Fringe Festival brings quirky take on theater to San Francisco 

click to enlarge East Bay artist Gregory Kloehn’s revamped trash bin is featured in “Elite Waste” at the San Francisco Fringe Festival. (Courtesy photo) - EAST BAY ARTIST GREGORY KLOEHN’S REVAMPED TRASH BIN IS FEATURED IN “ELITE WASTE” AT THE SAN FRANCISCO FRINGE FESTIVAL. (COURTESY PHOTO)
  • East Bay artist Gregory Kloehn’s revamped trash bin is featured in “Elite Waste” at the San Francisco Fringe Festival. (Courtesy photo)
  • East Bay artist Gregory Kloehn’s revamped trash bin is featured in “Elite Waste” at the San Francisco Fringe Festival. (Courtesy photo)

A pop-up performance in a trash bin on Eddy Street is just one of many quirky highlights of the San Francisco Fringe Festival, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Starting Wednesday, the 12-day event at the Exit theaters in the Tenderloin features more than 40 productions — of all kinds.

Gregory Kloehn, an artist who wears many hats, has created a renovated trash bin for “Elite Waste,” a humorous infomercial spoof promoting an industrial trash can as a new paragon in domestic bliss for the 21st century.

His unique work — which is scheduled for performance “somewhere on Eddy Street when you least expect it” — would be almost impossible for a traditional theater house or company to pull off, which is why it’s a prime example of Fringe entertainment.

“There is total creative freedom,” says Christina Auguello, executive director of the festival. “No one is judging you. You can take your most off-the-wall idea, run with it, and get feedback from it. The Fringe provides that opportunity.”

Unlike many festivals or performing arts season programming, the Fringe is noncurated, meaning that as a performer your odds of getting a slot in the festival are based on luck.

“Out of the 120 or so who apply, we pull about 40 applicants out of a hat,” Auguello says. The process ensures a nonjudgmental, open-access process that fuels the adventuresome performing at the heart of the Fringe.

Everything about the programming is grass-roots, with a team of about 100 volunteers involved in aspects from front-of-house operations to theater maintenance, and 100 percent of box-office proceeds goes back to the performers.

“I’m a proponent of small, new, hidden, risk-taking work,” Auguello says. “The audience takes a risk too, but in this case, it’s a cheap risk.” Ticket prices are not more than $10 for any Fringe

With a different crop of artists performing each year, it is often the audience who chooses the new favorites, with Fringe followers creating their own gossip dialogue about the shows.

Potential 2011 festival blockbusters include “Hamlet vs. Zombies,” a zombified take on Shakespeare’s classic play; “Radio Star,” in which Tanya O’Debra performs 10 characters in a noir radio show parody; and “Quatre-Vingt-Quatre,” an absurdist tale asserting that the advent of numbers and counting spawned the downfall of civilization.

“The ultimately exciting thing is to create a community of people who are happy and creative about taking chances,” Auguello says. “It’s an exciting time. You never know what you’re going to get, just like Christmas.”

San Francisco Fringe Festival

Where: Exit Theatres at 156 Eddy St. and
277 Taylor St., San Francisco
When: Wednesday through Sept. 18
Tickets: $10 or less
Contact: (415) 673-3847,
Hamlet vs. Zombies
10 p.m. Friday, 5:30 p.m. Sunday and Sept. 18;
7 p.m. Sept. 14; 8:30 p.m. Sept. 15;
4 p.m. Sept. 17 at Exit on Tayor

Radio Star
8 p.m. most days today through Sept. 16 at
50 Mason Social House, between Eddy and Turk streets

10:30 p.m. today; 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 and 1 p.m. Sept. 18 at Exit Stage Left

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Lauren Gallagher

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