Fort Worth — Like many Americans, writer Scott Smith had heard of Wallis Simpson — the early 20th century American socialite who became engaged to King Edward VIII, which caused a controversy in the U.K. that led to Edward’s abdication — but didn’t really know much about her.
Then, on a European trip, he stayed at a villa outside of Paris where Wallis and Edward lived after he became Duke of Windsor and they had lived in other places around the world. There, Smith learned that this villa was going to be purchased by Diana Spencer, formerly princess of England. On the night of that real estate decision, Diana was killed in that tragic car accident.
This knowledge inspired Smith to write a one-person play about Wallis. (Wallis was played by Lia Williams in Season 2 of Netflix's The Crown.)
“Wallis had already been interesting to me,” he says. “She got a bum rap; there was more than the media said about her.”
The play, called That Woman!, found its Wallis in Melissa Jobe, a former Fort Worth actress who has been in Los Angeles for nearly a decade. When working at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, a friend introduced her and Smith. They hit it off.
That Woman! premiered at Edinburgh's Festival Fringe in 2018, and this year, it will make its U.S. debut — in a slightly longer version, 90 minutes — at the fourth annual Fort Worth Fringe, presented by Texas Nonprofit Theatres at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center.
The festival, running Sept. 6-8, will boast 15 performances, including That Woman! (produced by Keylight in LA); a physical theater work from Essex, U.K., called Bump!; a theater troupe from Kathmandu, Nepal; Marfa’s Dresden Collective; and Utah-based stand-up comedian Collin Williams, whose one-man show My Suicide Note led to a TEDx talk about dark humor. There will also be performances from North Texas theater companies SceneShop, DragStrip Courage, Tarrant Actors Regional Theater, Proper Hijinx; the East Texas Heritage Theatre, and more.
Jobe, a Louisiana native who spent two decades in Fort Worth and has performed at Casa Mañana, Uptown Players, WaterTower Theatre and other local theaters, is thrilled to come back to Fort Worth— and to play a woman who was misunderstood. Given that another British royal, Harry, has married an American, Meghan Markle, it’s timely.
“Like everyone else, all I knew was the bad things,” Jobe says. “Every woman in history gets a bad deal. I immersed myself in her life. She had a very colorful life; she let life take her wherever it could.”
That Woman! is directed by Broadway and film director Philip Wm. McKinley, who might be best known for taking over for Julie Taymor on the infamous Broadway disaster Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark. He also directed The Boy from Oz on Broadway and has helmed shows for New York City Opera and large spectacles in Las Vegas.
The Fort Worth Fringe’s other headliner, Bump!, is Andrew Hollingsworth’s physical theater piece about a relationship between two people, and has toured the U.K.’s fringe circuit. At a festival in Florida last year, Dennis Yslas saw it and wanted to bring it to Fort Worth.
“It’s called Bump! for a number of reasons,” says Hollingsworth. “The characters represent particles that entangle us.”
The Fort Worth Festival happens over three days in September, at two venues in the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, the Sanders Theatre and the downstairs space called the Vault. An all-festival pass is $70, which thankfully is down from previous years (we have complained about the FWF’s pricing every year). Yslas points out that 100 percent of the box office goes to the artists, because the festival is supported by grants, donations and merchandising.
The full schedule, with descriptions and performance times, is below.
2019 FORT WORTH FRINGE SCHEDULE
All shows are in the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, in two venues: Sanders Theatre and The Vault
By Andrew Hollingworth
Buckle Up Theatre
Essex, United Kingdom
- Friday, September 6 — 7:20 p.m.
- Saturday, September 7 — 3:10 p.m. & 9:50 p.m.
- Sunday, September 8 — 4:50 p.m.
Eliana and Ian share their inner thoughts directly with the audience until they 'Bump!' Their awkward conversation begins...From here on their inner thoughts and spoken words overlap and echo in accord with each other as the characters pivot between their conversations and the audience in a speedy rhythm.
Adapted from Lu Xun
The Winter White Theatre
- Friday, September 6 — 4:10 p.m.
- Saturday, September 7 — 12:00 p.m. & 6:40 p.m.
- Sunday, September 8 — 2:40 p.m.
Performance is inspired by Chinese writer Lu Xun’s The Diary of a Madman.
Hope Lafferty’s Early Works
By Hope Lafferty
- Friday, September 6 — 9:30 p.m.
- Saturday, September 7 — 4:20 p.m.
