Affordable prices, no holds barred subject treatment and engaged audiences
By Mukul Khurana
If you were asked to describe what Fringe Festival was about, you might say that it’s an art festival that fosters genres as diverse as dance, drama, comedy, music, buskers and more. With a strong focus on artists, creativity, and community, the San Diego International Fringe Festival is a progressive undertaking (and as the name states, it has an international scope). But you would be missing the point.
On the opening day of the 2015 San Diego International Fringe Festival (SDIFF) on Thursday the 23rd of July, you would have witnessed the return of the 2014 SDIFF award winner Jack Lukeman. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, Luke would have seduced you with his smooth accent and beautiful music. He presented Phantasmagoria as songs of “wickedness and wonder.”
Then, you would have been immersed in the fast evolving world of Burlesque—in this case, Sizzling Circus Sirens (presented by Circus Mafia). Literally, a cross between the acrobatics and juggling of the circus world and the sensual world of Burlesque, this San Diego group would have thrilled you with an act (among many others) involving a male dancer and multiple plungers. Yes, there was nudity—both male and female. Tito, who moderated the show didn’t hold anything back. His language was raunchy and salty—but very funny. If you are easily offended, this might not be the show for you. But if you are looking for talented entertainers, this was the place to be.
This brings us to another aspect of Fringe Festival ideology—there is no censorship and there are no commercial constraints. This is as close as you can get to total artistic freedom. The freedom extends to a one hour dance/movement/meditation on a woman and a wheelchair. Thoughts such as the nature of disability, the relationship with the wheelchair, the role of movement, the idea of needs—they are all explored in Y tú qué!? (What about you?).
Common to all artists was the need to engage and not allow the audience to consume passively. Jack Lukeman didn’t just sing and play instruments. He made it a point to involve the audience (be it only by humming). This man could have been a Bono-like figure in U2. Instead, he played to an intimate crowd in a solo performance/busker style. And that was the first day. With 25+ shows on weekdays and double that number on weekend days, the only question that remains is: What will you see?
The events are priced so as to be affordable for everyone. The prices range from zero (nada) to $10 and that’s quite a bargain for a lot of these shows. Even if you made a bad choice, you could chalk it up to “supporting the arts/artists.” And you have 11 days to gobble it all up.
The second day, you would have been able to see The Hustle, a Las Vegas style magic show with a twist—while doing the magic tricks, you would have had Lion explain hustling tricks to you. In other words, Lion would be hustling you while explaining the tricks of the trade. Not bad for the price of entrance to one show.
And then, for something stunningly different, Danzarts presenting Espacios Españoles from our own pretty little town by the sea would have mesmerized you with Flamenco of the highest order. This sold out concert only showed once. The creative works by Patricia Casey and choreographed by Oscar Valero were well received and greatly appreciated by fans of the dance genre.
The Golden Age of Burlesque would have taken you down a totally different path. This San Diego based group known as the “Drop Dead Dames” obviously knew what they were doing. The crowd sat transfixed and watched the sensual routines with great enthusiasm. While not as acrobatic as the Sizzling Circus Sirens, this burlesque show was closer to the fare of yesteryear.
All the talk of dance and burlesque might have left comedy fans upset. But there is something for everyone at the Fringe Festival. From Ottawa, Canada, Jonathan Baum presented his show, My Impaired Moral Compass. If you like your comedy shows censored and overly PC, you might want to skip this one. On the other hand, if intelligent humor from our Northern neighbor appeals to you, don’t miss the chance to catch this act. Based on the premise that a career move from accountant to stand-up comic is a bad idea, Jonathan then proceeded to dissect the weirdness of the work world. He has a book by the same name that deals with similar matter. It is worth a read. As mentioned earlier, humor from Canada can be raw, but it is almost always intelligent (because they read).
Fringe Festival runs through Sunday August 2. Schedule of upcoming events here.
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