LOS ANGELES – The Hollywood Fringe Festival wraps up this weekend after painting the town with two and a half weeks of outrageous theater, music, spectacle, and monologues.
Inaugurated in 2010, each June the festival takes over Hollywood with hundreds of performances by amateurs, professionals, and anybody with a hankering for an audience. As described by their website it is an “open-access, community-derived event celebrating freedom of expression and collaboration in the performing arts community.”
Productions are staged day and night in theaters, parks, clubs, churches, coffee shops, restaurants, and bars all within a square mile radius. Participants come from all over the world and range in various levels of experience, providing a free-for-all approach that is the festival’s stated mission.
Highlights this year included “Shakespeare’s King Phycus,” combining the plots of “Hamlet,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Caesar,” “MacBeth,” and “Richard III” all in one iambic pentameter text featuring thousands of characters played by only six actors.
“The Fever” is an updated version Wallace Shawn’s play chronicling a wealthy one-percenter confronted with the turmoil of a country in revolution.
A Peanuts parody, “Absolutely Filthy,” is a dark comedy about a homeless man looking suspiciously like the Charlie Brown character, Pigpen, who stumbles upon the funeral of his long-estranged best friend.
Friday night’s offerings will include “Natalie Portman: The Musical,” in which an ersatz Samuel L. Jackson will lead audiences through a sketch-comedy bio on the popular actress.
“God Damn Tim Tebow!” looks at the God-fearing second-string quarterback and what happens when answered prayers make him the second coming of Christ.
Saturday night’s best bet is “Aesopera,” five mini-operas based on Aesops fables sung with a comic twist.
The festival will wrap up Sunday night with an awards ceremony and party at Fringe Central Station on Santa Monica Boulevard. While deemed a success by most, many critics were unimpressed by Hollywood Fringe. LA Times drama critic Charles McNulty called much of the work “trifling,” while playwright Jay McAdams wondered if the festival ought to be curated in order to weed out subpar productions.
Fringe Festivals are a worldwide phenomenon celebrating underground and emerging arts scenes. It all began in 1947 in Edinburgh, Scotland, when eight performance groups showed up uninvited on the “fringes” of the exclusive Edinburgh International Festival.