‘I am NF’: The Nugget Fringe gratitude dinner | TheUnion.com

‘I am NF’: The Nugget Fringe gratitude dinner

Alicia Vandevorst
Submitted to The Union

The Nugget Fringe Festival, Nevada County's own lab for new theatre and home for fringe acts, is five years old, and on May 19 its producers, Scott and Lois Ewing, celebrated the people who have made it thrive with a culinary fringe event.

Under the arched ceiling of a stone cellar lit by rice lights, in a room chill but dazzling with sleek manzanita centerpieces and golden plates on long, dark trestle tables, 34 guests conferred and sipped wine or sparkling water. All had dressed in black, white or gold — the colors of the festival — and the style ranged from immaculate steam punk to hints of the roaring '20s to subdued black classics.

Local Canadian comedian, Jori Borealis Phillips, rang in the evening with jokes. With wide-eyed irony, she spoke of the great distinction of performing for exposure. Unlike, for example, the plumber.

But, during this festival, she had experienced a place where artists share their kookiest, freest, edgiest nuggets and still get paid well. At the close of her act, she landed on the catchphrase for the night: "I am NF." Referencing urban dictionary definitions, she added a wry twist to the affirmation.

Then came the buttons. Buttons that said "I am NF," and a round of thanks.

Lois Ewing very touchingly addressed each person present. Beginning with key volunteers Virgil Wong and Sissy Minard, she moved around the room. Those honored included the Quest Theaterworks board, the Nugget Fringe committee, donors Sam and Adele Smith, Jerry Grant and Corinne Gelfan, Sharon Winegar and David Painter, David Kraus, Kimberly Grubbs, and John and Valerie Bush, as well as writer Hindi Greenberg.

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The gratitude extended in the form of 14-course dinner lovingly, mischievously, discerningly cooked by Scott Ewing and Richard Fisher. Each course offered tribute to a show.

The second one, Figmentally, referred to a troupe by that name whose show this year involved a puppet armchair, a writer with a rogue pen, and a live figment of her imagination.

On the plate, guests found a dried fig, soaked in balsamic vinegar, garnished with a creamy goat chèvre, salt, and roasted, chopped pistachios. Other courses were less literal, but all featured fringe flavors like duck tongue, morel mushroom, and, hidden beneath a coquettish flower, dried grasshoppers and worms.

Though meant to startle somewhat, the cuisine was deftly cooked and plated. The meal satisfied thoroughly, and in its afterglow, Scott Ewing interviewed performance artist Sarah Kennedy.

Her show, "The Vagina Odyssey," won Best Female Solo Performer, Artist to Watch, ​Most Profound Play, and the Producers Award for most important new work at this winter's festival and will be performed at the prestigious New York Solo Festival. Her success story confirms how a festival like this serves to incubate great work.

And this all began with a trip to Scotland. When Scott and Lois Ewing returned six years ago from Edinburgh, they were lit up by the dauntless, sincere, and vibrant scene of that city's famous fringe festival. They set to work.

Longtime actors, directors, and producers both of them, these two recognized that our region had the talent and embrace of counterculture to sustain an event like this. And we have.

We are NF, enough, to keep what filmmaker Luis Buñuel calls the "essential margin of nonconformity" alive, here.

Contact Alicia Vandevorst at aliciavandecorst@gmail.com