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The New Orleans Fringe Festival Pushes boundaries 

In just its third year, the New Orleans Fringe has a reputation among its alternative theater festival peers.

  "We're the fringiest," says founder and organizer Kristen Evans.

  That's both an odd and fitting superlative for the diverse array of shows under the fringe concept's big tent. The New Orleans Fringe includes 60 shows at venues all over town from Thursday through Sunday, and there are parties, a parade and other events as well. There's everything from clowning to performance art, comedy to dance, kids activities to mature subject material. Visit for a full schedule.

  Evans attributes the fringe-circuit buzz to a handful of things, like the New Orleans' festival's indulgence of nontraditional venues, including a deconsecrated church, converted warehouse spaces and the Den of Muses (actually home to Krewe du Vieux), a particularly suitable arena for circus arts and freak show acts. Other distinct elements of the local fringe include its Bywater neighborhood character — four of the six official venues are within blocks of the Fringe Tent (corner of Press and Dauphine streets) headquarters and the adjoining box office. The festival operates on a shoestring budget, relying on volunteer staff and donated materials. But there also are free drinks at some events.

  "You don't have that in other places," Evans says. "The currency isn't always money. Sometimes it's good will. Word has gotten out that the New Orleans Fringe is really fun."

  It's certainly not $8 ticket prices that draw performers from as far away as Ireland, Switzerland and Italy. But a large increase in applications for festival slots suggests many individual and group performers want to make the trip. A total of 160 applications were filed for 30 official slots, up from 108 for the 2009 festival. In addition to the official shows, there are another 30 at "Bring Your Own Venue" (BYOV) sites, which range from the mini-fringe cluster of puppet theater shows at the Mudlark Public Theater to more conventional theater at Southern Rep to a roving truck that will park and open up the back to reveal a performance space.

  A panel of a dozen local artists reviewed applications and looked for both quality and "fringiness," some boundary-pushing or category-blurring element that makes work different from traditional theater. The result is a mix of shows incorporating comedy, circus skills, freak stunts, aerialists, music, dance, performance art, spoken word, social advocacy and more. Some shows are more familiar in form but broach taboo subjects.

  The New Orleans Fringe has a parade and activities for children. The Goodchildren Social Aid & Pleasure Club parade (2 p.m. Saturday) is a bohemian assembly of Carnival marching clubs, pirate groups and others. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, there are arts and crafts and performance activities for kids at the Fringe tent. Many festival shows feature mature material, but a few are particularly kid-friendly, including environmentalist/circus/monster show Revenge From the Deep Water, European bicycle clown show Duo Roccoco, All Aboard and Next Time the Neatline.

  Other performances range from the Southern-fried Chinese poetry adaptation Du Fu, Mississippi, questionable accounts by New York writers and comedians in The Liar Show, the exploration of the other side of Faust's bargain in The Tale of Mephisto and the New Orleans-set rock opera The Lead Paint Libretto.

New Orleans Fringe Highlights

Below are previews of some of the 60 Fringe shows, including 30 jury selected shows and 30 alternative venue shows. Visit for a complete schedule.

Burying Barbie

7 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday

The Elm Theatre, 220 Julia St.

  In this dark and comic treatise on normal and abnormal childhood behavior and a societal icon, 7-year-old Rachel (Becca Chapman) fantasizes about a myriad of ways to kill her dolls. The show is not for children.

Du Fu, Mississippi

7 p.m. Wednesday, 9 p.m. Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday

Party World, 3621 St. Claude Ave.

  A group of neighbors in a small town in Mississippi chew the fat and share some wisdom and a few songs. The text is taken from translations of work by the 8th century Chinese poet Du Fu, who wrote about the beauty and hardships of life, raising children, drinking, floods, poverty and war. The show was created by Brendan Connelly and ArtSpot Productions member Lisa D'Amour.

Duo Roccoco

9 p.m. Thursday, 11 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

NOLA Candle Factory, 4537 N. Robertson St.

  Brazilian-born former New Orleanian and current resident of Switzerland, Jessica Arpin is an accomplished circus arts and theater performer who has performed in streets and theaters around the world. Here she works with Italian magician Luca Regina in a bicycle clown act that's fun for all ages.

For Kingdom and Fatherland

7 p.m. Thursday, 9 p.m. Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday

AllWays Lounge, 2240 St. Claude Ave.

  Standup comedy may not seem Fringy, but Shabana Rehman's career has been anything but typical. A native of Pakistan, she moved to Norway with her family as a child and started performing in Oslo in 1999. She has found a way to joke about death threats, which she has received, and aspects of fundamentalist Islamic cultures that are oppressive to women. If there's ever a Nobel Prize for caustic jokes about child brides, she'll probably win it.

