For Capital Fringe Festival, Faction of Fools redefines ‘staging a wedding’

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Act One, scene one of Carrie Suggs's and Thad Brown's story features the most familiar of romantic comedy devices: The "meet cute." The curtains open to the students in a fluorescent-lit, white-walled classroom at Gallaudet University on the first day of fall semester. The year: 2009. The subject: theater. The first impression: very bad.

Signing through an interpreter, Brown: "I remember the first day of class, she pretty much — not like, interrupted the professor, but was like, 'I need to talk to you about my HONORS PROGRAM.' "

Suggs: "I did not do that!"

Brown: "She was the honors student and needed to make sure that everyone knew it."

Suggs: "What's wrong with that? I was proud of it."

Flash-forward to a later act — not the final one, because this production is still just beginning. This time, another familiar theatrical device: the play-within-the play. And this scene is a wedding.

Suggs, 29, and Brown, 22, are getting married July 21, and if you'd like to see their ceremony, you're invited to buy a ticket. This is not a breach of etiquette — Carrie is no Bridezilla — but rather, a necessity for the good folks at the Faction of Fools theater company, which is staging the wedding in its Capital Fringe Festival show "3rd Annual Fool for All: Tales of Marriage and Mozzarella." It is the first-ever Fringe wedding, which founder Julianne Brienza says is "a big deal."

But the reason Suggs and Brown are getting married onstage is because they don't want to make a big deal of it.

"It took the burden off of me," said Suggs, through interpreter Lindsey Snyder, Faction of Fools' director of access. "Someone else gets to plan it, someone else takes control of the whole thing, which is very cool."

"It's nice because we're both poor college students," Brown said. "We want to get married, but we don't want to spend all that money."

"And I really don't want a traditional wedding," Suggs added. "The little girl's white wedding — that's not really who I am."

Suggs is a D.C. native, a mom and, yes, an honors student. She has tattoos, a septum piercing and a Mia Farrow-esque pixie haircut. She had her now 9-year-old son, Alexander, at 19; his arrival pushed back her college plans.

"I kept getting distracted," she said. "I took a gamble and applied to Gallaudet, and I got a full four-year scholarship. I got some grant money to get books, and there was a little left, so I got this." She points to a half-sleeve tattoo of cherry blossoms on her left arm. "When I graduate, I'll get the color."

When Thad — also tattooed, also septum-pierced — overcame his first impression of her, it was February, and Snowmageddon had dumped feet of white powder on the ground outside their dorm rooms. They waited out the storm, and the week of canceled classes, in Suggs's room. Their first official date was to visit the Peacock Room in the Freer Gallery. They worked on several theater productions together, including a memorable turn in "Charlotte's Web" (Brown was farmer Homer Zuckerman, and Suggs was Charlotte). "We flirted a lot during rehearsal," Brown said.

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