Two handfuls of reasons to love the FRIGID New York Festival

Three theaters, 12 days, 150 performances

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One part Lady Gaga and two parts Sam Kinison (with a splash of “Vagina Monologues”), Rachelle Elie’s “Big Girls Don’t Cry” tackles Haitian fathers, Kenyan night clubs and aging Barbies.

BY MARTIN DENTON  |  Just when the winter doldrums threaten to kick in, along comes FRIGID New York to bring a jolt of energy and excitement to the NYC theater landscape. A production of Horse Trade Theater Group, FRIGID packs in a surprising variety of performance in a truly festive environment. I love FRIGID, and I’m about to tell you why you should too.

FRIGID IS EASY ON THE POCKETBOOK
All of the shows cost between $10 and $16. You could see everything in the festival (which would keep you very entertained — there are 30 shows altogether!) for about the price of 3 Broadway theater tickets.

FRIGID IS ARTIST-FRIENDLY
One hundred percent of box office receipts goes to the individual shows. I don’t know of another theater festival in town that operates in this fashion.

FRIGID IS NOT CURATED
That means that there’s a degree of randomness in what shows end up in the festival. Randomness breeds diversity, and diversity is good. I can honestly say that in five years of FRIGID-going, I have only seen one show that I really was sorry to have spent time with.

FRIGID IS A BREEDING GROUND FOR EMERGING TALENT
One example: No.11 Pro-ductions has been in FRIGID three times. Their first show was a rare revival of Antonin Artaud’s supposedly unproducible “Jet of Blood.” They followed that with a “Medea.” Then last year, they hit pay dirt with an original musical called “Quest for the West: The Oregon Trail!” — a show that has gone on to runs at the Capitol Fringe and Kentucky Repertory Theatre. It’s been exciting watching these young artists grow and learn. So I’m looking forward to their 2012 FRIGID offering (“Coosje,” about two modern-day artists…and a singing pear).

FRIGID EQUALS GOOD PLAYS
Lots of shows in the festival are of the comedy/variety/burlesque type, but just as many are authentically fine dramatic literature. We’re celebrating this fact on Indie Theater Now — the website I founded and curate that is best described as “iTunes for plays” — with a FRIGID New York collection that features 16 of the best scripts from the past years’ FRIGID festivals, including works by Chris Harcum, Bricken Sparacino and Una Aya Osato, all of whom will have new shows in 2012. (Check out their previous work to get an idea of their styles.)

FRIGID IS WHERE I DISCOVER AT LEAST ONE GREAT NEW THEATEr ARTIST EVERY YEAR
Honest — and often, I find the gems where I least expect them. Best example: “Conversation Storm/Great Hymn of Thanksgiving,” in FRIGID 2008, was the show that introduced Rick Burkhardt to New York. Rick went on to win an Obie for “Three Pianos” (at New York Theatre Workshop) last year. But FRIGID fans saw him first.

FRIGID FEATURES TOP-NOTCH TALENT STRETCHING THEIR WINGS
Mac Rogers, stellar award-winning playwright, is starring in a one-man play (not written by him) called “Judge, Yuri and Executioner.” Actress Ching Valdes-Aran, whose credits span decades at La MaMa, Ma-Yi Theatre and other venerable companies, is directing “Breathe, Love, Repeat” — and former Blue Man Group performer John Grady is doing a one-man play called “Fear Factor: Canine Edition.”

FRIGID IS NOT JUST A BUNCH OF SOLO SHOWS
There are plenty of one-person entertainments in the festival, to be sure, but just as many multi-cast efforts. This year, look for “Initium Finis.” by Theatre Reverb, “Drowning Ophelia: A New Rock Musical,” “Missed Connections” (based on Craigslist ads) and “Stripper Lesbians from Rising Sun Performance Company,” among others.

FRIGID IS LIKE A VAUDEVILLE BILL YOU PROGRAM YOURSELF, WITH DRINKS IN BETWEEN
Everything in FRIGID lasts an hour or less. Shows start right after work on weekdays and around 1pm on weekends, and run until midnight or thereabouts. The Red Room and the Kraine are housed in the same building (85 East 4th Street). Under St. Marks, four blocks north and one block east, is a leisurely ten-minute stroll. So you can easily pack in two, three or even four shows in a single day/evening. The East Village location means that there are plenty of pubs, taverns, saloons and eating establishments of every stripe nearby. See a 6pm show at the Red Room, have dinner, catch a 9pm show at Under St Marks, grab a quick drink and wrap up your night with the late show at the Kraine at 10:30pm.

FRIGID IS FUN
The most important reason of all! The nights I’ve spent floating from one FRIGID show to another are some of the most enjoyable I’ve spent in my years covering NYC theatre. This is a festival with an easy, relaxed vibe. The array of offerings is eclectic and delightful — from a teeny-weeny tabletop show inspired by the works of Edgar Allen Poe (“Poe-Dunk: A Matchbook Entertainment”) to a two-person clown/acrobatics show (“Aerial Allusions”) to no fewer than three burlesque programs. Something for everybody, as they say.

Martin Denton is editor/producer of nytheatre.com (where you can find reviews of FRIGID shows throughout the festival’s run). His latest project is indietheaternow.com.

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