Theater review: Asheville Fringe Arts Festival — The Mothlight and beyond

Mina Samuels in one-woman show "Hazards"
Mina Samuels in one-woman show "Hazards"

The Asheville Fringe Arts Festival‘s shows at The Mothlight featured an empowering female double bill.

Strange Daughters by local artist Jenni Cockrell brought an expressive dance performance celebration of femininity that was both inspiring and moving.

​The festival also fully embraced its international heritage with a pair of talented performers from the United Kingdom (and their unique style of decidedly cheeky British humor). The Fig Leaf Wars found Brits Chris Murphy and Joanne Tremarco dressed as a giant penis and vulva, respectively, entertaining Lazoom Bus passengers near the flat iron sclupture on Wall Street. The performance was both bravely inventive and oddly abstract in a way that felt right at home on the Asheville street corner.

Joanne Tremarco her one-woman show, "Women Who Wank."
Joanne Tremarco her one-woman show, “Women Who Wank.”

​Tremarco continued the genital theme with her one woman show, Women Who Wank: A Fools Attempt To Untwist Herstory, at The Mothlight. The comical-tragical look at female sexuality relied on heavy audience participation, as the mostly improvised show elicited gales of laughter from the at-capacity crowds. Tremarco was sweetly charming while delving into the profane and more intimate aspects of femininity. Her performance was a near-titillating, goofy dismantling of sexual taboos.

​Mina Samuels’ one woman show Hazards took the audience on an inventive and bizarrely captivating trip. The award-winning avant-garde show is about all of hazards that humans face on a daily basis. This is theatre as social awareness by way of absurdist comedy.

​Dressed in an orange vest and standing behind Caution tape, with clipboard in hand, Samuels began by reciting short lists of hazards from the slightly silly to the emotionally crushing. She broke things up with a series of physical movements, then slipped back into the trancelike recitation. Before the end of the performance, she got closer and more intimate with the audience as she recounted a disturbing moment of awareness from her own youth. It was sure to have the audience thinking about the implications of what they had seen and heard long past the performance’s end.

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About Jeff Messer
playwright, actor, director and producer, Jeff Messer has been most recently known as a popular radio talk show host. He has been a part of the WNC theatre scene for over 25 years, and actively works with and supports most of the theatres throughout the region. Follow me @jeffdouglasmess

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9 thoughts on “Theater review: Asheville Fringe Arts Festival — The Mothlight and beyond

  1. Joanne Tremarco

    Thanks for the write up! Just to add myshow is completely – not partly- improvised!

  2. John Penley

    When your area gets a Fringe Festival you know the area is getting Gentrified. I remember the first one in NYC on the Lower East Side or East Village. The Real Estate developers and hipsters moved to the neighborhood in waves after it got massive coverage in the NYC media.

    • North Asheville

      Doesn’t the Asheville Fringe Festival take place in downtown and in West Asheville? Wasn’t that part of Asheville gentrified a long time ago?

    • Alli Marshall

      Hi John, Asheville Fringe Arts Festival is actually a very grass-roots effort. It’s produced by local artists in support of performances you won’t typically see in venues since they are in-process, experimental and sometimes pushing boundaries of what’s considered socially acceptable. AFAF is now in its 13th year — not exactly a new addition to the local art scene. Gentrification is usually a term referring to urban planning practices that increase property values, thereby pushing out poorer residents. I don’t think there’s a correlation between cities that produce fringe arts festivals (Edinburgh, Scotland has had such a festival since 1947) and gentrification, though I welcome your insights on the subject.

      • Big Al

        I would best qualify the Fringe Festival as gentrified by the beugie ticket price of $50. And that to go see performances about penises and pissed off harpies. LMFAO.

  3. David Foster

    Nice review…it seemed like a lot of the program this year had women-centered themes but, as you suggest, both “Hazards” and “Wank” took in the entire audience. You don’t need a gender identity, both artists seemed to be saying, to be either frightened (Hazards) or mystified (Wank) by life generally and intimacy specifically. The fact that both performances articulated our mutual concerns was wonderful. The Asheville Fringe seems to be one of the few festivals where these truly alternative types of programs are celebrated and enjoyed…the night I saw both of these shows, the audiences were howling with laughter and self-understanding. Two great performances…and a fantastic 13th Fringe…

    • Joanne Tremarco

      Thanks David Foster. So glad that was your experience !

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