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Fringe Festival returns to SOU

Casey Leach of Hit the Lights! Co., performs "Horsetale," a shadow musical that will be performed Friday night as part of the Oregon Fringe Festival at Southern Oregon University. The festival will be held both virtually and in-person this year.(photo courtesy of Hit the Lights! Co.)

The Oregon Fringe Festival will be held both in-person and virtually this year starting with the opening celebration Wednesday and continuing with the festival itself Thursday, April 29 through Saturday, May 1 at the Southern Oregon University campus.

In its eighth year, the festival was limited to a few virtual performances last year that were held over the course of several weekends. This year’s event will begin with a virtual opening celebration Wednesday followed by a full slate of performances and visual arts exhibitions over the next three days presented either remotely via YouTube and Zoom or in-person at the SOU campus.

The Oregon Fringe Festival is free, and event director Paige Gerhard is hoping for a good turnout after last year’s abruptly modified version was sparsely attended.

“I was so heartbroken last year when we had to cancel the festival,” she said, “so to be able to put something on this year for our viewers despite our current circumstances is such a rewarding feeling. And being able to provide our artists with a platform to share the work that they’ve been working on as well.”

The OFF will feature more than 50 acts from about 40 different artists this year, and the diverse lineup includes live virtual performances, artist lectures/workshops, an extensive virtual gallery and outdoor installations.

The opening celebration, held via Zoom, starts at 6 p.m. Wednesday and will give viewers a chance to meet the artists and producers, and watch performances and visual arts exhibitions as well as a mixed drink demonstration from Hearsay Restaurant, Lounge and Garden. Gerhard will also hand out Honorarium Recipient awards, “for submitting an application that really resonates with our mission to provide thought-provoking, boundary-breaking, unconventional, zany artwork,” she said.

Ashland percussionist Dean Kyle will perform during the opening celebration.

Starting Thursday, visual art installations will be open to the public in the creative arts courtyard on the SOU campus. There will be plenty of options there, Gerhard said, some interactive.

“I’ve curated those (art installations) in a way to where everything will be experienced in the creative arts courtyard,” she said. “So one destination, all of the visual arts installations are out there, and that allows viewers to walk around outside and view those. The (Schneider) Museum’s open if visitors want to stop by there, and I know the student galleries on campus are also displaying artwork in the windows, so in addition to getting to interact with the festival there’s other art opportunities for viewers to engage with as well.”

The art installations will include a life-sized sculpture created out of recycled ecobricks and a full scale paper machete sculpture of an entire bedroom.

Also available in-person each day of the festival from 4-6 p.m. will be “Missing You,” by GayInnocentHeartless Theatrics, an auditory experience which participants will listen to as they walk from the music building to the Schneider Museum. Listeners will be guided to different parts of the SOU campus as they listen.

“When I was putting it together it was phenomenal,” Gerhard said, “because it messes with the left side of your ear, the right side of your ear. Just a very immersive outdoor experience that’s playing with sound and storytelling. … When I was uploading the file to our website I was listening to it a little bit and I was like, ‘Wow, I cannot wait to experience this on campus, outside, in-person in its entirety.”

There will be two virtual performances Thursday, including “She Doesn’t Remember You,” by Nelia Miller, three Friday and nine Saturday. There will also be a full slate of YouTube productions available to download each day of the festival, plus one in-person “Together at Last at Twilight Time” performance Saturday, starting at 7:30 p.m. at Railroad Park in Ashland. That’s described as a “simple performance that involves gathering a group of individuals to watch the sunset together in silence.”

Among the live YouTube performances is “Horsetale,” by Hit the Lights! Co., scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., Friday, April 30. The show, described as a shadow musical about a horse that becomes separated from its tail, employs handmade shadow puppetry, six vintage overhead projectors, live original folk/rock music, Loony Tunes homages and “American iconography.”

“They’ve created all of the materials themselves to put on the show,” Gerhard said. “I’d recommend that one.”

Gerhard said in the past, live performances have been viewed by anywhere from 25 to 50 people.

“It largely is based on the venue and the artist presenting,” she said.

The OFF is funded by the Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU and anonymous donations.

For more information or to see the entire schedule of events visit oregonfringefestival.org.

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.