Hindi Greenberg: The Fringe Festival — something for everyone
It’s January and time for the annual Nugget Fringe Theater Festival. Started four years ago and produced by Quest Theaterworks, 2018’s Fringe has grown to encompass 40 different shows, with most having multiple performances over a period of 10 days in six different venues, all in downtown Grass Valley.
The Fringe is now a member of the U.S. Association of Fringe Festivals and World Fringe.
Fringe Festivals exist worldwide as havens for underground and emerging arts scenes and, as does our local Fringe, include plays, monologues, poetry, experiential events, dance, comedy and, basically, anything anyone wants to present. The largest Fringe is in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Most Fringes are un-juried; this openness fosters the work of both the well-established and the obscure, whether polished or imperfect. Often, these are performances that wouldn’t support an extended run nor the cost of renting a large venue, but as small, one-time events, are exciting and unique.
This past Saturday I saw five different shows, about an hour each. Two were at the Unitarian Church on South Church, two at the Holbrook Hotel and one at the Off Center Stage. They ranged from good to excellent; all were worth seeing.
I started at the Holbrook with a magic show, “Implausibly Delicious.” Tim Mannix had a wonderful stage presence, easy rapport with the audience and smooth, believable magic moves. A fun show for kids and adults, the 8 year old in the front row was excitedly bouncing in his chair, as were some of the 80 year olds.
Again at the Holbrook, I laughed through “MenoPosse,” a boisterous, in-your-face, risqué, fast-moving improv by 10 talented women. No subject is off-limits and audience suggestions are requested.
Improv can be awkward, hilarious, silly and “did she really just say that?” This show was all of these. The actors were all great; Shawnna Frazer was especially funny.
I then walked the short distance to the Unitarian Church for “Eclectigoria,” brief, diverse monologues/dialogues by various actors. The best performers draw you into their story. Marion Jeffery is always noteworthy, but also impressive were Kim Alman and Michael West — both embodied their individual, nuanced monologues.
On to the Off Center Stage for “Mary Brave Eyes,” a play conveying a message of tolerance and inclusiveness by depicting a foul bigot and how he is tamed, a topic that’s important for everyone, but especially for impressionable youth.
Using a perceptive script written and directed by Karen Leigh Sharp, the large cast of kids and a few adults do an admirable job of conveying both the pain experienced by the victims of bigotry and bullying and the ignorance of the bigot/bully.
This is a play with valuable lessons that will be taken into local schools, but you and your kids can see it now.
Then back to the Unitarian Church for “Sari, Not Sorry,” a performance by an excellent presenter with a warm persona and a fluid speaking style telling about growing up in an East Indian family in Northern California and her rebellion against cultural prerequisites.
Her story is interesting, her rebellions relatable and humorous, and her efforts to stay true to her beliefs are admirable.
The Fringe can keep you busy if you like performance. I’m attending again next weekend and, if the shows are at least as good as those I’ve already seen, it will be time well-spent.
Printed Fringe programs, containing descriptions of shows, times, locations and ticket prices, can be obtained in downtown Grass Valley, or go to http://www.nuggetfringe.com. And put next year’s Fringe on your January 2019 calendar.
Hindi Greenberg said, last year, that “in a few more years, the Fringe might just become a tourist event for lovers of performance,” and it’s starting to happen. Come join the fun.
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