Fringe Is A Verb: The San Diego International Fringe Festival
Article by Rebecca Romani
This week’s verb is “fringe…”
No, not that verb -to attach dangly things to the edge of something.
It’s “Fringe!” A verb with verve!
Now in its third year, the San Diego International Fringe Festival is going big and it’s not going home, at least not for a few more days.
And that means you have plenty of time to catch one or more of the over 20 acts playing daily, starting in the late afternoon during the week, and late morning on the weekend.
You can find Fringe shows primarily downtown centered around The Spreckles Theatre with a few acts to be seen at the downtown Central Library, Queen Bee’s in North Park and the Black Box Theatre on Coronado Island.
San Diego’s Fringe Festival joins over 25 such festivals around the world and in the US. The original Fringe Festival started in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1947 when eight groups decided to stage their own festival on the margins (hence the name “Fringe”) of the Edinburgh International Festival.
This year’s San Diego Fringe acts run from the funny to the raunchy, from so-so to sublime in an effort to bring a wide variety of performance to the public. In keeping with the original Fringe policies, there is little censorship of acts and tickets are very reasonable, running from $10 to free.
While the quality of the acts run from rough to wow, there’s no mistaking the enthusiasm and diversity that the Fringe has to offer.
Some of the Festival’s strongest acts are its dance troupes. One of the hottest flamenco shows you will ever see is that of local troupe Danzarts, with a precision and fire that heat up the venue. Also not to miss is the San Diego premiere of “Falling Man,” from Maryland, a poignant work exploring German Expressionism and paying homage to those who jumped out of the twin towers on 9/11.
On a lighter note, Burlesque is a definite crowd pleaser. San Diego’s own Drop Dead Dames had the crowd in the palm of their hands with their very classy routines and the Sally Rand-inspired Ostrich feather fan dance was a wonder to behold. Although MC Stella Foxtrot’s delivery was a little uneven at times, when she stripped to her own solo, her singing voice was surprisingly strong and vibrant.
The space may be rough and dialog tough to hear from the back rows, but the Raw Space on the side of the Spreckles is host to some pretty high-powered acts. Of note is “The Things We Never Say,” a Breakthrough Workshop Theatre production. Based on difficult times in love and friendship, “Things” with music and lyrics by Thomas Hodges, has some of the most powerful, thrilling voices you will ever hear.
A Fringe Festival without theater would be like a latte without foam and this year’s festival has theater well covered. From stand up to stand out, the Fringe ranges from comedy to reworked Shakespeare to cabaret. Of note is “Date With Death: Hollywood.com,” a series of vignettes that re-imagines the deaths of various famous dead celebrities such as Lady Diana and Kurt Cobain. Even the local landmark, The Big Kitchen and Judy the Beauty get their turn on stage in “Big Kitchen: The Musical.”
This year’s Fringe is branching out geographically as well as physically. Over five international acts are featured from England, Italy and Ireland among other countries.
Comedian Jonathan Baum came down from Ottawa, Canada to perform his bar-friendly routine at the 10th Avenue Theatre.
“It’s a blast performing in San Diego,” he said. “This is a good audience, but I’m not used to being at work so early!”
The festival is also trying something no other Fringe Festival has done- going bi-national. Taking advantage of the burgeoning arts scene in Tijuana and elsewhere in Mexico, The Fringe has taken part of the show over the border. The Pasaje Rodriguez, site of a dynamic arts venue, played host to a number of The Fringe’s shows this year, including “Antigona en la Frontera (“Antigone on the Border”),” “BodiesAreNotBorders,” and “Todavia (“Still”).” You can still catch these shows this side of the border later this week.
While much of The Fringe offerings are not for the under 13 crowd, the Festival doesn’t want younger Fringe fans to feel left out. Saturday, August 1, is Family Fringe Day, with a number of the regular artists and acts coming in to work with kids and families on projects running from yoga, to puppet making and hip hop.
The original festival has grown and so has the San Diego version. Last year over 9,000 people bought tickets and that number is expected to go up this year. In addition, San Diego Fringe brings in over one million dollars into the local economy. For the participating artists, one of the best things is that 100% of ticket sales go to the artists, something that doesn’t always happen in arts festivals.
The Fringe stays wild and awake for a few more days, until Sunday, August 2. If you’re interested in going, think about parking in Horton Plaza and validating there for three hours or in the Lyceum for four. If you do park in Horton Plaza, remember the parking structure only honors validation up to 9:00 pm. For more information on times, tickets and venues, please visit The Fringe website at http://www.sdfringe.org/.