"This is incredible! It's a Disneyland for theater people — with whiskey!'’ says Maryann Green, describing her first fringe theatre experience. It was the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest in the world.
Festival organizers had hoped to lure Green and her Rincon/University High theater students to the American High School Theater Festival portion of their month-long, 300-venue event the following year. That trip never happened, but Green’s first taste of fringe gave her the vision that now drives the eighth Tucson Fringe Theatre Festival, Jan. 11-14. Details are at tucsonfringe.org. The festival pass is $3; each show is $10.
Twenty-one artists each will perform one to three shows, and most are comical, Green says. “A lot of fringe artists are solo performers. I think it's hard to sell somebody on an hour of one person's tragedy, although for a good third of the artists that's their show. Most of them are very high-energy onstage. Almost all (the shows) are autobiographical, or semi-autobiographical, but there’s a story arc, and they’re very scripted.”
Two crowd favorites from prior Tucson Fringe events make a triumphant return. Beloved for his The Gay Uncle Explains It All To You, which filled the chairs for his Club Congress shows last year, Jeffrey Robert introduces The Gay Uncle’s Journey Through The Valley Of The Dolls. The set uses Jaqueline Susann’s hit novel as a launchpad for connecting a constellation of pop culture icons.
Catfish Baruni, harvested, via slideshows, the comic potential of a Mark Twain story about beef contracts and a catalog of European fairy tales in prior fringe outings. He’s lately plying his fascinatingly distorted worldview in partnership with fellow nerd Natalia Storie. When the pair started a busking enterprise to raise money, the result was Nickels and Dimes, a duo show which, we are told, may have won fictional awards at other fests.
Young parents, and anyone considering parenthood, might want to check out Tucson’s first foray into a common fringe fest format: Bring Your Own Venue. Feces on-da Face, by San Diego Playwright Joe Udall, features new parents in an Airbnb, where their notions about gender identification, relationships and roles play out over a hiking vacation with their seven-month-old daughter. The venue is their guest room at Elysian Grove Market.
We also like Confessions of a Delinquent Cheerleader, from St. Paul, Minnesota; Abeyance, an all-pantomime show by UA theater student Tyler West; and Audra Bachera’s A Glorious Day for Mrs. Sissy Fiz.