Tonight, the Capital Fringe Festival hosts a preview of 30 Fringe shows at Fort Fringe. But as the zany, theatrical free-for-all heads into its sixth season, it’s clear that some shows need no introduction: “I Like Nuts! (The Musical),” “When ET Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Tactile Dinner Car,” for example, might sound fresh and fringey, but actually, we’ve seen them before. Returning companies make up a sizeable chunk of the more than 120 Fringe shows this year.
So this year, we’re exploring shows making their Capital Fringe debuts. Since the festival’s 40-word descriptions are as revealing as a Dan Brown novel, we asked a few Fringe newcomers to tell us about their productions and why you should see them.
First up is a look at “Please Don’t Beat Me Up: Stories and Artifacts from Adolescence,” a one-man show by D.C.-based comedian Adam Ruben, who’s not only never produced a Fringe show — he’s also never seen one.
What's your show about?
As you can guess from the title, I was not a popular child. In this show, I tell true humorous stories from the depths of dorkdom: a class election gone awry, a stuffed animal smuggled into summer camp, and a horribly public athletic non-achievement during Fifth Grade Field Day. I also read from old embarrassing diaries and journals, including a manifesto of self-pity I wrote while sitting home dateless during 10th grade homecoming. The show offers the audience the chance to laugh at the nerdy quality that many of our upbringings shared while simultaneously exploring the nearly uniformly useless advice we give kids about dealing with bullies.
Comedy, mystery, one-man show, drama, musical, or clown show?
Two of the above: Comedic one-man show. This is not a “pity me” show. It’s more “Here's a shopping list I wrote in second grade of items I'll need to build my robot.”
You're a comedian and writer. What have you done before this show that people might know?
I was a recurring guest expert in a lab coat on the Food Network’s “Food Detectives,” where I helped host Ted Allen debunk myths about food science. I’m the author of the book “Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School,” and I also write the monthly humor column “Experimental Error” in the journal Science.
“Please Don't Beat Me Up” is autobiographical. Did you manage to make it through adolescence without taking a beating?
Nope. I took several -- though “beating” is probably a harsher word than would be completely accurate. On television, when a bully gives someone “a beating,” the victim ends up with a black eye and a broken arm. ... Though I’ve received my share of punches and kicks, I've never been hospitalized or anything that severe. In a way, I found my version of "beatings" somewhat more insidious: haphazard acts of violence, nothing that breaks a bone, administered frequently with insults and jeering. Maybe it’s better called “taunting with optional physical oppression.”
Your description promises us excerpts of “a manifesto of self-pity.” Could you offer us just one line?
“I am a rock. I am Eleanor Rigby, listening inwardly as the sounds of silence come to talk with me again. I am Nowhere Man, sitting in my Nowhere Land, making all my Nowhere Plans for Nobody (especially myself).”