What Is It Like to Have 2 Shows in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe? | Playbill

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Playbill Goes Fringe What Is It Like to Have 2 Shows in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

Writer-performer duo and 2022 Fringe First winners Natasha Roland and Xhloe Rice detail the road to Fringe for their new play, What If They Ate the Baby?

Xhloe Rice and Natasha Roland Morgan Mcdowell

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!

As part of our Edinburgh Fringe coverage, Playbill is seeing a whole lotta shows—and we're sharing which ones you absolutely must see if you're only at the Fringe for a short amount of time. Consider these Playbill Picks a friendly, opinionated guide as you try to choose a show at the festival.

Returning to the Fringe after last year's stellar, yet truncated run of 2022 Fringe First winner And Then The Rodeo Burned Down, rule-breakers Xhloe Rice and Natasha Roland have audiences wondering, What If They Ate the Baby?.

The company of two, who have been collaborating for a decade, present a new work that is equal parts fever dream, mid-century American urban legend, queer cannibalistic love story, and an examination of women who hunger. The women of this story, neighbors Shirley and Dottie, prattle on about how "lovely" and "delightful" their husbands, perfectly-cooked dishes exchanged as condolences, and pastel clothing are between fistfuls of green spaghetti, violently sensual dance duets, and shrill knocks at the front door. 

The one-hour scene repeats in fits and starts, as if a traumatic memory the ending of which the keeper is trying to change. Or perhaps, with some eerie knowledge of who has come knocking, the loop is a way of keeping time from progressing so the two can stay together and not be left alone with their yearning, starving. 

In between performances for this and the return engagement for And Then The Rodeo Burned Down, Xhloe and Natasha shared with Playbill the challenges of getting to Fringe and the hopes they have for the audience who has so warmly welcomed them.

How is this summer at Fringe different from the previous?
Xhloe Rice and Natasha Roland: What we have this year that we really didn’t last year is a community at the Fringe. We also have a bathroom that we don’t have to share with 12 strangers, but really it’s the community. With our swift departure last year, we left a lot of people curious as to who those two rodeo clowns were, exactly, so when we returned we knew we had big shoes to fill. We were met with the warmest welcome from both the people who work at our venue and the strangers we meet on the street telling us how excited they are to see both of our shows.

When we opened [2022 Fringe First winner for Outstanding New Writing] And Then The Rodeo Burned Down last year, we always said to each other that we just need four people in the audience because the show is in the round and that would mean one person for every side. We’d see masses of people queuing for other shows and joke about how they really were coming to see ours. Now, a year later, to have sold out houses for both of our shows is a dream.

What has been the most challenging part of performing at Fringe?
Performing two completely different shows a day has got to be one of the most challenging parts of Fringe this year. We knew going into it Fringe would be exhausting, especially given how physical both pieces are, but nothing really could have prepared us for what it would actually be like. We found that during the shows we have no trouble keeping up our energy and giving it all we got. It's after, when we take our costumes off, compare bruises, and take a massive collective exhale before collapsing into our beds that we realize how much it takes out of us. All that said, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We’d probably add a third show if we could. Or a fourth. Not a fifth, though, that would be a bit much... don't you think?

How did you pave your road to Fringe, so to speak? What has been your process of gaining funding and acquiring a venue?
This is actually only our second Fringe, so even though we are coming back knowing a lot more about what Fringe is, we still definitely have a lot to learn. 

Getting to the Fringe is always the hardest part, literally. The plane tickets alone had us nearly missing our rent payments. As a company of two, we depend on our day jobs in New York City, and on various fundraising efforts, to get us here. Last year, we were only at the Fringe for a little over a week because that was all we could afford. When we won the Fringe First Award for And Then The Rodeo Burned Down, our venue offered to extend our run, but we couldn’t afford to change our flights. We had to leave rather abruptly. 

This year, we were fortunate enough to be presenting our shows in association with theSpace UK, which made a huge difference for us in terms of funding. Outside of that, we held personal fundraisers with our friends, families, and collaborators in New York in order to purchase props and costumes, buy production insurance, and cover the thousands of other miscellaneous costs that always pop up when producing a show. We joked that if we had known our first year how hard the process of getting here was going to be, we would have never committed to going, but we wouldn’t change it for the world. 

Our biggest piece of advice to anyone wanting to bring a show to Fringe would be to start saving now, make your show as simple and effective as possible, and maybe consider being born in the U.K.

How long have you collaborated and how do you divide the workload of devising a show between the two of you?
We’ve known each other almost 10 years to the day. We met in August of 2013 and could have never imagined what we’d be doing 10 years later. We were co-presidents of our high school drama club and were always writing and performing skits, but it wasn’t until college that we started writing and developing full-length work.

We don’t go into any process with a plan on how to divide up the work. Maybe we’ve just gotten lucky with how the responsibilities pan out. Things like script-writing and major decisions are always collaborative. We know what’s important that we both have an equal hand in, but sometimes Natasha will get inspired to come up with choreography, or Xhloe will take the reins on sound design. We’ve been working together long enough that we trust each other’s instincts as much as our own. With something as intense as the Fringe, it sometimes comes down to whoever has the time. If one of us is sitting on the computer when an important email comes through, we just take care of it and get done what needs to get done without worrying how the work is split.

How long have you been working on What If They Ate the Baby?
We started working on What If They Ate the Baby? on the plane home from Fringe 2022. We couldn’t stop our minds from buzzing and throwing out ideas for what our next Fringe could look like. We spent a few months batting around ideas and throwing notes into a shared document before sitting down together to write the script in November. It took all the way until May to have a first draft and have spent the summer on our feet devising, changing, and what we call “wrestling” with it. It actually felt like physically fighting the words we had written. We're not sure who won, but we’re excited about the outcome.

What do you hope audience members take away from seeing your show?
The most important thing to us is that audience members walk away questioning what they just saw. The show, by design, is ambiguous and cryptic. Audience members are meant to fill in the gaps we leave open. We hope they walk away both satisfied in the uncertainty, but also feeling the need to engage with it further. We, of course, want audiences to walk away considering, “What if they ate the baby?” but also, and maybe more importantly, “What if they didn’t? What else could this have been about?”

Okay, but did they eat the baby?!
We’re wondering the same thing. As playwrights, we vowed not to make that decision, but, as actors, we had to agree on the truth of the situation for our characters. If a baby is eaten, and no one is around to prove it, did it really get eaten? Schrödinger's baby perhaps? This question is making us hungry…

What If They Ate The Baby? runs at theSpace on the Mile until August 26. For tickets, click hereAnd Then The Rodeo Burned Down is performed at theSpace @ Venue45 also until August 26. For tickets, click here.

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