Binge the Fringe: Nugget Fringe Theater Festival provides two weekends of experimental fun | TheUnion.com

Binge the Fringe: Nugget Fringe Theater Festival provides two weekends of experimental fun

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Special to Prospector

The Nugget Fringe Theater Festival returns to Grass Valley next week, Jan. 17 to 20, and again, Jan. 24 to 27.

This year the festival features 80 performances of nearly 30 original works, covering a variety of topics from a "rollicking Volkswagen ride through 1970s San Francisco underground" to a one-way boat ride on the "HMS Euthanasia," to the world premiere of a stand-up comedians' national tour, to audience driven improvisational burlesque, storytelling, drama, and just about everything in between. When it comes to what to expect from the Nugget Fringe Festival, the sky really is the limit.

According to Quest Theater Works co-founder Scott Ewing, who produces the Nugget Festival, the first fringe festival took place in 1947 in Edinburgh, Scotland when theatre leaders decided to hold an international theater festival and invited professional companies from around the world to participate. This caused a bit of an uprising of locals who decided to hold a festival of their own on the "fringe" of that jubilee, and let anyone who wanted to be involved perform.

"There was no 'gatekeeper,' which allowed artists to bring original works with low barriers to perform," Ewing said. "Literally. You paid your entry fees to do whatever art you wanted, there was no one to say yes or no to you and you reaped the rewards."

Today, that philosophy is brought to life all over the world, in the form of "fringe festivals."

After Quest brought the European premiere of "Gidion's Knot" to Edinburgh's Festival (which now runs over 25 days with more than 3,500 different shows) in 2014, they decided to produce their own fringe festival for Northern California audiences.

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"We thought we could create a time when the public could take a low-cost risk on art that was not the usual fare," Ewing explained. "It's all from the edges which is where innovation happens.

"We bring artists from all over the world to our little town. In four years, we became the largest rural fringe festival in North America. It may sound funny, but it is also saying a lot because there about 50 fringe festivals in North America".

While Ewing is careful not to recommend specific performances, he said there are several he is excited about.

The first is a show Ewing wrote called "Red Bar," a story about a group of serial killers on the loose who meet at a bar socially to find classes and mechanisms to help them stop – or support, if they want to continue.

"It does not condone serial killing by any means," he said, "but is a piece that does ask the question, 'Where lie the limits of your compassion?' So it is a very thought provoking, very in your face piece of theater."

One artist is using the Nugget Fringe Festival to kick off what will be a national tour. "Clownfish" is written by Nevada County native Trevor Wade who returned home after five years performing improvisational theatre and comedy in New York.

"I started writing this piece ten years ago, when I began to understand that I didn't exactly fit in any of the boxes the 'nice people' had set down for me," Wade said. "Never manly enough to feel like a man but too boyish to be a proper girl, twirling in a hormonal maelstrom yet hopelessly romantic, I was, to say the least, confused.

"So in a fit of frustration I started writing a comedy show. It's funny, it tugs a heartstring, it's glam as heck and it rhymes."

Following the festival, Wade will be performing the show across America.

"I'm proud of this show," he said. "If you've ever felt like you didn't fit in the boxes, if your option was not listed on the drop-down menu, if you want to learn more about this national conversation we're having about gender, if you know what all the letters in LGBTQIA stand for, if you had no idea we were up to that many letters, if you're open to a new point of view, if you want to trick a bigot, if you're looking for a unicorn, come see this show. I promise not to disappoint you."

Other performances not to be missed include Sarah Kennedy's return of " Vagina Odyssey" which she premiered at last year's Nugget Fringe Festival and then took to the Solo Festival in New York.

"Solo performers from all over the world submit or are contacted," explained Ewing of the New York festival. "You get one night, and if you sell out, you get a second night. It's very difficult to get an audience because there are so many solo performers from around the world."

After performing "An Evening with Death, Herself" at the first Nugget Fringe Festival, Douglas Truth also was accepted at the Solo Festival in New York. He returns to Nugget with a new show, "2024: My 5-year plan and what it failed" which promises to be entertaining.

This year the Nugget Festival takes place in five different venues and a recreational vehicle. Ewing says the RV holds up to six audience members and will serve as the setting for "Séance with Strangely" and "Dandelion: Garden of Musical Delights."

Ewing added, "Fringe is a lot of fun. It is great for audiences and artists alike. You can see a real live person who, chances are, wrote the material and are viscerally invested in presenting it to you. We get people seeing things that challenge them, seeing things that make them laugh and give opportunity to artists that can be life changing. We encourage people to binge the fringe."

KNOW & GO

WHAT: Quest Theater Works presents The 5th Annual Nugget Fringe Theater Festival

WHERE: Five venues (and a van) in Grass Valley at The Holbrooke Hotel, Courtyard Suites and Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains

WHEN: January 17-20 and January 24-27

TICKETS: $3.00 for a festival admission button (good for the entire festival) and then pay individually for each performance. For a complete list of performances and to buy tickets visit http://www.nuggetfringe.com. Programs available at The Holbrooke and Courtyard Suites.

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