A Force for Artistic Expression and the Good of the Fringe

While I’d been aware of the legendary Edinburgh Fringe, and fantasized what it was like, my first real taste of Fringe came in 2003.

Midnight’s Dave Wassilak had found a show in Chicago that we instantly fell in love with The Hunchback Variations, from Mickle Maher and Theatre Oobleck, an outrageous series of panel discussions between Beethoven and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, in which the two men (one fictional, their stories centuries apart, both deaf) worked together to create Chekhov’s infamous sound effect from The Cherry Orchard.

Playful, intriguing, mesmerizing, the short play went over well in St. Louis, and with timing right, we applied for inclusion in the Philadelphia Fringe Festival and were delighted to be accepted. The Philadelphia Fringe experience was wonderful. We did several performances of our show in a cool little theatre (right down the street from Betsy Ross’ house, and our hotel overlooked a graveyard where several Declaration of Independence signers were buried).

But the best part of the week was being able to see a variety of new, imaginative, and very different pieces of theatre. I left there with my head swimming, committed to doing new, imaginative, and very different theatre, and loving the concept of Fringe.

Then, I witnessed the birth of the St Lou Fringe. In the Fall of 2011, Em Piro and I were doing a show together, Mistakes Were Made, while Em was formulating her plan to launch a Fringe Festival. I was part of the early planning, but peeled off as other projects called. Midnight was part of that first 2012 effort, however, with an original children’s play, written and directed by Midnight’s Sarah Whitney.

Over the next couple years, I was a happy audience member. Then, in 2015 and 16, I brought two of my patented, one-man shows, both very Fringe-worthy, to the Festival, House, an absurd suburban satire from Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor, and Product, a savage 9/11 era blast from Britain’s Mark Ravenhill. Both were satisfying ventures, but as we rolled into the 2017 Fringe, I realized I wasn’t pursuing what Fringe is and should be: an expression of one’s own artistic sensibility, a tale that one’s current creative mind has to tell.

And so, The Everest Game was created – a mashup of favorite art, anything goes plot devices, and a chase with a big pot of gold at the end.

And that’s what Fringe means to me. The opportunity to create exactly what you want to create, at a moment in time when you want to create it (aka Right Now), and a forum to share your mad and very personal vision with others.

The St Lou Fringe Festival is nothing if not exciting; an excitement that uniquely occurs when a never-before-seen piece of art is rising from the murky depths of creation to come alive and be counted.

It’s a trip.

JOE HANRAHAN, Fringe Artist and Patron: St. Louis native Joe Hanrahan, with Sarah Whitney, is the creative force behind The Midnight Co. A writer, director, and actor, he is equally comfortable in one-man, character driven monologues and as a cast member. When not working, he is often found in the audience.

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