Where artists own the stage: The Summer Nugget Fringe Festival returns to the Holbrooke Hotel in Grass Valley | TheUnion.com

Where artists own the stage: The Summer Nugget Fringe Festival returns to the Holbrooke Hotel in Grass Valley

Katrina Paz
Special to Prospector

It may be called the "Itsy Bitsy Teensy Weensy Down and Dirty Summer Nugget Fringe Festival," but this weekend's lineup of fringe performances has a big impact for the local artists' community and performers everywhere.

Fringe Festivals consist of a variety of stand-alone performances, created, written and designed by the artists themselves. They vary in time (35 to 80 minutes) and range from one-person plays and dialogues to improv and immersive storytelling. There is no jurying or selection of those that take part in Fringe Festivals, giving them complete freedom with their performance.

From Highlands to High Sierra

The gatherings began in Edinburgh in the '50s as a backlash to larger theater festivals that did not invite or select certain artists to take part. Fringe Festivals, which have been described as grassroots, cutting edge, experimental and indie, can now be found all over the world.

According to Nugget founder and organizer Scott Ewing, the events showcase new, cutting edge, wild and obscure works of art.

"It's the future," Ewing said. "Picking something because it's better than something else is not how we get to the future."

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Ewing will be among those featured this weekend. He's participated in every Nugget Fringe Festival to date and took part in the renowned Edinburgh festival seven times.

He and his wife Lois are lifelong theater professionals who moved to Grass Valley nearly a decade ago. They thought the area's vibrant art scene was the ideal location for a Fringe Festival. They wanted to give the plethora of performing artists who live here an opportunity to showcase works that inspire them. Now artists come from all over the nation to take part.

Douglass Truth says this (Fringe) festival is one of the best run and most fun shows he takes part in. He adds that the festival platform is the main way he's developed his shows.

"There's nothing like them, or even close, in terms of getting interested audiences to see your stuff," Truth said. "The opportunity to do six or seven shows in a row is both exhilarating and of unspeakable benefit in developing both the material and one's stage skills."

The original and more expansive Nugget Fringe Festival started a few years ago and takes place in January, featuring 35 to 40 acts with more than 140 performances in seven small venues.

According to Ewing, the first year was a huge success and caught on like wildfire. Today it's the largest rural festival of its kind in North America. The mini summer version (or Itsy Bitsy Teensy Weensy) was introduced last year to keep the eclectic showcase top of mind.

"We like to let them know we're still kicking," Ewing said.

The stage

This weekend the Holbrooke is the stage for 14 live performances. Guests can come out and meet the artists Friday evening at 5 p.m. at the Holbrooke. The reception gives potential audience members the opportunity to get to know the performers and purchase tickets while the artists can in turn promote their own show.

All tickets are $12 ($18 for "Broken Bone Bathtub") and all proceeds go directly to the performers. The unique direct sales not only gives artists complete freedom in their work, but also allows them to further promote and build their performances.

"It is the opportunity to do your art on your own terms, which is a chance few are given, so this festival is your chance to just take it," Jaye Lee Vocque said, who's performed at the Nugget and Fringe Festivals in San Francisco and Orlando.

Born and raised in Lodi, Vocque feels that it's important to show that love and passion for the arts doesn't stop at the big city limits. Fringe artists are seeing notable success to stimulate arts in smaller communities.

New festivals pop up around the world every year. Placerville launched theirs, coined the Apple Core, last year. The next closest one is in San Francisco.

And while small town artists want to share some of the spotlight with bigger cities, they still thrive off the intimate nature of art, an intimacy the Nugget Festival fosters.

Siobhan O'Loughlin, who will be performing at the Nugget for the first time, said intimacy is how she operates creatively. Her "tiny performance for very small audiences" will shed light on the healing from physical and emotional trauma.

Katrina Paz is a freelance writer for Prospector and is a resident of Grass Valley.


WHAT: Itsy Bitsy Teensy Weensy Down and Dirty Summer Nugget Fringe Festival

WHEN: Friday through Sunday, July 27-29

WHERE: Holbrooke Hotel, Grass Valley

TICKETS: Tickets are $12 per performance ($18 for Broken Bone Bathtub). Tickets are available at the artist reception at 5 p.m. Friday, July 27, or online.

INFO: Visit http://www.NuggetFringe.com for more information

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