San Diego Fringe Festival Hits Lucky No. 7
Eleven-day event finds new home in Balboa Park
“Sweet Pang,” Lady Grew
“Real[ise],” Tangata Circus Company
"Shelter," Renee Westbrook
“Things That Go Bump in the Night,” Circus Collective of San Diego
“Space Force,” Lonesome Whistle Productions
“A Box in the Desert,” Huldufugl
“Your Best American Girl,” MaArte Theatre Collective
“Crapshoot! Or Why I Voted for Trump: A Love Story,” Todd Blakesley
“Mesa Moves: Dance Spectrum,” Mesa College
"That 24-Hour Thing"
(Note: I will be updating this list as I see more shows)
As an adjective, fringe is defined as unconventional, not part of the mainstream, and even extreme. For the theater community, Fringe has come to define a certain kind of alternative festival where performers can try out original works without a filter. That means no censoring of content and no selection committees to pass judgment on what can be seen. The idea of a Fringe Festival started in 1947 in Edinburgh, Scotland, when an alternative theater event sprung up in reaction to the more mainstream Edinburgh International Festival.
Now there are Fringe festivals all over the globe. The San Diego International Fringe Festival celebrates what it calls its “Lucky 7” this year. For anyone who attends, it’s like sensory overload with so many diverse options to choose from. It’s a concentration of energy, experimentation, and excitement.
If you have been attending San Diego International Fringe for the past six years, you have seen it grow and evolve. But founder and executive director Kevin Charles Patterson calls this a “restructuring year” and that means quite a few changes.
What’s different is that home base is no longer downtown and centered at the Spreckels Theater. The new home base is in Balboa Park with the ticket office located in the old Starlight Theater. Part of the motivation for this is an effort to bring attention to Save Starlight, an organization working to bring the derelict venue back to life. Patterson is now on the Save Starlight board and hopes that by bringing people to the venue he can create more interest in restoring it to a working theater space.
This year there will be no bi-national fringe with performances across the border (although one Fringe company from New Zealand will be performing a special show in Mexico). Past attendees will also notice a drop in the number of shows and performers. The good news about that is you may be able to take in more of what’s offered and not have to face as many tough choices about what to see.
The one change that proves a challenge is that you won’t find any printed programs as the festival tries to go green. This wouldn’t be a problem if there was a Fringe app to help you navigate through all the shows and venues or if the website offered better information. What the printed program offered that was helpful was a program grid that allowed you to see everything all at once so you could plot out a course through the 11 days. The festival is still updating the website, so things may improve as we approach the first weekend of shows.
The best place on the web to go right now might be the Show Schedule that you can find under the Festival tab.
But part of the fun of Fringe is to experiment. So if you get frustrated with the online ticketing, I suggest just heading to the box office buying a three-show pass ($27), a five-show pass ($42) or a 10-show pass ($72) and just gamble on whatever happens to be playing when you arrive. Not every show will be a winner but each year I have been treated to gems that make the whole festival worthwhile. Please note that all ticket sales go directly to the artists so Fringe requires that everyone attending make a one-time purchase of a Fringe Tag ($5) with the proceeds going to San Diego Fringe to help cover its expenses.
Each show is under an hour and there is a half-hour break between shows for attendees to grab food or change venues. The main hub is Balboa Park but Fringe has a BYOV (Bring Your Own Venue) component so you will find Tap Fever Studios in Pacific Beach and the amazing Lady Grew (returning from Ireland) at Les Girls plus That 24-Hour Thing at the Central Library, in which seven playwrights have 24 hours to each write a 10-minute play. Then directors rehearse actors for eight hours before they perform in front of a live audience.
Although smaller this year, San Diego Fringe still has international performers. Laura Oakley is part of Tangata Circus Company from New Zealand.
“I think Fringe really allows artists to go out on a limb and try something new and different and I think it’s such a great platform for emerging artists," she said. "Coming from Wellington, our company is just under a year old and our Wellington Fringe Festival was such a wonderful venue to launch and now we are here so it’s an incredible opportunity for us.”
The company appears as part of San Diego Fringe’s exchange program with Wellington Fringe. Its show is called “Real[ise].”
A unique offering this year comes from Iceland and a group called Huldufugl (the name means hidden bird). The show is “A Box in the Desert,” which offers a virtual reality experience to one audience member at a time. There are only 40 performances and, with such limitations, it is selling out quickly.
If you have never been to Fringe you can check out videos from last year's shows to get an idea of the diversity of performers.
Check back to see daily videos previewing the shows and featuring interviews with some of the artists.