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Zootown Fringe Festival day 3 recap

Prison Boxing is a compelling story about the failures of the California Correction System.

There was a lot happening with the second annual Zootown Fringe Festival yesterday. Missoula Community Access Television (MCAT) declared the day as "Fringe Friday," and devoted their entire Wake Up Missoula program to the Festival. Among those interviewed were Executive Director Bob Leggett, Creative Director Michelle Risho, Not From Here curator Jennifer LaRue and four of her artists from Spokane, actress/writer Moira Keefe and musicians eL.I.Be. of Cherry Sky Studios and bassist/vocalist Carla Green. If you missed the show, you can check out the video here.

The Festival kicked off the day at 5 p.m. with shows at the Roxy Theater (live productions Metercraeft Competition, The Lost Montana Monolog and Project Gingivitis as well as Homegrown Short Films, a showcase of regional short films from Andrew Rizzo, Erin Hale and Mischa Jakupcak), all of which were well attended.

Simultaneously, I attended the four shows at the Crystal Theater.

First up was Moira Keefe, who presented a spoken word performance of her latest one-woman show, Life as an Associate aka F***ing Cashier. The show detailed Ms. Keefe's attempts to become a seasonal employee at TJ Maxx. Keefe is a brilliant writer with the ability to truly bring her material to life. Despite the fact that this was just a reading of her story, Keefe's vocal inflections and facial expressions made the story fresh, funny and good theater. You can catch her final performance on Saturday, August 16 at 8:30 p.m. at the Crystal.

Next up was Leah Joki's Prison Boxing, a dramatic interpretation based on her book Joliard to Jail. Joki had planned a different life path when she attended The Jolliard School in New York City, but wound up working in the California penal system for 18 years as an Artist/Facilitator in the Arts in Corrections program, first at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison before moving to the California State Prison at Lancaster, near Los Angeles.

According to the William James Association, "[t]he Arts in Corrections was a unique encounter between some of California’s finest artists and its finest felons . . ." Joki's performance is raw and full of emotion, as she presented character portrayals of many of the inmates with whom she worked during her time.

But more than that, Prison Boxing is a commentary on the failures of the corrections system. One case in particular that Joki cites is the case of Polly Klaas, a 12 year old who was kidnapped and murdered by Richard Allen Davis, who had just been paroled after serving only half of his 16 year sentence for a previous kidnapping. Davis was released from prison on June 27, 1993, just 95 days before he kidnapped and murdered Klaas.

Don't miss this stirring story, which will be performed on Saturday, August 16 at 5:30 p.m. at the Crystal.

I previously reviewed the final two performances, Katie Rubin's Why I Died, a Comedy, and Steven Kates aka Frank Bukkwyd's What I Learned from Porn, when I attended the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Both artists turned in great performances. I was once again impressed with Rubin, who portrayed 15 characters during her show, which documents her spiritual journey as a recovering alcoholic. She kept the audience in stitches as she hilariously led them through her story. In a different way, Kates took his audience on a journey through his time working in the porn industry in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles, where he served as a writer, producer and actor (although he never took his clothes off) before finally calling it quits.

Other events that took place on Day 3 included the MASC Artisans aerial, dance and fire demonstrations under the Higgins Street Bridge on the south side of the Clark Fork River, as well as another epic performance of Mystery Mark by Viscosity Theatre at the Downtown Dance Collective.

Music also reigned at The Loft, as Dandy Horse, All Over the Bored, Basses Covered, Chris Pumphrey & Friends and eL.I.Be brought their musical talents to bear.

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