IT’S HERE! It will be the reason behind the sudden boom in performing arts for 5 days! On May 9-13 Atlanta Fringe Festival will be an experience of story telling in a most unique way. Twinhead Theaterhas composed a platform of recognition for the fringe artists and holds a maximum amount of performances possible, so everyone will be able to find one to savor. There are 6 venues including Horizons School theater and gym in Candler Park, the Mask Center in Little 5, Wonderroot in Reynoldstown, and Core Dance and Beacon Dance in Decatur. Executive Director Diana Brown has summed up the best about the Atlanta Fringe Festival and touches on her passion for theater in an interview.
Doobious: How do you feel this performing arts festival has or will impact communities?
Diana: Well, firstly, the festival itself is such an open forum for artists. Anyone, regardless of experience or background, can perform or participate in the festival in some way. I think that inspires people; instead of feeling like, “I would never get chosen,” they feel like, “I can try something here and it’s okay.” It’s a safe place to take risks and challenge yourself. So I hope the Atlanta community feels inspired, supported, and galvanized by the Fringe format.
More specifically, our festival was set up to touch as many parts of Atlanta as possible. We know that Atlanta loves its neighborhoods, which is great and part of the city’s charm. But sometimes it means that you stay in your 5-mile radius and don’t really try to hit up another neighborhood. So we came to you. We did events in Midtown, Grant Park, Old Fourth Ward, Emory, and Mechanicsville, and our venues are in Decatur, Candler Park, Little 5 Points, and Reynoldstown. So the whole community can enjoy the festival and see what we’re about regardless of geography. We wanted to impact every community, whether it had a strong theater scene or not. We wanted to bring in new audiences to experience theater and new artists making theater.
Doobious: When and why did you decide that you wanted to implement this festival?
Diana: Twinhead Theatre had put it on our five-year plan back in 2008, but it wasn’t the foremost goal in our minds. But then, in 2010, the Little 5 Points Business Association wanted to do a spring theater festival to complement their fall Halloween festival, and when they described the kind of theater they were going for, I told them they were really wanting to start a Fringe festival. At first it was just going to be in Little 5, but since we wanted to spread out our impact and touch all the neighborhoods we could (as I mentioned above), the business association stepped back from the project and Twinhead took it over from there, and here we are!
Why do I want to? That’s a good question. There are several reasons, of course, but first and foremost, it’s because Twinhead has been making fringe theatre in Atlanta since 2003. We had been to the Minneapolis Fringe in 2006 and it left a great impression on us about what it felt like, what a great energy and vibrancy that city had when it was being taken over by theater artists. But I wanted to do it because making theater is difficult; it’s expensive, and time-consuming, and it’s hard to get funding support. Especially when you’re on your own, trying to write original material, it can get prohibitively difficult to do. Twinhead was very lucky with our friends and connections in the community and we were able to create over 30 productions in galleries, bars, and outdoor spaces, but if we had had a format like this available to us back in the day, it would have been so much easier for us to make a name for ourselves and reach audiences. So we have a real understanding about what fringe theater companies and artists need, and we know the impact those resources can have on the creative juices. So it was sort of a feeling of, well, we needed that, other theater groups need that, and no one else is trying to do this crazy thing, so let’s do it ourselves! We’re very DIY. We’re like the Etsy of theater companies.
Doobious: How did you get your start in theater and what makes theater unique to you? Is it that you can take storytelling to a whole new level?
Diana: I was in my first play when I was 13, at Horizons School (one of our venues!), where i went to high school, and that was it for me. I knew it was what I wanted to do for my whole life. Horizons was unique in that the two school plays were totally student-written, directed, performed, built, and designed, which really influenced me as an artist to want to create my own material. It made me feel like I had something to say and that someone wanted to hear it, which I think is important to anyone’s formative years. It makes you think your opinions through, and think about the impact your words have on others. When you think no one is listening, you’ll say any damn thing. Horizons really tried to empower us to think about the impact we have on our communities and ourselves.
Theater is unique because it’s live. If you miss a theater show, that’s it; unlike books or movies, there’s no Netflixing it, there’s no lending it out. You have to be there in person to experience the story being told to you. And because it’s live, the energy is electric. When the actors are feeling good, and the audience is into it, that’s the best show ever; you could come back the next day to see the same show and if the actors are tired, and the audience is quiet or bored, the play is terrible. It’s a place where your energy matters and contributes so much to the experience. No other art form can say that. Visual art, film, music, writing; you don’t have to be in the same room with those artists to experience their work. Theater is temporary, fleeting; it’s memories. It has to be experienced in person. I think that lends it a special magic of its own.
Doobious: Will it only be acting out stories or is there other performances the public can look forward to?
Diana: The 27 shows in our lineup, and they include dramas and comedies, but also dance, circus art, aerial performance, onomatopoetic choruses, cabaret; there’s tons to look forward to, no matter what your tastes.
Doobious: How do others get involved in future fringe fests? how do they “pollinate” the scene?
Diana: There are so many ways! We always need volunteers; this festival is completely volunteer-run and organized, but we also need volunteers during the actual festival days to run box offices and usher. It’s a great way to get involved and see free shows!
Anyone can submit to perform, too, of course! Our selection process is a random lottery, so there are no judgments made about you or your work or anything; we just pick your name out of a hat!
But mostly, COME SEE SHOWS!! And then go hang out with the artists afterward and talk about the show, discuss the performance and the work, talk about life, love, happiness and misery; Fringes are about connecting.
Doobious: Who is Twinhead Theatre and what part do they have in this fest?
Diana: Twinhead Theatre is the producer of the Atlanta Fringe. (So we have quite a lot to do with the festival!) We are an underground theater company who has made fringe theater in Atlanta since 2003. We’re ensemble-based and we write, produce, direct, and perform all our shows, which range from sketch comedy to feminist theory to a choose-your-adventure play; we’ve also produced a feature-length movie and an original web series. Our show in the festival is called F#%k, F#%k, Goose!: Stories for Children (Not for Children) and it’s a hilarious, raunchy comedy show inspired by the sick-and-twisted origins of our favorite fairy tales and fables.
Doobious: There truly will be tons of plays happening simulteaneously at the various venues, which play is a cant miss?
Diana: That’s a tough question! There are so many amazing productions involved in the festival, and of course it really depends on your taste what you might really enjoy. i can tell you that i’m really looking forward to seeing Twinhead’s show, of course; The Observation of Starship Astral Strategy by Fish and Bicycle Theater Company; Do Not Kill Me, Killer Robots by The Great Ben Egerman Theatre; Adventure, Bodies Modeling by Eyes on the Sky Productions, and Fricative by Performance Gallery. In order, that’s comedy, aerial with projection, a solo performance show, a dark comedy, and an onomatopoetic orchestra doing dadaist poems.
But don’t take my word for it! A good way to find out what you can’t miss is to attend our Opening Preview Party. It’s 100% FREE, on the Decatur Square MARTA Plaza, and each of the 27 productions gets 3 minutes to preview their show for you so you can get a festival guide and circle the shows you definitely want to check out. It’s a great way to meet the artists and Fringe staff, too, because we’ll all be there passing out handbills, selling tickets and Fringe merch, and getting ready for the craziest weekend of our lives!
Check out the performance schedule at the Atlanta Fringe Festival’s Website and show your support by visiting their Facebook page! Also, take a look at this Additional Interview about Immurare, a production that will be featured during the festival!