Joe’s NYC Bar is an immersive, interactive, improvisational performance experience where the audience are transported to a bar in Brooklyn where not everybody know’s your name, but they’re willing the learn it, if you’re willing to participate.
No subject is off topic, and with a company from Downtown Orlando coming to Brexit Britain, we’re thinking hate crime, politics and the general decline of western civilisation may well be up for grabs.
Here, show creators and producers fill us in on the journey so far.
It blows my mind to think about how far we have come in a year,” muses Joe’s NYC Bar creator Christian Kelty, who also plays bartender Gabriel in the show. Joe’s producer, Carla Stanton, recalls that “Just last year, we were in Edinburgh, Scotland scouting performance spaces for Joe’s to play during the 2016 festival. One year later, we are packing our bags to fly over and perform at the largest arts festival in the world and the original Fringe. It is truly amazing.”
The Edinburgh Fringe runs from August 5th to the 28th. Last year, there were 50,459 performances of 3,314 shows in 313 venues that literally encompassed the entire city. In contrast, the 25th Annual Orlando Fringe had roughly 150 shows this year. Joe’s will be performed in the heart of the Edinburgh Fringe madness, in a building known as The Caves (the venue is Just the Tonic at the Caves). The performance space has as much character as the name implies. At first sight, Kelty observed, “The rooms are all brick that arch and curve at the ceiling, like the tunnels in New York. The space pre-dates the 1800’s. There’s history there. It really feels like an old school New York City bar.”
Joe’s “re-opened” in 2015, and the show has reached 100 performances since its debut in 2001 at the Orlando Fringe Festival. The show continues to evolve, and Kelty and the ensemble keep creating better scenarios in which the audience can interact and get a true theatrical experience in the process. “We build these characters and develop relationships, although when we get in there, there’s no script, no set way that things have to happen. And that’s where the audience comes in. What they share, and the stories that spark them to interact with us, truly shapes the way things play out.”
With two weeks until opening night at the Edinburgh Fringe, the cast of Joe’s has been hard at work crafting their unique brand of interactive theatre, mindful of their foreign audience.
With over six sell out runs (25 performances) since 2015, the audience and actors experience a withdrawal during a break between shows. Kelty noted “It has been interesting to be in a rehearsal phase now, with so much happening in the world – we want to be talking about it with our audience. Connecting at Joe’s…that’s what Joe’s is… an environment where we can talk openly about the world around us and not be judged.”
Kelty approached the best of his notoriously talented cast about traveling with him to Scotland to perform Joe’s in two waves over the month long festival. The ensemble includes Timothy Williams, Michael Marinaccio, Anitra Pritchard-Bryant Jodi Chase, John Pelkey, Mark Ferrara, Jenn Gannon, David Lee, John Connon, Christine Robison-Laurence, Holland Hayes, Janine Klein, Trenell Mooring and of course, Christian Kelty. Gannon and Kelty will be performing in all 23 shows, in 24 days. The cast will be joined by producer Carla Stanton and Robert Henry Thompson, the artist and designer for Santiago’s Bodega, a local favorite place for lunch, dinner and brunch, based out of Key West. Robert is designing and building a custom bar for the space.
This is an incredible opportunity for Joe’s NYC Bar and the ensemble. Flying across the ocean to perform in front of an international audience, without the comforts of home and the familiarity of Orlando is daunting and invigorating. And the cast is bursting at their seams to get there and play with the Edinburgh Fringe audiences. “We are representing our city and our country,” Stanton ponders, aloud.
Kelty responds, “It is exciting and a little unnerving because we don’t know how the audience will react. Will they interact or just watch? American audiences have a tendency to be very engaging during the show. It will be interesting to see how the audience in Edinburgh responds. The essence of Joe’s is an ongoing discussion of life experiences that bind all of us. I think they will play with us in Edinburgh. It is kind of hard not to.”
Joe’s NYC Bar happens at Just the Tonic at the Caves every night of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (excluding 15th August).
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