San Francisco’s Fringe Festival: More than on the Fringe of Fun By Kevin M. Thomas

Chainsaws, acrobats and gay marriage are just some of the diverse topics in this year’s San Francisco Fringe Festival, running Sept. 9-20, 2009, mostly at the Exit Theatre. The festival has over 250 performances of 43 different entertainment pieces  – and all at a very low prices between $5-12 per show (or through a Frequent Fringer pass that offers five shows for $40 or 10 shows for $70). The Fringe Festival has always been produced by the Exit Theatre, which has been an independent smaller venue theatre since 1983 and always under the artistic direction of  Christina Augello, who enjoys the shows that come to the festival as much as the audience. For those who don’t go to the theatre often as the touring Broadway shows San Francisco gets are too mainstream, the Fringe Festival was made for show. The festival showcases more intimate productions, often times they are less than 90 minutes, and provides an alternative theatre experience and more often, allows its audience to enjoy the more creative freedom’s the artists are given in this arena. Among the 43 productions, there’s is a selection devoted to gay audience members. Leading the gay-themed shows is the topical “Marriage: A queer institution,” which deals with the war over gay marriage. This battle is literally brought center stage as the audience is invited to bring their ideas to the production and some people will actually be invited on stage. This will be at the Phoenix Theatre between Sept. 10-13.

"Open Season: A Queer Performance Spectacular"

“Open Season: A Queer Performance Spectacular” offers queer performance artists providing a wide roster of presentations, done through spoken word, drag, cabaret and contemporary dance. This show will be at the Best of the Bay’s Garage Theatre between Sept. 11-20 at 8:30pm each of the night’s its on (no performances Sept. 12, 17 and 19).

"The Unbearable Lightness of Raya" Photo: Jose Guzman Colon

"The Unbearable Lightness of Raya" Photo: Jose Guzman Colon

“The Unbearable Lightness of Raya” tells the story of Miss Trannyshack 2006 Raya Light and her tales of Tween Queen, coke lines, sex tapes, collagen lips and worst dressed. Light is no stranger to the Fringe, having been part of it last year as well, and she is also popular on youtube. Get your tickets fast as this show only has four performances at the Exit Theatre.

"Inside Private Lives" Photo: David Beall

Already popular at other festivals, “Inside Private Lives” deals with “appearances” by various personalities including transgender pioneer Christine Jorgensen, King Edward, Billy Carter and many other controversial personalities. The buzz on this show that it promises that every show will be different. See for yourself at the Exit Theatre Sept. 12, 13, 14, 16 and 20. And while not a gay-themed show, but “Poste Restante” does feature out and proud performer Tim Gallagher in a humorous and touching show offers and hour-long show packaged with acrobatics, dance, film and puppetry. All this somehow ties into the dead letter office. This production will be at the Exit Stage Left theatre. And while not quite gay, but a popular genre that appeals to the GLBT audience is a good musical and the Fringe Festival highlights a good mix of them as well.

"The Texas Chainsaw Musical!" Photo: Christopher T. Monori

“The Texas Chainsaw Musical” is a very hot commodity. Not only because it obviously spoofs a popular scary movie franchise, but it’s actually a full-length musical (about two hours) and has already been scheduled to run at a small East Bay Theatre later this year. But see it here first and get tickets now as it has only four performances at the Phoenix Theatre.

"Hell, the Musical" Photo: Wesley Thornberry

“Hell, the musical” might just be a piece of heaven at the fringe as one of its writers had won a Best in Fringe award in 2006 for one of his other musicals.  Taking Sartre’s “No Exit” classic and setting it to music and making the characters San Franciscans is just the beginning on the shows journey to hell.  This show at the Exit Theatre is also only scheduled for four performances. “Spider Baby the musical” is a horror rock show that has nothing to do with the action adventure Spider Man but instead is based on the cult classic films of Jack Hill. Writer Enrique Acosta promises the show to be “sexy, scary, fun” that is “guaranteed to titillate and disturb.” Catch at the Exit Theatre between Sept. 11, 12, 16, 17.19 and 20. Information and tickets about the fringe can be found at www.sffringe.org or you can get ticket information at 415/673-3847. There’s also a special link to see some YouTube videos of fringe shows: http://www.sffringe.org/fringe09/09youtube.html