In its 15th year, Out of the Loop Fringe Festival is still proving it's a vital part of the Dallas arts scene — mainly because it still attracts theater and dance from risk-taking companies not only in Dallas and Fort Worth, but from all over the country.
Through March 6 at WaterTower Theatre in Addison, OOTL includes performances from 23 arts organizations. In its first weekend, I caught three shows, plus two live music performances and the art display in the lobby. These three shows performed during the first week only, though the live musicians each have one remaining concert.
Far and away, Ebony Stewart is this year's poster girl for Loop. The spoken-word champ from Austin has a two-hour presentation titled Hunger, which refers to her aching need for a father figure and acceptance. It's funny, poignant, and groovy, and Stewart is mesmerizing. Whether she's rapping, dancing, gently making fun of the (mostly white) audience, or listening to recorded messages from her parents, it's impossible to take your eyes off her.
Glass Half Full Theatre, also from Austin, brings a bit of silliness with its pastiche of female scientists and adventurers in Missionary Position: Pleasure Journeys for the Intrepid Lady Explorer. Though Judd Farris is delightfully off-kilter as hostess of the "symposium," dispensing paper fans and calling a ridiculous roll as the audience settles in, the actual 45-minute show feels more like on overly long Saturday Night Live skit.
But the company takes "the show must go on" quite literally, as stage manager Katy Taylor stepped in for injured director and actor Caroline Reck. It's a physical performance that depends heavily on improv, and Taylor seems to be having a blast.
Grand Prairie Fine Arts Academy is one of the 23 high schools that was selected for the rolling world premiere of Prospect High: Brooklyn, and the students are invested in the play's subject for good reason. Teens confront bullying, school violence, relationships, gender and sexual identity questions, domestic violence, and poverty, using text, Twitter, hip hop, and other devices to show how kids deal with these issues. Special recognition goes to Bailey James, who's Bria is a barely contained volcano who refuses to play by the world's rules.
Ian Ferguson and Ian Mead Moore offered mini guitar concerts in the lobby, including covers, original compositions, vocals, and audience banter. Ferguson performs once more on March 6 at 4 pm, and Moore performs March 5 at 7 pm.
Artist Angie Bolling's sparkly, award-winning, often larger-than-life creations decorate the lobbies, and some are for sale.