While we may think of a Fringe Festival as being on the outskirts, this springtime celebration of dance and theater at Westmont is anything but marginal. The positive response by students who participated last year has led to a significant expansion of this year’s Fringe schedule. Each of the six days of programming featured a different shuffling of 18 distinct theater and dance performances starring, written by, and directed by Westmont students and faculty. It would have taken several days to catch every show.
On the night I attended, I was on the edge of my seats, which were both outdoors and in, as one of the hallmarks of the festival is the creative use of space in and around Porter Theatre. Maria Redina Frantz’s “At the River Jordan” opened the evening, with choreography set to music by Ravi Shankar, flowing costumes and sweeping movements all based on the life of Jesus, thus giving us a taste of traditional sacred performance.
Casey Caldwell’s one-man show “String” had him perched in a tree and dripping with string. His musings on the string theory in physics spun off into reenactments of childhood games.
Leigh Kusinsky’s “Longed for and Learned From” was a dance choreographed to the music of Astor Piazzolla. Another student choreographer, Megan Griffith, offered the lyrical “Through Streets of Grass.” Faculty member Erlynne Whiteman’s “The Beat” featured cacophonous music composed by Greg Kirchmaier. The beat accompanied strong and simple movements, reminding us of the predictable basics of life.
Drama professor Mitchell Thomas’s “Don’t Be Fooled by Me” originated in one of his acting classes. The piece began in front of the theater, where the audience stood for a funeral dirge and the dusting of dirt onto a virtual coffin. We were then led inside by masked actors, where we watched masked dancers writhe while being doused with water. Strobe lights on stage unmasked the actors, who in turn splashed water, creating a dance of illusion. It was a fitting ending to an evening exploring the different manifestations of the sacred within the mundane. In our everyday lives, in our suffering and pain, we ask the most powerful of questions.