The Chicago Fringe Festival kicked off its third year last weekend. From commercial theatres to storefronts, the Chicago theatre scene is already known for taking risks with cutting edge and innovative work. CFF is an extension of that, a platform for artists whose work may not fit so neatly into a box. What sets CFF apart from its counterparts in New York and Edinburugh, it is non-juried. There are no judges placing merit on the work, just the reactions of the audience. And also, the money generated from ticket sales go directly back to the artists who worked on the piece.
It's a pretty exciting time and a great excuse to visit the fun and bohemian Pilsen neighborhood. It's also a great way for established theatre artists to take a risk and try something new. My pal, out stand-up comic Joel Kim Booster (who I worked with in Silk Road Rising's "Re-Spiced") has adapted a piece called "The 3 Citrons" for the festival. He chatted with me briefly about the piece the experience of working at CFF.
Danny Bernardo (DB) What's THE 3 CITRONS about?
Joel Kim Booster (JKK) In an unspecified Kingdom, in an unspecified time, Prince Tomás seeks desperately to find his true love. Together with the help of his step-brother and sister, the court magician and his faithful maidservant Fryda, the Prince intends to woo three princesses, each procured from a magic orange, or "citron." There's only one problem. These "princesses" aren't staying at the castle of their own volition and they might not have even gotten there by the magical means Tomás believes.
Inspired by "The Three Citrons of Love" by Consiglieri Pedroso, this tale takes a sharp turn from romantic fantasy, to twisted nightmare, all the while asking the question-- Is true love possible outside of the fairytales we're told as children? But ultimately, it's about love, man! In a few different forms. But the ways that love will make you believe anything, and sometimes even drive you a little crazy.
DB: What inspired you to write it?
JKK: Kate Adams (the director) approached me with the original fairytale about half a year ago and asked me if I might want to write a play with this story as my prompt. I'm not really a fairytale guy, so I was nervous, but I love Kate and would write anything for her to direct, so I gave it a shot. I struggled for a long time, but I finally found something in the fairytale that spoke to me, and something that I could write about. Ultimately we threw a lot of the original structure of the fairytale out, but I think it's still honors the spirit of the original. In a very twisted sort of way.
DB: How has it been working with the Chicago Fringe Festival?
JKK: It's been great! I had a play produced as a part of the 1st annual festival back in 2010, and things seem much more organized this time around. It's an exciting energy—this festival is still so new! Each year it gets bigger and better, and I think everyone is just really grateful to be apart of something like this so early on.
DB: What are some of the differences working on "fringe" theatre vs. more mainstream commercial or storefront theatre?
JKK: It's definitely a little more guerrilla style theatre. The spaces are mostly unorthodox which can be challenging at first, but ultimately pretty cool. Theatre is at its heart about transformation, right? So the challenge here is how do you turn a dingy basement into a theatrical space in fifteen minutes?
It's stressful, panic inducing and invigorating all at the same time.
DB: How has your own view of love and romantic relationships changed from writing the show?
JKK: I'm not quite sure. It's funny, I think with every show I write, I'm in a small way working out my own feelings about love, and what is real love? etc. You know, really dumb questions like that. I'm not sure I've hit on anything concrete yet, but I know my view has definitely evolved.
DB: What's next for you?
JKK: We're exploring the possibility of extending the show beyond the fringe festival to a more fully realized run—I had to cut a lot of story out in order to fit into the Fringe Festival's time constraints, so it would be a real joy for me to get to fully flesh out this story a little more. ?
The remaining performances for THE 3 CITRONS this week are Septemeber 6 at 10PM; Friday, September 7 at 8:30PM and Saturday, September 8 at 5:30PM. All performances of THE 3 CITRONS will at the Americana Stage (600 W. Cermak, Basement; Chicago, IL 60616)
For a full listing of CFF performances, visit their website: http://www.chicagofringe.org