The sixth annual New Orleans Fringe Festival on November 20 – 24 brings together artists from across the country, and a few from around the globe, in a celebration of the weird, wild and original in theatre, dance, puppetry, circus and performance arts, as well as downtown culture that in places other than New Orleans might seem a bit unusual, but here they’re perfectly at home.
This year, 70 theatre groups will present 77 shows (over 300 performances) in over 30 venues throughout the city, and with an expected attendance of 15,000, Fringe is bigger than ever. There’s something for everyone, and a lot to choose from in this year’s lineup. Most performances happen in the Bywater and Faubourg Marigny, plus this year features a strong coalition of five venues located on the quickly developing Oretha Castle Haley corridor in Central City. We’ve narrowed the extensive list of New Orleans Fringe Fest performances down to a few we think are going to especially stand out this year.
GoNOLA’s Top Picks for New Orleans Fringe Fest
Thursday 11/21 at 9 p.m., Friday 11/22 at 5 p.m., Saturday 11/23 at 7 p.m., Sunday 11/24 at 11 p.m. at Mardi Gras Zone
New York City and Toronto based performance collective Gogol Annex presents their immersive installation performance of the notorious, famous, and wicked — three real-life historic characters in pre-Civil War New Orleans, accompanied by a live soundscape.
Wednesday 11/20 through Saturday 11/24 at 7 p.m. at Byrdie’s (BYOV)
Cabaret performer Bremner Duthie performs the songs of German-American composer Kurt Weill (Threepenny Opera, One Touch of Venus, “Speak Low,” “Mack the Knife”), exposing the raw energy, emotion, love and regrets found in Weill’s music and his lyric collaborators.
Friday 11/22 through Sunday 11/24 at 5 p.m. at Clouet Gardens (BYOV)
Ocean Spring, Mississippi based BY-YOU Arts Dance Company will mesmerize audiences at dusk with a low-flying trapeze suspended from a large oak tree, accompanied by a Classical a capella vocalist in this site-specific outdoor dance piece.
Wednesday 11/20 at 9 p.m., Friday 11/22 at 9 p.m., Saturday 11/23 at 11 p.m., Sunday 11/24 at 5 p.m. at Old Firehouse
The Kingdom of Norway’s most famous Muslim comedienne Shabana Rehman tells the tale of her own father’s journey from Karachi, Pakistan to Oslo, Norway in this one-woman storytelling experience that is heartfelt, funny, and provocative and asks the question, “Where is home?”
Wednesday 11/20 at 7 p.m., Friday 11/22 at 7 p.m., Saturday 11/23 at 9 p.m., Sunday 11/24 at 11 p.m. at Marigny Opera House
An irreverent musical comedy send-up, Gayland imagines a world where almost everyone is gay, conservative lesbians have all the power, and straight people are fighting for the right to marry. A local cast tells the story of Willow, a rising star who finds herself attracted to Zack and must come to terms with her forbidden love, performed in the newest performing arts venue in Faubourg Marigny.
Wednesday 11/20 at 7 p.m., Friday 11/22 at 11 p.m., Saturday 11/22 at 5 p.m., Sunday 11/24 at 7 p.m. at Den of Muses
San Francisco based circus arts troupe Madame Rex re-imagines the myth of the boy who flew too close to the sun with aerial spectacle in one of New Orleans’ most interesting performance spaces: the float den and warehouse for the satirical Krewe du Vieux downtown Mardi Gras parade.
Wednesday 11/20 at 7 p.m., Friday 11/22 at 7 p.m., Saturday 11/23 at 9 p.m., Sunday 11/24 at 11 p.m. at Backyard Ballroom
A raucous mother/daughter variety show from New York City based performers the Keebles take camp and comedy to new heights with a blend of country and western music and old fashioned clowning in a “hilariously powerful tale of ‘flesh & blood’ calamity” that has made them Fringe Festival favorites.
Wednesday 11/20 through Saturday 11/23 at 7 & 9 p.m., Sunday 11/24 at 5 p.m. at the Allways Lounge & Theatre (BYOV)
The multi-award winning New Orleans theatre company The NOLA Project goes westard ho (!) in this funny play based off the popular computer game of the same name from the 1980s and 90s. You will die of dysentery and laughter as you choose supplies and follow the Bootsmeyer family across the country as they journey to Oregon via downtown theatre and music venue (and longtime fringe pioneers) The Allways Lounge & Theatre.
