In 1947, the first Edinburgh International Festival -- a post-war attempt to reunite Europe through art -- was crashed by eight uninvited theater groups. They played 'round the fringes of the Scotland town, drawing crowds to their makeshift storefront and rooftop stages. Before long, their spontaneous act of civil disobedience had stolen the show, and the first Fringe Festival was born. Over the coming decades it would spread to more than fifty cities worldwide, each creating its own annual international fringe festival.
Today, the first Boulder International Fringe Festival joins their ranks.
The twelve-day, unjuried art festival, which runs through Sunday, August 28, will feature theater, dance, literary art, visual art, circus arts, music, film and workshops in the form of 301 shows at twenty venues, not to mention all the performers in the streets. It was Boulder's wealth of circus talent that sparked Lawrence Kampf's idea to bring the concept to the Flatirons. Kampf, the festival's executive director, was working as a consultant for the Boulder Circus Center a year and a half ago. There he found a world-class training facility that was attracting performers from around the globe, and most locals hadn't a clue about it.
Kampf envisions an annual event that makes the arts immediately visible, available and affordable -- one that, as in other fringe cities, brings in more revenue for local businesses and restaurants than does Christmas.
"When fringe comes to town, it's a success on all fronts," he says.
Performers will be a mix of local talent, including Ami Dayan, who created the Denver-specific adaptation of The Man Himself -- the one-man play first produced by the National Theatre in London in 1975 -- and national and international acts such as Professor A.G. Gertsacov's trained fleas of the ACME Miniature Circus, an authentic Victorian-style flea circus. Because so much will be going on at once, the performers will have to engage in some friendly competition, Kampf says. Prospective audiences can expect to be teased with show samplings.
"Really go with what your gut says," Kampf recommends. "Come to the fringe to wander around and see what the buzz is."
Or check out the schedule ahead of time at www.boulderfringe.com or by calling 720-563-9950. Tickets for specific performances can be purchased online or at the door (cash only) one hour before the show. Shows are $12 and last about an hour, with a few ninety-minute exceptions. Workshop prices vary, with most priced at $15. -- Jessica Centers
The Playwrights Showcase energizes local theater
There's a sequence from last year's Playwrights Showcase at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities that both Kathy Kuehn, the center's executive director, and showcase coordinator Pamela Mencher remember vividly. It began with a panel discussion of a children's play called Little Red Riding Wolf, which is told from the perspective of the wolf. Unsuitable for publication, harrumphed a panel member; you can't have wolves reprimanding humans. A heated debate about political correctness, what kids are capable of understanding and just what is and isn't suitable for them spilled into a hallway and continued for three hours.
Mencher is the chair of the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance at Red Rocks Community College, and herself a playwright. It was she who originally approached the Arvada Center about a partnership. This year's showcase -- the second -- begins today and features work by Western playwrights, read by local actors. Several established playwrights will be in attendance. Organizers have added a two-day boot camp, during which writers will produce work to be presented at the end of the conference; workshops on such topics as theater activism and how to market your work; and more opportunities for networking. "We'll go deeper into what it really means to be a playwright," says Kuehn.
Mencher believes that the East Coast establishment tends to marginalize Western artists, and that "it's precisely because of this exclusive attitude that Broadway is dying." Last year's showcase, she says, engendered more respect and better communication on both sides.
Most of all, the showcase brings a jolt of energy to the Denver theater scene. All events, which run through Sunday, August 14, take place at 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard in Arvada. Tickets are $15 to $90; for more information, call 720-898-7200. -- Juliet Wittman
Free and Orderly Jazz
"When I go to a free-jazz show, it can be a little intimidating," admits Denver bassist and composer Doug Anderson. "Sometimes you don't want to be bombarded by noise all night."
To bridge his love of melody and experimentalism, Anderson will bring Connective Tissue to Blackberries Coffee, 720 East 26th Avenue, tonight at 7:30 p.m. For this debut performance, Anderson has assembled a new group of old comrades: Dave Devine of the Czars on guitar; Jeff Elliassen on trumpet, melodica and electronics; and Andrew Lindstrom on drums. With previously written songs acting as ligaments between skeletal stretches of improvisation, Anderson hopes to add space and range to the often impenetrable genre of free jazz -- and allow him and his sidemen to touch on everything from pop to hip-hop to Latin sounds in the process. "Even though what we're doing is free music," he explains, "I want all the possibilities of rhythm and melody and harmony to be evident. It doesn't need to be scary."
Admission is $7, $3 if you're a member of Creative Music Works, the non-profit organization sponsoring the event. Call 720-206-4348 or visit www.creativemusicworks.org for info. -- Jason Heller
Jose, You Can See
North High tries hip-hop theatre.
After José Mercado's drama students at North High School wowed Denver with their production of Zoot Suit Riots last year, Mercado found it was a hard act to follow -- until he read an article about the hip-hop theater phenomenon that's shaking up New York City. He saw in his students the kind of raw talent and enthusiasm that could make the genre work at North and pitched to them the idea of creating their own hip-hop show. "They responded with excitement," Mercado recalls, and they began workshopping the concept in February. The result is one love: a hip-hop theatre joint, a string of autobiographical monologues and dance numbers made strong by the collaborative process. "It's like Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood meets Yo! MTV Raps," Mercado explains. "It's an entertaining show, but this is not Singing in the Rain. As you experience it, you feel the honesty and truth that comes from it."
And tonight at 8 p.m., you'll have that chance: Mercado's talented wards will strut their work onto the big Buell Theatre stage for a single performance. The Buell is at 14th and Curtis streets, in the Denver Performing Arts Complex; for tickets, $10 to $20, call 1-866-464-2626 or visit www.ticketswest.com. -- Susan Froyd