I often remind myself and others that, comparatively, Las Vegas is a very young town. It crops up whenever lamentations flow over the lack of arts funding, or activities. “They’ve been doing this in [pick you major city or metropolitan area] for years! Why is it we can’t seem to manage it?”
So, understand that Fringe Festivals are not a new idea. It’s just that we are finally catching up, growing, maturing as a city. It was kicked around years ago in casual conversation. Then we had the Beckett Festival, brainchild of Ernest Hemmings. It got to be overwhelming financially, emotionally, and physically, and ceased operations after the 2008 festival.
This year marks the seventh Vegas Fringe Festival after Walter Niejadlik, president of Las Vegas Little Theatre (LVLT), and TJ Larsen, who had a hand in the final two years of Beckett, decided our fair city was indeed ready for fringe theatre. You can get some wild stuff, but that’s the fun of it.
Anyone can participate. It’s easy to submit to the Festival Administrators at LVLT, and the fees ($200, plus a $100 refundable deposit) are low compared to other festivals. The participating producers split ticket sales with LVLT. Larsen explained the deposit ensures that participants live up to their end of the bargain and show up for all scheduled performances. “In all my years, only one company lost their deposit due to not meeting their commitment.”
“But, we’ve never had to turn any shows away,” says Larsen. Even out of town companies have performed at Vegas Fringe. Witness last year’s “Bombshell: The Ina Ray Hutton Story” and a pared down version of “Little Shop of Horrors.” But, he continued, “We’ve kept it small and placed a premium on prep time in each space.”
And, that is what has kept the quality relatively high. Of course, there have been some real stinkers along the way—but that’s part of the intrigue of fringe. You get a wide variety of plays, some tried and true, some original works; you get actors and directors with years of experience, some who’ve never graced a stage; you get playwrights who’ve had things produced on Broadway, some who’ve never made it beyond the living room.
It’s all weird and wonderful, and expansion would add to it. According to Larsen, expansion to other venues around the valley is definitely on the table. But, bear in mind: Accepting submissions, scheduling load-ins, rehearsals, coordinating venues and performance times, and providing technical aspects of varying needs in multiple performance spaces is no easy task. Then there’s getting other venues to plan ahead, leave the schedule open, figuring out how to centralize ticket sales and reporting, and liability issues.
Friendly competition lends an air of excitement to the overall festival and also has a hand in maintaining quality. The Best of Fringe production gets two encore performances, which means more money to the bottom line. But, there are also bragging rights. Companies can promote themselves and their show as having won “Best of Vegas Fringe.”
Diversity is the name of the game here. Whether you like comedy, drama, variety, or improv, you’ll find something to enjoy. I encourage you to head on over and catch the shows.
“Boobiehatch” by Timothy Simpson and Chris Jones
Sat 6/11 @ 6:30p, Sun 6/12 @ 6:45p, Fri 6/17 @ 6:30p, Sat 6/18 @ 9:30p
“The Proposal” by John Bremmer
Sat 6/11 @ 8:00p, Sun 6/12 @ 5:30p, Thu 6/16 @ 7:00p, Fri 6/17 @ 10:00p
“Wind in the Willows” by James Moran and Carolyn Moran
Fri 6/10 @ 7:15p, Sat 6/11 @ 4:30p, Fri 6/17 @ 8:00p, Sat 6/18 @ 2:15p
“Once Upon a Time in Clark County” by Eric Angell, Philip Kotler, Brandy Little, Derek Shipman, Natalie Shipman
Sat 6/11 @ 2:30p, Sun 6/12 @ 2:00p, Sat 6/18 @ 7:30p, Sun 6/19 @ 2:00p
“The Fear Project” by members of FounDoor Theatre
Fri 6/10 @ 9:15p, Thu 6/16 @ 9:45p, Sat 6/18 @ 4:15p, Sun 6/19 @ 4:00p
“Peppy Piper’s Playpen” by Happy Hour Improv
Sat 6/11 @ 9:15p, Sun 6/12 @ 4:00p, Thu 6/16 @ 8:15p, Sat 6/18 @ 6:00p
Fischer Black Box
“So…I Killed a Few People” by Gary Rudoren and David Summers
Sat 6/11 @ 10:00p, Sun 6/12 @ 1:30p, Thu 6/16 @ 8:30p, Sat 6/18 @ 8:15p
“Redemption” by David Ebersole
Sat 6/11 @ 6:30p, Sun 6/12 @ 4:45p, Sat 6/18 @ 6:30p, Sun 6/19 @ 1:30p
“JuJu Goes to Pahrump” by Erica Griffin
Fri 6/10 @ 7:00p, Thu 6/16 @ 10:00p, Sat 6/18 @ 3:30p, Sun 6/19 @ 4:45p
“Mouthy Bitch” by Dennis Bush
Sat 6/11 @ 8:15p, Sun 6/12 @ 6:30p, Fri 6/17 @ 9:45p, Sat 6/18 @ 9:45p
“5th Planet” by David Auburn
Fri 6/10 @ 10:00p, Sat 6/11 @ 2:00p, Fri 6/17 @ 8:15p, Sun 6/19 @ 3:15p
“Second Chance” by Elyse Nass
Sat 6/11 @ 3:30p, Sun 6/12 @ 3:15p, Thu 6/16 @ 7:00p, Sat 6/18 @ 2:00p
“All Day, It's Tomorrow” by Ernie Curcio
Fri 6/10 @ 8:30p, Sat 6/11 @ 5:00p, Fri 6/17 @ 6:45p,Sat 6/18 @ 5:00p
For descriptions of the plays, visit www.lvlt.org.