Wondrous weirdness at the Woodstock Fringe Festival

Rain Pryor will perform Fried Chicken and Latkes on August 24, 25 and 31 and September 1 as part of the Woodstock Fringe Festival.

School shootings, the disappointment of being old and obscure and what it was like having Richard Pryor for a father are some of the subjects featured in the rich stew of slightly askew cabaret, comedy, drama and poetry that comprise the tenth annual Woodstock Fringe Festival, held at the Byrdcliffe Theater in Woodstock between August 10 and September 2. Ten-minute previews of the event’s highlights, with appearances by Gilles Malkine, Malcolm Gordon, Gus Mancini and several poets, will jazz up the opening party on August 11. There’s a $50 suggested donation to the party, which will also feature a lusciously catered dinner, Champagne and dessert.

A headliner of this year’s Festival is Rain Pryor, performing her new show, Fried Chicken and Latkes, on August 24, 25 and 31 and September 1. Pryor, who is also doing the show Off-Broadway, is the daughter of Richard, and a dynamic performer. “In this case the apple didn’t fall from the tree,” said Festival founder Wallace Norman. “This is an autobiographical show about her life with her father and how she survived. It’s lovingly honest.”

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Prior, who is 45, had a white Jewish mother, and being from a mixed-race family back in the 1970s had its challenges. “She’s said ‘I’m black, I’m proud, and because I’m Jewish I’m guilty about it,” quips Norman, noting that Pryor has also written a book called Jokes My Father Never Told Me.

A new play by Norman, titled It Can’t Happen Here, will be performed August 16 through 26. Inspired by the Columbine shootings, the play is set in Riverton, Wyoming, and goes back in time to recount the events that lead up to a terrible tragedy. Such a topic continues to be sadly, grimly relevant, given the recent shooting at a Colorado movie theater, and Norman said that the play, which has a cast of nine, “asks a lot more questions than it answers.”

Some of us are about to enter or are just starting our sixth decade, and perhaps suffering from a subtle but lingering malaise that fame and riches have never been ours. Poor, Obscure and Nearly 64 by Mikhail Horowitz and Gilles Malkine brings a satiric edge to those self-pitying, rather embarrassing thoughts with wit. It will be performed on August 17 and 18.

The concert series begins with Marc Black and Amy Fradon’s “No Fracking Way” performance on August 10, followed by saxophonist Gus Mancini playing standards (August 11); Malcolm Gordon performing Noel Coward tunes (August 25 and 31); Bill Lewis, a pianist who often tours frequently with Irish tenor Ronan Tynan (August 30); and a cabaret act by Vicky Devany and Wallace Norman, accompanied by Lewis on the piano (September 2). On August 22, the Goat Hill Poets, named for the group’s original meeting place in Saugerties, will read from their work.

There will also be a series of free readings of new plays, most by members of the Fringe Festival playwrights’ workshop, scheduled for August 25, 26 and 29 and September 1. “Some of it is very polished, and some was written just a few months ago,” said Norman, noting that the readings run the gamut from shorts to full-length works. Visit ulsterpub.staging.wpenginefringe.org for a complete listing.

Norman said that the Festival aims to “provide a creative home for people who have all kinds of theatrical expressions.” Its edgy productions in the past have included the “genius” clown” Bob Berky and Tiny Ninja Theater, a one-man company with a cast of one-inch Ninja figures (Tiny Ninja Theater performed Hamlet at the Fringe Festival and for the Royal Shakespeare Company, in the UK).

The Woodstock Fringe Festival will be held from August 10 through September 2 at the Byrdcliffe Theater, located on Upper Byrdcliffe Road in Woodstock. Tickets for each event (except the free play readings) cost $20; a Festival Pass for all events is $85. Passholders also get seating priority. For a full listing of events and times, visit ulsterpub.staging.wpenginefringe.org. For more information call (845) 810-0123 or e-mail info@woodstockfringe.org.

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