Greensboro Fringe Festival dresses up downtown

by Lenise Willis

As Greensboro hosts the 2011 US Figure Skating Championships, downtown has the increased pressure to offer exciting, off-the-rink entertainment for the traveling crowds. And just in time is the Greensboro Fringe Festival, which presents two weeks of new and exciting plays Jan. 27-Feb. 13.

In its ninth year, the Greensboro Fringe Festival premieres new works by local artists who otherwise would not be able to produce their works on their own. In fact, all of the artists presented at the festival do not own, nor have access, to their own venue. Of course, Festival Director Todd Fisher says, “Simply being ‘poor’ doesn’t place [artists] on the fringe, but rather it is our passion to present new and provocative ideas for the stage that gives us an edgy, or dare I say ‘fringy’ perspective.”

The festival was created in 2003 as a way for independent theatre producers to collaborate and reach broader audiences. Fisher reiterates that all of the pieces featured at the festival are premieres performed by local talent. “You never know, you may see the first production of the next Wicked — or you could very well witness a play about potatoes growing.”

Speaking of potatoes is UNCG alumnus David Harrell, whose play A Little Potato and Hard to Peel performs as part of the festival Thursday through Saturday. The hilarious one-man show presents the personal account of growing up with one hand. With Shakespeare, ’80s pop culture and Mr. T’s spiritual guidance, the show reveals that it is our differences that may ultimately connect us with one another. The show earned New York actor Harrell a nomination for a New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Solo Performance.

Also playing Thursday through Saturday is Taryn Packheiser’s Stage Unassisted, a one-woman show that mixes an assortment of choreography, performance art, video installation and music that ranges from conventional to avant garde. The show focuses on the meaning and development of human relationships and nostalgic desires. Packheiser received an undergraduate degree in contemporary dance from the UNC School of the Arts.

The Couch by Kati Frazier will play Saturday through Monday. The comedy follows six lives, five mistakes, four careers, three days, two-anda-half affairs, two marriages and one couch. Each person has their own association with the couch, whether loving it or wanting it gone, in a play about family, love and the lack thereof.

Feb. 3-5 are performances On the Edge, a collection of dance performances by John Gamble Dance Theater, and Silent Pictures by UNCG alumnus Tommy Trull. Silent Pictures is a new, multi-media musical about a man named Madrid who doesn’t talk. After his heart is broken in Spain, he flees to America where he finds success in silent film. But his world will crash all over again when the studio pushes for his next film to be a talkie. Trull also wrote The Immersibles, which was performed by GTCC Theatre.

Playing Feb. 5-7 is Informall Theater Company’s Flesh & Bones, two new one-act plays by Douglas Bosley and Todd Fisher. “The Flesh” by Fisher follows the love of a couple and whether or not they can rediscover their spark before their relationship falls apart. “The Bones” by Bosley is a tragic comedy that explores the battle between love at first sight and the deeper emotions that must lie within.

Performing at Triad Stage UpStage Cabaret is We <3 Burlesque, a fundraising burlesque show by Purrrlesgue! Funds go to help fight against ALS.

Bringing the festival to a close is Evening of Short Plays #24 by the Greensboro Playwrights Forum. Ten plays by 10 Southern playwrights will be presented each night Feb. 10-13.

All in all, the festival, full of fresh talent and ideas, is sure to help downtown shine while the city basks in the ice-skating limelight, following its mission statement, “[T]o bring attention to downtown Greensboro and to promote it as an exciting centre of environment and culture. The Greensboro Fringe Festival seeks to introduce audiences to shows that they would not have the opportunity to see elsewhere and to build an audience base for emerging artists.”

wanna go?

Greensboro Fringe Festival will be at the City Arts Studio Theatre, 300 N. Davie St., unless otherwise noted, Jan. 27-Feb. 13. Tickets are $10 a show. For tickets and show schedule call 549-7431 or visit