Fringe Benefits

As much as I love fresh, finely crafted new work, some fringe theatre can feel like experimental, self-indulgent and, frankly, boring (to me anyway) childs’ play. Fringe HOT Logo 2014 E So, I am thoughtful about attending and recommending fringe festivals.  The 2014 San Francisco Fringe Festival, to be held September 5 through 20, has a 23-year track record, many satisfied followers and has put together an appropriately eclectic slate of 35 shows which include many award-winning productions and performers.

The tag line for the festival:  San Francisco Fringe Festival — fresh, daring theatre for open-minded audiences is a bit of a warning that you should not go expecting tame, traditional themes, language or characters.  Often over-the-top and under-the-radar compared to more classic theatre, “The Fringe” has its rabid devotees – and allows audiences to post their reviews on the Fringe web site.

To get a sense of the diverse mix, here are some excerpts pulled from various Fringe show press releases:

Alicia Dattner’s The Oy of Sex — a heart-wrenching, sobering, laugh-out-loud story of sex, drugs… and more sex.  Using true stories from her life, Dattner outlines a recipe for disaster: take one virgin, two boyfriends, several dozen lovers, half a dysfunctional family, and one comedian. Bake 15 years, and sprinkle a pinch of polyamory. Serve hot, and voila!

Life, Audited by Steve Mize — a hilarious & poignant journey of one man’s battle to defend himself against the IRS.  A true David & Goliath story told through receipts, anxiety and loads of Diet Coke.

Annette Roman AL head

Annette Roman
photo by Louis Pepin

Animal Love – Annette prefers people to animals. But now her family needs her. After many failures, she finds the perfect companions in an unusual pair of pets. Unfortunately, their expiration dates are short—and so are some people’s. A bittersweet tale of loss and love.

My Body Love Story chronicles the most important relationships we have: the one with our own body. Queer disabled femme Dominika Bednarska takes us through dance floors, online dating, shopping malls, and theaters to tell the story of how she learned to love her body.  Be prepared for rhinestones, storytelling, dancing, and many laughs!

Ceremony — Award-winning storyteller Michael Kass takes inspiration from his own narrative to weave this hilarious and spellbinding true tale of love, fear and ayahuasca—performed on a bare stage by the charismatic Kass with the aid of eight colorful buckets and a vibrant and immersive sound design —takes audiences from downtown Los Angeles to the Sacred Valley in Peru and back. At turns self-deprecatingly funny and unsparingly frank, Kass’s intensely personal story grapples with universal themes of isolation, self doubt and coming of age in the context of a shamanic medicine ceremony.

Campo Maldito by Bennett Fisher is a darkly comic fable about the cost of gentrification and the price you pay when you piss off the dead. A New York Times review  of a recent showing in Manhattan said this “comic ghost story with a conscious” beautifully wove “contemporary social issues into truly theatrical storytelling.”

Genie and Audrey’s Dream Show! is the story of two young girls who have grandiose ideas about putting on a spectacular circus show. They soon realize that they have none of the necessary amenities to put on the elaborate show of their dreams, so they give up and go to bed. As they sleep, the show comes to life, following a silly, erratic dream logic. Included in the spectacle are acrobatic and juggling feats, poetry, dance, various creative forms of music, and lots of clowning around.

Deal With The DragonA Solo Performance Fairy Tale for the 21st Century Fairy Part One dealwiththe dragonexplores the deals we make with ourselves (and others) in order to survive.  A darkly comic solo performance play by Kevin Rolston.

Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) will present Matthew Shepard Meets Coyote, a play which blends Christianity, Native American folklore, and modern spirituality, as playwright Harry C. Cronin interprets the final moments of Matthew Shepard’s life as manipulated by the trickster god of the American West as performed in a witty and poignant solo performance by Christopher P. Kelly.

Sebastian Boswell III will present An Evening of Mental Mysteries and Physical Wonders, a performance about embracing and pushing the limits of human possibility –  featuring amazing demonstrations of mental and physical skills, including but not limited to ESP, clairvoyance, telekinesis, and timeless feats of yogi and mystics. . . To be cynical in the presence of such wonders is a dull and terrible way to live.

The 2014 San Francisco Fringe Festival, September 5 through 20, brings 35 different shows to the three stages of San Francisco’s EXIT Theatre, 156 Eddy Street in downtown San Francisco.  EXIT Theatre is within walking distance of Union Square and the Powell Street BART station. For complete listings of stages, shows, and times, go to Or call the Fringe hotline at (415) 673-3847. Tickets are $10 or less per show, with a ten-show Frequent Fringer pass at $75 and a five-show pass at $45.


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