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Trust the Driver: Oregon Fringe Festival Steers The Way

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Perhaps more than any event in southern Oregon, “diversity” at Oregon Fringe Festival is walking the talk. From participants to performances, the annual OFF is a deliciously shuffled deck of performers and performances—where the most conventional performance may be poetry readings or a short film about tasting water from the Lithia Park fountain. From that starting point, the performers fan out into various disciplines and topics, including, but certainly not limited to art, dance, percussion using microwaves as their instruments and theater as a means to present the disparities between mental health care opportunities for races.

Yes, OFF is a delightful grab bag—some performances exploring race, others gender, and some considering different ways to present art.

“Rather than selecting mostly theatre performances or mostly music performances, instead, there’s a nice mixture of theatre, music, visual art, storytelling, and creative writing,” explains festival director Paige Gerhard.

“The selection process has always changed given whatever the circumstances are,” continues Gerhard. “Particularly for the 2022 Festival, and in thinking about providing both a live and online experience, it was important for me to think about quality instead of quantity. While you’ll notice that our total number of artists is significantly less than last year, the ways in which we are presenting their creative work has increased.”

Performances will be both live and streamed—and truly, in many ways, selecting how and what to see at a fringe festival is simply a leap of trust that the organizers are curating top shelf performers. As most of the performers are experimental or, as the name implies, on the fringes, sampling at a fringe festival is like having a five-star chef fix your meal instead of ordering up the latest popular Netflix series (to completely mix metaphors). In this regard, OFF is wonderful and offers a curious ride—which is to say, trust them! Sit back and enjoy this crazy, wonderful selection.

OFF has been steadily growing and maturing over the past several years, a stage both for local talent as much as a national stage for experimental artists like Abby Palen, whose “Moving The Mountain” bundles song, sculpture and storytelling to present a literal and figurative dismantling of a mountain; and, mid-Willamette Valley artists Bruce Burris and Mareike Mirsche and Eileen Hinkcle who combine crochet and mural painting for an ecological statement.

As much as the national performers, the festival has a strong showing from Southern Oregon University, and is one of the most impressive lens (or projections, depending on vantage point) of the arts community nestled within the school, from SOU professors to SOU students like Aaron Young with an enticing performance staged during a nuclear fallout and SOU student Rosemary Kesserlring horror story about two children lost in the woods and trying to find safety before being turned into trees forever.

Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

For tickets and information, OregonFringeFestival.org

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