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San Diego International Fringe Festival
A member of Theatre Group Gumbo from Japan is shown in this undated photo. Gumbo returns to San Diego International Fringe this June.

San Diego International Fringe returns in-person after pandemic hiatus

San Diego International Fringe Festival returns to live and in-person shows June 2 through 12 with a home base in Balboa Park.

The word "fringe" can be defined as “not part of the mainstream; unconventional, peripheral, or extreme.”

For more than seven decades Edinburgh Festival Fringe has been inspiring cities around the globe to create their definitions of what a Fringe Festival can be. The essence of Fringe Festivals is to provide a showcase 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. Plus all ticket sales go directly to the artists.

San Diego International Fringe Festival returns next month after a forced two-year pandemic hiatus to celebrate its 10th year of existence.

But COVID-19 has left its mark.

"This June, audiences can expect a smaller festival, and it is specifically smaller because of the impact that COVID has had," explained San Diego Fringe founder and executive director Kevin Charles Patterson. "Hopefully we'll be able to completely return to normalcy next year. But this year, folks can expect a smaller, more manageable festival as we come out of COVID and remind people what Fringe is all about."

In the past it has been about providing what it calls "eyeball-busting" entertainment. This year looks to offer some of the same with artists such as Japan's deliciously wacky Theatre Group Gumbo returning with whatever madness and chaos they have created for 2022. Theatre Group Gumbo will be performing out of the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theatre, one of this year's home base venues in Balboa Park.

Another returning artists performing at that venue but offering a radically different theatrical experience is Renee Westbrook doing an encore of her one-woman show "Shelter." The show looks to how we define shelter and home, and was inspired by Westbrook's own experiences being homeless.

SD Fringe Top Pick: 'Shelter'

The other Balboa Park venue is Centro Cultural de la Raza plus there will be a mobile venue of a mini van serving as a performance site in the park.

There will also be a number of "B.Y.O.V." or "bring your own venue" in which artists choose their own site to perform at.

"Bring your own venue for the artists who have the opportunity to pick any location, any venue that they would like to use on their own and present there," Patterson said.

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Beth Accomando
Golden Corpse presents "Bones Abide" at Les Girls at this year's San Diego International Fringe Festival. May 15, 2022

Once again Les Girls will host a Golden Corpse production from Kata Pierce-Morgan. This year it's "Bones Abide," which looks to a story about the Armenian genocide. And Bodhi Tree Concerts will be using the Ocean Beach coffee house The Template for Nicolas Reveles' chamber opera "Aftermath."

Returning after COVID-19 has been a challenge but Fringe was fortunate to find some sources of financial support.

"We are the recipients of a grant from the Commission for Arts and Culture, which has been fantastic for our city and arts organizations. So that is a big component that helps make the festival possible. And then also there have been COVID initiatives to help arts organizations. So finances isn't an issue this time around," Patterson said.

What is San Diego's International Fringe Festival?

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I 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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