The Return of FringeFest
Last year saw the debut of an ambitious new event at Southern Oregon University: the Oregon Fringe Festival, a weeklong showcase of all things outsider art, from guerilla theater to beatboxing jugglers to pop-up playgrounds on the SOU campus.
The student-run festival is back for its second go and is keeping it just as weird, with puppet parades, tent revivals, acrobats, fake talk shows, inflatable art and more.
“We’re trying to do things that all the other theaters wouldn’t do,” says Tyler Kubat, the festival’s Artistic Director. “It’s not a slight towards them. Cabaret is very traditional. Camelot is very traditional. We wanted to buck the trend towards what students here felt they couldn’t do elsewhere.”
Kubat says that the theme for this year is “creating and recreating,” and that you can see it throughout the schedule of events, as well as the who knows how many happenings that will occur off-schedule.
One of the most compelling performances listed for this year is An Ill Word, a 10-Things-I-Hate-About-You-ification of Much Ado About Nothing, rebooted with modern language and setting and incorporating multimedia production that highlights and dissects the slut-shaming that is key to the plot. It’s interesting both for its content and the fact that the original script is showing as a juxtaposition just down the road at OSF.
“It’s very much a play of its time, while keeping one foot in the past,” says Kubat. “The students are creating something that’s very important to them now. It’s got elements of the no privacy culture that we’re going through right now—all the nude celebrity leaks it deals with very explicitly. So in many ways it supports exactly the theme of the festival. We’re creating and recreating simultaneously.”
Organizers said that from the very get-go this year, they made it a goal to get beyond the theater department at SOU, and to bring in as many other disciplines as possible, especially when they were things that creators felt lacked a foothold into traditional venues and could thrive in nontraditional ones.
“The point of putting art in unexpected places is that you want to try to demystify art,” says Sarah Wright, the festival’s Marketing Director. “It inherently exists to start and create conversations. If we do that, then we’re successful. That’s the goal of the festival: Is this art? I don’t know. What do you think? Sometimes it takes breaking down that barrier to let someone know that they’re already doing art, they’re already an artist. They’ve just never given themselves that label.”
And both Wright and Kubat feel bringing that art to the streets instead of the black tie set makes it more legitimate, not less. Today’s fringe is tomorrow’s culture. Additionally, they feel it reaches new audiences that are cut out by high costs and uppity social atmospheres of much performing art. Making it living breathing part of the streetscape makes it approachable, as does moving performances into the frames of reference of new and younger audiences by utilizing their social environment and later start times.
“Where else in town can you see a modern adaptation of a Shakespeare festival, student art for sale and a sound and lightscape in the same night?” says Wright. “These things aren’t really happening anywhere.”
“Where else in town does anything start after 8 clock?” cracks Kubat.