The artists come from here, there, everywhere. Some bring long-honed skills; others are taking a first shot. There are hundreds of stories in the naked city that is the Fringe. These are three of them.
It’s been a long road home for Ron Litman. And now that he’s back, the wiry 62-year-old actor, who can boast of a terrific notice from the New York Times, is hauling trash for a living.
Litman’s Fringe show, “D.C. Trash,” is about the job he’s been working since 2009. Litman’s history here goes back to his adolescence working in his parents’ delicatessen on Wisconsin Avenue; he went to Wilson High School and American University.
“You can’t get more homey than that,” Litman declares with a sharp laugh, sitting in the townhouse near New Jersey and Rhode Island avenues NW that he rents from his cousin.
Right out of college he joined Living Stage, then in its heyday as Arena Stage’s outreach troupe, which created theater with and for all kinds of people in need. He migrated to New York, toured internationally with Marketa Kimbrell’s New York Street Theater Caravan and acted at the legendary La MaMa E.T.C. In 1985, he got that gush from the Times for his one-man “On a Clear Day You Can See Armageddon”: “One of the fiercest — and one of the funniest — political satires since ‘Dr. Strangelove’ learned to love the bomb.”
In 1990, Litman went to L.A. The database IMDB kicks out minor screen credits such as “Customer #2” in “Married With Children” and “Tool Box DJ” in “Wayne’s World 2.” He waves it off as junk. What mattered was that he got married and had two kids. The family moved to Wisconsin in 2003 so Litman’s wife could be near her family. But Litman didn’t know what to do with himself in La Crosse.
“It just blew my mind,” says Litman, who is so forged in the counterculture fires of the 1960s and 1970s that he comes across as a caffeinated Howard Hesseman. (Litman was actually in a movie with Hesseman, 2001’s “The Sky Is Falling.”) “I mean, I don’t fit in, period. But at least in big cities, I don’t stand out. There it was difficult.”
In 2005, he sank his teeth into the mighty role of Salieri in “Amadeus” at the local University of Wisconsin campus. But generally, work was scarce, the marriage was over and he was adrift, except for his connection with his children. When his cousin, who runs Tenleytown Trash, called offering a job, he knew he had to take it.
“The first couple of months were tough,” Litman says. “It’s gettin’ up at 5 a.m., and it ain’t easy work.”
A few months ago, he found himself hauling away the concrete fountain from the Fringe’s patio. Sniffing an opportunity, he asked Fringe Executive Director Julianne Brienza when applications were due. End of the week, she said.