Last night, St Lou Fringe held its final fundraising and pre-festival shindig, the always popular, always revealing Act Your Pants Off!
Seven local artists representing a variety of mediums (including theater, improv, dance, and music) gathered at Off Broadway to compete for the coveted trophy and the opportunity to drop trou in front of an eager crowd. The night was a huge success in terms of fundraising and fun, but what else would you expect from an entire evening dedicated to removing pieces of clothing while reciting monologues? Honestly, some artists will do anything for a good cause, and we couldn't be happier.
Burlesque impresario Lola Van Ella and divine drag queen Desire' Declyne served as the evening's "hostesses with the mostestes" and kept the good times rolling at a brisk pace. Van Ella performed two burlesque numbers, showing us how the pros get pantless, while Declyne entertained us with two fabulous songs, including a very funny lyrical riff on a song from Little Shop of Horrors that had the crowd laughing so hard she momentarily forgot her lyrics. MAX Magazine publisher Darin Slyman and Fringe executive director Matthew R. Kerns -- and their skivvies -- also made an appearance at the event, upping the ante for the official contestants and adding to the uninhibited spirit of the night.
Our brave contestants participated in two competitive rounds, an on-the-spot monologue challenge and a prepared monologue challenge that featured directional prompts from our three judges: Declyne, Nancy Lu, and Shannon Geier. In the first round, the actors were allowed to request a line if they couldn't remember or fake their way through the scene. And you know what happens when you call for a line? You have to take off a piece of clothing! If you don't think the audience and Fringe staff are serious about that rule, just ask improv artist Alex Carnes who was nearly naked after forgetting several lines in his monologue, much to the delight of everyone in the room. Actor and producer Keaton Treace was declared the winner of the first round and performed a comic striptease that featured an oversized fan.
The second round produced the first ever tie in the event's history, as Donna Weinsting killed it with Gertrude's monologue from Hamlet, as performed by Mrs. Garrett from "Facts of Life," while Jaz Tucker brought the church to the theater with his Southern Baptist rendition of a monologue from Tom Stoppard's Arcadia. The two actors were joined by Paul Cereghino as the top three finishers, in terms of tips, performed the grand finale strip off, with Weinsting declared the overall winner and Cereghino and Tucker finishing second and third, respectively. Our thanks go out to Lola Van Ella, Desire' Declyne, Donna Weinsting, Paul Cereghino, Jaz Tucker, Alex Carnes, Lex Ronan, Keaton Treace, Joe Groeblinghoff, the judges, volunteers, and the fabulous audience who enthusiastically tipped and loudly encouraged the performers to disrobe.
LOU THE FLAMINGO, official mascot, St Lou Fringe: Lou can generally be found hanging out around the Grand Center Arts District and wherever else bold new theater is happening. A well-educated bird, they'll be posting occasionally about St Lou Fringe news and events.