The Fringe’s Alternative Theatre Festival: from Adam and Eve to Denny’s

Pancakes? Or institutional racism? The Alternative Theatre Festival asks. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

On September 12, University of Pennsylvania students will put on the 21st annual Alternative Theatre Festival as part of the 2015 Fringe Festival. It's a 90-minute showcase of student work featuring four works of theater written, produced, and directed by students who are part of the University's only experimental theater troupe, iNtuitons. According to their site, the group’s name is a mash-up of the words “intuition” and “automaton.”

Founded in 1980, the crew got started to “attract people with diverse artistic interests and in order to provide an outlet for creative people whose ideas are too Classical or Avant-Garde to be supported by existing groups.”

The four works onstage this year are Adam and Eve and PainAlmost U.S.S. MaineChoose Your Own Adventure: An Improv Exercise; and finally, And I Said, “What About Breakfast at Denny's?”

The first, Adam and Eve and Pain, was written by Joanna Glum and is about how Adam and Eve would have communicated with little or no words. Greg Olberding's Almost U.S.S. Maine is a parody of the John Cariani play Almost, Maine. The improv show is based on a concept developed by Carla Hoge, a junior studying biochemistry. Hoge's improv centers on three characters: Benjamin Franklin, his wife, and a moderator who asks the audience what modern-day places and situations they want the Franklins to navigate. And I Said, “What About Breakfast at Denny's?” is a criticism of the institutional racism the students perceive at Denny’s, incorporating portions of text from the restaurant chain's popular Tumblr blog.

Preparations for the show started in the spring when Hoge, the chair of the iNtuitons governing board, collected proposals for the show and asked fellow students Noah Lee (writer of the final play about Denny's) and Blake London to produce. 

The showcase and the iNtuitons group itself is an outlet for students studying intense subjects. Not only is Hoge a biochemistry major, but producer Lee is also a computer science major.

"Some people watch TV, I do theater. I love the collaborative effort," Hoge said. "I'm not a competitive person, and it's nice to have a break from competing for the five A's they're going to give out in a class of 100."

Additionally, Hoge noted how rare it is for students to be given the opportunity to write and showcase their work.

She also values the Alternative Theatre Festival’s low time commitment and that it brings together students from across campus. "We picked people from all different groups to participate," she said.

The Alternative Theatre Festival ($5) starts at 8pm on September 12 at the Platt Student Performing Arts House at 160 Stouffer Commons, 3702 Spruce Street, Philadelphia.

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