Traditional performing arts can be a rather conventional affair — audiences generally know what to expect, productions last for multiple days and, more often than not, shows are fairly routine. The Scranton Fringe Festival aims to defy expectations and present audiences and performers with an unconventional outlet for the performing arts Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 1 – 4. The festival features more than 45 productions with artists from around the 570 and beyond performing at venues throughout downtown Scranton.
The Fringe theater movement began in the late 1940s as an alternative to more traditional performing arts festival formats. Festival co-organizer Conor O’Brien said the spark to bring Fringe to Scranton came after his own experiences with Fringe, including winning a Best Actor award at the 2014 Pittsburgh Fringe Festival.
“After being part of the Pittsburgh and Kansas City Fringe and being directly involved in a few others, I just loved the platform,” O’Brien said. “I loved the accessibility and the engagements it created. Not only as an artist, but as a community member, I felt we could do a lot for Scranton. I felt that Scranton would be a phenomenal city for a fringe festival.”
O’Brien helped run downtown Scranton’s Vintage Theater, which operated for six years and provided an outlet for many local performers. After Vintage shut its doors in 2014, O’Brien and Scranton Fringe Festival co-organizer Elizabeth Bohan were free to start working on bringing Fringe to town.
“When the Vintage was closing last year, it just all came together,” said Bohan. “We were talking about what we were going to do, and what was going on in town. Conor was interested in having a Fringe, and we started having meetings, and it became a reality pretty quickly, I think! At first we were just talking hypothetically and we just kept hanging out and having meetings, and thought ‘hey, we can actually do this.’”
Application submissions for the festival were accepted February through April, and Fringe organizers received nearly 100 submissions. While the acceptance process was open and not juried, some hurdles meant a few artists had to be turned away.

Presenting The Spectrettes

Presenting The Spectrettes

“We looked at the submissions and decided what was practical,” said Bohan. “Some of the performances we just didn’t have a venue for or, for international people, we couldn’t get them a visa. There were a few that were just a little too complicated for our first year. It was just a logistics thing.”
The split between regional and national performers is nearly even, according to O’Brien. Artists from Los Angeles, New Orleans, Chicago and around the country will arrive in Scranton to produce their shows.
Brooklyn-based performing artist Siobhan O’Loughlin will perform her piece, Natural Modest, an example of the Fringe Festival’s approach to more nontraditional subject matter.
“I’m using female body hair as an avenue with which to explore issues of female identity, and why we, as women, are evaluated on how we look constantly,” said O’Loughlin. “I tell my story and perform as seven other women I’ve interviewed about their body hair. It’s a great variety of women — there’s a Muslim woman who wears a hijab who talks about why she chooses to cover her hair, there’s a transgender woman who talks about what she did with her hair as she transitioned, there’s a Chinese lesbian who survived abuse by her family who talks about the liberation of her body. There are a lot of perspectives and experiences. There’s a Jewish sorority girl who waxes everything because she likes the way it makes her feel. It can be a controversial subject. It sometimes can involve a lot of shame for some women, there are a lot of feelings that women and men have about their hair.”
Fringe Festival gives touring artists like O’Loughlin a venue to take their work to new places, but local performers who might be starting out or trying new ideas benefit from the format as well.
“Fringe is the artistic framework for touring artists and people who maybe wouldn’t be able to afford to rent a stage, or maybe aren’t able to do a full run of shows,” said Bohan. “We’re setting up the framework and then they’re taking off with it.”
Bohan said the festival organizers are responsible for marketing Scranton Fringe Festival itself, but it’s up to the artists to spread the word about their individual shows.
“We’re doing all the promotion for the festival itself, the umbrella of Fringe,” she said. “We try to get the artists to market their own shows. With so many performances, we can’t do it — it’s just too unwieldy. They have full use of our logo, but they can do all their own artwork. It’s exciting for me to walk into a coffee shop and see the Fringe logo on a poster I’ve never seen before.”
Bringing together so many different artists – from stage performers and musicians to comedians and magicians — is what makes Fringe a unique expression of performing arts. O’Brien said he hopes audiences become just as much a part of the experience.
“It’s all about cross-pollination of the arts,” he said. “We’re hoping someone comes in and sees a performance, and it triggers and inspires them. Hopefully we have a lot of people in the audience who say ‘I’ve got to be in this next year, I have something that I always wanted to do.’ The potential is incredible, it can only grow. There is no
going backward.”
The response for the first-year festival has defied organizers’ expectations. As the start date approached, the #ScrantonFringe hashtag started gaining more momentum on Instagram as artists began rehearsing and preparing for their shows.
“I love the fact that Fringe is taking on a life of its own, and people are making it their own, and promoting their own shows,” said Bohan. “People are making lists of things they want to see, chatting with fellow artists. It’s really exciting to all of us behind the scenes to see that people are really investing. I think there’s a really great artistic community in Scranton, and there’s support for this. Especially the past few weeks — all the people who are in the festival are having rehearsals, or doing their own marketing and other things. ”
According to O’Brien, Scranton Fringe Festival isn’t the origin of the excitement — it’s merely a way to focus existing energy.
“We have such an incredibly rich arts and cultural, performance, music, visual, literary and performing arts community,” he said. “The foundation was already there. We always talk about how we’re not creating the community, we’re just further augmenting and hopefully elevating it just a little bit. Our goal is to make it a little bit stronger.”
Bringing touring artists to Scranton can also give the community a boost. O’Loughlin said she thinks Scranton is a great place to host a Fringe festival.
“I’m from a very small town — Salisbury, Maryland,” she said. “I love when young people can get together and help build a movement, give people a platform, create something that draws other artists to the place. It helps put the city on the map in terms of cultural capital. I think it’s wonderful, I hope Scranton can set an example for other smaller cities.”
Scranton Fringe Festival will kick off with a free preview party Thurs. Oct. 1 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at The Leonard.

