Always at the forefront of uninhibited, experimental arts and culture, New Orleans hosts one of the most comprehensive Fringe Festivals in the country next week from November 20-24 at more than two dozen DIY venues throughout the Bywater, Marigny and St. Claude Avenue neighborhoods. The sixth annual New Orleans Fringe Fest plays host to more than 77 intimate shows over the course of five days in the mediums of stage play, musical, comedy, spoken word, dance, puppetry, burlesque, acrobatics, installation art, and perhaps the most “New Orleans” of all performance arts — an official Fringe Fest Parade.
The “fringe” movement in theatre and performance art has been bubbling nationally for the past five years or more now. Even cities not known so much for their theatre or arts scenes now host an annual Fringe Fest. Given the nature of the city’s cultural heritage, it is no surprise that New Orleans has been a pioneer in the movement to encourage local and amateur artists to hone their crafts. It is also no wonder that the thriving arts nexus that is the St. Claude Avenue corridor plays host to the New Orleans Fringe Fest. This weekend, nearly every street corner and every small cabaret or warehouse will be ablaze with color and movement, the roster now also including more visiting artists. Several Fringe Fest alumni have even gone on to tour their musical plays and comedy shows.
Just glancing at the festival schedule can be quite daunting, but OffBeat staff have assembled 12 shows we wouldn’t miss this year to help get you started. Some of the most New Orleans and Louisiana-centric shows have been selected for our Top 12 below.
TOP 12 FRINGE FEST 2013 SHOWS NOT TO MISS:
Welcome to a world in which almost everyone is gay, evangelical lesbian conservatives hold power, and the marginalized ungays are agitating for the right to marry. “Gayland,” an audacious new musical comedy, shows you this world through the eyes of Willow, a rising star, who finds herself attracted to Zack and caught in the coils of forbidden ungay desire.
Marigny Opera House – 11/20 (7pm), 11/22 (7pm), 11/23 (9pm), 11/24 (11pm)
ANTEBELLUM is a wickedly delicious portrait of the notorious and the famed in pre-Civil War era New Orleans. The immersive installation performance presents three haunting and comedic portraits loosely inspired by the historical narratives of real-life characters roaming in antebellum New Orleans, accompanied by a live soundscape.
Mardi Gras Zone – 11/21 (9pm), 11/22 (5pm), 11/23 (7pm), 11/24 (11pm)
Bits of reality collide in a full-throttle, sensory overload where the act of creating a play collides with the actual making of the play. Whether it’s Tennessee Williams reading his letters to Zelda Fitzgerald, or a particular day in the life of a story that keeps changing, BEAUBOURG is an immersive art experience you won’t want to miss.
Edison Phonograph Distribution Warehouse (BYOV) – 11/20 (9pm), 11/21 (7pm), 11/23 (11pm), 11/24 (9pm)
Bayou Blues – Return of the Queen
An experimental solo-performance based on the true experiences of a young dark skinned girl in New Orleans. This poetic tale flows in movement, music, and monologue as she faces discrimination, a dysfunctional family, and heartbreak. It blends the journey of traditional black theater with refreshing aspects of the future. “ It is a delight to watch such a talented actress using her many skills,” says the DC Theatre Scene. 4 out of 5 stars from DC Metro Theater Arts. Experience Shaina Lynn’s homecoming, Bayou Blues- Return of the Queen.
Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center (Uptown / Central City) (BYOV) – 11/21 (7pm), 11/22 (7pm), 11/23 (7pm), 11/24 (4pm)
Jitterbugging raccoons, krumping squirrels and African-Dancing roosters are a few of the colorful characters who spring to life leading a starving artist through City Park. Designed for the ADD generation and set to the soundtrack of Quintron and Miss Pussycat recordings, this is rock-n- roll dance theater about amnesia, mistaken identity and redemption. Performed by the Gris Gris Strut Dance Troupe.
Rhythmic Arts Center (BYOV) – 11/20 (9pm), 11/22 (9pm), 11/22 (11pm), 11/23 (7pm), 11/23 (9pm), 11/24 (5pm)
House of Lunacy
Join Louisiana’s Mental Twerking Association as they pry the hinges of national news parodies off the door and release a monster back into its natural environment. Audience members are encouraged to participate in this experimental multi-disciplinary immersive experience of stand-up comedy, music, dance, poetry, special effects and costumes.
The Red House (BYOV) – 11/21 (6pm-Midnight), 11/22 (6pm – Midnight), 11/23 (6pm – Midnight)
Move with the raw energy and vibrant swirl of motion and music from eastern Brazil. Experience this breathless and colorful story of legendary afro-brazilian bravest female warrior, Dandara. Sounds of the 12 piece pulsating percussion Afro-Brazilian band and whirling, rippling irrepressible movement of the dancers you will forget you are watching children. Choreographed by New Orleans’ own Janese Brooks-Galathe.
