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The Nugget Fringe Festival showcases noncommercial arts

Paul Micsan performs "Eh, Joe?" at Off Center Stage in Grass Valley during The Nugget Fringe Festival Sunday afternoon.
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

The Grass Valley Love Yoga Well studio was graced by some special clients Sunday morning, and the usually “zen” atmosphere was filled with boisterous laughter.

What took place at the studio on Sunday was not a gathering of intimate friends, but a stand-up comedy entitled “G”ood Humor, starring Barry Stukin, a performer in the second annual Nugget Fringe Festival, which runs from Jan. 21 to Jan. 31 and takes place in different venues in Grass Valley.

“This is what I like to call theater for all hair-colors,” said Scott Ewing, artistic director of Quest TheaterWorks, a nonprofit theater company that organizes the show. According to Ewing, the festival is part of a theatrical movement that allows audiences to see the “noncommercial, zany, off-the-wall” acts, which are usually not showcased at bigger theaters.



“There are shows that either would not sustain a full run at Nevada Theater, or are staged differently,” said Ewing.

Part of the idea is also to build an intimate setting so the audience could become a part of the performance.




Stukin, who has returned to perform a stand-up comedy in the festival for the second time, said one of the reasons he participated was the smaller audience make-up. This allows him to bounce ideas off the audience.

“It’s an opportunity to see if what I say is effective, and in this case funny, and the only way to find out is to do it in front of people,” said Stukin. “The Fringe Festival is an incredible opportunity to do that as well as many other acts.”

Stukin employed the help of his friends, Damiian Lang and Kathleen Ames, in several live improv sketches.

During an act, the actors lined up to play a “three-headed” Buddha as audience members seek spiritual advices from “the enlightened one”.

“When you have a full room of people, it could be inhabiting, and people are more afraid to speak up,” said Angela Lang, an audience member who has come to see the festival for the second time. “If it’s smaller, you have the opportunity to interact with the people. This is just a great way to be entertained.”

Ben Hedenland, a viewer who also volunteers at the festival, shared her sentiment.

“It’s a great chance for everyone who has any idea of something they want to do to just be able to do it,” said Hedenland. “It’s a great opportunity”

“They are not on the headphone, they don’t have virtual reality masks, there is a risk and a tantalization to a live audience,” said Lang, who writes and acts in “How to Make Love in Traffic,” another act that will be showcased during the Fringe Festival.

Ewing has his own interpretation.

“It makes it so the audience can’t escape,” he said with a smile. “What is great in the theater, you turn the light down and you became anonymous. In this setting, you are a fly on the wall, everybody can see you.”

Unlike in an ordinary theater, actors in the show are essentially in a competition against each other because of the great number of performances that are slated to take place over 10 days. Ewing said they have already put 37 shows behind them.

But Damiian Lang said the tight schedule allows the actors to experience different forms of art without worrying about the audience turnout.

“It’s like Star Trek, you are exploring vast new territories of performance,” he laughed.

Ewing said though he has yet to tally up the tickets sales, but the festival is going strong.

“The attendance has been better than expected,” said Ewing.

According to him, the number of participants and acts at the second Nugget Fringe Festival is two fold the number at its debut.

There are 13 different titles with 82 performances in 2014, the first year the festival kicked off. Now the festival attracts 31 performers who put together 115 acts.

As the festival plots into the second week of the show, Ewing said he would like to see more residents take the chance to explore the different shows the festival has to offer.

“We would like to get the non-theater going crowd out here,” Ewing said. “My guess is they might not know what theater is, but we have theater for everyone.”

To contact Staff Writer Teresa Yinmeng Liu, please call 530-477-4236, or email tliu@theunion.com


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