Hollywood Fringe Festival to Present Nearly 300 Theater Shows

Courtesy of Hollywood Fringe

Showing at 28 venues over 17 days, the fifth annual theater festival runs through June 29 on Theater Row on Santa Monica Boulevard.

It features nearly 300 shows in 28 venues over 17 days with a cast of hundreds. The fifth annual Hollywood Fringe Festival, running through June 29, brings together artists and amateurs in productions ranging from profound to profane in theaters, parks, clubs, churches and cafes throughout the area, with a focus on Theatre Row on Santa Monica Boulevard, where festival director Ben Hill is encamped for the duration.

Fringe has been Hill's pet project since he arrived in Los Angeles in 2007 and noticed a lack of community in the local theater scene. Since then, he has been able to grow the festival year after year, with the current program offering 30 percent more productions than last year.

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“The realities of an arts organization in its early phase — five years in the arts world, you’re still in your early phase — is the big grants and the big foundations don’t start to look at you until now,” Hill tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We’re hoping in the future to get some of the big money, James Irvine Foundation, people like that.”

But until that happens, this bootstrap operation will continue to get by primarily on entry fees from producers, ranging from $175 to $250, depending on the number of performances and ticket prices. In exchange, productions are mentioned in all marketing materials, and receive negotiated discounts from venues and free producer training seminars.

As usual, there’s something for everyone this year. If your tastes veer toward the twisted, you might take a look at Reborning, Zayd Dohrn’s dark comedy about life-like baby dolls, phalluses and latex at the McCadden Place Theatre. Of if you like your twist with a song, you might try John Hendel’s musical Wearhorse at Theatre Asylum, which looks at a young man and his nude performance artist friend, who procure a horse that they plan to eat with the performance artist’s stepmother. And yes, it’s based on a true story.

Actor-writer-director Colin Mitchell is reviving his one-man show, Linden Arden Stole the Highlights, about a gangster on the lam in rural Scotland, inspired by the song of the same name by Van Morrison. As editor of Bitter Lemons, a site dedicated to Los Angeles theater, Mitchell has covered the festival since its beginning.

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“There are many groups that have grown up with the Fringe and become very successful,” says Mitchell. “And there’re a lot of young producers who have emerged out of the Fringe. It’s kind of an opportunity to cut your teeth in a very concentrated area in a very concentrated time as a producer. It’s like a training ground for producers in L.A., and that’s one of the best things I’ve seen come out of it for the last five years.”

First-time producer Sheana Ochoa is presenting Love Letters, based on correspondence between Stella Adler and Harold Clurman in 1942. At the time, Adler was in New York studying drama and Clurman was in Los Angeles working in movies while trying to get her to say “I do.”

“It’s the first time I’m producing a show for myself for the Fringe,” says Ochoa, who studied writing at USC and recently published a biography on Adler entitled, Stella! Mother of Modern Acting. “Just having people out on the street interacting in that small area where the Fringe is stipulated, it brings this camaraderie and sense of community to the theater and really lifts it. L.A. is known for being a kind of self-centered egoist town where you get ahead by who you know, and this is all about helping each other out.”

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The Fringe began in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1947, when eight theater companies showed up uninvited to the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival, only to be turned away. Undeterred, they set up shop in surrounding venues and went ahead with their own version of the festival. Today, there are over 40 Fringes held annually, with about half of them in North America. Along the way there have been hits like 50 Shades! The Musical, which began in Edinburgh, as well as misses (The Pokemusical anyone?), but daring, originality and most of all, fun, have always been a constant.

“We have very few rules, but the one rule is no jerks allowed,” laughs Hill. “You will be punted out of the room. They’re called plays. It’s about going out and having fun challenging yourself and trying new things.”