We sent all the performers of the 2016 Classic City Fringe Festival the same 7 Questions. We wanted a deeper look into who they are, their goals, what inspires them, and what all lead them to performing at this years festival. Here’s what John Patrick Bray had to say:
7 Questions: John Patrick Bray
Q: Why do you identify as a “fringe” artist?
A: John Clancy (one of the founders of Fringe NYC) gave a great keynote at the Theatre Library Association Symposium last Thursday at the Judson Church. He said that if you tell him you went to see Hamilton, he already knows the story. He knows it’s good. He knows you’re very lucky, and probably very rich. But if you tell him another story, which goes something like “I was stuck in Fayetteville for two days, and ended up in a 40-hour poker game; I have to go back because Bobby and Peggy Sue are getting married, and I’m in the wedding party,” – that’s a story he doesn’t know. And I think that’s what brings me to the Fringe and Frigid New York. Stories I don’t know. Much of what I do as a writer isn’t me trying to be bold or brave; I see what I see and put it back out using my own filter. I think it’s the kind of work Fringe audiences would accept a bit more (my last play at FRIGID was an adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera; the Phantom was a Bunraku Puppet with a phallus; that play, ERIK: A PLAY ABOUT A PUPPET is now published and licensed with Next Stage Press). So, that combination of the unknown with a built-in Fringe audiences – that’s what keeps me coming back.
Q: What big goal do you hope to accomplish in the next 5 years?
A: Finish my book, get tenure, find more opportunities for my students, more opportunities for myself. Just keep on keeping on!
Q: How do events like the Fringe Festival help you as a fringe artist/performer?
A: Fringe Festivals help all of our work get seen. I don’t see Fringes as a ladder to something bigger. I see Fringes as self-contained art movements that draw audiences from younger communities who are directly being engaged. Audiences also include fellow artists. These folks are Fringe theatre fans! Plus, if you’re involved in a Fringe show, you have to be ready to try new things! For example, Rising Sun Performance Company produced my play Goodnight Lovin’ Trail (published, Original Works Publishing) at the Fringe Wilmington (DE). We had a storefront for the play, and the organizers were going to blackout the windows and put the stage in the back. Our director, Akia, asked them to keep everything as is and to make the storefront the playing area. The play is set in a diner, after all. Anyone who walks by is now part of the show. And the play can begin with the one actor sitting against the storefront, playing drunk. So, the audiences passes a performer before they realize it’s part of the show. I loved that. The actor was Nic Mevoli, who alas, passed away in 2013 attempted a free-dive record.
Q: How is an event like the Fringe Festival good for the community?
A: Fringe Festivals are kind of like comic and fantasy cons – they build fan communities. There are people who won’t go to a show all year long, but you can find them attending fringe festivals. I think a Fringe Festival is very necessary here in Athens. We need it. We have a great community of artists, there’s great food, great music, so much originality. We deserve original theatre, too!
Q: What Inspires you?
A: Good food, good music, good theatre. I love Tom Waits. I love Robert Wilson. I just saw Letter to a Man, the new Wilson/Baryshnikov piece at BAM as part of the Next Wave Festival. I see something like that and I just burn with the desire to create. Creating art is infectious.
Q: What lead you to choose to perform the piece you will be doing?
A: This is a workshop presentation of a play I’ve been working on for a couple of years. Marty saw the reading back in May and he offered us a space in the Fringe. We decided to go ahead! So, this is part of my process. I’ll watch it, see what connects, see what doesn’t, and then I’ll revise. There’s a lot of theatricality in this piece, a lot of fun with movement, objects, costumes; I’m at the point now where I need to figure out where I’m asking the impossible and how, with finite resources, we could stage the impossible. Much of that falls on the shoulders of our director, Dina Canup, and our excellent cast.
Q: What was your first experience being a performer?
A: I’ve been acting since elementary school. I made it as far as “Equity Membership Candidate,” but life had different plans for me. I’ve been writing plays since 1994, and that’s been my passion. My first play was produced in 1996 at Dutchess Community College (NY). I co-wrote the piece with my twin brother, Gregory. We also performed in it, and co-directed it. It was great performing that play at a college because you can take larger risks. We truly had no idea what we were doing, but it was so much fun. And the audience seemed to get a kick out of it, too. Truly a great first experience. I’m not sure what I’d be doing if that hadn’t been so supported by Mike Weida and Student Activities at DCC, and members of CAST of Hyde Park. The play was called Foul Feast. It might never see the light of day again. Time Will Tell 😉