Lovers of innovative and off-kilter fare can check out the latest crop of offerings when the Fort Lauderdale Fringe Festival – South Florida’s only such live and uncensored theater event – returns for its third season.
Hosted by Broward College, the festival runs Thursday through Sunday and will bring a variety of performances, appealing to audiences of all ages (and some for adults only) at various venues throughout the city.
“Fringe festivals from their inception have always been oriented towards art that isn’t mainstream, either in content, style or both,” says Bradley Beckman, the festival’s artistic director.
And one will even take place in a van.
“That’s Madame Peevira’s “Scaravan,” which is led by a drag performer, a“sort of a scary Brittany Spears wearing a Madonna bustier who “drives around downtown, encouraging the audience to sing along for the 30 minutes to killer 1990s hits,” says Beckman.“I would say that show is the epitome of fringe – taking pop culture and turning it on its head in a terribly unconventional fashion,” he adds.
Fringe festivals got their start 70 years ago in Edinburgh, Scotland, during the international theater festival. Artists upset about being left out of the curated event took it upon themselves to set up shop on the literal “fringe” of the festival and put on shows anyway.
Today, the Edinburgh Festival hosts over 3,000 shows, and the concept has spread throughout the world, in Europe, North America, Australia and Asia.
In Florida, as of next month, there will be three. The oldest was established in Orlando 26 years ago, and the newest, the Tampa International Fringe Festival, a three-day event, is set to debut on May 11 in that city.
“There’s a fringe festival circuit in Canada, but in the lower 48, that notion isn’t as strong because the cities are further apart. But we try not to step on each other’s dates so people can work several fringes,” notes Beckman.
They are also a boon to performers, especially those that don’t have regular performing venues, notes Beckman. Fringe festivals are generally unjuried, and the performers get to keep 100 percent of their show’s ticket sales.
Among the performers at this year’s festival will be writer/performer Neil David Seibel, who will be performing his one-man show, “The Normal Giant,” which is a piece about a race of giants – and others – living outside a town dubbed “Normal, Ohio.”
“I play all the normal people and the giants. All the characters talk through media instead of to each other, by texting, or telephone, or on television, for instance, and the whole thing is lit by a power point presentation. So it’s really kind of fun, and it’s also a commentary on how our modern world communicates and edits itself,” says Seibel.
“Early on in my career there were dry spells so I started doing solo performance, and doing theater festivals and fringe festivals to take care of my creative side until I got to be an actor again,” he says." Fringy work’ doesn’t fit the mode of what we think of as commercially viable theater. It’s not in the mode of ‘hey, this is our season, which we decided on last year.’ You get a much more diverse spectrum of theater, dance and spoken word in a fringe festival than in the traditional model of dramatic literature and produced theater,” he says, and adds, “And another thing I love about fringe theater is that you see some fantastic things that are crazy, and it’s all wonderful.”
The “Fort Lauderdale Fringe Festival” runs Thursday, April 20 to Sunday, April 23 at multiple venues in Fort Lauderdale. Admission is $42 for a weekend pass, $27 for a day pass and $5-$10 for individual performances. Call 954 201-6306 or go to www.fortlauderdalefringe.com for more information.