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Binge on the Fringe Jan. 26-29 in Asheville


Roller derby queens collide as Courtney White, at right, sends athletic rival Jill Guyton Nee flying to the Ozarks in “On Your Mark” in AFAF in 2016. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

By Pete Zamplas- The 15th annual Asheville Fringe Arts Festival Jan. 26-29 continues to boldly diversify its entertainment from daffy to bizarre, with acts including a spoof on the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

A new twist is what organizers call “The Ride Along.” Three people sit in the back of a car to “experience the performance as it drives from situation to situation,” Jocelyn Reese explained. She and husband Jim Julien, a zany puppeteer, founded and run the festival of eccentric experimental performance by local and out-of-state talent.

“Fearless” is how Reese pledges artistic risks in AFAF since it began in 2002. The nearly 20 shows have separate tickets, and are slated to each be performed at least twice in the festival across seven venues in Downtown Asheville.

“Audiences have many chances to experience something amazing and provocative,” Reese stated. AFAF performers “explore the edges of their work, to collaborate across genres and to bring new and innovative performances to culturally-adventurous audiences.”

Reese further noted “all the work in the festival is either new to Asheville, or a premiere created just for the Asheville Fringe. This festival is the biggest collection of new, performance-based work in Asheville.”

The five categories of AFAF acts are Comedy, Puppetry, Unique Voices, Wildly Weird, and Dance and Movement.  “Most shows defy any one category,” Reese said.

Comic Willie Filkowski returns to AFAF. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Willie Filkowski returns. He did stand-up comedy last year at AFAF, just before it snowed over a foot in some Asheville areas delaying many acts. The nerdy-looking Fort Myers, Fla. native poked fun at the “Sunshine State” — including culture and politics — using stories, dance and video. He is based in Chicago, and has studied at the University of Michigan.

This time, he teams with Brita Thorne for “Breakfast at Wimbledon.” She portrays the woman who has won the most pro tennis matches in history. The duo lampoons prim and proper Wimbledon through “dance, movement, comedy and whining.”

They describe the flavor as “tart like strawberries, sweet like cream.” Their show is Friday, Jan. 27, 7-8 p.m. then 4-5 p.m. Sunday, both times in Magnetic 375 at 375 Depot St.

Shows typically last an hour. Venues mostly show doubleheaders of two different acts, at 7 and 9 p.m. or else 4 and 6 p.m. on Sunday. Festival venues include the Bebe Theatre, the Dirty South, the Mothlight, The Magnetic 375, and the Toy Boat Community Art Space. Organizers opt for locally-run venues.

Fringe Central is at 14 Battery Park Ave. The LaZoom Bus Fringe Tour, based at Coxe and Commerce streets, has performances on board and at stops.

Admission per show is $13 or $16, or $50 for an eight-show Fringe Freak Pass. Check to buy tickets, and for more details on acts.

Jim Julien and Jocelyn Reese run Fringe. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
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