Ninth edition of the Great Salt Lake Fringe has new home at Trolley Square in Alliance Theater venues

For its ninth edition, the Great Salt Lake Fringe (GSLF) festival has a new home at the Alliance Theater, connected to the Utah Arts Alliance, at Trolley Square

The move signals the best opportunities to ensure Fringe shows will have access to the ideal professional technical capacities for producing top quality shows, according to Jay Perry, GSLF director. For the first time in GSLF history, all the shows will be located centrally, with three venues: Alliance Theater (Venue 1), Alliance Black Box (Venue 2) and The Ballroom (Venue 3).

For the last five years, Fringe was held at The Gateway on the west side of downtown Salt Lake City, with the venues staged in vacant retail outlets, spread across the complex. The festival, which was founded as part of a Westminster University enterprise project, was held at various Sugar House locations during its first three years.

Perry, who also manages the Alliance Theater, is elated by the prospects of a new staging space for Fringe going forward, as it will complete its first decade next year. The Fringe campus is accessible, just north of the intersection at 600 South and 600 East, conveniently located close to the Trolley Square TRAX light-rail station on the Utah Transit Authority’s University Red Line train.

There are 20 shows for the 2023 edition, a lower total from previous years — a strategic decision to navigate the transition to a new performing home. Performances will take place over two consecutive weekends (July 28-30 and Aug. 4-6). The festival will have an opening party on July 27, beginning at 6 p.m., which coincides with Trolley Square’s monthly Party on the Plaza. The event, which will include One Kind Act A Day as a sponsoring presenter along with GSLF, will feature short performances, food trucks and a beer garden.

Perry believes this year’s schedule and central locations will give Fringe patrons an opportunity to see as many shows as possible over both weekends.  This year’s slate, as indicated below, features new and veteran performers and performers from both Utah as well as out of state. To reiterate a point made in past years at The Utah Review, Fringe is a model of artistic equity in terms of treatment and access. All of the ticket sales revenue is paid out to each performer or group, based on their cumulative audience numbers. Because the Fringe model puts every performer on as equal a playing level as possible, it is up to the individual show creators and performers to promote and advertise their work. Many of this year’s performers already have spent several weeks on social media promoting their work, many of which will be seen for the first time by an audience. 

The Fringe slate includes several returning performing arts groups, who have had excellent shows in prior years. They include the Immigrant’s Daughter Theatre, which was cited last December by The Utah Review as providing one of the top 10 moments of the Utah Enlightenment in 2022. The company will premiere Savage Resources, written and directed by Ariana Broumas Farber, a satire about two sales force leaders for a company who are challenged by a pandemic, a new hire and a demanding human resources director. This company is a consistent purveyor of chamber theater par excellence, as evidenced in last fall’s production of Dreamers

Another returning company is Beyond the Line Theatre Company, which will present Ubu Roi, an 1896 play by French writer Alfred Jarry, who was just 23 when he penned the work. It is considered one of the earliest examples of theater of the absurd which parodies several of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, mainly Macbeth but also Hamlet and King Lear as well. Directed by Jordan Reynosa, Ubu Roi features Papa Turd, a grotesque, power-hungry man whose wife persuades him to assassinate the king of Poland. 

Before leaving for graduate school, Indigo Cook returns to the Fringe stage with the Interdisciplinary Arts Collective, which is based at Westminster University. Bedtime Stories will feature the group’s trademark fusion of music, dance, poetry and theatrical elements. Gray Brian Thomas, poet and Westminster arts administrator, created a couple of pieces for this show.

David Isn’t Getting into Heaven, a Kallisti Theatre Company production by Justin Bradley, is about an ordinary millennial who has died suddenly and now faces his eternal reckoning with St. Peter, who is much different than what David anticipated. This company also has presented in past GSLF editions.

Meaningless, Rodney Brazil.

GSLF also welcomes R.J. Walker’s return with the Lords of Misrule Theatre Company, which will premiere a new production with audience interaction, Court of Hearts. In this adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, which starts from the ending of Lewis Carroll’s original, the audience dictates the no-holds-barred nonsensical nature. The King of Hearts has granted Alice the right to Heinous Corpses. As Walker explains it, “This means that Alice receives representation from the American justice system during her trial. Unfortunately, the Wonderland court system is very different from the one we know.” 

Along with a public defender, a state prosecutor and a bailiff, Alice must reenact Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland so that the King can prosecute specific crimes which Alice has committed. Hence, the audience serves as the jury, and members can shape the proceedings by their donations, which will be accepted during the performance. One-half of the proceeds will be donated to the Save The Kids Group, with the remainder divided among the cast and crew. Lords of Misrule shows have raised money for The Road Home, Our Unsheltered Relatives, The University of Utah Prison Education Project, AAMP Utah, and Save The Kids Group.

Casa Ivium, Roxie Hart Syndrome

A prominent newcomer to Fringe is Westminster University’s Classical Greek Theatre Festival lab, which is the nation’s longest running Greek theater festival. The festival was founded in 1971 at The University of Utah and was relocated to Westminster in 2011. Their Fringe premiere will be an adaptation of Euripides’ The Bacchae, a Greek tragedy written 2,400 years ago. 

