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Interstate Fringe Festival 

Will Coviello on a mini-Fringe Festival featuring pieces from New Orleans and Houston

March 18-19

Interstate Fringe

8 p.m. Friday-Saturday

Michalopoulos Studio, 527 Elysian Fields Ave.; www.nofringe.org

Tickets $15

click to enlarge Will Bowling and Chris Kaminstein wrote and starred in Our Man, performed in a five foot by five foot Plexiglass box.
  • Will Bowling and Chris Kaminstein wrote and starred in Our Man, performed in a five foot by five foot Plexiglass box.

Alternative theater doesn't necessarily emanate from abstract or complicated ideas. Chris Kaminstein and fellow writers in Goat in the Road Productions created the hilarious one act play Our Man, an absurd radio show reminiscence about Ronald Reagan performed in a five-by-five foot plexiglas box, off two simple parameters.

  "We wanted to do a show in a box, and we wanted to do a show about Reagan," Kaminstein says. "Tight restrictions make good theater. The box is inherently funny — you can't even fully stand up in it."

  In Our Man, two radio announcers serially recount, revise, embellish and outright fabricate heroic tales about Ronald Reagan. As they get ever more enthusiastic about Reagan, they begin acting out the scenes, including one anachronistic fantasy in which Reagan and Knute Rockne are fellow soldiers fighting behind enemy lines in World War II. Reagan never served overseas, and Rockne died in 1931. But Reagan played George Gipp in the film Knute Rockne All American (1940), and it's where he got his "Gipper" persona, which became part of his political appeal.

  Our Man debuted at the New Orleans Fringe Festival in November and was one of the best shows in the alternative event. Goat in the Road is reprising it for this showcase called Interstate Fringe, produced in conjunction with Houston's fringe. Both evenings include two shows from New Orleans and two from Houston, which will be performed Friday and Saturday here, and then in Houston the following week.

  Interstate Fringe grew out of a scheduling conflict during the New Orleans Fringe in November, says director Kristen Evans. The Houston dance company FrenetiCore was only able to do two instead of the requested three performances of its dance piece. But FrenetiCore operates a theater space in Houston and its director agreed to reciprocate an exchange, hosting New Orleans performers on its stage.

  For the New Orleans leg of Interstate Fringe, a Houston theater group and comedy troupe will perform. Yes, Cassandra re-envisions Aeschylus' account of the Trojan War from the point of view of Cassandra, who foresaw the fall of Troy and was captured by the Greeks. Rogue Improv does group improv work.

  The fourth group is Chard Gonzalez Dance Theater, which reprises its New Orleans Fringe show The Divine Feminine, which also had a very successful run at the November festival.

  For Kaminstein and Goat in the Road, the Fringe helped allow them to debut their hour-long work. It's the third part of a trilogy about politics and the media. The group created a 25-minute piece called Whatever Just Happened, Didn't Happen about Ken Starr's investigation into President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. In the show, Kamenstein and Will Bowling play two clerks tasked with cataloging the voluminous report and its testimony, and they re-enact scenes described in testimony. They later created a short piece about the Meese Commission's 1980s investigation of pornography. The group would like to tour with the trio, Kaminstein says. And Interstate Fringe will help the team get some touring experience.

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