It doesn’t so much arrive as it does infiltrate. The Boulder Fringe Festival sweeps into town for its twelfth annual celebration, twelve days beginning August 17, sprouting up in the most unlikely, ad hoc places all over downtown Boulder. Twenty-five acts will freewheel along, entertainers from around the world that combine nimble performance skills with solid stories.
The Fringe, founded in 2004 by a task force led in part by Boulder Arts Commissioner Donna Gartenmann and local theater’s David Ortolano, is an umbrella organization that selects and facilitates the yearly gathering of artists from all points of the compass — dancers, storytellers, theater groups, filmmakers, musicians, magicians, puppeteers, and many others whose multidisciplinary skills defy easy categorization.
Executive director Alexis Cooley says, “It’s an opportunity to produce original, interesting ways in which people are telling their stories. In the context of the Fringe, you have thirty minutes to set up a show and less than an hour to do it. It causes you to be really imaginative. It really pushes the boundaries.”
The coalition and the event keep evolving. “We have the smallest festival footprint ever,” says Cooley. Part of this is due to renovations at Boulder’s Dairy Center for the Arts, which has temporarily displaced other regional arts groups as well. The ten Fringe venues, which include Trident Booksellers & Cafe, the Boulder International Peace Garden, and the Pine Street Church, are close together in Boulder’s downtown area. “Everything is reachable via the Hop bus,” Cooley says, “and you can walk to all of them in about 25 minutes. It’s more in line with our idea of art in unexpected places.”
The Fringe works throughout the year, running educational workshops and programs that help empower independent artists. In keeping with its mission, 100 percent of the ticket receipts go directly to the participating artists. “That doesn’t happen often,” says Cooley.
The Fringe acts bear close comparison to the street-performing “buskers” so familiar from places such as Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall. What’s the difference?
“Sometimes you can only differentiate the two by the venue in which you see them doing it,” says Cooley. “There are many fringe artists that do both, and of course, that set of skills has a very big place in the Festival – that’s how you get people to come to your show!”
Shine Restaurant and Gathering Place at 2027 13th Street is Fringe Central throughout the Festival. The Festival’s Family Fringe component has been consolidated into a one-day workshop a few days before the festival proper — on Saturday, August 13, at the Boulder Public Library, 1001 Arapahoe Avenue, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Opening Night Hullabaloo and All-You-Can-Artist Buffet launches the fest at the Twisted Pine Brewing Company, 3201 Walnut Street, on Wednesday, August 17, from 6 to 9 p.m., featuring one-minute previews of each and every act on the bill.
Closing night has a new twist, in which the three best-of-fringe shows will repeat their acts on the festival’s last night at the Nomad Playhouse in north Boulder, part of a long bout of award-giving and partying that begins at 3 p.m. on Sunday, August 28.
After nine years of involvement at the Fest, first as a performer, Cooley sees the Fringe Fest as an essential part of the culture.
“We have our niche now,” she says. “We are that stepping stone between the solitary conception of an idea and the traditional, full-fledged production.”
Here are some of this year's recommended events:
Inappropriate Questions by Inappropriate People, Al Stafford
The transgender comedian from Fort Collins presents a one-man show about his journey.
EllieIda, Studio PlayHaus
This troupe from Albuquerque presents a show with eight characters, two actresses and lots of booze.
Doing the Thing, Keep It Going Features
This group from Queens offers this: “Writing a show is tough when faced with the crippling notion that you might not have any talent.” But the results could surprise you.
Ferdinand the Magnificent, Nick Trotter
The Denver artist mixes puppetry, juggling, slapstick, song and — warning — audience participation.
Made for Each Other, John Fico
A one-man, gay-marriage dramedy about “love, sex and the power of memory” from a New York performer.
Outside the Lines, Daniel Burns
The Boulder performer plays a hapless backpacker who must prove his identity in the middle of a revolution on the Kyrgyz border.
The Boulder Fringe Festival runs from Wednesday, August 17, through Sunday, August 28. For a complete schedule and tickets, visit boulderfringe.com.