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Fringe Festival directors pivot to virtual Fringettes

The Oregon Fringe Festival has gone virtual this year with Volumes of Fringettes playing monthly on You Tube.

The third installment of Fringettes can be seen at 7:30 p.m., Friday, June 26, on the Oregon Center for the Arts YouTube Channel. Fringettes Volume III will include performance art, music performances, visual art and theater. This is a free virtual event.

The Oregon Center for the Arts has traditionally produced the Oregon Fringe Festival as a multiday event in the spring to “celebrate unconventional art in unconventional spaces.”

After the cancellation of the 2020 Fringe Festival, the event’s production team began producing monthly video premieres called Fringettes. I met co-directors Paige Gerhard, Jade Hails and Jared Brown one afternoon on Zoom.

EH: How long has the Oregon Fringe Festival been in existence?

JB: It was started in 2014 by students and faculty at Southern Oregon University. Now we have artists who come in from all over Oregon and outside the State to present work.

EH: What are the advantages and limitations of moving from live theater to film?

PG: One of the advantages is that we’re able to reach a larger audience. As long as you have internet, you’re able to access it from anywhere. Looking at our website: We’ve had viewers from other countries that visit. That’s been very exciting.

JB: There are limitations by the way Fringettes is structured. They are short vignettes, whereas at the traditional Fringe Festival we have shows that sometimes last 90 minutes. Some artists have adapted really well. The content that we have been able to showcase is original for Fringettes. I think that will continue. Artists present short 3- to 12-minute pieces that they create specifically for this.

JH: Having something every month, as opposed to just having a festival over a week, allows us to advertise and market what we do throughout the year.

EH: What do you have planned for Fringettes Volume III?

JH: We’re featuring the SOU Percussion Ensemble again. And we had a production come from Bryan Jeffs, with graphic notations that each student interpreted, combining all those recordings together to make a massive tapestry of pictures and sound. We are likely going to showcase student work from the SOU Theater Department. We got word that they were videotaping some one-person shows in lieu of performance finals (that the students weren’t able to do due to COVID).

EH: How do you comment on the challenges that millennials face?

JB: Fringettes is a great opportunity for young artists to comment on the time we’re in right now: In Fringettes Volume I there was Josh Gross with the really cool project “Don’t Read the Comments.” And then there’s a group called Annihilistic Missionaries. The work they’re creating is specifically related to Zoom, a new phenomenon which has really grown during the current crisis. Fringettes is a great opportunity for these artists to get their word out.

JH: There is a certain responsibility for organizations like ours to support marginalized people and give them a platform they may not have had before. That inherently is political.

JB: It takes a lot of courage to be creative and original in such an economically and socially stratified world. Choosing to traverse different paths, daring through art to reflect upon life in such a world, and perhaps critique how we treat each other, is certainly a political act.

If you would like to contribute to Fringettes, email oregonfringe@sou.edu.

See the Fringettes the last Friday of every month on the Oregon Center for the Arts YouTube channel. Go to YouTube.com, type in Oregon Center for the Arts, and find Fringettes.

Visit the Oregon Fringe Festival on Facebook and Instagram.

Evalyn Hansen is a writer and director based in Ashland. To read more interviews with remarkable people, visit her blog at ashlandtheater.net. Email her at evalyn_robinson@yahoo.com.

Paige Gerhard
Jared Brown