- Sunday, September 8 — 7:00 p.m.
This variety show of short plays is directed and performed by a rural borderlands theatre collective. Pieces tackle self-driving cars, natural disasters, opiate addition, IVF and sexuality, and whether we can function at all in society without spending every spare moment meditating. Upbeat and designed for audiences with short attention spans, a White Stripes-esque duo provides musical transitions, and---like any good rock show---there's always an encore
By James E. Nicholson
East Texas Heritage Theatre
- Friday, September 6 — 6:20 p.m.
- Saturday, September 7 — 2:10 p.m. & 8:50 p.m.
- Sunday, September 8 — 12:30 p.m.
You are the second born of a royal family, everyone only has interest in the first born; what are you to do? We look at 3 of the enchanted sisters of the realm and how they search for love at the Sherwood Forrest Speed Dating and Fish Fry hosted by Optimistica, the head of the Fairy Godmothers. Not everything goes according to plan!
I Can’t Imagine Tomorrow
By Tennessee Williams
Fort Worth, Texas
- Friday, September 6 — 5:20 p.m.
- Saturday, September 7 — 1:10 p.m.
- Sunday, September 8 — 3:50 p.m.
A treatise on loneliness and the importance of human interaction from one of America's greatest playwrights
By Maverick Theatre Company
The Maverick Theatre Company
University of Texas at Arlington
- Friday, September 6 — 3:00 p.m.
- Saturday, September 7 — 5:30 p.m.
- Sunday, September 8 — 1:30 p.m.
Mask Magic whisks an audience away on a journey through various vignettes using European-Style Character Mask. A magician must deal with two assistants; a wedding goes awry; two beauty queens vie for the coveted crown; and TSA pre-check may catch incompetent villains but can’t quite keep up with incompetent captains! Sit back, relax and enjoy a form of theatre rarely performed in the USA. This is a family-friendly theatrical experience. The entire production was written and developed by the company of 18 actors and 1 director.
Faith, Trust, and Allergy Dust
By Stefany Cambra
Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre and Proper Hijinx Productions
Fort Worth, Texas
- Friday, September 6 — 8:30 p.m.
- Saturday, September 7 — 7:50 p.m.
- Sunday, September 8 — 6:00 p.m.
One day, you wake up and realize...The magic is gone. We can't quite recall when it happened. But at some point, Christmas stopped being exciting, birthdays became just another day of the year, our hopes and secret dreams of following our passions, achieving success, falling in love...all of that disappeared. It's a feeling many people know — but few continue to experience. Some say goodbye to that sense of magic without issue, barely recognizing that it's gone. But some — some realize that a hole has been left behind...and desperately try to grasp onto some of the magic they remembered existing once before. Enter Cass — Cass has just recently turned 30 and after a meaningless Christmas and meaningless birthday — she needs to find some meaning again. So she employs her best friend, Meagan, to aid her in her quest to rediscover the magic and hope that used to drive her by looking in the last place she remembers having it — her childhood. Unearthing her forgotten childhood toys, clothes, and memories from her parents' attic, she tries to reignite the feeling of wonder and excitement. But as the boxes empty, she may have to face a more terrible truth — magic has an expiration date.
By Scott Edward Smith
Los Angeles, California
- Friday, September 6 — 8:10 p.m.
- Saturday, September 7 — 1:00 p.m. & 7:40 p.m.
- Sunday, September 8 — 3:20 p.m.
One-woman show concerning the life of Wallis Simpson, starring former Fort Worth resident Melissa Jobe and directed by Philip Wm. McKinley.
By Tyler Cochran and Abel Flores, Jr.
Abel Flores, Jr.
- Friday, September 6 — 5:30 p.m.
- Saturday, September 7 — 4:50 p.m. & 10:30 p.m.
- Sunday, September 8 — 5:00 p.m.
AFJ wants to be president and everything is riding on this speech. Will he be able to get your vote or crack under the pressure of his bold promises? This one-man show harkens back to the great political speeches of our past world leaders while still reminding us of the haunting qualities of the current political climate. Co-written by Tyler Cochran, Abel Flores Jr. brings his alter ego, AFJ, to the spotlight with a performance that will allow audiences to witness the absurdity of certain candidates that we know all too well.
How I Became the Love of Your Life
By Charles Jackson
Poetic Thespian Productions
Fort Worth, Texas
- Friday, September 6 — 4:20 p.m.