Den of Muses – 11/21 (9pm), 11/22 (5pm), 11/23 (7pm), 11/24 (5pm)
The Underground Railroad Game
Forget everything you thought you knew about history. No more tedious memorization. No more boring dates and facts related to distant people and events. We take history off the page and make it real (again). All aboard for a perilous and sexy journey through time with…Underground Railroad Game! Whether you’re a winner or a loser, you’re always a learner!
Den of Muses – 11/20 (9pm), 11/22 (9pm), 11/23 (11pm), 11/24 (9pm)
Blue Book: A Guide To Storyville
Look into the lavish bordellos of the Demi- Monde Queens, presented in their own words from the Blue Books of their day. Meet the crib girls and johns, the big wheels and jazz men. Follow the life of Lulu White, the most infamous of Storyville’s madams, as ‘The Diamond Queen’ continually reinvents herself to outshine the encroaching specter of Jim Crow.
The Mudlark Public Theatre (BYOV) – 11/20 (11pm), 11/21 (9pm), 11/22 (9pm), 11/23 (3pm), 11/23 (11pm), 11/24 (5pm), 11/24 (9pm)
The story of swamp workers whose lives are uprooted when the whims of “upriver” consumers and the degradation of their natural environs force them to sacrifice and discard their jobs, homes and memories. Possum Kingdom mixes politics, physicality, original music, and simple machines to create an enchanting outdoor experience with a heavy dose of magic.
St. Claude Truck Farm (BYOV) – 11/23 (7pm) – One Night Only!
With Love, From The Underground
A late night at the bar goes from raucous drinking games to a brutal battle for escape from the god of the underworld. This adaptation of Persephone’s abduction and imprisonment, features dark and cruel twists, audience interaction, multimedia transformations, and, of course, booze. Persephone’s ascent back to earth is in your hands. Come save her!
The Red House (BYOV) – 11/20 (Midnight), 11/21 (Midnight), 11/22 (Midnight), 11/23 (5pm), 11/24 (8pm)
b/w Conversations with… Body Language – 11/20 (10pm), 11/21 (10pm), 11/22 (10pm), 11/23 (10pm)
In addition to the dozens of ticketed shows happening, the New Orleans Fringe Fest offers their “Free-For-All” series of events and activities on Saturday and Sunday that are free of charge. The all-ages series of youth programming — “Family Fringe” — is also free all weekend. Kids can explore “Makerland,” storytelling and dance workshops, preparations for Saturday’s GoodChildren Parade and even make “magic,” all at the Marigny Opera House (725 St. Ferdinand Street). Meanwhile, adults can get amped with a coffee, or relax with a cocktail, and take in a peep show preview in Architects Alley behind the Fringe Fest headquarters at the Mardi Gras Zone supermarket on Royal Street. Members of the multi-award-winning New Orleans SLAM poetry team offer up their spoken word play, In Voce Veritas, on Saturday evening for two free performances at the Old Ironworks (612 Piety Street) as part of the Free-For-All series too.
HOTSPOTS and AFTERPARTIES
The freeloading doesn’t stop there: Fringe Fest introduces “HotSpots” this year where “fringers” can stop, catch a rest, grab a drink or just watch the outdoor performances while following the GoodChildren Parade on Saturday, or crawling from show to show. Five locations on the Fringe Fest map hosted by grassroots organizations Learn Dat, Renegade Divas, NOLAW and the Sankofa Farmers Market will serve as parade HotSpots. And if you still want more after a full day of expression, you can dance into the wee hours at the nightly Fringe Fest Afterparties, beginning at 10 p.m. at a different club each night.
THIRD ANNUAL Y’AT YARD ART TOUR
By this point, it should not be difficult to imagine what Fringe Fest organizers mean when they say that the event is simply “all types of theatre in unusual places.” Don’t forget to take in the third Y’at Yard Art Tour between shows as well though. Just stop and look around you on your way to a show. Curious and upcylced art installations are sprinkled on lawns, porches and abandoned structures around the neighborhood, making this art crawl best toured by bicycle. Sound like you might get lost? Not to worry, as Fringe Fest has created an interactive map online to help get you oriented.
There really are few excuses not to experience the magical wonderland that is New Orleans Fringe Fest. But the most important thing to remember while swimming among the “fringes” next weekend is that Fringe Fest is here to unleash the artist in all of us. Even some of the most difficult of real life tales play out in the most creative, and beautiful, ways at Fringe Fest. So get out there and get inspired. Who knows, maybe next year your musical play (or flying trapeze act) will be on the 2014 Fringe Fest line-up.
Ticketing for Fringe Fest shows is an easy, affordable system where each guest pays a one-time $3 fee (for which you receive a collectible Fringe Fest pin to wear for the weekend) and then selects a number of tickets to purchase. Single tickets are $8, six-show passes $40 and unlimited all-access passes $99. However, tickets for specific shows are not sold. Instead, any ticket is good for any show — a great feature for anyone whose schedule, or attention span, changes frequently. Tickets are available in advance online via the Fringe Fest website, at Mardi Gras Zone (2706 Royal Street) or the festival headquarters and Free-For-All Lounge, located in Architects Alley (Port St. off Royal St.). Cash-only tickets are also available at the door for each show. More Info: www.nofringe.org