Let's use
We'll stop, write it down and then continue with the
'discussion,' " says Errol Strider.
- Motivated by the notion of "using art to serve,"
Striders' work doesn't end with their performances.
Audiences are encouraged to participate in follow-
up workshops in which they can explore their own
issues as they relate to the performance material.
- "Our work is driven by the desire to expose what
makes us humans act, to act on the information we
have and to present truths that aid and abet our
search to grow and expand and feel better about
ourselves," says Rochelle. "We try to present
different slant on life; maybe it's possible to enjoin
with another and ourselves and the mystery beyond
ourselves and have more creativity and joy in our
lives and in our partnerships."
- The Striders' onstage search for answers to
universal questions comes via a robust arsenal of
theatrical tools -- story, character, mime and dance
- "I have always tried to maintain a balance between
the theatricality and the subject matter -- avoiding
being didactic while remaining true to the
investigation," Errol Strider said. "I know
sounds cerebral and heavy, but that is where the
theater and comedy comes in."
- To wit, the Striders created "Shared Skitless,"
vignettes culled from the Striders' vast repertoire of
- "I'm really big on using metaphor as a way of
understanding ideas anew. So most all of the pieces,
especially from this production, take a metaphorical
look at the diverse subject matter," Errol Strider
- As an example, the performer cites his piece "Chez
Truth," in which a restaurant patron, "hungry
truth," confides that she has "been to other
where they served the truth, but I think it was
processed truth." The French waiter responds, "Oh,
no, Madame, here we serve the whole truth and
nothing but the truth. So help me, God."
- "Delivered in a thick French accent, this line
gets a good laugh and sets the tone for the rest of
the piece, which is a play on words and ideas about
the nature of truth," he said.
- "The audiences can expect to laugh a lot, to
touched and moved, hopefully to the point of tears
and to learn something," he said. "And last
least, to get to know us a little bit and to feel our
love for each other and our love for them -- both
through our characters and directly from our
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