On the Verge is a company created to bring exciting theater to the summer doldrums between Solstice and Fiesta. Headed by Executive Artistic Director Kate Bergstrom, the company’s mission is to galvanize area playwrights, performers, and designers to create shows that are attractive to a diverse audience demographic, especially the younger crowd.
As Bergstrom pointed out, despite having several highly rated acting programs in the area, students often leave town after graduation to seek opportunities in larger cities. This annual exodus results in a dearth of performers in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties, which limits the talent pool and skews theater in Santa Barbara toward older audiences. The On the Verge festival of productions is designed to mitigate this issue by presenting the work of young artists in a fresh, interactive capacity.
This summer’s festival provides a full schedule of productions in a variety of styles and locations. Monsters of Paris, a sensual play of love and self-respect set in the oppressive patriarchal state of pre-WWI Paris, will be performed as a staged reading.
Playwright Roxie Perkins offers a double feature of Caylee’s First Big Show!!! and Sweet Child. In Caylee’s First Big Show!!!, a singer/songwriter tells her story of identity crisis and heartbreak through a theatrical performance disguised as a pop concert. Sweet Child is a tale of survival in an impoverished urban area: Two abandoned teens walk the thin line between hope and desperation and learn to accept the reality of their family history.
Footprints at Laetoli is about paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey, who discovered the Laetoli footprints (fossils that present evidence of bipedalism in the evolutionary history of the human race). The play isn’t merely an excursion in archaeological storytelling; it’s also about Leakey’s personal evolution as she considers unresolved issues related to her late husband.
On the Verge will also present performances that exist outside the traditional theatrical structure, including Lady-oke! and This Is Not a Love Song. Lady-oke! configures the popular art of karaoke into a performance-art installation, elevating karaoke from an inebriated accident to a purposeful exhibition of the work of influential female artists like Madonna, Stevie Nicks, and Patti Smith. This Is Not a Love Song is an examination of romantic interaction, fetish, and self-presentation in the current landscape of Internet dating. In this fascinating production, an ethnographer’s thesis about Asian exoticism and dating websites comes to life (literally) when the subjects of the study appropriate the narrative and present their own stories.
True to its name, On the Verge aims to push performers, characters, and audience members to the verge of discovery. The festival, which runs July 16-25, features four world premieres, two Santa Barbara premieres, interactive art installations, and a workshop designed to offer interested parties the experience of working on various aspects of theatrical production. Performances will be held in alternative theater spaces, including The Narrative Loft, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, and The 208 gallery. Be sure to check out all that the festival has to offer: It’s an exciting look into Santa Barbara’s community of diverse and gifted theatrical artists.
On the Verge runs July 16-25. For tickets and information, call (805) 455-5598 or visit onthevergefest.org.