The Seattle Fringe Festival, like the Northwest Bookfest, is one of those events that took off strong in the 1990s, struggled when the economy began to slide south in the new millennium, and has since re-emerged in a more spare but still viable form.
The current fringe festival runs through this weekend with the theme “Under The Skin” and with more than a little “by the skin of their teeth” grit. Multiple shows are playing at the Annex Theatre, Eclectic Theatre, Hugo House, and Northwest Film Forum on Capitol Hill.
Among the new works being offered is Radial Theatre Project’s production of Aisle 9, an in-depth examination of love and shopping carts conceived by Aimée Bruneau. This actor, director, voice actor, and teaching artist, among other things, recruited three local playwrights to imagine multiple stages of a relationship being played out in an aisle of an iconic Seattle grocery store.
How did you go about selecting the playwrights for Aisle 9?
I emailed a description of the project to my three favorite playwrights, Keri Healey, K.Brian Neel and Wayne Rawley. They said yes!
So how does having three writers crafting one project work?
The challenge of working with three amazing playwrights is their schedules. Playwrights sure are busy people. The rewards are pretty spectacular. They see the world differently which offers variety in terms of form, style ,and humor. But these playwrights enjoy telling the truth, and we've been able to root into this common ground. It helps to have strong actors, Sam Hagen and Erin Stewart, who move nimbly and gracefully between the differing styles.
Why a grocery store?
I set Aisle 9 in a grocery store because I love grocery stores. All kinds of grocery stores. I love the people watching, the possibility of all sorts of interactions, and disappearing into shelves of colors, textures, words & images.
Obviously the idea of following one couple through various stages of their relationship is appealing, but what specifically do you think will draw a Seattle audience to this play?
This is a Seattle story. Our first act takes place in 1983 in the Food Giant in Wallingford. For our second act it has become our present-day Wallingford QFC. Our third act takes place in the future in this same building.
How does the return of the Seattle Fringe Festival provide an opportunity for work like this?
The Seattle Fringe Festival is where I made my Seattle directing debut. It was the only opportunity to make a start back then. After it went belly up in 2003, young directors were left with few opportunities to get a foot in the door. We don't cultivate directors in Seattle - at any level, really. The Fringe makes it possible to play and to get into the game.
If there wasn't a Fringe Festival, would there be an Aisle 9?
The Fringe allows me to take ownership of this creative process and pretty much do whatever the hell I want. It's fantastic! Working on a play written by three playwrights is a risk. The Fringe is a place for risk-taking. I can't think of a better gift to Seattle artists than the rebirth of the Seattle Fringe Festival. I sure hope it sticks.
To find more shows playing at the Seattle Fringe Festival 2013, check their website. The current festival continues today through Sept. 22