More than 30 zany, edgy, experimental, improvisational and interactive acts are showcased. The 15 shows typically each last an hour, with two per venue each evening. Thursday shows are repeated Saturday; ones on Friday go again Sunday. Most charge for admission.
Fringe draws more outside entertainers, but still emphasizes local venues and performers to expose patrons to them to promote area arts. “We’re committed to local artists, showcasing original works,” said Jocelyn Reese, Fringe co-artistic director with Jim Julien.
“We give newer artists an opportunity to do brand-new work,” Reese said. They can establish a following, she added. “Asheville audiences are very loyal to our local performers. So often a Fringe artist from out of town has to work harder to get sold out.”
HHS alumni Hannah Eicholtz (Class of 2011) and Lauren Williams (’08) are in Fringe. Todd Weakley, HHS drama teacher since 2003, directs them in “This is Now/This is How.” The mini-drama is about a clash of attraction and discomfort.
They share the bill with the In/Visible Theatre’s “Love Fighting” about a boxer, in the Fringe Unique Voices Show. It is 9-10 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, in The BeBe Theatre at 20 Commerce St., a cozy black box theater and home of the Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre.
BeBe’s early (7-8 p.m.) show those days is The Dance Showcase. Lindsey Kelley Dance’s Lindsey Brewer and Kathleen Hahn do a new duet, by New York choreographer Oliver Steele on feminine beauty and motion.
Also, Jenni Cockrell and Kathy Leiner do a bone-chilling dance. Asheville in Motion dances about dinner parties. Brett Copeland and Jacqueline Dugal dance to live tuba and electronic sounds, with a theme of a child amidst destruction.
The Poetry Cabaret in the Altamont Theatre is an erotic blend of poetry with live music (i.e. by Aaron Price) and burlesque acts such as by dancer Deb au Naire.
Amanda Levesque and Tom Killby of Asheville return. They perform “At This Time, Who We Are” in BeBe Friday and Sunday. Levesque bursts past physical and developmental limitations. She will do modern dance in and out of her wheelchair, with Killby at Fringe. They are joined by poet-life coach Majo (John Madden, not the retired football coach), and musician Gretchen Witt.
Also back is the LaZoom Bus Fringe Tour, based at Coxe and Commerce streets. Daffy puppeteer Keith Shubert and cellist Polly Panic perform on the bus, and Caroline Williford and Grayson Morris do so at stops.
A good gauge for Fringe adult-themed wackiness is bizarre Asheville Vaudeville led by the likes of Rich Risbridger (as Onkel Woland with handlebar mustache) and Valerie Meiss, and featuring puppeteers Jim Julien and Shubert and hoop, aerial and other artists.
Risbridger and Karin Webb will do “Sliver of the Devil” about contending with temptations. The other act of Fringe Fierce Show in Toy Boat Community Arts Space is “Collateral Damage” by Amy Hamilton and Keane Wainscott. They blend sound, film, sculpture and motion to depict life crises.
The Puppet Showcase in Toy Boat (101 Fairview Rd.) has Annie Schermer and Channing Showalter of Madison County, in “Under the Hills.” They sing mountain folk songs and Romanian hymns. Penelope Hillfrau does a zoo of puppetry.
The festival starts Thursday, Jan. 21 with a reception in MG Road lounge at 19 Wall St. at 5-7 p.m., then 7 p.m. in Zapow Gallery at 21 Battery Park Ave. for samples of visual and performance art.
Reese noted “we use the smaller houses because they’re run by local Asheville organizations. We love (bigger) Diana Wortham. Last year, we used their small black box theater rather” than the larger main theater.
Venues include Dirty South, Lexington Avenue Brewing’s Back Room, and Mothlight at Mr. Fred’s. Fringe Central is at 14 Battery Park Ave.
Drawing Talent Globally
Performers from across the country include Caroline Kingsley Rau (as High Priestess Winnifred Coombe) from Chicago, and Willie Filkowski with comedy about his native Florida.
The festival is on the Fringe map after networking with other Fringe festivals worldwide, starting with a half-decade ago with the Fringe fest (begun in 1947) in Edinburgh, Reese said.
“We’re bringing in amazing work from out of town. More artists are coming our way,” Reese said. “They enjoy the Asheville community. They say we’re super nice, and very ‘fringy.’” Also, “hospitality” and discount housing in Sweet Peas hostel further offsets less revenue than in big cities. “We are a small festival, with small venues,” Reese noted. “Some perform elsewhere in 500-seat houses, here with maybe 50.”
Versatile English clowns and improvisational actors Joanne Tremarco and Chris Murray were fruits of the Edinburgh link. Asheville was their first Fringe beyond the U.K., a year ago. The intellectual couple earned tremendous response to bold themes on sexuality (i.e. her “Women Who Wank”) and relationships. The intellectual couple said audiences chuckled to their witty plays on words, cultural differences as ice-breakers yet common “range of influences.”
Tremarco added they got audience members to relate views in “contributing their imaginations to create the full picture,” in a “space of togetherness and into a sense of possibility.” Feedback was it “triggered them to see things differently, or had touched them.” They liked Asheville’s artsiness, and explored waterfalls before touring at several Fringes.
Rau’s high priestess co-stars in La Lune De Femme’s “Seance Show” and “Sowing of The Seeds,” in Magnetic 375. She describes her 1890s-styled pseudo-seance as channeling spirits, “foul and flowery language, anachronisms, and a heavy dose of humor.” Her “The Sowing of the Seeds” is a warrior queen’s experiential “punk-pagan ritual” of comedy, song and dance.
“Every year, we seek to bring the best who applied,” Reese said. “There are some carry-overs. We had so many amazing pieces to choose from. We picked what we thought was the weirdest, for a bold and curious audience.”
She predicts the oddest includes Anam Cara Theatre’s absurd “A Tonguey Kiss for Samuel Davidson,” and the premiere of Julian Vorus’ perverse “Mothertongue” — both in Magnetic 375.
Free Random Acts of Fringe include improv dance in Realta Salon at 12 Wall St.
“Fringe is like a gumbo,” Reese said. “It’s different each year, and always fantastic.”
For show and ticket details including a Fringe Freak Pass, check AshevilleFringe.org.