Hundreds Came to Spencer Theatre for Promotional Performances
Jerry Genochio isn’t afraid of a little honesty.
So when his friend asked Genochio what he thought of his play, Genochio told the playwright exactly what was on his mind: “I liked it, but I hated the second act.”
That honesty led to a dare.
“He said, if it’s so easy, why don’t you write a play?” Genochio recalled.
Apparently Genochio isn’t afraid of a dare, either.
So he wrote “Tack Driver,” the story of two brothers who made a childhood pact to kill their stepfather. Twenty years later, they set out to make good on their promise.
It was the first thing Genochio has ever written, and he wasn’t sure whether it’s good or bad. The one thing he knew for certain was that it was about to get a huge audience.
As Genochio lined up with other performers, the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Spencer Theatre hit capacity. Hundreds of people turned out for the opening night of the KC Fringe Festival, which was hosted by the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. Soon, they’d see a three-minute preview of Genochio’s play, sandwiched between an improv act and a burlesque show.
Opening night was typical in the sense that it was atypical. From 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., groups of performers brought snippets of their acts to the Spencer Theatre stage. A group of magicians performed a card trick. Actors garnered laughter for their take on corporate teambuilding exercises gone wrong. A corseted dancer hit the splits – with a snake draped over her shoulders.
“It’s free expression. We’re unjuried, uncensored,” Brent Kimmi, KC Fringe Festival’s director of development, said.
The uncensored acts drew an equally uncensored audience. There was tension during a play about infidelity, and laughter as a “priest” recited an off-color “bible verse” about the creation of the vagina. Burlesque dancers, clad in fishnet stockings and red and black lingerie, drew cheers.
Improv teams had no trouble getting audience suggestions. Peanut butter, heat, and lava lamps were among the prompts shouted at the “Improv Your Life!” troupe. Not surprisingly, they went with heat.
The festival’s blend of out-there and mainstream art, from a mix of established and novice performers has kept the KC Fringe Festival going for eight years. But the event isn’t unique to Kansas City. Around the world, similar fringe festivals operate on the same basic principles – to give all artists a chance to showcase their work, regardless of content or style.
The anything-goes environment is a big draw for artists like Genochio.
“It’s a place where you can bring newer work, and if it sucks, that’s part of Fringe. It can fail. It could be good, it could be bad. It’s all part of the Fringe experience,” Genochio said.
Ironically, it’s that same logic that drew big crowds for the festival’s opening night.
“This is a great opportunity to see a lot of different kinds of shows. It’s pretty unique. You don’t get that kind of experience elsewhere,” Carissa Rochn said.
Fun fact: Five people who have taken UMKC’s playwriting class now have plays running in the 2012 KC Fringe Festival. They are:
“Ice Cream Social…Issues” By Natalie Liccardello
“Skillet Tag” By Pete Bakely
“Invention of the Monster” By Kyle Browning
“Buck Hoss” By Scott Cox
“Pilgramage” By Ry Kincaid