• Academics
  • Events
  • Middle School
  • The Arts
On the Fringe: Martha D-O Reflects on 34 Plays in One Day

By Martha Douglas-Osmundson, Lincoln School English Department Faculty & Shakespeare in the City Coordinator

The first Fringe Festival originated in Scotland in 1947 as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, a rather high-brow affair featuring ballet, opera, and classic theatre. The Fringe offers an inclusive, unjuried array of plays, dance shows, puppetry, music, stand-up comedy, one-person rants... the list goes on as far as the artistic imagination. The performance spaces are as non-traditional as most of the performances: church steps, cafeterias, garages, rooftops. (There are Fringe Festivals all over the world nowadays, including Providence’s 4-year-old venture.)

Last August I took a course in Theatre and Performance at the University of Edinburgh, and during the two weeks, I managed to see 30 shows. It was exhilarating! I still have the ticket stubs to such productions as a version of Macbeth played by 3 teenage boys, set in a youth prison, and played in a garage; a one-woman show about a midwestern barista who dreams of going on safari; a musical about asylum seekers from Bosnia; a new play about a toilet attendant in Lagos and Glasgow. I have long been a lover of black box theatre, but seeing performance art in a wide range of unlikely venues made me look at the whole concept of live theatre with new eyes.

This week Lincoln School joined the force with the first-ever Grade 8 Fringe Festival. Each of the girls in the class of 2022 wrote an original 10-minute play, and in cohorts they directed, designed, and performed all 34 plays all over the school in one night! Our program was an authentic Fringe experience.

In anticipation of our welcoming Trinity Rep’s playwright-in-residence, Deb Salem Smith, I asked the girls to think about what they were trying to say with their plays. They each answered the seemingly simple question, “What is your play about?” (Not “What happens in your play?”) One theme that was expressed was, “What connects us,” and I believe it speaks to all of the varied and wonderful plays on offer that night. This very connected class did something special that night, and it does indeed connect us.

The girls in the Class of 2022 worked incredibly hard together (operative word: together) over the past several weeks to write, revise, rehearse, and revise again. The Class of 2022 both paved the way and raised the bar for all future Fringe classes, and my heart is full of pride for each girl in this intrepid class.

The audience enjoyed what was for most of them their first Fringe experience. Here are some reviews of the night:

What a wonderful night! So impressed with all of their hard work!

Your bold and daring vision came to life tonight and was a huge success!  Expertly executed, incredibly rewarding for the girls, and so much fun for parents and the audience at large!

Thanks so much for orchestrating such a wonderful event last night.  [My daughter] (save for some performance jitters) thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  Hope you're basking in the glow of their individual and collective accomplishments!

What a terrific evening last night!  Like everyone else there, I was so profoundly moved by the plays themselves.  How great to see all that hard work and all that joy in creativity and collaboration.  Also, what a wonderful use of the available spaces.  Yet one more thing you do not only for the sake of our students but also for the sake of showing just how vibrant and integral the humanities are at Lincoln.  Thanks so much.

Martha....words cannot describe the feelings that I left with last night. The girls and plays were so different and amazing in their own right. You are so inspiring with the way you lead and nurture these girls (my girl!) to be able to express the raw emotion of life with words. You are amazing, the girls are amazing, this community is amazing! I feel so lucky that our family gets to be a part of it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Plans are already underway for the 2018 Fringe with input from the Class of 2022. They have a lot of good advice for next year’s troupe.

In the meantime, we are all basking in the feeling of accomplishing the near impossible: the first annual Lincoln School Fringe Festival!