Back from the Fringe
By JAMES D. WATTS JR., 08/28/2009
Art tangles with life in TU professor's one-person show
The way Lisa Wilson had planned it, she would make her debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2007, with the first installment of what she titled "The Crone Chronicles," a performance piece she created in 2006.
Those plans fell through, because of problems with — as Wilson put it — "life and money and fear."
"But I decided that I would try again for the 2009 festival," said Wilson, a professor of theater at the University of Tulsa. "And I thought that I would basically do the 2006 show with a few additions to update it."
Once again, life got in the way — first, the death of Wilson's sister last summer, then earlier this year with the death of her mother. But this time, in large part because of her mother's urging, Wilson put these dark moments to use.
Wilson created an entirely new show she titled "Birthing the Crone: The Crone Chronicles Part II," which she performed first at a theater in Brattlesboro, Vt., then did 14 performances as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland.
The Fringe, as it is commonly called, is the largest arts festival in the world, with more than 34,000 performances of 2,098 shows presented in 265 venues around the city. These performances range from fully produced musicals to cutting-edge theater to music of all sorts to one-person comedy performances.
"The Crone Chronicles" is an ongoing project for Wilson, an "auto-genesis" work that transforms the facts of her life into theater.
"Everything is true," she said. "I don't change the facts. But I do look for ways to make those facts a little less painful to deal with, and that allow for my crazy sense of humor to be given a little more free rein."
For example, Wilson deals with her distaste for being in funeral homes by turning that moment into a kind of "carnival barker" monologue that plays up the inadvertent absurdities of the funeral business.
"My mother's health started getting worse, but she kept insisting that I was going to go to Scotland — no matter what happened to her," Wilson said. "And when I won the Jingle Feldman Award (from the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa) in 2008, I took that as a sign that this was the year."
But her idea of doing a revised version of "Only Four People Know This: The Crone Chronicles Part I" was not going to be the show she would present.
Having to deal with the deaths of two family members made Wilson realize that an entirely new show needed to be created.
"I realized that what I went through this past year was something of a birthing process, to bring me to the next stage in my life," Wilson said. "So all of that became part of the new show. The material was probably a little raw, but it was the play I needed to do."
Wilson performed her show in one of several performances spaces at the city's Royal College of Surgeons. Because it was her first time to the Fringe, she was up for a "Fringe First" award, which presented by the Scotsman newspaper — and which meant her show would get reviewed by the paper.
"They gave me three out of five stars, which I was told is pretty good, because the Scotsman is pretty strict in their reviews," Wilson said. "But the best reviews were the comments from the people in the audience. I had a lot of women come up to me afterward and say things like, 'You've told my story, too.' "
"Birthing the Crone: The Crone Chronicles Part II"
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Nightingale Theatre, 1416 E. Fourth St.
Tickets: $8 adults, $5 seniors, at the door.
Note: Not suitable for young audiences.