- Saturday, September 7 — 5:20 p.m.
- Sunday, September 8 — 1:10 p.m.
A groom, on his wedding day, reminisces on his past and the failed relationships that shaped him into the man that his bride-to-be fell in love with.
The Epistle of Her
Written and performed by Leslie Polk
Fort Worth, Texas
- Friday, September 6 — 9:50 p.m.
- Saturday, September 7 — 12:00 p.m.
- Sunday, September 8 — 5:30 p.m.
She’s a mother, an aunt, a sister, and a daughter whose voice has been stifled by politics and -isms. She wrestles with religion, however, comes from a long line of matriarchs whose spiritual foundations helped to shape her own life. The Epistle for Her is a choreo-poem that takes its audience on a journey; unpacking a long line of family history and the effects of American Christianity on race, gender, and sexuality. With a mix of humor and brute honesty, this show ultimately seeks to encourage folks to use their voice when they have something worth saying!
My Suicide Note
Written and performed by Collin Williams
Salt Lake City, Utah
- Friday, September 6 — 3:10 p.m.
- Saturday, September 7 — 920 p.m.
- Sunday, September 8 — 7:40 p.m.
Why would someone want to kill themselves? See the standup show that inspired "How comedy can save someone's life," the highly-praised TEDx Talk on dark humor.
Douglas: The Play
By Douglas Jones
Fort Worth, Texas
- Friday, September 6 — 7:00 p.m.
- Saturday, September 7 — 6:30 p.m.
- Sunday, September 8 — 6:30 p.m.
Throughout theatre history, time and time again playwrights look back on their life and write something near and dear to their hearts. The genre of the autobiographical play includes masterworks like The Glass Menagerie, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Yellow Face and Long Day’s Journey into Night. Enter Douglas Jones-Jones, a young, pretentious, half-witted wannabe playwright eager to add his name to the list of greats. After dozens attempts to have his show produced around the US, he finally talked Fort Worth’s SceneShop into giving him a shot. Just a few problems, almost nobody agreed to be in the show other than his ex-girlfriend Maude. Additionally, his life’s story is not particularly interesting, and he really fancies himself to be a bit of a genius (he’s not). So, the question is, can two actors who barely get along make this god- awful script work well enough to entertain the good people of Fort Worth for an hour? I heavily doubt it, but we’ll have to wait and see.
The Red Thread
Written and performed by Oba Williams King
Fort Worth, Texas
- Saturday, September 7 — 2:40 p.m.
- Sunday, September 8 — 12 p.m.
The art of storytelling presented through traditional black storytelling techniques. With poetic rhythm, interactive engagement, syncopated rhyme, call & response as well as folk-tale, musical expression and collaborative art. My selection of memories, shared experiences, original writing presented in verse, traditional folk tales will represent our universal connectedness highlighting the theme of The Red Thread. As the story line unfolds, I will be joined on stage, intermittently, by a vocalist, a dancer, a drummer, and a visual artist to create various moods that will meld into a memorable experience demonstrating the communalization of the various art forms.
Made of Honor
By Stefany Cambra
Theatre of North Texas
- Friday, September 6 — 6:00 p.m.
- Saturday, September 7 — 3:50 p.m.
- Sunday, September 8 — 2:20 p.m.
A Maid of Honor walks into a closet...and locks the door. Written by Proper Hijinx Artistic Director Stefany Cambra, Made of Honor is a one-woman comedy about an MOH who is over the chaos of holy matrimony; she's stolen wine from the reception and locked herself in a closet before the wedding even begins. And yes...she stays in there the whole time. Poking fun at wedding clichés and drinking to calm her nerves, Kaley shares the love story of her sister who is getting married and where the wedding day went wrong. But in doing so, she's also forced to see what demons she may have lurking in her own closet — and if she has the strength to come out and support her sister on the most important day of her life.
The Fort Worth Fringe is Sept. 6-8, 2019 at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. Festival passes and individual tickets can be purchased at http://texastheatres.org/fringe/
- All-Fest Pass - $70.00
- 10-Show Pass - $50.00
- 7-Show Pass - $42.00
- 5-Show Pass - $35.00
- 2-Show Pass - $15.00
- 1-Show Pass - $10.00
Note: In celebration of World Fringe Day, which was Thursday, July 11, use the code WorldFringe when buying tickets, you can get a full pass for $60. The offer lasts through July 14.