Fringe by Numbers: Allegra Lingo inspired to tell tales

When I started blogging about the Fringe, I declared that I do not like one-person shows, generally.  I find that many do not rise to the quality of actually being theatre.  Often times there is no plot, no acting, and no reason to watch.  That being said, it was through the Fringe that I became aware of a separate art: storytelling.  Now, I have been exposed to storytellers in other ways, namely as a child hearing them at library performances.  But through the efforts of people such as Nancy Donoval and Allegra Lingo I've come to appreciate certain types of one-person shows.  In fact, I've grown to enjoy the genre so much that last year I produced Allegra's show I Hate Kenny G.  Allegra is one of my favorite Fringe performers and so I chose her as my first pre-fringe interview.

Allegra is doing a show called Tipping the Bucket.  The official show description is as follows: "Rebelling against politics, proselytizing and puking, rockstar Allegra Lingo surfs the waves of her Baptist past and gay Catholic present to find an island of her own."

Now, last year's show involved a story about what some might call a "religious experience" that Allegra had in Europe.  And apparently people went up to her after the shows and inquired about her faith (more on that in the interview).  This show is the resulting answer.

Allegra is both self-aware and self-deprecating in her humor.  She is well-loved by many in the Fringe community because she's an enjoyable presence off-stage.  That same persona resonates from the stage.  If you're not her friend when you walk into the theatre, you'll feel like you have been for years as you walk out the door.

In my effort to interview a bunch of people in rapid succession, I didn't really sit down with Allegra for this chat.  What can I say?  The internet is wonderful!  So... I'm going to put forth my questions and her answers as we typed them.  Enjoy!

Q: What prompted you to start performing?

A:  I've always been a writer, but never thought about putting my words on stage until I began working for the Fringe in 2000.  After a couple years and seeing some of the shows, I thought to myself "hey, I think I could do that", and finally in 2005—the first year of the lottery—I had enough courage to put in a show application.  I got lucky and my ball was drawn.  My intent was to do one show just to see how audiences liked my work, and then go back and keep crafting and put together a book.  But the audiences liked my shit-eating grin as much as my words, and I loved the immediate feedback and making people laugh, so I've kept writing for the stage.

Q:  Fill me in on your Fringe history:

A:  I was part of the Spoken Word Fringe (short pieces in a cabaret type setting) in 2001, 2003, and 2004.  My first solo show was 2005s Hubcap Frisbee, and I followed that up with A Heap of Broken Images in 2006 and I Hate Kenny G, produced by Commedia Beauregard, in 2007.

Q:  What inspired this work?

A:  This year's show grew out of audience response to my 2007 show, I Hate Kenny G.  One of the most frequently asked questions after seeing my show was "so what is your faith now?"  Since I was raised Baptist, went to a Lutheran College, realized I was gay, and then decided to convert to Catholicism, I figured I had a unique story to share.  After my ball got drawn in the lottery in February, I started reading a lot of religion and philosophy and writing about these topics on my blog,  Then in May, I sat down with my director and we created the show out of the themes that were emerging from my writing.

Q:  What are you doing right now to prepare for the Fringe?  Other than this interview?

A:  My director and I are busy rehearsing every night, making sure we've got all the cues and tone of each section down pat.

Q:  Who are you working with on this production?

A:  Anthony Paul, co-founder of Chopping Block Theatre (past Fringe productions include Serendipity and Gumball Jesus), is my director.  Charlie Bethel (Tom Thumb, Beowulf, and Gilgamesh) is also recording some voiceover for the show.

Q:  What's your favorite thing about getting ready for the Fringe thus far?

A:  A moment a few weeks ago when I finished the script—and reading through it for the first time and saying to myself, "yeah, I think I've got something cool going on here."  Opening the box of postcards when they come from the printer is fun, too.

Q:  Will you be hanging out at Fringe Central this year?

A:  Is a frog's ass water tight?  I'll be there every night, with a beer in one hand and a smoke in the other.

Q:  Do you like Canada?

A:  I do!  Montreal is one of my favorite cities in the world.  I also went to Vancouver for the first time this year when I was on tour with my band, Buckets and Tap Shoes, and it was amazing.

Q:  What are you reading this summer?

A:  I'm just finishing up When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris. 

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