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Cincinnati Fringe From A to Z

There's truly something for everyone, no matter how weird you are

By Rick Pender · May 21st, 2014 · Cover Story
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It’s almost here for the 11th consecutive year. That’s right, it’s just about time for the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, our annual dose of creativity and zaniness that might move you to laughter or tears. 

The Fringe offers a breathtaking array of productions — more than 30, plus a lot of special events — between May 27 and June 7. Most shows are presented five times in small venues throughout Over-the-Rhine, which is home to Know Theatre, the festival’s organizer. It’s a massive undertaking but 

also an incredible jolt of energy for local theatergoers who like to be stimulated. CityBeat is the festival’s print media sponsor, and we assemble a crew of critics who attend first performances and provide commentaries for a special blog you can check

out to help you decide which shows you might want to see.

You’ll find a run-down of all the shows at cincyfringe.com. To give you an overview of what’s to come, here’s a special A to Z listing of what to expect. (Warning: This article just skims the surface. To get the real experience, show up and dig in. You won’t regret it.)

Artists come from everywhere and perform at one of 10 venues, including both the Commons and the Auditorium at the Art Academy of Cincinnati (1212 Jackson St.).

Beer might just be the fuel of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival. This year you can see A Brief History of Beer (coming all the way from London to Cincinnati), opening on May 29 at 9 p.m. at Know Theatre. Check with the Fringe Box Office (513-300-5669) for tickets to this and other shows.

Mark your calendar for Saturday, June 7, when the Closing Night Party is the culmination of the Fringe at Know’s Underground bar. Lots of raucous fun with a crowd of Fringe lovers, performers and volunteers, including announcements of the “Picks o’ the Fringe” that single out the most popular productions. And remember to keep an eye on CityBeat’s special blog providing timely coverage of shows by a crew of critics.

Dance programs by six troupes: Sharp Dance Company (Philadelphia); Patchwork (Jonesborough, Tenn.); The Dream Team (Cincinnati); Susie Thiel Collaborative (Lexington, Ky.); FK Productions (Cleveland); and Pones, Inc. (Cincinnati).

Ensemble Theatre Cincinnatis intern company annually offers a showcase of eager young actors who’ve labored behind the scenes during the season. This year they’ll present two one-act plays: Sheila Callaghan’s Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake) and Itamar Moses’s Authorial Intent (June 5-7, 1127 Vine St.).

That’s for the Fringe Festival itself, now in its 11th year. There will be 32 productions presented over the course of 12 days. In particular, look for Four Humors Theater back for their sixth appearance from the Twin Cities, this time offering An Unauthorized Autobiography of Benny Hill. They’re the creative minds behind such past favorites as Lolita: A Three Man Show, Bombus and Berylline and Harold. 

Gateways to Healing (1206 Main St.) is one of this year’s new performance venues. When it’s not hosting Fringe shows, it offers chiropractic care and nutrition services. For more information on venues (including a dandy map), look for the official Fringe Festival Guide at Know Theatre.

How to Fold a Pleated Skirt, a dance theater work about “how-to instruction guides.” People look up — or Google — the darnedest things: “how to make a bed” to “how to get over a broken heart.” It’s told through dance and words by a troupe from Lexington that gets started on May 28, 7:30 p.m., at 17 E.

Court St.

International performers are part of the crew from out of town: This year features two from the U.K. and one from Israel. And don’t miss a special night of in-the-moment creativity from OTR Improv at Coffee Emporium on June 3 at 9 p.m.

Jackson Street in Over-the-Rhine is Ground Zero for the Fringe Festival. It’s the headquarters for Fringe organizer Know Theatre (1120 Jackson St.) as well as the Art Academy of Cincinnati (1212 Jackson St.), hosting two performance venues.

The Kick-Off Party for the 2014 Fringe Festival is from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. May 27 at Know Theatre, of course. Say hi to Alexandra (Alex) Kesman, the festival’s managing director, who keeps everything on an even keel for two weeks.

Local performers (15 groups in all) constitute nearly half the shows presented, including Hot Damn! It’s the Loveland Frog! This is a Bluegrass odyssey in search of Loveland’s legendary frog man. It’s likely to be a laugh-out-loud show from the crew that presented the crazy satire Don’t Cross the Streams: The Cease-and-Desist Musical in 2012. First performance is May 29, 8:45 p.m., at the Art Academy Commons.

