There’s never a shortage of good things happening on stages across New Orleans at any time of year. However, the New Orleans Fringe Festival on Nov. 19-23 amps up the offerings in one gigantic, five-day, five-night celebration of the performing arts across the city. The festival brings multi-disciplinary artists from every corner and in between — performers come from across the United States and New Orleans, Canada, the U.K. and even Uganda this year — together to showcase original works with audiences.
This year’s Fringe Fest features more than 80 original productions at 40 or so venues spanning the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods and around Oretha Castle Haley Blvd., plus a few venues even further afield. There’s something for everyone at Fringe: from the weird and wacky, slightly erotic, to family friendly fare — Fringe features original plays, musicals, dance, puppetry, poetry and spoken word, magic, comedy, cabaret, burlesque and immersive theater.
Stop at the centrally located Fringe Box Office at the Free-For-All Lounge in Architect’s Alley during the Fest to buy tickets, get food and drink, and take a free look at the Peep Shows — mini-snippets of Fringe performances designed to give you a sneak peak of what’s to come, and help make up your mind as to what to see. Architect’s Alley is the gathering place during the festival for artists and audiences, and the spot for up-to-date festival information.
It is possible with planning to walk to Fringe venues in Marigny and Bywater. Biking makes it easier, and it’s also a breeze to get around by car. For venues around O.C. Haley Boulevard and further out, a car or bike is your best bet since some venues are a distance from the rest of the Marigny and Bywater-centric Fringe. Fringe shows are general admission and venues do not let audiences in until just a few minutes before scheduled curtain time, so it is possible that if you show up you might not get in. That doesn’t always happen, and every show has multiple performance times and dates, so if you miss out, there’s a chance to try to see it again. Part of the fun of waiting on line to get into Fringe shows is the lively discussions of what’s mind-blowing good in the festival with fellow theatergoers.
Not only is Fringe about performing arts, but along the way to the many venues, you’ll discover the Yard Art Tour, now in its fourth year, with dozens of original art installations and interactive pieces in Fringe neighbors’ yards. This part is absolutely free, too.
Fun for the Family
While not every Fringe show is appropriate for the wee ones, Saturday and Sunday of the festival, Nov. 22-23, from noon to 5 p.m. at the Marigny Opera House, enjoy a free preview of family friendly attractions at Family Fringe, with performances, storytelling, workshops and arts and crafts, plus a little magic, too.
Stick Around for the After Party
A great way to unwind, regroup, meet and greet the performers and discuss all things Fringe over a nice cocktail after each night of Fringe are the free after parties, which rotate nightly at some of New Orleans’ best bars and venues like the Hi-Ho Lounge, The Shadowbox Theatre, and the Art Klub, from 10 p.m. till.
Of Course There’s a Parade!
It wouldn’t be New Orleans without a walking parade, and Fringe presents the inaugural Procession of the Personal Saints at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 22 – departing from Markey Park in Bywater and ending at The Marigny Opera House, with a few stops along the way. Parade participants are encouraged to dress up or bring a manifestation of their own original personal patron saint.
There are two types of Fringe venues – official Fringe-managed venues, like the Marigny Opera House, Mardi Gras Zone, The Old Ironworks, and Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center on O.C. Haley Boulvevard; and BYOV, Bring Your Own Venues, where invited Fringe artists organize and coordinate their own spaces. BYOVs — which this year include galleries, bars and coffee shops, an urban farm (Grow Dat Youth Farm), and university theaters around town — are part of what makes Fringe so full of variety and diversity,
Fringe shows are by nature, short — all run an hour or less, so it’s possible and encouraged to hop around from show to show. The best way to do that is by purchasing a multi-show pass. Although you can buy single tickets good for any show on the schedule, the six-show pass and the all-access pass are your best bets to get the most out of your Fringe experience. Additionally, every Fringe-goer needs an official Fringe button for entry to venues (a nominal 3 bucks; you buy it once) as well as a ticket. Fringe tickets are available online in advance, Mardi Gras Zone, and at the Central Box Office in Architect’s Alley during the fest.
Whatever your Fringe plan is, do go out and see some shows. They’ll inspire, be eye-opening, funny and dramatic and converge with the cultural melting pot that’s so unique to New Orleans.
And be sure to watch our episode of GoNOLA TV about Fringe!