May van Oskan’s Rock Opera About “The Ape Woman” Has Great Beauty at the Berkshire Fringe [Berkshire on Stage]

August 9th, 2013, 11:00 am by Sara
The Ape Woman, photo by Geoffrey Parkhurst.

The Ape Woman, photo by Geoffrey Parkhurst.

Theater review by Gail M. Burns

Julia Pastrana (1834-1860) was born with a condition called hypertrichosis, where dark hair grows all over the face and body. Today we call it Werewolf Syndrome. She also had Gingivia hyperplasia, which gave her a second set of teeth, thick gums, and protruding lips. She stood just four and a half feet tall. Ethnically, she was a Native American from a tribe in the Sinaloa State of Mexico. Her face did not fit any conventional standards of beauty, but she had an hour-glass figure, the much admired Victorian “well-turned ankle,” was a talented dancer and singer, and spoke three languages.

But she was a woman and a “freak of nature,” and it was the 19th century. Her life was not her own and her fate lay in the hands of men. Her birth family was the first to sell her. She was liberally displayed and “examined” by professionals, one of whom declared her to be the spawn of a human and an orangutan, hence the moniker “The Ape Woman.” She eventually married her “manager” – one Theodore Lent – and died less than a week after giving birth to their son, who also had hypertrichosis and only lived a few days.

Pretty grim, huh? But that’s just the start of Julia’s story. Her husband had her body, and that of her infant, taxidermied and continued to display them in a glass case which travelled worldwide. Then he met a German woman with hypertrichosis, married her, and tried to pass her off as his first wife’s long lost sister, displaying her alongside the mummified remains. The second wife, named Marie, was much feistier than Julia and outlived her husband by many decades.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.


Anything But Funny: “on est déshabillé” (A Comedy About Death) at the Berkshire Fringe

August 8th, 2013, 1:00 pm by Sara
(rehearsal photo)

(rehearsal photo)

Theater Review by Gail M. Burns

This piece simply struck me dumb. I had the feeling that I should either start laughing very loudly and continue until it ended, or that I should stand up and walk out publicly and noisily, neither of which I can do as a professional critic. Nor is either something I have ever felt impelled to do in 16 seasons as a critic. Performer/composer/storyteller Eliza Ladd, whose last Berkshire Fringe entry I enjoyed very much – Elephants and Gold in 2009 [read review here] – has hit so wide of the mark here that on est déshabillé embodies everything, and I do mean everything, that gives “fringe” theatre a bad name.

Its billing reads: “Born out of Rock-and-Roll and teetering toward Clown, on est déshabillé
is an absurdist tour de force.” The names of Ionesco, Pinter and Beckett did course through my mind as I watched, but those gentlemen were able to use nonsense to make sensible artistic comments on reality, which is indeed absurd in the extreme. on est déshabillé – a French phrase meaning “one is stripped bare” – is indeed stripped bare of intellect and humor, leaving only a few memorable visuals and sound bites worthy of recall.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Real Good for Free: :30 Live! @ the Berkshire Fringe

July 22nd, 2009, 9:38 am by Greg

In addition to the array of cutting edge main events, the fifth annual Berkshire Fringe festival at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington, Mass. is also presenting its free :30 Live! concert series again this year.

The free half-hour performances take place at 7pm on Mondays and Wednesdays throughout the run of the festival – July 29-August 17.

Here’s the schedule:

Wednesday, July 29: Lesley Flanigan

Monday, August 3: Bella’s Bartok

Wednesday, August 5: The Xylopholks

Monday, August 10: Janus

Wednesday, August 12: Oliphant

Monday, August 17: TimeTable

Real Good for Free: Lake Luzerne (Thursdays)
Real Good for Free: Dutchman’s Landing, Catskill (Thursdays)
Real Good For Free: The Crossings in Colonie (Thursdays)
Real Good For Free: Rensselaer Riverfront Park (Wednesdays)
Real Good for Free: Kids’ shows in Troy (Wednesdays at noon)
Real Good for Free: Valatie’s Glynn Square (Sundays)
Real Good for Free: Schaghticoke Town Hall Gazebo (Thursdays)
Real Good For Free: Brunswick Community Center (Tuesdays)
Real Good for Free: Thurman (Mondays)
Real Good for Free: Sharon Springs (Wednesdays)
Real Good for Free: Rock-It in Schenectady (Fridays)
Real Good for Free: Bethlehem Public Library (Wednesdays)
Real Good for Free: East Greenbush Comm. Library (Wednesdays)
Real Good for Free: Stony Creek Town Park (Tuesdays)
Real Good For Free: RiverLink Park, Amsterdam (Saturdays)
Real Good For Free: Halfmoon (Wednesdays)
Real Good For Free: Chestertown (Thursdays)
Real Good for Free: Bolton Landing (Tuesdays)
Real Good for Free: Greenport Park, Hudson (Fridays)
Real Good for Free: The Sounds of Salem (Saturday mornings)
Real Good For Free: AHMF @ Lake George (Wednesdays)
Real Good for Free: Latin Fest @ Washington Park (Sat. Aug. 29)
Real Good for Free: The Clark @ Williamstown (Tuedays)
Real Good For Free: Skidmore Jazz (Various days)
Real Good For Free: Schenectady Central Park (Sunday afternoons)
Real Good For Free: Clifton Park (Sundays)
Real Good for Free: Albany Public Library (Third Fridays)
Real Good for Free: At The Plaza, Albany (Wednesdays)
Real Good for Free: Skidmore’s Tang Museum (Fridays)
Real Good For Free: Rockin’ on the River, Troy (Wednesdays)
Real Good For Free: Pearl Street Live (Thursdays)
Real Good For Free: Freedom Park, Scotia (Various days)
Real Good For Free: Jazz on Jay (Thursdays at noon)
Real Good For Free: Cook Park, Colonie (Tuesdays)
Real Good For Free: Lake George (Wednesdays)
Real Good For Free: Schodack (Tuesdays)
Real Good For Free: Canajoharie (Tuesdays)
Real Good For Free: Guilderland (Thursdays)
Real Good For Free: Alive @ 5 (Thursdays)
Real Good For Free: Powers Park (Saturdays)

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