Arts / “The concept of a fringe festival is that it’s open to anyone and anybody can perform, whether you’re a new or emerging artist or a professional,” says Misa Tupou, the organizer of the second Oahu Fringe Festival (OFF), kicking off on Thursday at various venues in Chinatown. “Fringe Festival doesn’t judge you; they appreciate you giving your soul, creating your work.”
Tupou came to Hawaii from New Zealand a few years ago and found what he saw was a strong arts community with a breadth of everything from visual to performing art, but without a format allowing artists to really shine together. Though he had no experience in organizing a festival, he reached out to Tim Bostock–a production veteran known in the Islands for bringing the best performance artists to our large and small-scale venues–and created the first OFF last year.
“The energy that is driving the arts community here is strong, and it’s growing,” says Tupou. “It is getting better because of the energy directly bred from here that inspired me to gently push the idea to start a fringe festival.”
Now in its second year, OFF features the return of local performers Pamela Poles and the Convergence Dance Theatre, plus eight new shows, which include two from out of town: Planet Egg, from New York, and Secrets of a Gay Mormon Felon, from Alaska.
“Oahu is a melting pot with such soul,” says Louise Hung, who produced and directed My Mobster at last year’s OFF, and returned this year to help Tupou with the organizational side. “The artists here operate with such passion and unique ingenuity. They create because they must.”
History of the Pole
Pamela Poles, versed not just in the ways of the pole, but also in tribal and cultural dances and aerial and acrobatic skills, regularly performs in Chinatown and teaches pole dancing classes at Fit for a Goddess on Ward Avenue. She appeared at the first annual OFF with the Waikiki Acrobatic Troupe, but this year she will have her own show, accompanied by nine performers, including one from Maui and her six-year-old daughter, in History of the Pole.
The performance, written and narrated by Pamela, combines gymnastics with pole dancing’s roots in physical fitness, adult entertainment and the circus. However risqué that may sound–as fringe performances have a reputation for being uncensored–Pamela’s style of self-expression slides toward the family-friendly side, and she assures that History should be suitable for people aged 13 and up. “[OFF] is a platform for me to create a theatrical piece and make a statement,” she says. “It’s motivating to do a full-on [entertainment act].”
Imagine crash landing on an unfamiliar planet and having to fight for your survival. Now imagine you’re a robot, and the planet is made of organic material and vegetables. Throw in your new onion companion and a bunch of ambiguous mushrooms who may or may not want to kill you while you search for a way to repair your ship and you’ve got the ridiculously hilarious premise behind PuppetCinema’s Planet Egg. But that’s only half of it.
“All the puppetry is performed live on stage in full view, [and] everything is filmed and projected onscreen,” says Ali Skye Bennet, producer of the show. “We score the whole thing live the way they used to in old movies,” she explains, by using prerecorded sounds, random objects and various instruments. “The puppets are all very tiny, so to see it brought to life makes it really interesting. Your mind plays tricks on you when you see a tiny potato [become] eight feet tall [when it’s projected on the screen].”
PuppetCinema is able to travel to Oahu from New York because of support from the Consulate General of Israel. “[Their goal for] Israeli artists is to get widespread [attention], and they’ve never had one [of their performers] in Hawaii before,” Bennet says, referring to Planet Egg’s creator and director, Zvi Sahar, who is in the U.S. on a three-year work visa.
On top of PuppetCinema’s performances, they are also offering a workshop geared towards ages 16 and up to present the logistics of puppetry and filmmaking (Sat., 11/10, 10:30-11:30am at The Creative, $15, includes materials for your own short puppet play; RSVP at 721-6942 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
With three nights, four venues and 10 different acts, each OFF option is as unique and worthy of your time as the others (see the list; we are not making these up): Kachuzzi Presentare!, a female clown dealing with the societal pressures of what women should be; Coin-Operated Boy and Other Tales, a dance story of a mad scientist sick of getting dumped; Hang Ups and Bang Ups by the Convergence Dance Theatre, inspired by Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go!; WHO THE BLEEP AM I? A personal, poetic, musical, humorous AND serious exploration of identity, performed as a one-woman show by M. Zina Mager; My Titties are Jetlagged, an interactive adult play about the airline industry; Secrets of a Gay Mormon Felon, the true story of playwright/actor Kimball Allen; Tribute, a collaboration between the We The Funk dance crew and Dancers Unlimited to pay tribute to great performers such as James Brown and Michael Jackson through their street style; and Nutcracker Aerobics, at Ong King Arts Center. For a full schedule, go to [oahufringe.com].
“One of our goals is to promote original work [by] offering a playing field where they can showcase their work to the community,” Tupou says, explaining the need for a non-judgmental and experimental format. “And really,” he adds, “this touches on what Hawaii is–a place where family means togetherness, and I think that is unique in itself.”