The Festival that Came into the Cold
Horse Trade’s FRIGID is a fine cousin of CAFF
BY SCOTT STIFFLER | Taking its cue from our always chilled and frequently cool neighbors to the north, the 30 shows featured in this year’s FRIGID New York Festival are — literally — random acts.
Not as large in number of participants, or as physically sprawling (or as prone to crippling humidity) as August’s FringeNYC, FRIGID was founded in 2006 by Horse Trade Theater Group and EXIT Theatre. East Village mainstay Horse Trade brought to the table their three theaters (two of them housed in the same building as KGB Bar), and EXIT brought the wisdom accumulated from having run The San Francisco Fringe Festival since 1992. They also introduced Horse Trade to The Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals’ nurturing mission statement and fair, if somewhat dice-rolling, curation process.
Unlike FringeNYC, which has taken some flak from purists for choosing its participants through a juried process, FRIGID embraces the risks and rewards that come from CAFF’s open call for submissions — as well as its guiding principle to “provide all artists, emerging and established, with the opportunity to produce their play no matter the content, form or style and to make the event as affordable and accessible as possible for the members of the community.”
“We jury, adjudicate and check out shows all year round,” says Horse Trade Executive Director Erez Ziv of how performers usually get booked for gigs at the Kraine Theater, The Red Room and UNDER St. Marks. “We go to scout shows and we read scripts, reviews and references…but this is the one time of the year we get to throw things out and see what happens. So we end up with some phenomenal shows we would have never picked if we were jurying.”
This year’s festival garnered around 80 applicants. Booking half of the 30 participants, notes Ziv, takes less than two seconds. “The application is online starting sometime in August,” he explains, “then there’s a countdown clock. You can fill out the application any time, but you can’t press the button until Labor Day.” As the clock strikes Midnight, the first 15 trigger-fingered applicants score an invite to FRIGID. In a nod to the festival’s Canadian roots, the remaining 15 acts are chosen from scraps of paper “pulled out of a beaver fur top hat. We normally do that at UNDER St. Marks, on Halloween night. This year, courtesy of Sandy, we did it in Brooklyn…and we pulled the names out of a plastic pumpkin.”
Residents of The Great White North need not feel slighted at this year’s abandonment of the beaver fur hat, since the land of universal health care and hockey is well-represented during FRIGID.
The Midnight series “Canuck Cabaret” is a raucous variety show featuring Canadians living in New York, talent fresh from a border crossing and NYC-based artists who’ve agreed to be “honorary Canucks” for the night. Ziv was evasive when repeatedly pressed for details regarding the rights and responsibilities of such a classification — and eventually managed to throw us off the trail of potential scandal by noting that in addition to the aforementioned talent roster, “We sprinkle on top of that FRIGID performers. It’s a great chance for them to let loose, hang out with each other and let everyone see what they are, as artists, beyond the one show they have in the festival.
“Cabaret” is hosted by Paul Hutcheson, who “did a show with us in the second year of the festival called ‘On Second Thought.’ The material looked awful [beforehand], but it ended up being one of the highlights of the festival, and we’ve had a relationship with him ever since.”
Horse Trade considers establishing relationships with new talent to be the real reward of FRIGID — which is good, since there’s no actual coinage to be had by hosting its 150 performances. “Participants keep one hundred percent of the box office,” says Ziv, who adds, “The shows are the intellectual property of the performers. We keep no part of them when the festival ends.”
For producers, there are advantages beyond a performance slot in FRIGID. “There’s quite a bit of overflow,” says Ziv of the content sharing between February’s FRIGID and August’s FringeNYC. “Almost every year, somebody from our festival also does the [NYC] Fringe. Few shows leave with less than three reviews, and some have gotten as many as nine. They can emerge with a well-reviewed, successful show that’s already proved itself, and parlay that into a platform to show up at other festivals.”
In a mirror image of that trend, one of this year’s FRIGID performers arrives fresh from a well-reviewed and well-attended run in 2012’s FringeNYC. “Sassy senior” and longtime Village resident D’yan Forest — whose autobiographical “I Married a Nun” was a decade-spanning yarn of bi-attraction — returns with a tale of how to keep the home fires burning at 78 and beyond.
With a philosophy as solid as its title is salty, Forest says her new show (“My Pussy is Purrin’ Again”) delves further into the price we pay for denying, and obeying, our deepest yearnings. “As time passes,” she says, “I’ve become acutely aware of the lies we tell ourselves in order to get the love we long for, even if it is not the love that feeds our soul.” Lest you think “Purrin’ Again” is strictly a two-hanky weeper, rest assured there will likely be a good deal of the ukulele, trumpet and the glockenspiel-accompanied tunes that made “Nun” such a crowd-pleaser.
If Forest pulls in respectable numbers and impresses management, she may be one of five to eight shows featured in the “Hangover” series. Set to run the week immediately following FRIGID, Ziv notes it marks a return to business as usual for Horse Trade: “Those ‘Hangover’ shows are curated. We pick them based on the quality of the show and their potential to get an audience. We’ll announce about half of the roundup on the first Tuesday of FRIGID, then pick the remainder towards the festival’s end. We try to do the out-of-town shows on Monday and Tuesday, take Wednesday off, then feature local shows Thursday through Saturday.”
THE 2013 FRIGID NEW YORK FESTIVAL
Feb. 20 through March 3
At The Kraine Theater & The Red Room (85 East 4th St., btw. 2nd Ave. & Bowery) And at UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place., btw. 1st Ave. & Ave. A)
At UNDER St. Marks
Feb. 20-23 & Feb. 27-March 2
At The Kraine Theater
March 4-5 & 7-9