Elena K. Holy
When you think of Elena K. Holy, your first thought is most likely the New York International Fringe Festival, or The Present Company, from which, as Producing Artistic Director, she has overseen the Festival since its inception 14 years ago. She has captained this annual juggernaut with grace, style, and economy—maintaining affordable ticket prices thanks to the support of a mostly volunteer crew. As a result, FringeNYC was recently honored by Michael Bloomberg with the Mayor’s Award for Arts & Culture.
FringeNYC has become a downtown and indie theater mecca for new and provocative theatre. Roughly 200 plays, in approximately 20 downtown venues, 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, every August in the heart and heat of New York City—with absolutely no mercy.
Elena and I initially met at the very first Fringe Festival in 1997. I was a novice playwright with a new full-length play and FringeNYC seemed like the perfect first venue for it. Since then, Elena and The Present Company have produced nine of my plays, four of which ran outside of the Fringe Festival.
Her regular duties as producing artistic director can distance her from some of the more creative aspects of theatre. Specifically, Elena has a passion for the playwright’s process and the plays themselves. She is genuinely interested in the message the play strives to convey. To satisfy her desire to reconnect with the creative process, she gathered together a collective of writers, directors, and actors and formed a lab dubbed The Pool. There, she has the chance to roll up her sleeves and feed her artistic side.
Having read thousands of plays, Elena understands the nature of character, thought, plot, diction, and spectacle. It’s her ability to intuit a play’s "dynamic"—the elusive vision of its full potential—that is truly admirable. She often sees gems in the rough; supports them, nourishes them, and guides them toward success. I have witnessed her suggestions come to life in production, and productions revitalized by her input. For these reasons, she can take her place as Queen of Indie Theater.
Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Elena grew up in Houston, Texas. She takes pride in her southern roots, and displays a Texas State flag on her desk. In high school, she was already laying the groundwork for her future, involving herself in the drama department, choir, and a jazz group. Her hard work was rewarded in her senior year with an “Outstanding Dedication to the Arts" award.
While studying at Southern Methodist University (SMU), she boldly approached the Student Senate and asked for the money to produce the musical Hair for the first time ever in Dallas, Texas. And so it came to pass. It was a huge production, a strong and passionate first choice. You can already see a trend starting here.
Elena loves the theatre community. When you’re working with Elena, she makes sure you are fed, kept warm or cool, in an environment that gives an artist a safe place to fail, and a sober place to succeed. She understands the writer’s process and is not afraid to be brutally honest. She also understands the writer’s ego and is able to help guide the play to deeper, richer levels of meaning.
Elena was originally a voice major at SMU. She may not perform in the usual sense, but she is singing her own song and continues to help plays and playwrights to sing theirs.Published on January 16, 2011