Emilio Casillas, the lab’s artistic director, indicates that a Fringe production will augment efforts to keep the group’s work fresh and relevant to the local theatrical scene.  “Recent months have seen some of the country’s largest and oldest theatrical institutions face crisis or closure, but CGTF will adapt and survive,” he said. “We are debuting the CGTF Lab at this year’s Fringe, a project that will produce smaller, experimental programming inspired by classical drama. While CGTF will still present full productions of ancient plays, albeit less frequently than in the past, the Lab will incubate avant-garde theatre pieces to fill the gap.” Incidentally, Casillas has taken various roles throughout GSLF’s history, including as technical director, festival director and as an artist.

There are a few non-Utahns who will appear at Fringe. Rodney Brazil, an Oklahoma City-based writer, director, performer and producer, will present Meaningless, an unedited, uncensored, ancient rendition of Ecclesiastes. As Brazil explains it, “After struggling to find meaning in the world, The Teacher reveals his hard-learned and unexpected answers to life’s big questions. From concubines to snake charming, he’s here to explain the meaningless existence of everything under the sun.”

He made his Fringe debut, performing in Beneath the Zipper at Chicago Fringe in 2012. Brazil gave a TEDxOU talk in 2015 about the essential presence of community theater (a wholly relevant topic to consider for Fringe), which is available here

One-person shows are popular at Fringe and Casa Ivium‘s Roxie Hart Syndrome promises to be a surefire crowd pleaser. This drag queen show is about the artistic rebirth of Roxie Hart as musical star, a fictitious character that has been around for nearly a century. Hart is a character of Chicago, the original play by Maurine Dallas Watkins which later was adapted to its eponymous stage musical and film. Pam GallegOz is co-founder and artistic and academic director of Casa Ivium. A multidisciplinary artist with more than 20 years of performing experience, she has collaborated and shared her work as an artist, performer, creator and producer in different states of the Mexican Republic as well as internationally in Chile, Argentina, Italy, France and other countries.

Singing the Diaphragm Blues and Other Sexual Cacophonies is a comedy-drama about female sexuality in Western culture: medical exams and chickens, birth control, abortion, and the convoluted world of female sexuality. Written and performed by Rebecca Lea McCarthy, the production covers female sexuality from childhood to menopause, the law, and female sexuality and gender mythology, interspersed with the writer’s experiences and songs. 

McCarthy, who has a doctorate in comparative studies, based the show on one of her books. The show is directed by Dale Westgaard, who has a master of fine arts degree in directing from Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Independent Utah theatrical enterprise dominates as usual for this year’s Fringe. From Brigham Young University, The Confidants will present The Sons of Arthur. The group members are playwrights and actors who offer their own spin on Arthurian legends, by situating witches as protagonists and kings as the antagonists.  

Focusing on the dynamics of how individuals view each other across sharp political divides, Canyon Country, by Liv C. Smith, is about a group of campers who are stranded at a remote campsite in southern Utah during a flash flood. “These strangers have deep divides but are forced to gather around a campfire,” Smith describes. “Driven apart by ideological differences, tempers soon run hotter than the flames. A medical emergency interrupts the chaos, forcing the campers to figure out if they can work together when a life is at stake.” 

Another Liv C. Smith work, Pretty, Dirty, opens on the eve of the winter solstice, as a woman attempts at a winter summit of Mount Timpanogos. “After a life-threatening avalanche rattles her confidence, she must return to nature to rediscover her inner power while her friends are forced to consider their own sense of agency in an increasingly regulated world,” she explains. “This show explores the dichotomy of being a woman who’s city wants them to resign themselves to easily defined boxes.” Smith, a graduate of The University of Utah’s musical theater program, wrote and produced How Flowers Bloom for the Alliance Theater in 2022.

Kite Flyer, a play by KID SISTER Theatre Collaborative, focuses on a reunion of two siblings who revisit their childhood, as they realize the senses of wonder and awe of those years have dissolved over time and their willful ignorance.

The Confidants, The Sons of Arthur

Method: Theatre Company will present Wildflowers / A Play, an experiment in improvisation, prepared scenes and songs performed along with improvised pieces. At every performance, the cast will create a new play or musical for the audience, with no show resembling a prior performance. 

The Advantageous Adventures of Mrs. Meddlesome, Episode 2: The Curse of the Tomb, by Shauna Cordelia Brand, is an homage to old-time radio serials. The central character is an amateur sleuth who has recruited her nephew (Mr. Uptight) to solve cases. The first episode, Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death, premiered in the fall of 2022 .

From The OtherSide Players, The Mormon Kid or Who Wants to Be an Outlaw, directed by Xan Johnson and featuring Morgan Lund and John Serfustini recreates a first-hand account from Matt Warner, a late 19th century Utah outlaw.

The Timekeeper’s Collection, by Marie Kynd, is set in various scenes from the 20th century. A man who has the gift of envisioning the past by touching an item ventures into a mysterious time chamber where he meets a woman who becomes his guide. The scenes include boarding the Titanic before its fateful voyage, a man waiting for his love during the 1940s and the campaign for women’s suffrage. 

Fringe patrons also will get a preview of the comedians who are set to open the Boxcar Comedy Club in Springville, Utah on Aug. 18. The two Fringe shows will feature Happy Valley Comedy, with hosts, respectively, Cheyenne Jackson and Adam Broud.

Also, Busking Bus Theatre, a local vaudeville-inspired variety show, will be performing during the festival, at the side of their bus, parked at Trolley Square near the Fringe performing venues. The group has performed periodically during the summer in downtown Salt Lake City. 

There also will be free presentations, lectures and workshops for performers and others at the Artist Annex, produced by Scixxy’s Greater Shows.

For more information about tickets and all Fringe events, see the GSLF website.

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