Although there’s still a lot of winter chill in the air, my thoughts are already turning to the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, our annual theatrical treat that I think of as the kick-off for summer. It usually happens in late May and early June, just before the solstice, so it’s a reminder of good things to come. The sixth annual Cincinnati Fringe is set to open on May 26; performances will continue through June 6.
Organized by Know Theatre of Cincinnati, the Fringe has become a much-anticipated annual component of our performing arts scene. (It also offers visual art and film, but most of what happens during the two-week run is theater and dance.) This year we’ll see 34 productions, featuring more than 150 artists in a total of 170 performances. Venues will include Media Bridges, the Art Academy, Know Theatre, Below Zero Lounge, Coffee Emporium, New Stage Collective and Mixx Ultra Lounge.
According to producer Eric Vosmeier, our local Fringe has become a favorite of artists from across the country.
“We’re not the biggest festival,” he says. “We don’t have the biggest box-office payouts. But we do make participation affordable to artists who travel here, and we’ve begun to gain a solid reputation for being one of the most accommodating to artists over the last few years.”
The 2009 Fringe has 20 new performing groups, more than two-thirds of the participants.
Slightly more than half of the submissions considered for inclusion in the festival were from out of town. Vosmeier points out that this array of applicants broadens the festival’s artistic perspective and pushes its quality higher. Last year’s “Producer’s Pick,” Four Humors Theatre from Minneapolis (they presented a surreal medicine show, Mortem Capiendum) and Bad Dog Productions from upstate New York (creators of Oatmeal and a Cigarette, about an adult baby and the people around him) will return. Other acts will come to town from Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, Colorado, California, Virginia and Tennessee.
Some of Cincinnati’s best performers and popular local Fringe contributors will be on hand, too. Professional actress and CEA winner Amy Warner will perform The Edge, a work first seen at the Edinburgh Fringe in 1989, and Queen City Off Broadway’s founder Lyle Benjamin has assembled a cabaret-style program, Lonesome Losers of the Night, featuring music by French songwriter Jacques Brel.
Stacy Sims returns with another inventive script, Gymnasium, from the True Body Project; her Body Language, performed last year in classrooms at the School for Creative and Performing Arts, was popular with audiences. One of our best local avant-garde companies, Performance Gallery, will present KAZ/m, a piece that follows the repercussions of a suicide.
Given the financial turmoil the world finds itself in at the moment, Fringe is perfectly suited to everyone’s state of mind. It’s compact, with all the venues in Over-the-Rhine, so you won’t spend a lot getting around. It’s inexpensive — tickets are just $12 per show, or you can buy a general pass for the entire festival (prices haven’t been set yet, but it cost $150 last year). Best of all, the Fringe is creative … and distracting. We can all use more of those in these troubled times, right? Is it May yet?
CONTACT RICK PENDER: firstname.lastname@example.org