Fringe Fest 2013

00:00 November 04, 2013
By: 2Fik
The Calling [Courtesy of Victoria Pisarello]

So the story goes that the term "Fringe Festival" came about in 1948. The year before, an "alternative" art fest had occurred simultaneously with the Edinburgh International Festival.So in '48, journalist Robert Kemp would write "Round the fringe of official Festival drama, there seems to be more private enterprise than before…"Over 60 years later, New Orleans has turned the "private enterprise" of fringe into existential puppet songs, peep shows, non-linear plays about outer space and a whole lot more.

New Orleans' Fringe Fest started in 2008 by a group of New Orleanians who were passionate about theatre.The festival's core personnel includes people such as Pamela Davis-Noland, a special events coordinator for Fringe Fest.Davis-Noland, whose shows "Badu-Izms" and "N.O. Soul" have been staged during Fringe, stressed how hard the coordinators work to put on the event, saying that what separates our Fringe from so many others is "the dedication, Fringe Fest coordinators meet every Monday [all year-round]."This is a group of passionate people who meet every week like a Mardi Gras Krewe, in order to throw the best festival of the season for you.Theatre has been expanding in New Orleans the past few years, and Davis-Noland believes part of it is due to the success of Fringe Fest, saying "the flood gates for theatre groups have opened, and I'd bet my last dime that Fringe had a lot to do with it."

Staying true to form, New Orleans hosts an eclectic mix of performances, with the categories this year being: drama, comedy, dance, improvisational, multimedia, musical theatre, performance art, puppetry, storytelling, spoken word, and other creative madness. This year's Fringe Fest will be from November 20 - 24 and is expected to host over 70 theatre groups who will perform over 300 shows.

Fringe Fest has 6 official venues this year: Den of Muses, Mardi Gras Zone, The Shadowbox Theatre, the Marigny Opera House, The Old Firehouse, and the Backyard Ballroom.These 6-venues will be streamlining different acts from different groups throughout the entire festival.To attend these shows, you'll need to buy a one-time Fringe Button that goes to the New Orleans Fringe LLC.After that, single-show tickets will be $8.You can also buy a 6-show pass for $40 or an All-Access pass for $99.

While Fringe manages those 6 venues, the festival isn't restricted to just those spaces.Fringe has utilized a process called Bring Your Own Venue (BYOV) that allows extra shows to be a part of the festival.It grants an opportunity for performers to find their own space.This has led to venues from the eloquent Café Istanbul to the revamped 1239 Congress house becoming venues.

The beauty of Fringe Fest stems from the fact that it makes all these performances available to people who usually wouldn't get to see it.And Fringe is extremely beneficial to those who participate as well.Quess, who is a member of the heralded spoken-word group Team Sno, that just won the championship in the National Poetry Slam, has participated in Fringe Fest four times.Quess enjoys Fringe Fest, because it brings a "new audience, new demographic" to his shows.Team Sno will be performing this year, and will "bring a theatrical element to poetry," something you won't want to miss.Quess will also be performing in the production "Angola 3," by Parnell Herbert, that played earlier this year at Café Istanbul (the play includes a performance by spoken-word poet Chuck Perkins as well).

Another group that will get to flex their muscles is Skin Horse Theater.Skin Horse has been a part of Fringe Fest since 2009, when they performed "Curiouser," a play of "historical inaccuracy" involving Sylvia Plath, Lewis Carroll, and Carroll's renowned muse, Alice Liddell.Brian Fabry Dorsam, one of the five key-members of Skin Horse, stated that Fringe Fest is very important to the theater group, backing up Davis-Noland's prior statement when he said "Fringe Fest helped us launch our career in New Orleans, it is very dear to us."

This year, Skin Horse will be performing another original play, titled "Nocturns (1-3)." The play is an "impressionistic picture of space," which actress Veronica Hunsinger-Loe, one of the founders of Skin Horse, said stems from the idea that "when you got outside and look at the stars on a clear night, it takes you away from yourself."Fringe Fest's ability to incorporate outside venues allows theatre groups like Skin Horse to make their plays site-specific and yet still be involved in the festival.Non-linear space plays are not the most tapped well in the theatre universe, but it is the kind of innovative and creative work available to you for the five nights of Fringe Fest.

Fringe Fest also has a Free-For-All Tent, which this year will be located off of Architect's Alley.This tent is not only where the Box Office is, but where the Fringe Market is, where you can grab a bite to eat and a beverage.Information of all the events and their venues are available at the tent as well.Maybe the best thing about the tent is the events hosted for children there.Last year, one of Fringe's sponsors was RUBARB, which would end up organizing an event where they would show children how to fix their bikes.

Fringe Fest also throws a parade, which will be on Saturday, November 23rd, at 2 p.m.The parade will be organized by the Good Children Social Aid and Pleasure Club, and will have a marching band, with throws and costumes in accordance with the "Superstition" theme of this year's parade.

Fringe wants to herald its neighborhood as much as it can, and with all the venues essentially being in walking/biking distance of each other, they will be hosting their third annual Yard Art Tour.The website states "Yard Art, by the broadest definition possible/A Tour, by the loosest definition possible."Essentially, Fringe Fest enlists any and all New Orleans artists to hang up art in the Marigny/Bywater area.Fringe allows you to register online by sending a picture and an address of where the art is hanging, and they will post it on an interactive map in order to showcase all the works.This allows any Fringe Fest attendees to plot their paths to shows based on any interesting art they'd like to see.

Fringe Fest turns the Marigny/Bywater neighborhood into a 5-day art walk.Theatre groups both from New Orleans as well as from the rest of the United States get a chance to showcase their work in our city.The Fringe Fest committee works very hard to make sure all this comes out perfectly.So whether your preferred poison is theatrical team poetry, socially-conscious plays, non-linear space shows, or some madness in between, mark it on your calendar, this is an event you don't want to miss.

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