Being On the Fringe
An interview with New Orleans Fringe Festival Executive Director Kristen Evans
Craig Mulcahy Photographs
Even in a city that seems to exist entirely on the fringe, the New Orleans Fringe Festival (Nov. 19-23) always brings refreshing, challenging works of theater. Works can be “fringey” in terms subject matter, the medium or the venue – you might find yourself watching a one-woman aerial play in a backyard. There are also kid-friendly offerings and free shows infused with an experimental spirit. Fringe co-founder and executive director Kristen Evans talks about this year’s fest.
What is new with Fringe this year? Of course it’s all new shows … more shows than we ever had before: 82 shows from all over the U.S. and Canada, with 40 local performing groups. There are lots of great circus arts performances, also puppetry and some great shows incorporating classic themes with new twists – like Shakespeare, gods messing with people.
Another new thing is the Fringe procession of the personal saint Saturday at the Festival. In past years we’ve had a parade, but this is a whole new thing. We invited people to imagine, “Who’s your personal saint?” – it could be Saint Omar at the corner grocery store – and make an image of that saint and bring it out to the procession to celebrate.
What are your family-friendly offerings? At the Old Ironworks there’s going to be Garden Variety Show, a puppet show done by Gabriel Quirk. He’s best known as the artist of those light-up shoes and butterflies at the beginning of Muses. It’s a one-man show where he plays the garden and all the things growing in it. It’s kid friendly with multiple layers – adults will get some of the deeper layers and kids will love what he does with puppetry.
A big thing we emphasize is inclusion, and that involves kids. Family Fringe Weekend is the Saturday and Sunday of the festival from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and is completely free and entirely geared towards kids.
Fringe Fest has grown so much. To you, what does “fringe” mean? That’s the big question, right? I think everyone has their own interpretation. We’ve grown in numbers – I’d say we’ve grown incrementally. We’re going from 76 shows to 82 this year. It’s a healthy, organic growth. We’re providing a platform for people. It’s up to artists to bring to table what fringe is, and the meaning of what is “fringey” is constantly evolving. We like to allow people to come to their own definition and conclusions about it, and for local artists to get to mix with artists from all over and innovate and come up with their own ideas.
People should spend a little time looking at the shows on our website and take some time to see something they haven’t seen before. That’s what we want to encourage people to do. Tickets are $8, and shows are all an hour or less. There’s not a lot of risk in time or money, but you can take a risk in seeing something you won’t see normally.
For more information on New Orleans Fringe Festival, visit NOFringe.org.