Cast of Banger's Elixir, running Oct. 2-5 as part of the Scranton Fringe Festival

Cast of Banger’s Elixir, running Oct. 2-5 as part of the Scranton Fringe Festival

“There will be art vendors and preview snippets of the performances,” said O’Brien. “Actors will be there, sometimes even in character, sometimes in crazy costumes, passing out postcards and promoting their shows. It’ll have a cash bar, Terra Preta will be doing a pop-up dining experience. It’s a great way to get a taste of the Fringe and celebrate its beginning.”
Performances will take place throughout the festival at venues throughout the downtown Scranton footprint. Tickets for each show will be $10 at the door (cash only). Very limited VIP “hopper” passes, which include admission to all events except late-night musical events, are $50 and available at Fringe headquarters in the Ritz Building on Wyoming Ave.
Audience members who’d like to see several shows can purchase a Fringe Button, which provides a $3 discount to all performances. In addition, button-holders can flash their buttons for discounts at all button-sellers through Dec. 31. Buttons are available at Adezzo, Ale Mary’s, Arts Seen Gallery Co-op & Cafe, Duffy Accessories, The Keys, Terra Preta and all Gerrity’s supermarket locations.
Scranton Fringe festival began as a simple idea in the fall of 2014, and through strong community support and hard work, it’s now a reality.
“It’s been challenging, but every challenge has been incredibly rewarding,” said O’Brien. “I think we have a really good community here, we would have never been able to do it if the foundation wasn’t already there. It’s incredible — from the artists who are participating to the public to the patrons who have helped us raise funds to the businesses that donated their time, money and resources.”
— tucker hottes

 

 

 

LEONARD THEATER
335 Adams Ave.
Thursday, Oct. 1
Kick off party, 6 to 9 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 2
6 p.m. — Banger’s Elixir (Rated R)
7:30 p.m. — Presenting The Spectrettes (Rated PG-13)
9 p.m. — The Tempest (Rated PG)
10:30 p.m. — Intimate Moments (Rated R)
Saturday, Oct. 3
2 p.m. — Presenting The Spectrettes (Rated PG-13)
3:30 p.m. — Une Soiree au Cabaret (Rated PG)
5 p.m. — Banger’s Elixir (Rated R)
6:30 p.m. — The Tempest (Rated PG)
8 p.m. — Intimate Moments (Rated R)
9:30 p.m. — The Big Gay StorySlam (Rated R)
Sunday, Oct. 4
2 p.m. — Intimate Moments (Rated R)
3:30p.m. — Banger’s Elixir (Rated R)
5 p.m. — Une Soiree au Cabaret (Rated PG)
6:30 p.m. — Presenting The Spectrettes (Rated PG-13)

Cherokee Red

Cherokee Red

AFA GALLERY
514 Lackawanna Ave.
Friday, Oct. 2
10 p.m. — Cherokee Red’s “Dream The Night Away” (Rated PG)
Saturday, Oct. 3
2 p.m. — The Dais (Rated PG-13)
3:30 p.m. — Resurrection
(Rated PG-13)
5 p.m. — Bunny, Bunny (Rated PG-13)
6:30 p.m. — The Elevator / Chocolate Souffle (Rated PG)
8 p.m. — The Dais (Rated PG-13)
9:30 p.m. — Bunny, Bunny
(Rated PG-13)
11 p.m. — Late Night Music on The Fringe: Featuring STARWOOD, Pity Party & Baby Erection. (Rated R)
Sunday, Oct. 4
2 p.m. — The Elevator / Chocolate Souffle (Rated PG)
3:30 p.m. — Bunny, Bunny
(Rated PG-13)
5 p.m. — The Dais (Rated PG-13)
6:30 p.m. — Resurrection (Rated PG-13)

ALE MARY’S at the Bittenbender
126 Franklin Ave.
Saturday, Oct. 3
2 p.m. — Life Is A Cabaret (Rated PG-13)
5 p.m. — NEPA Comedy Showcase (Rated R)
7 p.m. — The Father Paul Show (Rated R)
8:30 p.m. — The Awkward Life of Steve Clark (Rated PG-13)
10 p.m. — Stand Up! Sit Down! Stand Up! (Rated R)
Sunday, Oct. 4
2 p.m. — The Father Paul Show (Rated R)
4 p.m. — The Awkward Life of Steve Clark (Rated PG-13)
6:30 p.m. — Life Is a Cabaret (Rated PG-13)

