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Awards recap: 2022 San Diego International Fringe Festival

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Beth Accomando
Sahun Davis (center) gave Theatre Group Gumbo the first of its two San Diego International Fringe Festival awards, Audience Favorite. The comedy troupe from Japan also took home Best of Fest. June 12, 2022.

Go to: Official Award Winners | KPBS Top Picks

San Diego International Fringe Festival wrapped up on Sunday night with an improvised Secret Cabaret and awards.

It is always a sad day when Fringe finally wraps. For 11 days you're seeing live theater and meeting wildly-talented artists from around the globe, and feeling a part of a community that is all about breaking rules, having fun, sharing stories and pushing the envelope on what you think theater can be. Whether its bringing an audience outdoors for a Slip 'N Slide dance finale on a wet tarp, doing a delightful poo-dance on stage, exploring a Beatles conspiracy theory, or an opera set in the aftermath of a nuclear strike, Fringe is like a creative gust of wind blowing the dust off of everything that is conventional.

Beth Accomando
This year's San Diego International Fringe Festival was considered a "pop up" by organizers because it was smaller than past years and was quickly put together. June 5, 2022.

This particular Fringe, which the organizers called a "pop-up" version, came together only months ago.

"We were all itching to get back to live performances, and this really happened kind of spur the moment," Shaun Davis said, who is responsible for executive team and festival operations. "That's why we call it a 'pop up.' We literally started planning this three months ago because the restrictions for COVID finally relaxed enough that we could get people in easily from international places as well as national. And people were ready to socialize and come back together as a group, where a year ago, there would have been no way we could have done this. So this one is sort of a smaller festival than usual because it was very fast, but every bit as entertaining and as 'fringey' as anything else we've ever done."

Executive director Kevin Charles Patterson noted, "It was very concerning knowing that we were going into this with such a small festival. But knowing that the surges have happened with the new strain makes it feel like we made the right decision to keep it small, keep it manageable — see how things were going to work. And I think that we are coming out of it with happy artists, happy audiences. And yeah, I think that it ended up being a complete success."

As is often the case with Fringe, audiences were small at the beginning.

Beth Accomando
The Template in Ocean Beach was the B.Y.O.V. (Bring Your Own Venue) for the chamber opera "Aftermath" at this year's San Diego International Fringe Festival. June 10, 2022.

"Then as word of mouth about the shows spread, the strong shows get really full until there are just packed houses and we have to add seats. It's fantastic," Patterson said.
Some of the B.Y.O.V. (or Bring Your Own Venue) shows did exceptionally well. Les Girls, which hosted "Bones Abide," and The Template, which provided the effectively-used space for the chamber opera "Aftermath," both had packed houses.

One of the rituals of San Diego Fringe is the Secret Cabaret, usually lit by only flashlights from the audience and staged almost exclusively by and for the artists, in which artists just get to have fun performing a bit of song, dance, performance or improvised comedy. Often it allows for artists to do something different from what their show is. Katie Turner — who did a kind of Victorian, choose-your-own-adventure Fringe show — arrived in Victorian garb and sang a raunchy Monty Python song. And Fringe photographer Michael Prine floored everyone with some phenomenal, improvised tap fusion of Irish step dancing. Who knew?

The Secret Cabaret is always a fabulous way to end Fringe because you can hang out with artists after the stress of having to perform multiple shows in a brand new, untested space, and share a final hug before many leave for another Fringe festival somewhere else in the country or the globe. But the night was also to celebrate those who won awards for their work.

Michael Prine
Movement Space Company (Jonathon Prestney, Hayley Russell, Cassie Pickersgill and Trayvaugn Robins) took home Outstanding USA Premiere at San Diego Fringe Awards. June 12, 2022.

Beth Accomando's Top Ten Shows

1. "Shelter," Renee Westbrook
2. "Are You Lovin' It?" Theatre Group Gumbo
3. "Slumber Zone," Mojalet Dance Collective
4. "Worst. German. Ever." Paco Erhard
5. "Aftermath," Nicolas Reveles
6. "Back to the Roaring 20s," Movement Space Company
7. "Bones Abide," Kata Pierce-Morgan and Golden Corpse
8. "Ha Ha Da Vinci," Phina Pipia
9. "New Works," Teatro San Diego
10. "Turn Me On, Dead Man," Phillip Magin

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Top SD Fringe Pick: "Shelter"
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Top SD Fringe Pick: 'Ha Ha Da Vinci'
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Top SD Fringe Pick: Mojalet Dance Collective's 'Slumber Zone'
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Top SD Fringe Pick Preview: "Aftermath"
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Top SD Fringe Pick: "Back to the Roaring 20s"
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Top SD Fringe Pick Teatro SD
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Top SD Fringe Pick: Golden Corpse presents "Bones Abide"
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Top SD Fringe Pick: 'The Pandemusical Diaries'
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Top SD Fringe Pick: Theatre Group Gumbo

I want to give an additional shout out to Brian Marz at The Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theatre and Alejandro Montero at the Centro Cultural de la Raza, who had to learn how to tech about a dozen shows, learning lighting cues, uploading music and generally trying to make sure everything ran smoothly for the artists in spaces that were new to almost everyone. Kudos to them!

Official San Diego International Fringe Awards

  • Outstanding Solo Performance: Phina Pipia in "Ha Ha Da Vinci"
  • Outstanding Ensemble: "Luna & Solis" from Brelby Productions
  • Outstanding Musical Ensemble New Works: "Body Talk" and "The Dropout" from Teatro San Diego
  • Outstanding Dance: "Long Playing," at the B.Y.O.V. at San Diego State University, Leslie Seiters and Rachel Lincoln
  • Outstanding Production: "Slumber Zone" with Mojalet Dance Collective
  • Outstanding Actor: "Turn Me On, Dead Man," Levani Korganashvili
  • Outstanding World Premiere: "A Scar Is Born," Lorelei Zarifian
  • Outstanding USA Premiere: "Back To The Roaring Twenties" from Movement Space Dance Co.
  • Spirit Of The Fringe: Catherine Barnes, "Yes, No, Maybe, So"
  • Fringe Of The Fringe: "Bones Abide" at Les Girls, Golden Corpse Productions
  • Best Penis Story (yes this was a real category but the award needs to also be retroactively given to Jon Bennett for "Pretending Things are a Cock" from 2014): Mike Lane's "Mixed Race Sweetie"
  • Best Of Fest: "Are You Lovin' It?" from Theatre Group Gumbo