When you see fringe, you are probably looking at ornamental highlights on a piece of clothing or something unconventional and extreme. Either way, Boulder is the perfect place if your mainstream exists on the periphery.
The Boulder International Fringe Festival, an annual event since 2005, ties Boulder’s exceptional arts and performance community to a network that allows for an uncensored, non-juried journey into the pools of creativity and expression. Over 12 days at numerous area venues, Fringe will showcase live theatre, dance, various forms of visual art, spoken word and storytelling, puppetry, as well as workshops to tease the strands of fringy creativity wearing away from the center of the predictable.
With a community bursting with individual creativity, fringe performers in Boulder and beyond have found a comfortable base from which to showcase their talents. Fringe can provide a measure of exposure to an artist, but by definition fringe participants are usually forced to go it alone. A first-come- first-serve and lottery entry system might guarantee an artistic platform, but it falls upon the artists to promote and stage their own performances. While 100 percent of the box office goes back to the artist, the riches being earned are not monetary.
“The Boulder Fringe has been a great resource for the arts community here in Boulder. It’s really an incubator for performers where we can come and try out new material and build a following and find an audience for what we’re doing,” says Gregg Tobo, a magician performing an interactive theater piece called Patterns: A Numbers and Symbols Show. Based on numbers and symbols interlocking in random patterns to make sense of the universe around us, Tobo’s show is one of the various performances that make the festival an orgy for the senses.
In its ninth year against the backdrop of the Flatirons, Fringe performers can take advantage of a larger venue, more publicity and greater feedback than they might normally find while independently producing what oftentimes are one- or two-person shows. Putting a magnifying glass on these performers not only helps to entertain paying customers, but helps spiral into a larger creative force for the arts community.
Gemma Wilcox reprises The Honeymoon Period is Official Over; Martin Dockery brings two plays to the Fringe. Photos by www.AliveStudios.com and KH Photographics.
“The Fringe Festival in Boulder is what theater is supposed to be,” says Margarita Blush, a 20-year veteran of puppet theater who infuses Western culture into her adaptation of The Crane Wife, a traditional Japanese folk tale. “People come together and it builds community. It is the artist and the people, and there is conversation and it’s accessible. It’s fringy and not mainstream that gives an opportunity for creative outlets and to also build community.”
Jim Walker, who is debuting Normal Heights, a musical inspired by his own life experiences as well as societal changes in the way GLBT people have been perceived, feeds his creativity by performing at Fringe.
“Fringe Festival is a great place to workshop new work, because you get the experience of putting together and publicizing the event,” Walker says. “It becomes  days of inspired lunacy — in a good way. There’s so much energy that comes through from all over the world, I always get inspired by the shows at the Fringe.”
Among the plethora of acts this year include the dance performance The 13th and Final Principle, based on societal saturation of digital media and its influence on the arts. Synergy and Sparks, a four-woman dance choreographed by locals Lyra Mayfield and Tonya Goodwin, reveals the world of mystery, sensuality and depth that parallels real life. Bronx-based Corky Has a Band, a self-proclaimed hyper vaudevillian performance duo dubbed Professor Tickles and Sgt. Whiskers, will perform their variety show-cum-improvisational concert for all who show up.
Theater will have a huge presence again this year, with a glorious mix of talent from around the globe to satiate even the most obscure entertainment tastes. 5th Circle Productions of Boulder brings Serum 37, about a futuristic experimental drug untested on humans that “may induce unwarranted feelings of sympathy and questions about the nature of truth.” Annie Nash of Boulder travels through the mind of a woman dealing with her own hysteria while trying to fit into the proper societal role mainstream society has carved out for her in Ha, Ha, Ha, Hysteria. Martin Dockery of Brooklyn will bring two plays to Fringe. The Pit features a stereotypical domestic couple that wakes up late for work, only to find out they have lost the ability to do anything about it, while The Bike Trip recreates history’s first LSD experience.
Margarita and Robert Blush will present The Crane Wife. | Photo by Biz Hertzberg
Gemma Wilcox is returning to Fringe this year in celebration of the 10-year anniversary of her one-woman show The Honeymoon Period is Officially Over. The five-time recipient of the Boulder Fringe Encore Winner award basks in the glow of an understanding and adventurous crowd.
“Fringe audiences are very receptive and open to taking risks and exploration,” Wilcox says. “What I love about Boulder Fringe is the incredible network of fringe performers in town. It’s so supportive in Boulder. I can really hone my shows in front of the audience here.”
You live in Boulder County, so you may think you’ve seen it all. But as the safety of normal starts fraying at the ends, there will always be the fringe to explore. As long as you don’t eat PBJ three meals a day, Fringe has something for every taste. Tickets can be purchased individually, and the festival has multi-day passes available. Prices range from gratis to around $15.
“I would encourage audience members to come and be adventurous — see several shows,” Tobo says. “All of the Fringe performances are modestly priced because we want audiences to see something they normally wouldn’t see.”
For a complete schedule of the Boulder International Film Festival, visit www.boulderfringe.com or call the main box office at 303-803-5643.