The first Hartford Fringe Festival gets underway Thursday, a celebration of new and often edgier works in the areas of dance, theater, music and comedy.
The first fringe festival took place in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1947, when eight theater companies that were not included in the famed Edinburgh Arts Festival organized their own festival on the “fringes” -- smaller and unlikely venues in town that were willing to take a chance on more experimental works. Edinburgh’s fringe festival model spawned hundreds of similar festivals worldwide, especially during the counterculture movement of the 1960s.
The Hartford Fringe Festival is the brainchild of Hartford native Jeffrey Kagan-McCann.
“What I wanted for the festival was to bring in people who wouldn't necessarily have a chance to see their shows presented at some of the regional theaters in the area or have the funds or money to put it on themselves’” Kagan-McCann said. “So I wanted to give them a platform to bring their works to the stage.”
One of those works is the first act of a new musical by Lauren Widner called Niagara. Audience members will be given the chance to offer feedback to Widner after the performance. The festival also features works inspired by historical figures, like suffragette Victoria Woodhull, who ran for president in 1872, and legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday.
The Carriage House Theater in Hartford is the home of this year’s festival. With so many groups set to perform on any given night, time is of the essence. Each group will only have 15 minutes to set the stage before their performance, and only 15 minutes to strike their set afterward.
“It’s the perfect venue,” Kagan-McCann said. “It's a 77-seat theater and it's sort of like a black box, but it's so intimate and that's why we wanted to start the festival somewhere where we felt like the audience would be really involved in the performances.”
The Hartford Fringe Festival features 40 performances by 19 acts, ranging from theater, dance, music and comedy, and runs through October 26. For more information, go to hartfordfringefestival.org.