Fringe at 20 Profile: Bruce Walsh
Name: Bruce Walsh
Type of Artist: Playwright
Companies: Kaibutsu. And I did a show with Chris Davis, Douglas Williams, and Sarah Mantel.
Fringe shows I’ve participated in:
The Wounded Body, 2002 – playwright
Dasein, 2002 – playwright
The Guided Tour, 2004 – playwright, director
Northern Liberty, 2005 – playwright
The Guided Tour, reprise, 2006 – playwright
Chomsky vs. Buckley, 1969, 2012 – playwright, director
Holly’s Dead Soldiers, 2013 – co-playwright, co-director
First Fringe I attended: 1998. I was a sophomore at Temple University. I saw the opening performance of Brat Productions’ A 24-Hour The Bald Soprano, directed by Madi Distefano. It remains one of the highlights of my theater-going life. I was pretty much right out of high school. I think the edgiest thing I had seen to that point was Lanford Wilson’s Fifth of July. I had no idea theater could be so bizarre, ridiculous, hilarious, lugubrious, et cetera, et cetera. At about 2 a.m. that night, I hailed a cab and watched three more performances. In one of them, the Maid stepped off the stage, sat in my lap, and gave her monologue while tussling my hair.
First Fringe I participated in: 2000. My friend Chanel Benz—now a novelist in Mississippi (long story)—produced and directed two of my very greenest, decidedly experimental short plays. It was on the third floor of Christ Church, and it was something like 104 degrees up there. Just before the show started, the ushers turned off the fans so the audience could hear every single word clearly! There was this very loud collective moan, and . . . lights up! I wanted to run screaming. Chanel and the actors did a wonderful job, though.
First show I produced/created at the Fringe: 2002. A one-act I wrote, called Dasein, directed by my college friend, Daniel Kutner. The title is a term coined by Martin Heidegger. I still have no idea what it means. Ah, youth! I remember looking around the audience on the first night and thinking, “I don’t know any of these people. Where did they come from, and why are they at my play?” I’ve never had a stronger urge to kiss strangers.
The Fringiest show, venue, action, or moment I ever experienced: I was sitting in the audience before one of my plays. The two ladies next to me kept whispering to each other and stealing glances at me. I was feeling pretty full of myself, like, “Yes, ladies, I am indeed the playwright.” Then, one of them finally turned to me and said, “Excuse me, sir, sorry to bother you, but are you Thaddeus Phillips?”
A Fringe show that influenced me as an artist: For both good and ill I was incredibly influenced by A 24-hour Bald Soprano. It really opened me up to the possibilities of dramatic writing. But unfortunately it encouraged me to write like a mid-twentieth century European absurdist. I wonder why I had trouble connecting?
Artists I have met or was exposed to in the Fringe who I went on to collaborate with: Everybody.
The craziest idea for a Fringe show I wish to one day do or to have done: My dad (Russ Walsh) retired about three years ago. Ever since, he’s been acting in local theater. He’s even landed a few paid gigs in Philly. He loves Shakespeare. So my idea was to invite the audience to my house for a meal. At some point my dad would show up with a bottle of Scotch – just for himself. So . . . the show would be my dad sharing a slide show of our family photos, but speaking to the audience entirely in text from Shakespeare’s plays. And also drinking the Scotch.