As a developing company creating and producing work off-center from standard theatrical fare in the Washington area, dog & pony dc (d&pdc) has found the Capital Fringe Festival a vital developmental partner. Producing shows through and in conjunction with Cap Fringe enabled our 4 ½ year old company to experiment with of new ideas and refine devising practices. Fringe is a fantastic venue for connecting with a wider and diverse audience of theatre-goers primed for a non-traditional experience.
In many ways, one might say Cap Fringe helped midwife d&pdc into being. Our first experience producing through the Fringe was in 2007. I was living in LA at the time and the company itself was a relatively fledgling idea on a 4 to 9 year planning track. The other two co-founders, Rachel Grossman and Wyckham Avery, looked to the Cap Fringe to create an opportunity in which they could collaborate as artistic peers (having only co-taught or co-directed shows with students before) and begin testing out theories and approaches of ensemble devising. Their production of The Trojan Women rehearsed over a 6month period, had a workshop performance, and then ran 3 shows at the newly opened Source. d&pdc premiered its first show 8 months later and half the artists involved with Trojan Woman have worked on subsequent productions.
We returned to Fringe in 2009 with our third production Bare Breasted Women Sword Fighting. A vaudevillian strip-tease, we knew BBWSF would be best served produced as part of Fringe not only because of the show’s tantalizing content but the new territory we were treading in making it. At first it was specifically the new territory I was treading in: BBWSF was the first piece I’d ever conceived of, directed, and choreographed. However: it was with BBWSF that we began shaping what would become d&pdc’s principle of “audience integration.” BBWSF did not fully come together—didn’t even feel done—until we had an audience. The show fed on that Fringe festival energy and it allowed d&pdc ensemble to interrogate how we interact and communicate with our audiences in performance. It also helped to spread our name and garnered a bit more recognition for dog & pony dc.
Our latest participation in the Capital Fringe Festival was this past July; we mounted a second run of Beertown (which premiered November 2011). Once again we were testing the waters. Beertown relies heavily on the audience as an active member of the evening’s events (as a “propellant” my co-Ring Leader says). The second production of any new play provides the playwright opportunity to finesse and massage her script; we wanted to refine the audience integration elements of the production in order to encourage energetic, rich audience-driven dialogue. In addition: d&pdc is very interested in touring. We were able to learn in our own hometown how to essentialize the design and tech, fir the show into a “foreign” space, and tailor the production’s elaborate audience-intake process (commemorative t-shirts, dessert potluck). Vital lessons learned for when Beertown travels.
For dog & pony dc, the Capital Fringe Festival is our laboratory playground. It’s an opportunity for us to try new things, test new theories, and expand our thoughts and ideas. Experiment. Experiment. Experiment. It’s a fantastic and much needed festival not only for the creation of new work, but for the refinement of previous productions – and an excellent place for young companies to learn and grow.