Nugget Festival pushes the theatrical fringe |

Nugget Festival pushes the theatrical fringe

The Second Annual Nugget Theatre Fringe Festival runs Jan. 21 through Jan. 31 at multiple venues in Grass Valley. Producer Scott Ewing is shown at last year's festival.
Photo by Tom Durkin |

Know & Go

What: Second Annual Nugget Fringe Festival

Where: Multiple venues in Grass Valley

When: Thursday, Jan. 21 through Sunday, Jan. 31

Admission: Varies by event; see program or

Tickets: At the door for individual performances; for advance package passes

More information: 530-366-5888 or

“It’s like a film festival for theater — only it’s not,” explains Scott Ewing, artistic director of Quest Theaterworks and producer of the Nugget Fringe Festival.

Ewing is presenting the Second Annual Nugget Theatre Fringe Festival Jan. 21 through Jan. 31 at multiple venues in Grass Valley.

The 10-day festival has nearly doubled in size since its debut last year.

In 2015, there were 13 acts in 82 performances.

This year, 28 acts and three events will take the stage for 115 presentations at seven different venues, Ewing said.

The festival kicks off tonight at the Foothills Event Center at 400 Idaho-Maryland Road in Grass Valley.

The free Gold Fever opening reception runs from 5 to 10 p.m. with no-host food and drink for sale.

Potential patrons, not quite sure what they’re getting into, will have the complimentary chance to meet the performers and preview their acts.

During the festival, most tickets to individual performances will range from $10 to $15, with a few special events costing more.

There also specially priced packages.

Of course, there’s the “I Love Nugget Fringe!” pass for $389, which will get you into any performance — provided tickets are left.

The full schedule with descriptions of each act and special events, as well as the various pricing packages, are available at

Local debuts, reprises and surprises

As fringe festivals grow, they tend to attract talent from out-of-town.

That is even true with the Nugget’s second year, which has attracted acts from the Bay Area (most notably Bolinas) and Los Angeles.

Nevertheless, local talents dominate this year’s Nugget Fringe.

The dynamic writer/director duo Robin Wallace and Dinah Smith are debuting two of Wallace’s works under the theme “Crossroads.”

“The Tea Rose Room” and “This Termination Thing” will “leave the audience with a little bit to figure out,” Wallace promised.

She said wants people to leave the theater thinking about what they saw.

Douglass Truth wants you to think, too: about death.

In an “Intimate Evening with Death Herself,” Truth has taken his hilariously serious performances from nursing homes to Fringe Festivals in Boulder and Chicago.

He’s returning to the Nugget Fringe for his second hometown stand.

“For the last 10 years, it’s been a living thing that I, Dorothy [Death Herself], the audience, and helpful and concerned Angelic beings have worked on together, he told The Union.” Truth said Dorothy intends to introduce a song – and maybe a little dance – into her ever-evolving endeavor to kill you with laughter.

Ewing, himself, is invested in the festival, directing a grim drama “The Curing Room” and the very bloody “The Lieutenant of Inishmore.”

“Inishmore lampoons terrorist violence and the pointlessness of it all,” said actor John Deadrick who stars with Micah Cone. “It’s very Irish.”

The out-of-towners

Although there are more local acts, it’s only fair to mention the performers who think the festival is worth traveling to.

After her sellout performance in December, Bolinas performance artist Sha Sha Higby is bringing her uniquely exotic “Paper Wings” living puppetry back to Nevada County.

From Los Angeles, comes the “Last of the Knotts,” the L.A. Times’ Critics Choice of 2013.

And from the Bay Area comes “Date Night at Pet Emergency,” a solo real life tragi-comedy for adults and sophisticated teens over 15.

Fresh from last year’s Nugget and Minnesota’s fringe festivals, Damiian[cq] Lang will perform his new show “How to Make Love in Traffic.”

The audience is expected to experience the unexpected.

Risky business

While the Nugget Fringe Festival is similar to a short-film festival, there is one very large difference.

Fringe Festivals are uncurated, Ewing noted. That means anybody can enter.

There is no jury to select the acts, and no judges to hand out awards.

In other words, a fringe festival is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.

You never know what you’re going to get.

Some shows are sure to sell out; others may only attract family and friends.

“That’s the beauty of it,” said Ewing.

On the fringe, some stars die, and some are born.

The fact that fringe festivals (invented in Scotland in 1947) have expanded to dozens of nations all over the world — and given that Nevada County is a lodestone for theatrical talent — makes Ewing confident.

“This could become very big very fast,” he said.

While Ewing freely acknowledges an unjuried theatrical festival is a risk, he is in his comfort zone.

“There are plenty of people occupying the middle,” he said. “I work at the edge.”

Tom Durkin is a freelance writer and photographer in Nevada City. He can be contacted at or

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