10 Shows that stand out at this year’s Fringe Festival.



Have you noticed your inbox filled with more Kickstarter requests lately?  Have you seen more postcards on radiators at rehearsal studios in town?  Has your Facebook been blowing up with event invitations that begin with the words, “I’m in a show!”

All of this could mean only one thing . . . It’s time to raise the curtain on the NYC Fringe Festival!

Starting this Friday and continuing for just over 2 weeks, 194 shows will open and close as a part of this awesome theatrical binge.  It’s impossible to see them all, so how do you decide which ones to see?

Here’s how I do it.

Every year, in a very environmentally-unfriendly style, I print out (!) the entire program and leaf through it like an Ikea catalog . . . circling the shows that stand out based on a number of factors.  To give you an idea of what is attractive to a Producer like me, I list the 10 Shows here, in no particular order.  Remember, this list isn’t any kind of guarantee that anything is going to be great or not . . . it’s just a list of what stood out when I went catalog shopping (translation – this is a marketing exercise).

Ready?  Here goes!

1.  Yeast Nation

Quick.  Name me the most successful show to come out of The Fringe.  If you said anything but Urinetown, you lose.  Well, the authors of U-town (Mark Hollmann & Greg Kotis) are back with Yeast Nation, a show that got some buzz when it was in Chi-town in ’09.  They’ve risen to the top of the Fringe before, let’s see if Yeast can rise as well.

2.  Jersey Shoresical:  A Frickin’ Rock Opera

Is it a musical?  Or a tanning-lotion flavored popsicle?  Either way, the title made me laugh.  Odds are that this one isn’t going to be playing The Palace next season, but the creators of this show knew that using something that’s a pop culture phenom as their source material is a certain way to get attention.

3.  Virtual Solitare

In the Fringe catalog, each show gets about 40 words describe their show.  Virtual Solitaire used only 6. The rest of the description listed its three BEST PLAY awards, and 4 quotes including “Dazzling,” “Jaw-droppingly good,” and more.  It’s obviously been a popular show.  And we all know, the popular girl gets asked to the Fringe first.

4.  Cow Play

What grabbed my attention about Cow Play?  They placed an ad.  Now, lots of shows placed ads in the program to help enhance that 40 word listing.  But Cow Play was the one of the very few that took a full page ad.  And because it was the only one, the ad was like a road block, making me stop in my show.jpgckin’ tracks and soak up its message.

5.  The Legend of Julie Taymor

Like Jersey Shoresical, the Author of Legend ripped its plot from right from the headlines.  Obviously this is a subject that theater folk like me are super interested in, so I couldn’t help but want to dig deeper to learn what this show was all about.  Knowing your audience and serving up something you know will pique their interest is a guaranteed way to some ticket sales.

6.  Facebook Me

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to be a teenager growing up on Facebook?  Facebook Me is exactly that . . . it’s a play that about growing up online . . . except it wasn’t written by a 30-year-old, or even a 25-year-old looking back.  This play was written and stars teenage girls describing exactly what your online “status” really means.  I’ve always been a fan of documentary theater, so this one jumped up at me like a Facebook message from my mom.

7.  Hard Travelin’ with Woody

There have been a few attempts at a Woody Guthrie musical.  But no one has gotten it quite right . . . yet.  But somebody should, because the material is too good not to be a great musical.  There’s potential here, and maybe Hard Travelin’ is the show to seize it.

8.  Happy Worst Day Ever

Theater for young audiences is on the rise.  It’s a much better babysitter than a television set, and it helps develop the audiences of tomorrow.  But that’s not what got me about Worst Day.  This show about 6th graders is presented by the Tony Award winning Cincinatti Playhouse in the Park.  Put a brand like that behind a Fringe show, and I don’t care if it’s for young audiences or for fruit flies, I am interested in seeing what’s up.

9.  Destinations

Honestly, I skipped over this one at first because I thought the title was a little bland, but when I went back and read the descript., I was intrigued.  It’s a about a band, on their 1985 reunion tour and all the drama that comes with it.  It’s a musical with a musical story.  It’s much easier for me to believe that this could work . . . and besides, doesn’t everyone want to know what life is like as a rock star?

10.  No-fault:  A tale about the Big D in the Big Apple

We’ve had I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change and even Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating & Marriage.  It’s about time someone tackled the other side of the coin: divorce (that’s the big “D” in the title).  There are a lot of folks out there that have been through the D word, and I’m sure they’d love to laugh about it.  Someone is going to create a killer show about this used to be taboo topic.  Like Menopause, I expect Divorce to come into its theatrical own soon enough.

Honorable Mentions:

Winner Take All (A Rock Opera)Theater of the Arcade, As The Boat Approaches and Elysian Fields.

What shows stand out to you at the Fringe this year?  What are you going to see?


_ _

Looking to learn how to get your show to stand out?  Here are two quick tips:

1 – Read Seth Godin’s book The Purple Cow, my bible to product development and marketing.

2 – Take my Get Your Show Off The Ground seminar, which I guarantee will give you a bunch of great takeaways on how to get your show to stand out at the Fringe, NYMF, and on Broadway!  Take the seminar today.

