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Capital Fringe Festival includes area theater groups and performers

Actor/playwright Meshaun Arnold performs in the one-person play “Spook,” one of various productions in the Capital Fringe Festival in venues across Montgomery County.  COURTESY PHOTOActor/playwright Meshaun Arnold performs in the one-person play “Spook,” one of many productions in the Capital Fringe Festival across Montgomery County. COURTESY PHOTO  The annual Capital Fringe Festival expands audiences’ appetites for independent fringe theatre, music, art, dance and unclassifiable forms of live performance and visual art, according to the Fringe web site.

Participating in the 2018 event, running July 7-29, are County-based theaters and solo performers.

Edge of the Universe Players2 aims “to address the most basic, and yet, perhaps most-mysterious questions about human existence” said Bill Goodman, producer.

This year’s production is “The Vandal” by Hamish Linklater – an actor with stage, film and TV credits.

“‘The Vandal’ appeals to us for several reasons,” said Goodman. “Most importantly, it invites the questioning of the nature and significance of the human experience. The play has three colorful characters and interesting and strange stories; it has ambiguity in the sense that certain events may or may not have happened. “

Purple Crayons Productions is a two-year-old company that grew out of a production of Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” – by juniors in high school.

“Our emphasis and primary goal was to begin to enter the world of professional theater and teach ourselves how to produce,” said Raina Greifer, a group member.

She authored “Mesa, AZ, or Something Like It,” the 2018 Fringe offering.

“This show is amazingly personal,” Greifer said. “Huge chunks of the plot were heavily influenced by my experiences with mental health ... What I love about the Fringe Festival is that it’s accessible to artists of all kinds.”

The Avoidance Theatre Group is premiering “Bartleby, The Magical White Coworker” – in which a black female advertising executive with self-doubt hires Bartleby, a mysterious white janitor, to join her professional staff.  

“‘Bartleby’ flips the script on the Hollywood trope seen in ‘The Green Mile,’ ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance,’ and so many other films in which altruistic black characters exist only to comfort and inspire the white protagonist,” said Jeff Reiser, its co-writer and head of the theater.

Long interested in comedy writing but with a theater background he called limited before the theater group entered Fringe the first time in 2015, Reiser said he “really enjoys its “DIY ethos.”

“I experienced a sharp learning curve,” he said.

Meshaun Arnold, an independent performer, said he puts on a show “whenever I feel like I have something to say” and prefers creating his own material rather than auditioning.

He found something to say in this year’s Fringe offering: “Spook,” a one-person play whose protagonist is a former police officer turned active shooter. An hour before his execution, he explains why he killed five fellow officers – claiming they were domestic terrorists and he’s a patriot.

“There’s also the possibility of a stay of execution in the play,” said Arnold, who is both playwright and performer, as well as a former law-enforcement officer.

“It’s a profession he admires (despite the actions of some officers) because “you can help people when they need you. I would like people to see the show and come with an open mind,” he added.

“When I was born, I had the post-partum depression.” That’s one of the lines from “An Unhealthy Man Lectures You on Medical Issues,” a multimedia comedy with text, slides and video based on the long (true) litany of illnesses and conditions of Vincent Clark.

“I’m the producer, director, playwright and sole performer,” said the middle-aged Clark.

This is his first one-person show – and the first time he’s presenting it in play form. Later he’s taking “An Unhealthy Man” to the United Solo Festival in New York City.

A founding member of the Washington Stage Guild, specializing in plays by Shaw, Clark considered doing “An Unhealthy Man” as standup comedy. His friends convinced him otherwise.

For more information on the Capital Fringe Festival, visit www.capitalfringe.org.

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