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A Bluffer's Guide to the Fringe

Your cheat sheet to the hottest genres at this year’s festival, August 12–28.

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The Gay-Marriage Spectacular
Why it's Hot
Topical agitprop is a Fringe Fest mainstay. But a few productions this year turn same-sex nuptials into a plot twist that might make Jerry Bruckheimer proud.

Typical Example
Fleet Week: The Musical, in which a quickie gay marriage somehow saves New York from a terror plot hatched out of Martinique. That’s right, Martinique.

You Know You’re Watching One When . . .
The play involves jaunty gay slang, a titular exclamation point, or, ideally, both (The Day the World Went QUEER!).



The Tongue-in-Cheek Camp Romp
Why it's Hot
Camp has always been popular at the Fringe, but this year the form devours everything in sight: from female truckers (Lady Convoy) to Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Parody).

Typical Example
Go-Go Kitty, Go!, an unlikely but intriguing mash-up of Faster, Pussycat! KILL! KILL! and All the President’s Men.

You Know You’re Watching One When . . .
The protagonist has to make a painful choice between his job (e.g., boxing; running a small New Jersey city) and a career singing or composing show tunes.


The Reverent Biopic
Why it's Hot
Having ravaged the movie industry, the inspiring celebrity story is now having its way with basement theater. This year, special attention is reserved for feminist icons both famous (Frida Kahlo) and obscure (Fanny Fern?).

Typical Example
Edna St. Vincent Millay Speaks to the Committee on Immortality—if only for the title alone.

You Know You’re Watching One When . . .
You notice petticoats and/or interpretive dance.



Mysterious Subcultures Exposed
Why it's Hot
Forget drug culture and the art scene: This year’s favorite anthropological subject is the inscrutable tribes roaming the red states.

Typical Example
Trash, a semi-earnest take on “hillbillies . . . love . . . and flyin’ refrigerators.” See also the first-person monologue Jesus in Montana: Adventures of a Doomsday Cult.

You Know You’re Watching One When . . .
It trumpets its own back-road cred. Jesus’s Barry Smith joined a real cult, and Trash is staged by actual people from Missouri.



The Musical!
Why it's Hot
When in doubt, add the ubiquitous suffix and you can graft kitschy Broadway glitz to anything from fuel-inefficient cars (SUV: The Musical!) to big-city shore leave (Fleet Week: The Musical).

Typical Example
Silence! The Musical, a tuneful retelling of Silence of the Lambs, complete with an actual Greek chorus of lambs.

You Know You’re Watching One When . . .
It relies on a comic juxtaposition (it’s Fleet Week . . . as a musical!) that’s already been parodied to death on The Simpsons (see Oh, Streetcar!).


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