Fringe Festival Preview: Glimpses of Adventurous, Experimental Theater

Jan 16, 2019

NOTE: This is one of two preview stories BPR is producing in advance of the Asheville Fringe Festival.

The Asheville collaborative Down With Pants brings "The Static Channel" during the upcoming Asheville Fringe Festival.
Credit Courtesy of the Artist

Think of the theater, dance and music familiar to most people. You won’t experience any of that during the Asheville Fringe Festival, home to the experimental and adventurous.

Those adjectives certainly describe the three locally made shows in this preview. The first comes from Judy Calabrese, mother of three, whose one-woman show recounts three decades of relationships with women.

“I don’t find a lot of talk, conversation, media about motherhood and sexuality, as if we become mothers and are supposed to shut down. That didn’t happen for me. I didn’t shut down,” Calabrese said. “I did go through a major tunnel of transformation, though. My body wasn’t the same. Things were rearranged. My desire moved differently, and there was shame imposed by other mothers, by culture, and let’s factor in age and ageism.”

Judy Calabrese performs "It Didn't Happen" during the upcoming Asheville Fringe Festival.
Credit Judy Calabrese

Before motherhood, Calabrese was an active actress. Once she started her family, she became a doula and stay-at-home mom and thought her performance career was over. This is now the third show Calabrese has written and performed in the Asheville Fringe. With her new show, “It Didn’t Happen,” she said she wanted to explore sex as a language.

“I’m interested in the struggle, what you do with these rogue desires that you feel,” she said. “In every scene of the show, there’s an aspect of denial. I was interested in exploring secrets, the relationship between desire and identity. So we can be one thing in our everyday lives, and in our desire, we can be different than anybody knows us to be.”

Performances of “It Didn’t Happen” are 9pm Jan. 24 and 26 at the Magnetic Theatre in the River Arts District.


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Valerie Meiss played the accordion, ukulele and toy piano, and she sang opera before detouring to perform in a theatrical punk rock band. She detoured again when she stepped into puppetry.

“I’m pretty much self-taught in everything I do,” Meiss, who lives in Asheville, spoke via Skype from the Czech Republic. “I was never really professional. I sorta made a career out of faking things.”

Meiss brings her musical and puppetry skills to a solo Fringe show called “Let’s Go Cry with Strangers.” Like Calabrese, Meiss draws from personal experience.

“This show, it was about getting ghosted, which is tons of fun,” she said.

Being ghosted is when a love interest suddenly and without announcement cuts off all contact.

“It started as a sort of extended experience but has since grown to be about communication and how we either successfully communicate or overwhelmingly fail to communicate with each other,” Meiss said of her show.

Still, Meiss hopes she delivers more than a call for sympathy.

“I have a reputation for making people laugh and then also making them cry,” she said. “Hopefully, I’ve not completely jinxed myself.”

“Let’s Go Cry With Strangers” is 9pm Jan. 26 and 6pm Jan. 27 at Habitat Tavern.


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The last show in today’s preview comes from Corr De Joch and the performance collaborative Down With Pants. Their show, “The Static Channel,” is a critique and counterweight to what De Joch calls the barrage of negativity coming from the mass media.

“When I find myself trapped with a television, I notice there’s almost always a between-the-lines message I’m hearing,” De Joch said. “What’s being said ostensibly is not the same as the real message that I’m hearing, and I wonder if other people hear that too.”

The company turns the stage into a larger-than-life television, and the performers will recreate the sense of what it would be like to flip through channels.

“I’d say I’ve got a hidden agenda of really hopeful, positive, optimistic ideas of what humans are capable of, but that stuff doesn’t make good comedy, in general,” De Joch said. “So I try to sneak it in between the lines of some sure laughs.”

Performances of “The Static Channel” are 7pm Jan. 25 and 4 pm Jan. 27 at the Magnetic Theatre.