New York City's Fringe Festival may have a bigger name, but San Francisco's has been going on longer, attracting theatre companies and artists from around the country and around the globe. This year, 52 artists and groups gathered at the City by the Bay for the ninth annual San Francisco Fringe Festival set to close Sept. 17. The SF fest started Sept. 7.
All performances take place at one of five theatres, all conveniently located near Union Square. They are the Exit Theatre, the Exit Stage Left, the Phoenix II, the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre and Il Teatro 450. There are also be two "Bring Your Own Venue" shows in Golden Gate Park -- Barely Human Dance Theatre's Ma-Ma-Mamalia and the Black Box Theatre Company's CHAIN REACTIONS.
A random selection of Fringe events finds Fringe vets, international companies from Australia, New Zealand, Venezuela and Canada, local performers and visitors from the U.S. east and west. Among the entries:
• The Kiwi Standup Experience: New Zealanders Mark Scott and Mike Loder take on political correctness -- especially with wheelchair bound Mike's outrageous disabled persons jokes.
• Opium: A follow-up to Byron Yee's 1998 Fringe hit, Paper Son.
• My Penis -- In and Out of Trouble: Antonio Sacre's newest piece, which asks the audience "Come and be molested."
• Number 2: New York's Banana, Bag and Bodice's children show that is, unfortunately, not for children.
• Imbecillus: A Lunatic Quest: Last year's Best of Fringe winner Roblin Gray Davis (Mumble in Numbskull) returns with "random existential clowning."
• Trailer Trash Tabloid! : The Mobile Homo Sex Scandals, Murders & Other Unnatural Disasters of 1964: A high camp two man show from Orlando, Florida, set in a South Georgia trailer park laid to waste by a devastating tornado.
• The Devil, Doctor Faustus and Raymond the King of Hungary: Random Acts' comic adaptation of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus
• Gretl: Seattle's Red Meat brings an audio, video, dance and monologue night of fringe theatre, framed by the Grimm fairy tale "Lucky Hans" and featuring a sexy mannequin.
There's even stuff for the kids. Those in the younger set can spend An Evening with Olaf, a night of clowning, learn that Happy Endings Are Overrated in a chat with the disillusioned Prince Charming or catch Professor Zabulous' reality bending solo show, The Benefit of the Doubt. For free, anyone on the San Francisco streets can see a SMM -- aka a Spontaneous Musical Moment. Fringers will be taking to the sidewalks, restaurants, malls and public transit and bursting into song, dance or performance.
Tickets to Fringe events are $8 or less and are only available at the box office, 30 minutes before curtain. A Frequent Fringer pass, good for 10 shows for $55, is available at the TIX Bay Area booth at Union Square or online at http://www.ticketweb.com. The San Francisco Fringe is on the web at http://www.sffringe.org.
-- By Christine Ehren
and Ernio Hernandez