Funny and fierce comediennes on a mission to split sides at the Santa Cruz Fringe Festival
From thespians to burlesque dancers, spoken wordsmiths to circus performers, the second annual Santa Cruz Fringe Festival will push the envelope with 200 short art performances of all shapes and sizes from July 11-20. Roughly 40 acts will delight and bedazzle at a collection of downtown venues, including Motion Pacific, The Tannery and Center Stage, throughout the week.
Designed in such a way that spectators can potentially see multiple performances each day, the Fringe Festival is affordable fun for all to enjoy. With so many acts to choose from, it might be hard to know where to start. But if you love to laugh, you won’t want to miss these two funny and fierce comediennes:
The name of Sandra Risser’s show sums up her comedic style: "If You Miss Your Ex, Reload and Fire Again!"
Her routines cover everything from unfortunate stories about her ex-husband to a nod at her unorthodox youth in Iowa amidst the “free love” era of the ’60s and ’70s. Risser may be 72 years old, but her show’s message is timeless.
She found comedy in a roundabout way. After working as a “corporate whatever,” and owning her own business for a while, she took up competitive body building in her 40s and grew fond of the stage.
Eventually, she enrolled in comedy classes, learned to write jokes, and now she says laughter is her drug of choice. “I just do comedy whenever I can,” says Risser, who has been performing on and off for the last nine years.
She’s a veteran of the fringe festival circuit, having performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, the Brighton Fringe Festival in England, and the Rogue Festival, here in California.
Risser is known for her knee-slapping one-liners and self-deprecating tales from her unruly youth through her middle-aged escapades. She has been married twice and even dated a mercenary accused of murdering his wife and kids.
“I’ve probably been single more years than I’ve been married—so I’ve known a lot of people,” she jokes. “People often ask me after my shows if the stories are real. … Every one of the stories, albeit a little exaggerated, are about people I actually knew.”
Aside from talking about her own relationships, she often quotes celebrities and classic shows like Rodney Dangerfield’s “Take My Wife Please,” and tosses in statistics about marriage from around the world.
“People have always made fun of marriage,” she says. “I think men [do so] more than women, so I kind of want to balance that scale a bit.”
Coming of age in a image-obsessed society when your cup size keeps increasing for 13 years is no walk in the park. Dana Sumner-Pritchard, a 23-year-old comedy playwright from Santa Rosa, experienced just that. And she’ll share her hilarious experiences in a show called “Boobs and Hope,” July 13-20 at the Tannery World Dance and Cultural Center.
From her own “boobs” developing as young as 12, to uncomfortable shopping trips, and more serious image questions, Sumner-Pritchard has plenty of tales to make audiences laugh and cringe. The show focuses on her personal journey into adulthood as a bigger-than-average girl.
Sumner-Pritchard says she got the idea for “Boobs and Hope” at the end of her college career at Drew University in New Jersey.
“I was struggling, trying to figure out what my place was in theatre,” she writes in an email to GT. “I'd been told more than once that my size made it hard to cast me in roles I was otherwise suited for. So, like any theatre major and writing minor would, I started writing about that. I saw a lot of shows about body image (which is almost exclusively solo shows), and they were really angry and absolutely no fun at all. Nobody was uplifted or excited about themselves afterwards, it was very focused on the performer. Comedy is about the audience, making them laugh, exciting them. And I thought that it was time someone had some fun talking about their body. And heck, my boobs are pretty glorious, why not make them the star?”
Early in “Boobs and Hope,” Sumner-Pritchard shares a dream she had recently. “Mandy Patinkin won a Tony and spent the whole time telling me I had to lose weight,” she says. “So I kicked him in the shins. I believe I referred to him as ‘Inigo Montoy-ass.’” Later in the show, she will also recount the entire plot of "Pollyanna." “I do a mean Hayley Mills,” she adds.
“I didn't have an eating disorder, I didn't realize I was beautiful when a boy said so, I don't have all the answers to loving yourself,” admits Sumner-Pritchard. “But I do have relatable experiences and a good time in store. It’s like no other body image show you've ever seen. I promise.”
Top photo caption: Size matters, as Dana Sumner-Pritchard proves in “Boobs and Hope.” Catch the show July 13-20 at the Tannery World Dance and Cultural Center.
For the complete Fringe Festival lineup, schedule, and tickets, visit santacruzfringefestival.com.
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