Hunters Blind

9 p.m. Wednesday, 11 p.m. Thursday, 7 p.m. Friday, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. Sunday

Mudlark Public Theatre, 1200 Port St.

  Little Red Riding Hood meets legendary French knight (who fought alongside Joan of Arc) and notorious child murderer Gilles De Rais in this rod puppet show. When children start to disappear from her village, young Netta sets out into the forest to confront the menace. Pandora Gastelum and Amanda Stone wrote the story and original score for the dark fairy tale, featuring 17 large bunraku-style rod puppets and shadow puppetry.

I Invented Side Show

9 p.m. Wednesday, 11 p.m. Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday

Den of Muses, Architect Street at Port Street

  Los Angeles-based FreakShow Deluxe is not for the faint of heart. It's a mix of S&M chic and old school geek stunts with knives, nails, whips, broken glass, open flame, sword swallowing, chainsaws and more.

The Lead Paint Libretto

9 p.m. Thursday, 11 p.m. Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday

Den of Muses, Architect Street at Port Street

  Sort of a mix between Hedwig and the Angry Inch and The China Syndrome, The Lead Paint Libretto is a rock opera centered on the tragedy of lead poisoning, a scourge dating back to the Roman Empire. Giovanni is a New Orleans handyman who takes pride in scraping old paint off homes before painting anew, but perhaps his industriousness is sowing the seeds of decline.


  The creation of puppeteer Nina C. Nichols and Case Miller, the show combines a rock score, Tyvek suit-clad dancers, power tools, puppets, absurdist melodrama and environmental consciousness.

The Liar Show

9 p.m. Thursday, 7 p.m. Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday

Skull Club, 1003 N. Spain St.

  The TV show Naked City told viewers there are 8 million stories in the city, and The Liar Show creators know that some of them are totally fabricated. A group of 25 New York news media and entertainment writers participate in this changing show, in which several performers tell fabulously strange but true stories and one offers up a fiction. Audience members then interrogate the storytellers for more information in an effort to identify the false one. Each show at the Fringe will feature different stories. The performers include organizer Andy Christie, Faye Lane, Martin Dockery, Leslie Goshko and Ophira Eisenberg.

Order of the Wolf

7 p.m. Wednesday, 9 p.m. Thursday, 11 p.m. Friday, 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. Sunday

Mudlark Public Theatre, 1200 Port St.

  Portland, Ore.'s Night Shade presents shadow puppet shows on large screens, and the use of multiple handheld lights allows them to create illusions of depth and complex movement. The group has even teamed with punk rockers Japanther in concerts using screens to create what look like shadow puppet music videos. Order of the Wolf is a dark mythical tale of obsession, the occult and a boy's quest to save his father's soul.

Revenge From the Deep Water

7 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, 11 p.m. Sunday

Den of Muses, Architect Street at Port Street

  This mash-up of theater, aerialists and circus arts recasts the Godzilla tale on the bayou. A hurricane damages a coastal town, destroys its oil refinery and washes a massive egg onshore. A reporter and photographer investigate as a monster is wakened from the deep and the city tries to figure out what course to take while rebuilding. The show is kid-friendly.

The Tale of Mephisto

7 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday, 11 p.m. Sunday

Trinity Church, 725 St. Ferdinand St.

  While directing The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus in Los Angeles in 2008, Tulane University theater professor Antony Sandoval became intrigued by the character of Mephistopheles and what he did when he wasn't pursuing Faust's soul. The devil incarnate is often depicted as an angry old man seeking others' ruin, but Sandoval wanted to explore the character as more of a seducer or charmer, seen less in Christian overtones — and maybe not even a man? The Tale of Mephisto is a one-woman show performed by Natsumi Sugiyama, exploring her nature as more than the other half of Faust's bargain. The performance incorporates masks, puppets, dance and elements of comedy and satire.

The Trail of Tears

9 p.m. Wednesday, 7 p.m. Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday

Trinity Church, 725 St. Ferdinand St.

  Alabama's Bearinglight Butoh Dance Theatre tells the story of the U.S. government's forced migration of Native Americans from Southern states to Oklahoma in the 1830s. Butoh is a modern Japanese dance form typically featuring performers in ghostly white body paint and slow and contorted movement. Deborah Mauldin, a past president of the American Dance Guild, and Ashley Muth use Botoh, mime and improvisation to explore the suffering and rebirth of Native American culture.


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