Ariel Mary Ann’s Cincinnati Fringe 2024: DAY ONE

For those who are unfamiliar with Fringe style theatre, it’s an art form that pushes the boundaries of what theatre can be.

By Ariel Mary Ann

The Cincinnati Fringe Festival has returned for its 21st year. For those who are unfamiliar with Fringe style theatre, it’s an art form that pushes the boundaries of what theatre can be. 

For the past two years, I’ve shared with Cincy my top Fringe moments. This June, I’m back to embrace all things Fringe. Here’s my show highlights each day. 

Cincinnati Fringe 2024: Day One June 1st

The Last Witch in Ireland: The Story of Bridget Cleary  Presented by InBocca Performance

I kicked off Fringe festivities with InBocca Performance. InBocca returned to Fringe this year with their production of The Last Witch in Ireland: The Story of Bridget Cleary. This gothic tale introduces audiences to Bridget Cleary, an Irish woman who was murdered by her husband after being accused of witchcraft. Director Caroline Stein challenges audiences to question what it means when we refer to women as “witches.” Are they truly the villains men in power want them to be? Does having agency as a woman translate to being categorized as a witch? 

Kelsey Schwarber plays the titular character, Bridget, with Brandi Botkin playing a Changeling, Katie Scarlet as Imogen and John Dunne, Roman Harris-Richardson as Michael Cleary and Mary. Additionally, Harris-Richardson, Stark, and Scartt play “faes” as well. 

In 2024, we’re seeing witch hunts of our own: trans women are being villianized for simply existing, Cisgender women are being denied their bodily autonomy, black women are being ridiculed by those in power who feel threatened by them. 

The Last Witch… finds a way to connect the past to the present through highlighting how men abuse their power to silence women. This devised show features a script written by Kelsey Schwarber, Brandi Botkin, Caroline Stine, and Chaslee Schweitzer.  

I would recommend this show for anyone who has an interest in shows that showcase badass women in history. 

Gender? F*CK 

Next up, Gender? F*CK written by Rachel Baker, Lyd Noll, and Maia Aoibheil with direction by Aoibheil. G?F explores the world of gender identity and what it means to claim your truth. On the surface, it centers the joy of transitioning and self determination. Gender identity is often a topic that’s treated as this complex subject however, this Fringe piece breaks it down in a way that’s accessible and easy for audiences.

In that same breath, G?F is a love letter to trans people who are figuring it out. The show centers around The Protagonist (Baker) quite literally hatching and making their way into the world. Soon they’re introduced to things such as pronouns, dead names, and gender euphoria. Nolan Kreeger as Mx. Frazzle operates as a guide for the protagonist. At first glance, it seems like Mx. Frazzle has it all figured out. They have confidence beyond words and they lean into their own trans joy. Throughout various scenes, we see them struggle internally with family dynamics and hoping that their family will see them as who they truly are.

In many ways, I think that G?F provides a bridge for trans people who are looking for support, community, and permission to exist and to just be. I recommend Gender? F*CK for anyone wanting to see a comedic but deeply moving play about the power of self discovery and choosing to live for yourself instead of others. 

Cyrano on the Moon, Presented by Arcane Arts Production

After Gender? F*CK I walked down to Gabriel’s Corner on Sycamore to catch Cyrano on the Moon. This Fringe show operates as a sequel to Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. This time around, Cyrano has died and Roxanne attempts to continue his work while coming to terms with his death. 

Directed by Aiden Dalton and starring Lora Jost as Roxanne, Ryan Bowron as Cyrano, Austin Fiddler as Christian, and Elliet Malatesta as Sister Marthe with Payton Wright as Sister Claire.  At various points throughout the show, Roxanne finds herself at a crossroads as she solicits help from two nuns with quite the comedic timing. Elsewhere, we see Cyrano waking up quite literally on the moon. It’s there that we start to see a love triangle unfold between Cyrano, Roxanne, and Christian. For anyone who is a fan of classic period piece dramas you’ll be smiling from ear to ear. Consider getting a ticket for Cyrano on the Moon. It’s filled with campy performances, sword fighting, two iconic nuns, and is a joy to watch as an audience member. 

Bodies, Presented by Matti McLean of Can’t Stand  Sitting Production

At the Art Academy, I made my way to Room 404 to catch Bodies, a one man show presented by Matti McLean of Can’t Stand Sitting Productions out of Ontario, Canada. Bodies features McLean sharing his story of learning how to love his body through the art of body painting. For an hour or so, McLean takes audiences on a journey of self discovery showcasing how he overcame homophobia, fatphobia, and finding the courage to leave an abusive relationship. 

While he tells his story, he also does a live body painting session asking questions posed by the audience. The takeaway from this show is that all bodies are beautiful. At one point, McLean mentions how what led him to start body pointing was to highlight beauty in others. In a world where the name of the game is keeping up with the Jones’, McLean challenges this through pursuing radical authenticity. This is a deeply moving Fringe show that, I believe, speaks to anyone who has experienced some form of adversity in their lives. All bodies are good bodies. If you love emotionally moving shows that speak to the heart, consider seeing Bodies.

Cincinnati Fringe 2024 Continues

Check back in for more Fringe highlights as the 2024 Fringe Festival continues! Please Follow LCT’s socials! Insta @lovecincytheatre and FB

A new Calendar for everything onstage from LCT’s member theatres.

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