OTR awaits invasion of Cincy Fringe

by Thom Mariner

They grow up so fast!

It’s hard to imagine the Cincinnati Fringe Festival turns 13 this year. It will be interesting to see what influence adolescence has on this always edgy panoply of performances, art projects, improvs and late-night parties.

With 50 live productions over 12 days in a variety of Over-the-Rhine venues, the experience can be a bit daunting for even those seasoned in the art of the Fringe. The key to maximizing opportunities is planning, which may seem ironic for a festival hellbent against convention. Devotees get downright competitive, proclaiming their burgeoning attendance figures with Facebook throwdowns on a nightly basis, seeing who can cram in the most shows. Apparently, even Type A personalities can crave edgy once in awhile.

Making final choices from the record-breaking 105 applications this year was the task of the Cincy Fringe Selection Jury, a group of 30 area theater professionals and educators. Of the 50 chosen, 31 are local, 18 come from around the U.S., and one is from Australia. Fifty percent of the shows are plays, with a mix of solo, interdisciplinary, dance pieces and musicals making up the other half.

Know Theatre, which produces Cincy Fringe, is proud that more than half of this year’s lineup features shows by or about women. According to Know associate artistic director Tamara Winters, “Know Theatre is committed to gender parity in our MainStage season planning, but with Fringe, our slate depends on who decides to submit work each year. This year, the ladies came out to play – and I couldn’t be more excited to see what that means for the Festival.”

FringeNext, which provides creative opportunities to high schoolers, has chosen projects from Highlands, Walnut Hills, Seven Hills and St. Xavier.

The festival kicks off May 31 with a party, featuring food, drinks and live music by Serenity Fisher and the Cardboard Hearts, the Young Professionals Choral Collective and The Whisky Shambles.

After performances end each evening (approximately 10:15 p.m.), Know Theatre hosts the Fringe Bar Series, with different activities, events and themes throughout.

If this all seems a bit overwhelming, well, it can be – thus the need for a strategy. If you want to get the most out of your experience, buy the Full Frontal All-Access pass: $225 for all the Fringe you can stand. If you are more of a grazer, try the Voyeur Pass: $70 for a flexible six-ticket pass. If you only have one night to devote, the One Night Stand Pass is $30.

Visit cincyfringe.com, pick your faves and map your attack. It’s not unusual to see people jogging across 12th Street to the next show on their lists, so do allow enough walking time –  unless you need the exercise, of course. What’s most fun is bumping into friends, sharing thumbs-up or -down reviews along the way. Fringe is unlike anything else, and as the folks at Know like to say: “Kinda Weird. Like You.” Throw caution to the wind and have a blast!

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