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The 2011 New Orleans Fringe Festival 

Will Coviello previews some of the oddities and marvels of this year's Fringe Fest

click to enlarge Domestic Variations is an aerialist/dance piece about home spaces and femininity by Seattle-based Ticktock Dance.
  • Domestic Variations is an aerialist/dance piece about home spaces and femininity by Seattle-based Ticktock Dance.

The city's largest alternative theater event, the New Orleans Fringe Festival presents plenty of thought-provoking work. But it really got some other theater people thinking last year. Half of the shows in the 2010 festival were admitted in the Bring Your Own Venue (BYOV) portion, in which performers arranged for their own venues and applied to be included in the festival as an independent show rather than going through the juried selection process to gain a spot in one of the Fringe-managed venues. Several people saw the opportunity to apply to the 2011 event with not just an independent show but a miniature festival within the festival.

  "I saw like 15 shows last year," says Gregory Gajus. "And I said, 'Hey, this is great, but I'd like to see more queer-themed content.'"

  Gajus is clearing space in his Asian art gallery Deity Arts of the Extreme Orient and presenting three shows from San Francisco in this year's Fringe. Mudlark Public Theatre was ahead of the curve last year and again hosts the resident puppet theater troupe's show as well as two visiting shows that incorporate puppetry. At Michalopoulos' Studio, Artist Inc. presents its own contemporary cabaret show UnRoute as well as shows by other dance- and physical theater-oriented groups.

  Fringe organizers welcomed the growth of the packaged BYOV shows.

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  "We create a structure," says Fringe director and co-founder Kristen Evans. "We love it when people both fill it and take it in new directions."

  Organizers actually shrunk the number of jury-selected shows, hoping to pick fewer shows and offer an extra performance of each during the festival's five days. The BYOV portion expanded considerably, however, so the festival grew by 10 shows to a total of 70 at 34 venues.

  In its fourth year, the Fringe presents its usual broad array of alternative theater, dance, comedy, burlesque, performance art, puppetry, spoken word, music, circus and freakshow acts and all sorts of genre mash-ups. There are both local performers and groups from Portland, Ore., to Brooklyn and Baltimore. Shows at seven Fringe-managed venues were jury selected and one was admitted by lottery from the pool of remaining applicants. (Some fringe festivals select significant numbers of participants by lottery.)

  Other Fringe events include the Goodchildren Social Aid & Pleasure Club parade (2 p.m. Sat.), and there is an afternoon of kid-friendly activities at the festival's Fringe Tent headquarters (corner of Press and Dauphine streets) from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. There also are after parties each night. See the festival website for a complete schedule and breakdown of shows by category (ie. puppet, circus, with nudity, kid-friendly, etc.).

  Gauging future growth is simple, Evans says.

  "It's up to audiences," Evans says. "If they fill seats and want it, [the festival] is going to keep growing."

Below are previews of some of the shows included in the festival.

'33

7 p.m. Wed., 9 p.m. Fri., 5 p.m. Sat., 11 p.m. Sun., Shadowbox Theatre (2400 St. Claude Ave.)

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Jazz singer Bremner Duthie singlehandedly invokes a cabaret from the strangely creative and socially permissive period of experimental theater and performance in Weimar Berlin in 1933. The rise of Nazism unsettles the bohemian enclaves of cabarets, and Duthie's characters weigh the making of art and war.

(Bride of Black Lake photo)

The Bride of Black Lake

9 p.m. Wed., 11 p.m. Thu., 7 p.m. Fri., 5 p.m. & 7 p.m. Sat., 3 p.m. & 11 p.m. Sun.; Mudlark Public Theatre (1200 Port St.)

The Mudlark Puppeteers present an original work based on the Jewish folktale of a dead bride returning to the world as a spirit (also adopted by Tim Burton for the more whimsical Corpse Bride). Set in Russia in the 1880s against the backdrop of anti-semitic pogroms, Lida drowns before her wedding and is tempted by a supernatural bargain to rejoin her betrothed.

Button Wagon

7 p.m. Thu., 9 p.m. Fri., 5 p.m. Sat., 11 p.m. Sun.; Mardi Gras Zone (2706 Royal St.)

The New Mexico-based duo of Ember Bria and Poki look like scruffy mimes, and they present an offbeat combination of clowning, contortionist poses, object illusion and circus arts (pictured on page 39).

Domestic Variations

7 p.m. Thu., 9 p.m. Fri., 11 p.m. Sat., 9 p.m. Sun.; Den of Muses (Architect Street)

A Seattle-based trio of dancer-aerialists perform an often high-flying piece examining the meaning of home — exploring how domestic space and ritual shape gender roles, relationships, dreams and identity.

ee me and pollock thee

7 p.m. Thu., 9 p.m. Fri., 11 p.m. Sat., 7 p.m. Sun.; Marigny Opera House (725 Ferdinand St.)

Local musician Jonathan Freilich and playwright Adam Falik present an opera about the relationship between poet E.E. Cummings and painter Jackson Pollack. Performed to live music, the piece explores art, inspiration and obsession.

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(Fauxnique photo)

Faux Real

7 p.m. Wed.-Sun.; Deity Arts (830 N. Rampart St.)

Popular San Francisco performance artist/dancer Monique Jenkinson transforms into drag queen alter ego Fauxnique in this one-woman show exploring the link between female gender issues and the male-dominated world of drag. Fauxnique reflects on gender, ballerina fantasies, beauty secrets, gay prom dates and more. It's one of three queer-themed shows at Deity Arts.

Hip-Hop is Alive

9 p.m. Wed., 11 p.m. Fri., 7 p.m. Sat., 5 p.m. Sun.; Cafe Istanbul (New Orleans Healing Center, 2372 St. Claude Ave.)

Hip Hop is Alive explores music and culture with a narrative incorporating hip-hop lyrics in choreographed vignettes.

(La Concierge photo)

La Concierge Solitaire

11 p.m. Wed.-Sun. & 3 p.m. Sat.; Southern Rep (The Shops at Canal Place, 365 Canal St., third floor)

Cecile Monteyne stars in this one-woman drama. A lonely hotel concierge passes the time by animating hotel guests and their stories.

(Shutup photo)

Shut Up, You're Fat

9 p.m. Thu.-Fri., 5 p.m. Sat., 7 p.m. Sun.; Shaolin-Do Martial Arts Studio (4120 St. Claude Ave.)

Nancy Hartman's mostly one-person, nonpolitically correct, often confessional comedy of travelogues recounts everything from her days performing with Penn and Teller at renaissance fairs to humiliating experiences in show business to the pitfalls of watching children's theater. Inspired by John Waters' scratch and sniff film Polyester, there is a smell to go with every vignette and lucky audience members can partake of the multi-sensory show.

UnRoute

9 p.m. Thu., 9 p.m. Sat.; Michalopoulos Studio (527 Elysian Fields Ave.)

Reese Johanson's Artist Inc. organized a 90-minute contemporary cabaret showcase with three of its dance/physical theater pieces plus short works by other performers visiting Fringe with other full shows. Chair is a solo piece about obsessions, people and things that are ultimately as toxic they are as desirable.

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