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Preview: San Diego Fringe

Exciting New Theater Experiment Launches Today

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando previews San Diego's first Fringe Festival.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando previews San Diego's first Fringe Festival.


Today marks the start of San Diego’s first Fringe Festival. Hundreds of performers from San Diego and abroad will come together for an intense week of innovative theater.

The Fringe has its roots in Scotland. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe was established in 1947 as an alternative to the city’s mainstream theater festival. The nearly month-long event is like sensory overload with hundreds of actors staging thousands of performances at multiple venues. This year San Diego hosts its first Fringe festival.

"I am the one responsible for this," says executive director Kevin Patterson, "I have had a performing arts school for 20 years and seen so many pre-professional and professional artists that don’t have a platform that I thought that this would be wonderful for them, and then I am also the chairman of the Actors Alliance and we’ve got over 500 members of actors and I think of all these actors that would like to have a platform also so by creating this new festival all of a sudden we’ve got this platform for the artists that I’ve seen for the last couple decades and these actors to present works, get seen."

Todd Blakesley was involved with the Actors Alliance Festival in early 2000s as artistic director. That's when he thought about starting a San Diego Fringe Festival.

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Michael Mizerany

Michael Mizerany's experimental dance piece "Infamous" is one of about 50 productions showcased in the San Diego Fringe's inaugural season.

"it was a different world than the world we have today" said Blakesley, "The infrastructure in San Diego today is quite a bit different from what it was just 8 years ago. First of all we were able to find venues within walking distance of each other, that was one of the big challenges. Successful Fringes are ones where all the theatrical venues are within walking distance so you can spend a walking walking from one venue to another."

The festival will also tap into the Scottish festival’s rebel spirit by having an unjuried selection process and by not censoring any of the plays. It's a very open process.

"If people want to try out something or take a risk the Fringe festival is the place to do that. The Fringe festival is broken down into hour time slots at different locations," said The San Diego Fringe's associate director Katherine Harroff.

Michael Nieto is an actor performing in "Ubu Roi." He’s excited by the prospects Fringe offers: "Fringe is a laboratory. It’s like the science of theater where creation comes from. So sometimes you can get stuck in these theatrical tropes, like we have to do a musical that people will like… so we’re very constrained by what we think people will like. But Fringe is an opportunity to do anything we want."

Nearly 50 groups will be performing at 10th Avenue Theater, The New School for Architecture, Space 4 Art, and additional venues downtown.

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