A mural created and executed during the 12 days of the festival has become a regular feature of the Fringe. Danny Babcock and Matthew Dayler of Higher Level Art (HigherLevelArt.com) will be painting a new masterpiece on the north wall of Know Theatre on Jackson Street.

A few Fringe shows happen in the daytime on Saturday and Sunday, but most of them are at night. For instance, Night Walkers, a locally produced piece by Homegrown Theater from Cincinnati, a piece about blurring the line between the factuality of the dream world and the fantasy of real life. It opens on May 28, 7:30 p.m., at the Art Academy’s auditorium. … Numbers: This year attendance at Fringe shows is expected to top 8,000. You should be one of them.

Over-the-Rhine is where it all happens. Particularly fun is the Fringe Olympics (Monday, June 2), just one of the dozen Bar Series events at Know’s Underground.

Performance Gallery is the alpha and omega of the Cincinnati Fringe. This group of Cincinnati actors was doing fringe-like work before the festival started. They were part of the first festival (2004), and they’ve returned annually, the only group to do so. For 2014 they’ll stage Heist, an oddball tale about three crooks of questionable ability that’s described as “thoroughly whatthehell” and “an exquisite bit of absurdist crime noir.” (If it helps, they suggest you “imagine Dashiell Hammett and Samuel Beckett in a drunken slap fight.”) It opens May 29, 8:15 p.m., at MOTR Pub (1345 Main St.). 

Quite unusual is one of the most mundane ways to describe the Fringe. Quintessentially quixotic might be another.

Restaurants in Over-the-Rhine include a dozen or so offering special discounts to Fringe goers wearing special Fringe Buttons (buy one for $1). Of course, our great area food trucks show up most evenings, too. You won’t go hungry.

Shows by solo artists are often the most sought-after tickets of the Fringe. Paul Strickland from Indianapolis was a big hit a year ago with Ain’t True and Uncle False. He’s returning with Papa Squat’s Store of Sorts, a music-filled memorial for a guy who “once filled the emptiness in Big-Fib Cul-de-sac with his insightful songs.” … There wouldn’t be a Fringe Festival without a lot of generous sponsors (please show your support). A singular piece of evidence: Fringe staff speeds from venue to venue on two-wheeled Segways, on loan from The Garage OTR.

True Theatre has presented four seasons of one-night-only quarterly shows, “true stories told by real people” with a theme (like fear, Mom, oops! or love). They’ve also had a special edition each year for the Fringe when five performers tell personal behind-the-scenes stories. One night only: June 6, 9 p.m. at Coffee Emporium. You’re urged to attend wearing an official Fringe T-shirt.

Underground, yes, that’s the name of Know’s bar — because it’s below street level on Jackson. It does have windows so you can see the lower half of people walking by. It’s the watering hole for nightly fun every evening after performances, usually kicking off with a very tongue-in-cheek news roundup.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of the Fringe. They serve as couriers, house managers, ushers and ticket takers and the people who prepare and clean up venues. They even have their own headquarters at Lucy Blue Pizza (1226 Main St.), where you can buy pizza by the slice. … Another big V is for Producing Artistic Director Eric Vosmeier. He’s been the festival’s guiding spirit and over-the-top cheerleader, the personification of what it’s all about — creative, loud and full of energy. Wish him well: He’s on his way to new ventures after this year’s festival.

Go to the cincyfringe.com, the official Fringe website. You’ll find the who, what, when and where — all the information you need to make your way to where it’s at. What’s left for you is to decide why you’ve waited so long to show up.

St. Xavier is one of four FringeNext participants, area high schools where students have written, directed, designed, produced and performed brand new shows conceived for the festival. They’re joined by Newport Central Catholic, Highlands and School for Creative and Performing Arts. The latter also serves as the Over-the-Rhine venue for FringeNext performances.

You gotta be there. As the Fringe mantra tells us, “Kinda Weird, Like You.”

Zero chance that you won’t have a good time if you make it to OTR during the Fringe.

The 2014 CINCINNATI FRINGE FESTIVAL opens at 8 p.m. Tuesday with the CityBeat Fringe Kick-Off Party at Know Theatre, 1120 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine. Performances run May 28-June 7 at 10 venues. Look for reviews of all shows at citybeat.com. Find the full Fringe schedule and buy tickets at cincyfringe.com.



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