Nestled a few hours drive from New York City is the town of Woodstock, home to America’s oldest arts and crafts colony in Byrdcliffe. Alongside 30 or so buildings stands the Byrdcliffe Theatre, which inspired Artistic Producer Wallace Norman to launch the Woodstock Fringe in the early noughties.
He came across a dilapidated Byrdcliffe Theatre that appeared not to have been used for six or so years during a walk in 1999. His inquisitive nature led him to the doors, and a stiff piece of paper helped him open the hook-and-eye fixture that was keeping the doors shut. It was when he looked around and eventually stood on the stage that he knew there was something here - opening his arms and shouting to the empty theatre “I want you, I want this!”
The Woodstock Fringe was born in 2002 and grew over the next decade to a 6-week festival of local theatre and productions, with as many as 40 performances each season. Some participants boasted Tony Awards, whilst others debuted their writing and acting work on the stage at the Byrdcliffe.
Now, celebrating its 20th anniversary, The Woodstock Fringe, under the artistic production of the founder Wallace Norman, is set to bring three theatre productions to Edinburgh as a collection - The Voices of The Woodstock Fringe.
Brother’s Keeper - a piece created by Wallace in the Woodstock Fringe’s Playwrights Lab - is a tale of courageous survival. It tracks the journey of central character William from 10 years old to middle age. As a teenager, who like many LGBTQ+ youths, suffered brutal abuse in school. He also found himself on the other side of Brother James, his priest, who took a ‘special’ interest in him. The play explores important questions about abuse within the church, and in middle-age William finds courage to confront his abuser.
Wallace told Broadway Baby: “The Woodstock Fringe was a labour of love for me, for a decade we produced a festival of theatre and song in my hometown of Woodstock, New York. It feels right to be marking the 20th anniversary of the festival by bringing these three plays to Edinburgh, a real festival of celebration and appreciation of artistic endeavour. I hope that audiences will come to see these unique plays and hear the voices from Woodstock.”
On a completely different note, Doris Does the Edinboiger Fringe tells the story of a not-your-average-old-lady from Brooklyn, New York. It is an outrageous comedy that see’s Bette Siler - the writer and actor who worked with the famous Stella Adler - perform as Doris. Doris has no theatrical experience, she regularly forgets her lines - but performing at the Edinburgh Fringe is on her ‘fuck it’ list. The show is her chance to connect with an audience - list best friends.
Bette told us: “This comedy play started as a web series during the pandemic but I couldn’t bring myself to perform it on Zoom, so I’m thrilled that Doris will get her day on stage at the Edinburgh Fringe - I’m just not sure the Edinburgh audiences are ready for her!”
Bette’s husband completes the trilogy of shows coming over from Woodstock with his Like A Sack of Potatoes. Ric Siler describes creating his own genre of theatre - hillbilly gothic. This show is described as a journey the audience won’t forget. A farmer with two pretty daughters who knows how to keep their boyfriends in line is challenged when one of his daughters marries an abusive husband and finds that more drastic measures are called for. We are told to expect suspense with a touch of humour.
In Ric's own words, “I’m really excited to be bringing my show to the Fringe, which is a giant free-for-all of art. The biggest artistic showcase with audiences who are there to see theatre. I can’t wait to get over there!”
The three shows that make up The Voices of Woodstock Fringe will be performing at theSpace on the Mile.