The British are coming! Also the Chinese, the Japanese, the Italians, the Spanish, and especially the Australians. Admittedly, the 13th annual New York International Fringe Festival, which plays a variety of venues from August 14 to 30, isn’t particularly international. Of its 200-plus shows, only nine originate from outside the United States. Yet those nine include four solo shows all hailing from the coastal city of Perth, Western Australia. Shane Adamczak, one of the Perthers, seems dazzled by the city that took him nearly two days of flights, delays, and stopovers to reach: “It’s kind of sad,” he says, slouched on a chair in the lobby of the Lower East Side’s Clemente Soto Vélez, “but I want to do all the stuff I’ve seen on TV. I’ve already had a hot dog from a cart!”
Having arrived in New York only the day before, Adamczak and his fellow countryman, Tim Watts, attended a production meeting at CSV, then postponed jet lag long enough to chat with the Voice about their Fringe shows. Adamczak will perform Zack Adams: AWKWARD, a comedy “about how I can’t relate to people”; Watts will present the post-apocalyptic puppet show The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer, about a grieving widower who scubas in search of his wife’s soul. Fellow Perthers Mark Storen and Thomas Papathanassiou will also bring shows to the Fringe: Storen’s A Drunken Cabaret features songs of love and violence inspired by local news; Looming the Memory, in which Papathanassiou plays 18 characters, including a chicken, concerns a man’s search for his Greek ancestry. While Papathanassiou will stay with friends in Greenpoint, Adamczak, Watt, and Storen—as well as two techies and Storen’s wife—will room together in a tiny apartment on the corner of Houston and Thompson streets. They’ll share two beds, one futon, and one minuscule bathroom.
Storen was the first to apply for the New York Fringe. In an e-mail message, he explains, “It is a concentrated, curated fringe festival, which makes the experience special for all the acts involved.” Adamczak, who offers technical support for Storen’s show, thought he might as well apply, too, and Watts and Papathanassiou followed suit. When they learned they’d all been accepted, the four men launched a series of fundraisers, appealed to private donors, and secured a grant from the Perth city council. Elena K. Holy, the artistic director of the Fringe, admires their entrepreneurial spirit: “We were delighted with all four shows individually,” she says, “and I think they are just ingenious for having come up with a way to get here.”
Now that they’re here, the boys from Oz must hustle to attract audiences and adapt the shows for American ears. They express some trepidation about whether or not New York audiences will embrace their work: “My biggest fear is that nobody’s going to come,” says Adamczak. Watts hopes he and his cohorts will represent Australia well: “It would be great,” he says, “if people came out of our shows, saying, ‘What’s this place called Perth? They must have a happening theater scene.’ ” For both men, excitement seems to outweigh nervousness. Says Adamczak: “Back home, you tell people you’re going to perform in New York, and all of a sudden, they stop drinking their beer, and they’re like, ‘What?! Holy crap!’ ”