Theater on the edge 

click to enlarge COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo

Back for the 22nd consecutive year of eclectic, short-form theatrical entertainment, the San Francisco Fringe Festival has implemented a few changes.

Opening Friday, the festival, comprising 158 performances by 36 mostly local groups (with others from Nevada, Colorado and elsewhere), now has a longer three-week run.

Formerly spread out over downtown, all shows take place in the intimate Exit Multiplex.

The popular Best of Fringe evening will be held on closing night instead of weeks later to allow for the inclusion of out-of-town troupes.

Minor adjustments aside, the festival adheres closely to its purist principles, says Exit Theatre founder-artistic director Christina Augello, who created it as a program of Exit in 1992 along with producing partner Richard Livingston.

Unlike most indie theater festivals in the country, the Fringe Festival is noncurated, guaranteeing inclusivity: Any artist or group has an equal chance for a slot via the lottery if they meet the application deadline and pay the application fee. Shows must be short (about an hour) and low-tech.

One hundred percent of the box-office take always goes directly to the performers, and ticket prices are low (various discount passes available).

Other fringe festivals that came up along with San Francisco Fringe (which is the third-oldest such festival in the country) have made concessions, over the years, to a changing economy — curating the work, and/or keeping some of the box-office income. But for Augello and only a few others Stateside, the original Fringe concept is sacred.

In a nonjuried festival like this, the good, the bad and the ugly are part of the mix, concedes Augello, who, like the audience, never knows what to expect. But the fun is in the surprise element.

This year's lineup includes "Macbeth — Limited Edition" by San Francisco's Rapid Descent Physical Performance Company, with story and words by Shakespeare.

Local playwright Lee Brady, a Fringe regular, offers "Random Acts of Love," billed as "three dark comedies about the endangered male."

"Fish-Girl," from Portland, Ore.'s Bathtub Theatre Company, is a drama about a mermaid.

A two-woman circus, "Genie and Audrey's Dream Show," promises poetry, dance and music as well as acrobatics.

And there's the return of the "Popcorn Anti-Theater" bus tour, the only off-site production.

Augello says, "I see the new ideas that come to the stage every year as a reflection of what's new in the states and abroad."


San Francisco Fringe Festival

Where: Exit Multiplex, 156 Eddy St., S.F.

When: Friday through Sept. 21

Tickets: $10 to $12.99

Contact: (415) 673-3847,

Select Fringe shows

Fish-Girl: The show tells the harrowing story of an enchanted mermaid doomed to sing for her supper when a chance encounter with a love-struck tourist offers her salvation, but risks total ruin. 9 p.m. Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, 10:30 p.m. Sept. 13, 4 p.m. Sept. 14, 7 p.m. Sept. 15

Genie and Audrey's Dream Show: The ridiculous performance for all ages offers a quirky journey into Genie Cartier's and Audrey Spinazola's subconscious, featuring comedy, acrobatics, music, dance, poetry, crystal glasses, a loop station and a cat piano. 2:30 p.m. Saturday, 9 p.m. Tuesday, 1 p.m. Sept. 15, 9 p.m. Sept. 20

Macbeth — Limited Edition: Presented by Rapid Descent Physical Performance Company, the show features a cast of eight, live trumpet, a loop station, gravity-defying choreography, and stripped-back story and words by Shakespeare. 10:30 p.m. Sept. 13, 9 p.m. Sept. 15 and Sept. 19, 1 p.m. Sept. 21

O Best Beloved: Rebecca Longworth and Joan Howard present a piece in which a troupe of six itinerant storytellers bring Rudyard Kipling's classic children's stories to life with a bohemian sensibility and highly stylized physicality. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday, 9 p.m. Sept. 10, 10:30 p.m. Sept. 14

Popcorn Anti-Theater bus: Not for people with mobility difficulties or an aversion to grit, the reckless mobile show has coarse language, mature content, nudity, improv-sketch, circus, clown and carnival material. The bus leaves from 156 Eddy St. at 8 and 10 p.m. Sept. 13

Random Acts of Love: The lineup includes three dark comedies about the endangered men of The City: "Sunday Lovers," "Musical Interlude" and "BART Train to Antioch." 1 p.m. Saturday, 7 p.m. Sept. 11, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14, 4 p.m. Sept. 15

Singulariteen: Undefined Symbol Theater presents the play by Patrick M. Brennan about a normal American family trying to keep it together as the world hurtles toward the abyss. 10:30 p.m. Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday and Sept. 14, 9 p.m. Sept. 20.

The Tipped and the Tipsy: Jill Vice's satire of the glamorous world of bar culture is also an ode to the people who serve and those who are waiting to be served. 9 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday, 10:30 p.m. Sept. 14, 7 p.m. Sept. 18.

Two Women, Two Stories: In "What's Wrong with a Mouse?" Vicki Dello Joio describes her journey of healing a 20-year rift with her father, who disowned her for being queer. In "What's My Age Again?" Merry Ross travels through the unknown terrain of peri-menopause via hilarious and poignant stories. 7 p.m. Friday, 9 p.m. Sept. 11, 8:30 p.m. Sept. 15, 7 p.m. Sept. 19

About The Author

Jean Schiffman

Jean Schiffman

Jean Schiffman is a freelance arts writer specializing in theatre. Some of her short stories and personal essays have been published in newspapers and small literary magazines. She is an occasional book copy editor and also has a background in stage acting. Her book “The Working Actor’s Toolkit” was published... more
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