FRINGEPVD Takes the Stage

fringe.posterAs far as festivals go, Rhode Island, in general, and Providence, in particular, has more than its share. Several of them focus on the Performing Arts, including AS2220’s FooFest and the City’s PVDFest, which both feature live performances, but The Providence Fringe Festival (better known as FRINGEPVD), focuses on theatrical presentation, traditional and devised and everywhere in between. Dedicated to presenting “fun, fearless and affordable theater to the community,” Wilbury Theatre Group’s FRINGEPVD has grown, since 2014, into a worthy emulation of its inspirations (the Edinburgh and NY Fringe Festivals) and now takes pride of place alongside the myriad festival offerings available to us here in the Ocean State.

Unlike curated or juried festivals, FRINGEPVD is open to anyone who wants to produce their own show, particularly those who don’t fall easily between the lines of what most theater companies are willing or able to present. For some, it’s a chance to workshop something new. For others, it’s a chance, once a year, to present a piece that simply cannot be done anywhere else. Since the number of applicants far outweighs the number of slots and venues available, productions are chosen by lottery and winning pieces placed based on scheduling and technical requirements. Performances can last no longer than one hour and must not be pieces that have been staged in local or regional theaters prior the festival. The reasoning, according to festival guidelines, is that FRINGEPVD should be a showcase for new work with an eye toward development of future productions. All proceeds go directly to the artists and, in the end, the vibrancy of Providence’s arts and business communities is showcased and the city’s reputation as a cultural destination is enhanced. It’s the only festival of its kind in this region, and more than 300  artists will descend on Providence starting July 30.

With such a broad lineup of performances and venues, Wilbury has enlisted the help of several co-producers, including WaterFire Providence, the Steel Yard, AS220, Riffraff bookstore and bar, Yellow Peril Gallery and Troop. The logistics of presenting such a varied lineup also require a dedicated lineup of administrators and production managers. I spoke with Jake Kuhn, the marketing and artist relations associate of FRINGEPVD, to get some insight into this year’s festival and a hint of what to expect when things kick off at the end of July.

Terry Shea (Motif): What lessons have you learned from the past festivals that you’re applying this year?

Jake Kuhn: In the past, we have heard that the schedule can be a little confusing each night, with staggered showtimes making it more difficult for audience members to plan their evenings. This year, we made the schedule have showtimes more aligned each night, so it’s easier for the audience to pick one show in each time slot. (See schedule on page XX).

We also have located the festival in a smaller footprint this year, and it’s all happening in Olneyville. Hopefully, this gives the festival a greater energy and makes it easier for audience members to travel between venues.

TS: What’s your take on the growth of the festival since its inception? Is it moving in the direction you had hoped?

JK: This is my third year with the festival, and every year I see more and more people in the community getting amped up about the festival. What’s more is that people seem to be catching on to the ethos of the festival. It’s an opportunity to come with an open mind and expose yourself to something new, something you might not have seen otherwise. From the artistic side, I see artists taking more risks to try new things, even coming back year after year with more new work. In that way, the festival provides artists with a reliable space to work on their craft and develop their artworks in a low-stress, low-stakes environment that prioritizes creativity, collaboration and artistic freedom.

TS: What performances are you most excited for people to see? If you were forced to pick only one, which would it be?

JK: Personally, I’m excited for the Immersive Igloo installation piece that will be in the parking lot (of the WaterFire Arts Center, 475 Valley Street). I love to see the festival’s range of styles grow every year, and I’m stoked to see something pushing the bounds of what we might consider “performance.” Getting artists with varied backgrounds into the festival excites me because hopefully, artists and audience members will see stuff and get new ideas for their own work. They build off each other!

TS: Who are the unsung heroes of this festival who may not get the recognition they deserve?

JK: Keri King, our poster and logo designer, does so much for the branding of the festival and helps match our visual presence with the ethos of the festival. Her poster this year is fun, colorful, wacky and cheeky — as well as clear and informative.

(And) audience members! Their dedication to the festival and their willingness to support artists presenting new or experimental work is awesome. I so appreciate how they approach the performances with non-judgment and love for art in all its weird, varied forms.

For the latest updates on FRINGEPVD, running Monday, July 30 – Saturday, August 4, visit Festival performance venues include the WaterFire Arts Center, the Courtyard at the Plant, Yellow Peril Gallery and Riffraff (Valley St.), The Steel Yard (27 Sims Ave) and The Wilbury Theatre Group (40 Sonoma Ct.). The Opening Night Party kicks off at 7pm, July 30 at Wilbury and closes 11pm, August 4 at Troop (60 Valley St.). FAMILY FRINGE!, featuring all-ages performances, games, music and the inevitable bounce house, runs 3 – 6pm on Saturday, Aug 4 at WaterFire Arts Center. Tickets to performances range from free to $15 and are cash only. Pop-up performances will occur at various places throughout the week, so keep your eye out!



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