Thursday 11/21 at 7 p.m., Friday 11/22 at 7 p.m., Saturday 11/23 at 9 p.m., Sunday 11/24 at 11 p.m. at Den of Muses
Described as “jazz, drink, high jinks & circus,” Montreal based circus and vaudevillian performer Krin Haglund presents her one-woman cabaret circus with a whirlwind of aerial feats, a Cyr wheel, and lots of mischief inspired by Krin’s love of the 1920s, Kermit the Frog, and Dorothy Parker!
Thursday 11/21 through Sunday 11/24 at 8:30 p.m. at Ashé Cultural Arts Center (BYOV)
A new drama about an African American woman soldier who returns from Iraq with PTSD, told through memories and flashbacks of her Vietnam vet father and his cousin, her mother and the woman she left behind in Iraq, and presented by Carpetbag Theatre of Knoxville, Tennessee at Ashé Cultural Arts Center in Central City.
Wednesday 11/20 at 9 p.m., Friday 11/22 at 9 p.m., Saturday 11/23 at 11 p.m., Sunday 11/24 at 5 p.m. at Backyard Ballroom
The story of African American struggle in the Jim Crow South is told through traditional Indonesian shadow puppets by Red String Wayang Theatre of Gulfport, Mississippi.
Thursday 11/21 through Sunday 11/24 at 7 p.m. at The Elm Theatre (BYOV)
New Orleans playwright Jon Broder and Big Easy Award-winning actor Alex Martinez Wallace want you to meet Tyler, a very precocious nine year old boy with his own cabaret and teddy bear accompanist. Tyler will sing, tell stories and contemplate life over juice boxes at the Elm Theatre in the Warehouse District.
Locals’ Tips for Fringe Fest
First off, if you’re overwhelmed by the many performance choices, visit the Peep Shows at the Free-For-All Lounge in Architect’s Alley Wednesday 11/21 and Thursday 11/22 from 5-7 p.m. to see snippets of Fringe Fest shows and decide for yourself. This peep show is free, too, and you can buy your tickets there, have a beer and a bite to eat!
The six official Fringe Venues feature 24 shows selected by the Festival and are all located in the Marigny and Bywater and are mostly walking (or short biking) distance from each other. Fringe Fest has been able to grow larger with the BYOV (Bring Your Own Venue) option for performers, which increases the number of venues to over 30. Shows selected for BYOV provide their own site-specific locations, several sites of which are not in the neighborhoods of the main 6 venues, but allow performers complete control over their space.
The New Orleans Fringe Festival has many ticket options – all fringe shows and ticket options (except the free ones) require the locally made ceramic Fringe Button for $3 for entry. You only need to purchase the button once during Fringe. Single show tickets on top of that are $8 each, or if you are interested in multiple shows, it makes sense to purchase a Six-Show pass for $40 or an All-Access pass for $90. Note: neither of the pass options are shareable between people. Tickets can be purchased in advance online, during the Fest at Mardi Gras Zone, or the Central Box Office in the Free-For-All Tent in Architect’s Alley with cash or credit card. Tickets purchased at each venue’s door are sold 15 minutes prior to curtain time and are cash only.
Fringe is more than just shows! There are so many events beyond the theatres and venues that bring audiences and the community together for this incredible week of artistic discovery and wonder.
Although only some Fringe shows are kid-friendly, there are free art activities and performances for the whole family at Family Fringe on Saturday and Sunday from noon – 5 p.m. at the corner of Dauphine and St. Ferdinand Streets. There’s a special Fringe Parade on Saturday 11/23 at 2 p.m. which you can either watch on St. Claude or participate in the parade itself . There will be marching bands, throws, and more, organized by the GoodChildren Social Aid & Pleasure Club. Along the parade route on St. Claude are free Parade Hotspots with many micro-performances, instructional classes from Fringe performers, renegade divas, arm wrestling, a farmers market with live music, and a Happy Hour on the neutral ground.
There is free admission to Fringe after parties each night, a spoken word night event, and to get you exploring the neighborhood and architecture of the Marigny and Bywater, the self-guided Yard Art Tour on Saturday and Sunday that residents participate in each year. Each yard art location has a collectible card when you tour, and a map will be available at the Free-For-All Tent in Architect’s Alley.