A '90s-inspired sing-along van ride with the “Fringy Mime Queen.” A one-man show about the complete history of drag. An epic battle among giants in a town called Normal. These are just some of the plays that will be showcased at the third-annual Fort Lauderdale Fringe Festival from April 20 to 23.
Brad Beckman, the fest's artistic director, says, “The Fringe Festival is a very engaging and exciting thing. People can experience really edgy work. About five of the shows are world premieres. It’s all new work. None of it is canned or tried-and-true."
The theater pieces offered at Fort Lauderdale Fringe this year range from the outrageously hilarious to the seriously sublime. Lady Macbeth and Her Pal Megan is a play performed by standup comic and playwright Megan Gogerty, in which two friends debate whether the protagonist is suited to play the role of the sexy and dangerous Lady Macbeth. Safe House is performed by Zion Gates-Norris, a graduate of the Broward ARTrepreneurs program, which teaches high-school students how to stage a live play; his show examines the aftermath of a young man’s death in the Pulse nightclub shooting. A children’s show, The World Is Sick, educates kids about Earth Day and the actions families can take to help the planet; it will be performed in both English and Spanish.
The combination of adult and child-appropriate programming makes the Fringe Festival accessible to a diverse population. Beckman says Fort Lauderdale’s attendees include people interested in traditional theater and musicals, hipsters, and a wide range of cultures. This edition marks the fest's first year of doing a show in Spanish.
Fringe festivals trace their origins to 1947 in Edinburgh, Scotland, where theater companies that weren't invited to the Edinburgh International Festival rented smaller, more accessible, but sometimes unconventional spaces to stage their performances. The fringe festival as a cultural phenomenon embraces the idea of inclusivity: The programming is not curated, and everyone is invited to participate. Beckman calls fringe fests “grassroots and open-source,” meaning anyone can stage and perform a show.
The egalitarian frame of fringe fests also translates to their financial structure. The Fort Lauderdale Fringe Festival raises all funds for production and infrastructure. "They don’t have to do production," Beckman says of the performers. "They just show up and perform. One hundred percent of box office sales goes back to the them. Art deserves to be valued, and artists deserve to be paid for their work.”
Beckman hopes to attract diverse audiences to the festival and the city of Fort Lauderdale through a wide range of topics and styles. “We are a destination that’s not just the beach. There’s more to us than partying. There’s cultural content here. Fort Lauderdale is a cultural destination.”
Fort Lauderdale Fringe Festival
Thursday, April 20, through Sunday, April 23, at various locations in Broward County. Tickets cost $10 to $12 for adults; $8 for children aged 12 to 18; and $6 for children under 12. Visit fortlauderdalefringe.com.