Go Deeper

What Shamus Hunter McCarty Loves About Fringe

Posted August 31st, 2018

Shamus Hunter McCarty headshot smiling in blue button downName: Shamus Hunter McCarty

Show in 2018 Festival: Close Your Legs, Honey: A New Musical

Previous Fringe shows: The Jane Goodall: Experience (2010),  Branded (2011), The Playdaters (2012), The Hunchback of Notre Dame…A Mute Play (2014), Animal Farm to Table (2016), Pericles  (2017)

What I Love About Fringe: It’s impossible for me to think about my career as an artist in Philadelphia without acknowledging Fringe.

Fringe was my first gig in Philadelphia and although we were self-producing filled my 22 year old heart with all the confidence in the world that I could do it, I could make it as an artist. I connected with my first cohort of Philadelphia collaborators and whole life and career have put too many miles between us, I stand here, eight years later, nostalgic, proud and ready to unleash a brand new musical on the Philadelphia Fringe audiences. Over the last eight years I have worked on a variety of Fringe projects, grown immensely as an artist and learned a thing or two about how to maximize output and intake without burning out during one of Philadelphia’s busiest performance times.

That’s what I love about Fringe.

Shamus (left) in 2016’s Animal Farm to Table.

In 2010 and 2011 I worked with an ad hoc collective, Hyphen-Nation Arts, largely made up of people I went to college with to present two original works. The Jane Goodall: Experience and Branded. Did they change the contemporary performance cannon? Not so much BUT, they taught me the value in creating work that is immediate, even if scrappy and that supporting a brand spanking new artist as a stranger is one of the greatest gifts you can give. These experiences are why I always make room in my fringe calendar for one or two shows by brand new collectives with artsy names. Support young artists you might become a fan for life and even if you don’t your attendance will mean far more than the price of entry to them.

That’s what I love about Fringe.

After two years of artsy devising I was ready to move into something more traditional. Imagine my luck when I stumbled on a production of a new play, The Playdaters, in the 2012 Fringe. The actors needed a stage manager and I needed an artist pass to see shows for cheaper, a perfect match was made.  The actors were four friends (who are now all married to each other) who quickly became friends of mine. So much so that one of them is actually choreographing my current Fringe show, Close Your Legs, Honey. You never know where your long time collaborators might come from. Two of these performers formed a company shortly after, Revolution Shakespeare, whose free performances in Hawthorne Park have become a staple of the festival while the other two have worked Off-Broadway and in major film and television projects. Keep your playbills! Fringe is an amazing place to see up and coming talent and you never know who might have been in that weirdo one-act you watched in someone’s attic.

That’s what I love about Fringe.

Speaking of plays in houses, you know those shows that say something like “address will be given with purchase of a ticket?” Go see them! You never know what will happen. Ever watched a man take a bath as part of a play? I have. In 2013 I assisted on Bathtub Moby Dick which literally featured Ed Swidey taking a bath as he read the classic novel. What at first glance seems a comical set up was in reality a very moving study in grief. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Don’t let an unfamiliar address scare you! Take the plunge and see something out of the box!

That’s what I love about Fringe.

Some of these out of the box Fringe projects become recurring. For me, that consistency has occurred through collaborations with The Renegade Company.  2014 brought me of the house and into a church for The Hunchback of Notre Dame…A Mute Play. I struggled with this play artistically. Our fantastic ensemble was full of outspoken artists who wanted to refocus Victor Hugo’s text for our adaptation, only problem was, we had no text. Instead we did a live, site-specific, silent movie (which I guess is just mime but we thought of it as a live silent movie).  I wasn’t sure this show worked. We felt under-rehearsed, we had a last-minute actor replacement and were running around and lifting people throughout a slippery and precarious church. Turns out the show did work. People LOVED it. We made it out alive (your knee healed, right Doug?) and I learned to trust the process, not all shows are for all people this one wasn’t to my taste but that didn’t make it an unsuccessful show. When you go off and recommend shows to friends know the difference between taste and quality. As you plan your schedule find shows that fit your taste and then maybe one that doesn’t.  

That’s what I love about Fringe.

Shamus (left) in 2017’s Pericles.

One of the coolest things about Fringe is that it gets me out of my geographic zone and into other parts of the city. In 2017 it brought me to Greensgrow Farms for another literary adaptation with the Renegade Company, Animal Farm to Table. This show was tough at times. It was a hot September and our dressing room was a shed with half a floor. The show was devised based on characters from Animal Farm meant to explore gentrification. New plays require copious revision. This particular show needed a new ending the day of our first preview. We were literally out of time, cancelled the preview and spent that night and the performances that followed working out the ending. By the last week I think we had something consistent but it took us some time to get there. Art is alive and constantly changing. If someone saw the same show as you, find out more. Could be they saw something completely different!

That’s what I love about Fringe.

Last year I spent Fringe season in West Philadelphia performing in the launch production of a new company Die-Cast. If you’re anything like me,  traditional Shakespeare is not at the top of your Fringe list- Brenna Geffers’ production of Pericles was anything but traditional. Through non-traditional casting, breath and body work, Die-Cast presented a wholly new take on this classic adventure story and refocused the ending to reveal at the end, what is often mistaken for a happy moment of marital bliss is actually a paternal betrayal and sale of child by a selfish old man. Don’t let classic titles steer you away from a show. Read the description, Google the artists, Fringe is full of truly new takes on classic stories.

That’s what I love about Fringe.

There’s lots I love about Fringe.

Check out Shamus’s 2018 show, Close Your Legs, Honey: A New Musical