POST: FringeNYC's 'And Then: A science fiction folk event' - why are we here?
What's it about?
And Then: A Science Fiction Folk Event is an original musical accompanied by comforting and thoughtful live folk music that illustrates the endurance of humanity and love throughout time, space, and galaxies of stars via a science fiction-inspired plot.
What'd I experience?
I work in Columbus Circle five days a week from 9:00am-5:00pm. Thankfully, theatre tends to start on the later side of things, so my work schedule has almost never interfered with my theatregoing lifestyle. But And Then: A Science Fiction Folk Event started at 5:30pm SHARP, and so I knew the latest I could get away with leaving the office was 5:00pm on the dot. The venue for the show was The Theater at the 14th Street Y, meaning that I had to have zero problems with public transportation if I wanted to get there on time, and to make things more stressful, the Fringe festival has a strict policy against late entries.
I got to the train station at 57th Street and 7th Avenue and made the downtown R train by a sheer miracle. The air conditioning was probably the best thing I had ever felt in my life. *Note* Running all over the city to see plays in a New York City heatwave is not for the faint of heart. When I got off the train at Union Square, I didn't think - I just ran, shoving past overheated New Yorkers and tourists until I arrived in a sweaty lump less than two minutes before the show started. Luckily my mom had already snagged us seats in the front row, so once I joined her, my heart began beating at a normal rate. Then the excitement started to sink in. This was Fringe! I had been seeing Fringe shows for five years and this would be my 6th Fringe Festival and definitely not my last.
When conducting my research, I was drawn to And Then: A Science Fiction Folk Event because it combined music and science, and it tackled one of humanity's biggest questions: Why are we here?
I didn't know the answer when I was deciding what Fringe shows to see, and I still don't. But I have my suspicions. The way I figure it, we, meaning the Earth's population, live for life itself, and the greatest gifts that come with life, such as the relationships we forge and the love we feel for other living beings. The connections we make while we are alive on the Earth and the love we feel for people can never truly evaporate. In fact, they are the only things I know that transcend space and time.
And my views were only reinforced while watching the action of And Then: A Science Fiction Folk Event unfold. The opening number contained a song that imagined a world one hundred years from now, in a time when most of us very well might not be among the living. There was hope that in this world some of the major problems will have been resolved, but regardless of how far the world would or would not progress, above all there was a desire for people to never "stop planting seeds and singing sappy songs," and I had to agree.
My favorite poem is a poem called Another End of the World by James Richardson. The poem reads:
Here in the last minutes, the very end of the world,
someone's tightening a screw thinner than an eyelash,
someone with slim wrists is straightening flowers,
someone is starting a slow, cloud-like settling
into a love longer than the world,
and someone's playing chess. Chess!
Some can't believe how little time is left,
some have been counting down the seconds
in pennies, all their lives. And one has realized
this day was made for him, seeing nothing
he had to do needs to be done,
and whistles, hands in pockets. This is how the world begins.
I fell in love with this poem the moment I read it, in the beginning of Karen Thompson Walker's The Age of Miracles. Because while I don't have much faith in what comes after life, I do have faith in people and their astounding resilience. Art and beauty have historically sprung from tragedies and I am confident that this will come to pass again and again and again.
One of the most stunning moments of the show was a dance that told the story of "a little girl whose love was bigger than the world," who found a way to bridge the gap between herself and the stars with love.
There was a man who had so many intergalactic lovers he lost count, and a pair of men who took each other for granted, but ultimately needed each other in order to find themselves and their purpose. And what was it? Love. It's always love in some form or another, that keeps us going. But I think Lin Manuel Miranda said it best:
And Then: A Science Fiction Folk Event was a small production comprised of many college-aged students, young and probably broke, with limited life experience. But in a brief hour they managed to capture the fear of oblivion while conveying to me that as terrifying as it is to be alive, it is equally as miraculous. I was released back into the sickening heat with a friendly reminder to live for love, and the moments that make me forget just how inconsequential my life is when compared to all of existence.