FORAGE SPACE
310 N. Washington Ave.
Saturday, Oct. 3
2 p.m. — Thom Pain: based on nothing (Rated R)
3:30 p.m. — To The Bar (Rated PG-13)
6:30 p.m. — Roberts Eternal Goldfish (Rated PG-13)
8 p.m. — Thom Pain: based on nothing (Rated R)
Sunday, Oct. 4
2 p.m. — Roberts Eternal Goldfish (Rated PG-13)
5 p.m. — To The Bar (Rated PG-13)
6:30 p.m. — Thom Pain: based on nothing (Rated R)

COALWORK
544 Spruce St.
Friday Oct. 2
9 p.m. — A Knock On The Door (Rated PG-13)
Saturday, Oct. 3
2 p.m. — A Knock On The Door (Rated PG-13)
7 p.m. — The Eulogy (Rated PG-13)
Sunday, Oct. 4
2 p.m. — The Eulogy (Rated PG-13)
4:30 p.m. — A Knock On The Door (Rated PG-13)

TEQUILA MEXICAN BAR & GRILL
320 Penn Ave.
Friday, Oct. 2
6 p.m. — The Funny Man of Magic (Rated PG)
8 p.m. — Laugh Out Lepka’s Comedy
(Rated PG-13)
11 p.m. — Here We Are In Spain
(Rated R)
Saturday, Oct. 3
4 p.m. — Cuddle Up With Fennec Fox (Rated R)
6 p.m. — Tales From The Great Recession, stand up by Zachary Hammond (Rated R)
8:30 p.m. — Cuddle Up With Fennec Fox (Rated R)
11 p.m. — Here We Are In Spain
(Rated R)

MIND BODY SPIRIT CO-OP
209 N. Washington Ave.
Friday, Oct. 2
6 p.m. — Scranton Decameron (Rated R)
8 p.m. — Sisyphus Project Part 3: Hip Surgery (Rated PG-13)
9:30 p.m. — St. Arbor, The Nursery (Rated R)
Saturday, Oct. 3
4 p.m. — Sisyphus Project Part 3: Hip Surgery (Rated PG-13)
6 p.m. — St. Arbor, the Nursery (Rated R)
8 p.m. — Scranton Decameron (Rated R)
9:30 p.m. — Natural Novice (Rated PG-13)
Sunday, Oct. 4
2:30 p.m. — St. Arbor, the Nursery (Rated R)
4 p.m. — Natural Novice (Rated PG-13)
5:30 p.m. — Scranton Decameron (Rated R)

Lackawanna County
Children’s Library
520 Vine Street
Friday, Oct. 2
6 p.m. — The Olde Stories:
GUZHGUITREMIN (Rated PG)
Saturday, Oct. 3
2 p.m. — The Olde Stories:
GUZHGUITREMIN (Rated PG)
4 p.m. — Music With Jasper (Rated PG)

RADISSON HOTEL
700 Lackawanna Ave.
Friday, Oct. 2
6 p.m. — My Billions Mine (Rated PG-13)
8 p.m. — Ellen Doyle Stand Up Comedy (Rated R)
10:30 p.m. — Denny Corby: Magic and Comedy (Rated PG-13)
Saturday, Oct. 3
2 p.m. — My Billions Mine (Rated PG-13)
9 p.m. — Unpopable Molly Rated R)
10:30 p.m. — Ellen Doyle Stand Up Comedy (Rated R)
Sunday, Oct. 4
2 p.m. — Like No One Ever Was: A Donation Based Stage Reading (Rated PG-13)
5 p.m. — Unpopable Molly Rated R)

Une Soiree au Cabaret

Une Soiree au Cabaret

THE RITZ BUILDING
222 Wyoming Ave.
Saturday Oct. 3
Noon — Sometimes Naked Always Alone (Rated R)
2 p.m. — Afternoon Music at The Ritz (Rated PG)
6 p.m. — Breaking Ground Poets Youth Showcase (Rated PG-13)
8 p.m. — Sometimes Naked Always Alone (Rated R)

ARTS SEEN GALLERY
& CAFE
534 Lackawanna Ave.
Friday, Oct. 2
8:30 p.m. — Be Seen Open Mic (Rated R)
Saturday, Oct. 3
1 p.m. — NEPA Writers Collective Open Writing Group (Rated R)
Sunday, Oct. 4
2 p.m. — Storytelling with Canvases
4 p.m. — Katie Kelly Music Showcase

THE KEYS
244 Penn Ave.
Friday, Oct. 2
10 p.m. — Late Night @ The Keys (A Social State, Daniel Amedee, Family Animals)
Saturday, Oct. 3
10 p.m. — Fringe Dance Party With
DJ QUOTH

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