  • Dan says:

    Huge caveat that there are no rules in art, but I generally can’t get behind shows that use a half-baked pop culture reference to score cheap publicity and laughs. I understand that you’re coming at it from a marketing perspective though, and it’s certainly one way to stand out in the crowded Fringe season.
    I was really surprised to find my friend’s show AS THE BOAT APPROACHES listed with an honorable mention. I’m very curious to know what stood out about it to you.
    I’m hoping to see the following shows, all of which have friends involved:
    As The Boat Approaches
    Whalesong or Learning to Live With Mobyphobia
    Before Placing Me On Your Shelf
    Infectious Opportunity
    The Lady Drug Dealer and the Heist

  • kdCaustic says:

    So glad you have “Destinations” on your list. I’m in no way involved with the show but happen to know background about the creators. Read their bios carefully…you will be surprised and delighted!

  • gj says:

    Friend wants to see “Mic.” I’m more interested in where the show is playing and the two most important letters in August: A/C

  • Mark T says:

    Nice to see Cow Play listed! Saw it at Yale in its original incarnation and found it incredibly moving. Looking forward to seeing it again. Also looking forward (of course) to Yeast Nation. Nice to see it come full circle for those guys.

  • Jackie says:

    I’m excited for “The Rubber Room”… saw an early production of it and I loved it!

  • Walt Frasier says:

    HEY KEN, Check out SEED OF ABRAHAM. This is one to take a look at for a serious producer looking for projects. AMAZING music and more main stream. Seems more suited for Bway than Fringe!

  • Rich says:

    Ques: Has any Fringe Festival Play ever gone on to an eventual Broadway staging, or even an off-Broadway staging that has recouped? I honestly do not know the answer to this but believe it an important consideration for playwrights (& others) given the work required and other possible staging venues/options.

  • Becca says:

    Let me take a moment to preach PigPen Theatre’s “The Mountain Song.” The boys are a fantastic group of artists, fresh out of Carnegie Mellon, using music, puppetry, shadow, and other fabulous contraptions to tell stories, and they are back with a new show after winning a general excellence award at last year’s Fringe!
    For more details, check your New York Times tomorrow morning 🙂

  • adam says:

    Cow Play is an absolutely brilliant show. I saw it and was blown away. If you want to really challenge yourself, that’s the show to see.

  • Bert says:

    I agree with the comments above about “Cow Play.” I saw it at the Region 1 American College Theatre Festival in January and loved it. When I saw the play on the Fringe line-up, I immediately put it on my list to see again. Those who attend will see a superb performance from Willa Fitzgerald. I have 24 Fringe plays book, including the above-mentioned “Yeast Nation” (which has sold out its entire run), “Mountain Song,” “Whale Song”, “Seed of Abraham,” and “Happy Worst Day Ever.”

  • Lucas says:

    Looking forward to seeing this solo show called DAJA VU. Had a chance to see Aja Nisenson’s solo show two years ago and she definitely stood out as one of the best up and coming performers at the Fringe. Looking forward to seeing her new show. Also looking forward to Yeast Nation as I’m a huge Urinetown fan.

  • Sally says:

    How about coming to see our show at the Bleecker Street Theater – The Seed of Abraham – A Musical! – opens on August 14th…….”The Seed of Abraham” takes its audience back to the year 1967. In Israel, guns blaze, bombs fall, and a young nation fights for its life during the Six Day War. In the Bronx, three young people fight for their dreams. Benjamin, a promising singer, Abie, a talented dancer, and Leah, a budding journalist, defy their parents’ wishes and now find themselves on the brink of success. But when war breaks out in the Holy Land, loyalties are tested, and their fates hang in the balance forcing these teens to decide: do they answer to themselves, to their families — or to God? Sometimes all it takes is a leap of faith.

  • I am going to see “The Fcking World According to Molly.” It sounds hilarious!

  • Alexis says:

    Going to see one that was not mentioned here but got a recommendation in Time Out – and its my friends show and she’s funny so I’m going to see Lipshtick at Dixon Place and definitely Legend of Julie Taymor..my inbox is flooded with requests, etc so I don’t know what else I will choose, but it will probably be Yeast Nation. There is also a dance festival going on now as well..so between the dance community and theater community it’s a bit busy! But I love Fringe time in NYC!

  • Barbra says:

    It’s not a FRINGE show, but it’s pretty cool and going on at the same time. It’s an interactive prom with a live zombie attack: PROM NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD at the Players Theatre Aug 18-Sept 4. Check it out: http://www.livingdeadprom.com

  • Sue says:

    I saw Cow Play today at Dixon Place and was floored. It’s a complex, twisty, dark AND hilarious show, with production values and detail unparalleled for Fringe. I saw Richard III last summer (one of my favorites from that festival) and this company, Less Than Rent, has done it again. Not only is the show great in and of itself, but the fact that this, and Richard III came from the same young brains is astonishing. Who says theatre’s dead?!

  • Ash says:

    I saw The F*cking World According to Molly (hilarious!!!) and After Anne Frank (very moving). My next one is Winner Takes All.

  • janiska says:

    I was disappointed that your decision to see all but 8, 9, 10 and possibly 7 seemed to be based on known titles, known writers, and known concepts. In other words, the usual marketing gimmicks.
    You should get away from your producer job with its obligation to marketing and the bottom line. Go for the unheard of, the unknown, and the totally new. Avoid the remakes and anything that relies on the marketing gimmick of a known title, conept, or star. I do not mean the latest “edgy” stuff. Instead see the simple, the small, the deepest, and the most fun. See the least spectacular, the least professional, the least profitable, but the most stunningly artistic.
    Forget the marketing gimmicks and go for the love of it. You deserve it.

  • A motivating discussion is worth comment. I do believe that you need to publish more on this topic, it may not be a taboo matter but generally people don’t discuss these subjects. To the next! Kind regards!!

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