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San Diego International Fringe Festival Continues To Grow

Fifth year expands to 500 shows at more than 20 venues over 11 days

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San Diego International Fringe Festival takes its cue from the 70-year-old Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The 11-day event, now in its fifth year, serves up a smorgasbord of entertainment ranging from dance and music to puppets and circus.

Recommended Fringe shows (list will be updated throughout the festival)

"8 Songs for a Mad King," Bodhi Tree Concerts

"Allergic to Love," Tom Knowles

"Are You Loving it?" Theatre Group Gumbo

"Beau and Aero: Crash Landing," A Little Bit Off

"Echoes of Gallows Hill," Astraeus Aerial Dance Theatre

"Escape," Shannon Mueller

"Incandescent," Lighthouse Circus

"Into the Walker Woods," Turning Tydes

"Lifegate," Giorgia Mazzucato

"The Lioness," BK Soul

"Searching for the Write," Yvonne

"Specific Gravity," Circus Collective of San Diego

San Diego International Fringe Festival takes its cue from the 70-year-old Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The 11-day event, now in its fifth year, serves up a smorgasbord of entertainment ranging from dance and music to puppets and circus.

What is Fringe?

Fringe can be hard to define because it can be different things to different people.

To Shaun Davis, Fringe's director of planning, it is where "every hour and a half, it’s a different group of performers and shows, and in between each show has 30 minutes to turn the house and turn the set and get it ready for all new actors. You can spend an entire day in a theater and never see the same show or same performers twice. That's pretty amazing."

But for A Little Bit Off performer Amica Hunter, "It is definitely a place where you can do your own thing, which I appreciate. We write our own material, and it’s fun to be in an environment where people are not just actors, but they are writers, directors, creators, promoters, we get to wear all the hats."

Tim Motley, coming all the way from Australia, will be performing his one-man noir comedy show "Six Quick Dick Tricks" at The Readers Spreckels Theatre.

"I love Fringe because it’s truly an open access form of theater," Motley said. "It takes all kinds of theater and generally it keeps it at a low ticket price accessible to everyone. It’s like a great equalizer where things that are interesting rise to the top."

Photo caption:

Photo credit: San Diego Circus Collective.

Circus Collective of San Diego's "Specific Gravity" premieres Friday, June 23 on the Lyceum stage during the San Diego International Fringe Festival.

Eleven days of eyeball busting shows

For the fifth year, San Diego Fringe assaults the senses with a wildly diverse array of work featuring 500 performances by more than 100 artists at nearly 30 venues on both sides of the border.

Circus has become a big part of Fringe with multiple San Diego companies challenging stereotypes of what circus can be in the 21st Century.

"We tell stories through movement," said Lexii Alcaraz, the young and talented artistic director of Lighthouse Circus Theatre. "It’s what we do as circus artists. It involves dance, it involves aerial, it involves ground acrobatics."

"Through circus, we have the ability to move in unique ways especially with circus as opposed to say dance," added Julia Ruth, who is both a performer and producer in Lighthouse Circus Theatre's "Incandescent" this year. "We have apparatus that we perform on and now we have an object we can interact with, we have people we can interact with and so that opens up all these avenues for expression and an opportunity to be really unique with it."

The company, which strives to create shows highlighting the adversity and difficulties of living with mental illness, debuted last year at Fringe and walked away with a well-deserved Outstanding Circus Arts Award.

Jennifer Curry Wingrove is the artistic director of Astraeus Aerial Dance Theatre, which has taken home awards for each of its previous Fringe appearances. The company took home Best of Fringe in 2015 and Outstanding World Premiere in 2016. This year Curry Wingrove has conceived an all-female show called "Echoes of Gallows Hill."

"We are a unique company," she said. "We are a group of professional dancers who are also professional aerialists. Dance, of course, is a form of expression through movement. There are no words in this aerial ballet. It is all expressed through our aerial dancing and our ground work."

Astraeus Aerial Dance Theatre has designed spectacular and visually sumptuous shows in its previous two outings and from the sneak peek I got of this year's show, it looks to have another dazzling display of artistry and impressive physical skill.

A very different kind of artistry is on display with A Little Bit Off's "Beau and Aero: Crash Landing." The two-person team of Amica Hunter and David Cantor revel in amazing physical feats but all done for comedy.

"We’re physical comedians," Hunter said. "So not so much dialogue but a lot of slapstick. We do some acrobatics and some people have compared us to silent film style comedies."

Photo caption:

Photo credit: A Little Bit Off

A Little Bit Off's Amica Hunter and David Cantor bring a new version of "Beau and Aero" to San Diego International Fringe Festival.

SD Fringe celebrates diversity in fifth year

Executive Director Kevin Charles Patterson proudly pointed out, "We are the only festival happening in two different countries. So we are the only binational Fringe Festival in the world with performances at the Tijuana Cultural Center (CECUT)

This year's Fringe boasts artists from as far east as Rome with Giorgia Mazzucato's "Lifegate," and as far west as Japan with the outrageous Theatre Group Gumbo returning for a second year.

Performers not only display ingenuity on stage but also in terms of the venues they have come up with outside of the official festival stages.

"We have a production taking place at an Airbnb; one meeting on the corner of Fifth and G only taking one audience member at a time, and another production taking place in the bar at the Bristol Hotel," Patterson explained.

Fringe is designed to address the inequity experienced by artists who feel excluded from the mainstream. So Fringe programming is unjuried and uncensored.

"The thing that makes the Fringe Festival unique is that it gives artists of all kinds a platform that is uncensored to present their work," Davis said. "It is unjuried so we don’t get to pick and choose. We don’t get to say we like this group let’s put them in. It doesn’t work that way. So it's really something that everybody who applies to the Fringe Festival pretty much has the same chance of getting in as anybody else."

Photo caption:

Photo credit: Althea Theatre

Althea Theatre's "There's No Place Like" will be performed at the bar at the Bristol Hotel during San Diego International Fringe.

Fringe survival tips

Looking at the program with hundreds of options can be daunting, but here are some tips.

First, you need to get a Fringe tag to begin your festival experience. This is a one-time expense but necessary to see anything at the festival.

"One hundred percent of our ticket proceeds go to the artists so in order to support the festival we have these little tags that we sell for $5 which is what promotes the festival," explained Davis.

Second, you need a sense of adventure.

"The way of Fringing successfully would be to simply dive in," Patterson said. He pointed out that his best Fringe experience at other festivals often occurred when he did not have a plan and just arbitrarily went to a show that he knew nothing about.

Davis agreed: "Come to the festival with a really open mind and see something that you would not normally see."

Third, talk to people. With hundreds of options and only 11 days to see shows, you need to find out what is worth seeing. So strike up a conversation with someone in line or in the seat next to you and ask them what they have seen and would recommend. Plus, you can mingle with artists in the Fringe lounge, and they can tell you about their own shows and the shows they have been impressed by. Fringe performers are supportive of each other.

And finally, be prepared for the intensity of concentrated theater-going. Wear comfortable shoes to walk from venue to venue. Bring water and snacks because shows run continuously during the day and into the night with usually jut 30 minutes in between.

The 2017 San Diego International Fringe Festival once again promises sensory overload with shows that cost a mere 10 bucks a pop.

"For $10 you can go see a show," Curry Wingrove said. "Each show is $10 and one hour, so you can come into the festival see one show, be inspired go see another show. There are hundreds of artists participating at the Fringe Festival so it’s a great way of seeing a lot of different shows and just within a few days."

Plus, where else can you find a mash up zombie musical like "Into the Walker Woods" from Turning Tydes.

Check back for daily updates of recommended shows and video previews.


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Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

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