On Stage

Theater on the Fringe

Experimental performers take over the stage at FringePVD

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The Providence Fringe Festival is back for its fifth year in Olneyville this July 30-August 4. The weekend will showcase over 300 experimental artists from the Providence and New England area, including dancing, plays, improv comedy, and other acts.

Josh Short is the artistic director of The Wilbury Theatre Group, which created FringePVD in 2014. “We felt like there were a lot of independent performing artists in the area that weren’t getting the recognition or opportunities that more established companies were getting,” explains Short. The organizers met with artists over coffee to convince them to perform in venues across downtown. “It was a great success,” says Short, “and the next year, we didn’t have to hustle so hard to convince people to do it.”

Last year, Short describes, FringePVD received more applications than ever before, including from Europe and Canada. “It just goes to reaffirm our belief that there is a need for opportunities like this,” he says.

The New York International Fringe Festival, the largest multi-arts festival in the world, charges participants over a thousand dollars in fees, with a little less than half of ticket sales returning to the performers. By contrast, FringePVD uses a non-juried lottery process to pick 30 companies every year, who then receive “100% of the door [ticket sales]. It’s about making it as easy and accessible for the artist as possible,” says Short. “Whether it’s a one-man show or a big magic act, it’s their work and they take it seriously. So that makes it valid as far as we’re concerned.”

This year, all the venues are in Olneyville and the West Side, connected by the winding Woonasquatucket River bike path. The organizers wanted “that festival feeling of running into people and seeing the artists out and about,” Short says, “that exchange of ideas and sense of community.”

The Wilbury Theatre Group was not the only organization involved in planning this year’s festivities; the festival is supported by the WaterFire Arts Center, the Steel Yard, AS220, Yellow Peril Gallery, and the bookstore RiffRaff, as well as sponsorships from High Output, a production services company, and the Providence Tourism Council. The group also received a grant from the RI Council of the Humanities to make a newsletter by local artists that will be sent out every day of the festival. “There’s been a lot of community support and we’re very appreciative,” says Short.