The Hippo


Jun 17, 2019








Fringe Seacoast

Where: Dover Brickhouse (2 Orchard St., Dover), Strand Ballroom (20 Third St., Dover) and Cara Irish Pub & Chameleon Club (11 Fourth St., Dover); see site for schedule
When: Wednesday, July 5, through Tuesday, July 11
Admission: $25 for opening party at Strand Ballroom, 6 to 10 p.m.; other shows $10
Contact:, or @fringeseacoast

Wacky art
Inaugural Fringe Seacoast July 5 through July 11

By Kelly Sennott

 New Hampshire, it’s time to get weird.

The state hosts its first ever fringe festival — Fringe Seacoast — in Dover July 5 through July 11 to celebrate all that’s new, wacky, weird, inspirational and creative. 
The term “fringe” originated in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1947, when a group of artists decided to create their own performing arts festival. The plan was for the event to feature all kinds of art forms — theater, music, puppetry, spoken word, dance — but content would be new, risky or unpredictable. The same went for venues; theaters would work, yes, but so would hotels, restaurants or bus stops. 
“They wanted to give artists a place to perform something a bit risky,” said Jamie Clavet, who’s heading Fringe Seacoast with Aimee Blessing of Theatre Unmasked, via phone. “Fringe festivals are notorious for launching new shows.”
Seventy years later, the Edinburgh festival is a massive annual event attracting visitors from all over the world and spawning smaller Fringe events, like this upcoming one in Dover. Clavet said she and Blessing were inspired by participating in a PortFringe fundraiser in Portland, Maine, a year ago.
“[The organizers] said, it would be great if there was a Fringe festival in New Hampshire! Hint, hint!” Clavet said. “Aimee and I said, ‘Haha, that’s a funny idea, maybe!’ and they latched on that word — maybe.”
Blessing and Clavet set up casual meetings with area artists at local coffee shops and bookstores. From there, they created a committee and timed the inaugural event between PortFringe (June 17 through June 24 in Portland, Maine) and FringePVD (July 24 through July 29, in Providence, Rhode Island).
“Here in the Seacoast region … there are many artists looking for places to perform,” Clavet said. “At the same time, the Seacoast is such a tourist-heavy region. People are looking for things to do that don’t include going to a bar or going out to eat. … Even though we were setting up meetings to see the interest, Aimee and I knew this was something we wanted to happen. We made a pact that if nobody helped us, we wouldn’t do it. We got lucky, and people decided to jump on board.”
Fringe Seacoast features 12 shows, all 60 minutes or less. In addition to traditional fringe productions (Fringe Mainstage), the festival includes visual art (via Fringe Pop Up Gallery, featuring artists Beth Wittenberg, Kelsey Kingston, Marissa Vitolo, Samantha Gauvain and Shelby Phoenix) and music (via Fringe Late Night, featuring bands like Mica’s Groove Train, Chris Klaxton, Buddhapillar and Johnny Crashed & The Rednecks).
Some mainstage fringe performers are locals, like Ben Hart and Brandon James, the artists behind Mad Haus (A Performance Portmanteau as Conceptualized by the Mad Men of Oopsy Daisy, Inc.), which is like an hour-long circus variety show. James described it as a blend of Alice in Wonderland, Edward Gorey and Tim Burton, with acts that might involve burlesque, puppetry, drag, visual art, acrobatics or painting. 
“We’re really excited for this,” James said. “[Fringe festivals] really enrich the culture of the communities they’re in and expose people to new, different, interesting things.”
Driving up from Boston is Ingrid Oslund, who wrote and directs Women Writers Suicide Club, produced by the Boston Community Collaborative. The new play is based on the last weeks of writers Sarah Kane, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath, spanning 40 minutes and showcasing six actors. She felt New Hampshire’s first Fringe festival was a great place to take her new piece.
“Massachusetts does not have a Fringe festival, which completely shocked and amazed me. … I’m from Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Fringe is huge. When I found out they were doing [the festival] an hour outside Boston, I jumped on it as quickly as possible,” Oslund said. “The type of theater I do is highly contemporary, highly conceptual and a little bit risky. Fringe festivals are a great place to test out material and take huge risks with support from fellow artists.”
Much of the theater is a bit out of the ordinary — like The Ballad of Typhoid Mary by Laura Loy and Liz Faiella, which incorporates music, masks and puppetry. There Ain’t No More! Death of a Folk Singer by Willi Carlisle and Joseph Fletcher is a one-man operetta based on legends of American folk music and the early vaudeville stage. On July 11 — World Fringe Day — representatives from Scotland’s Fringe festival will phone in with a congratulatory message. 
Oslund plans to see everything, because “theater isn’t theater unless you show up for each other.”
“If you do see something cool at a Fringe festival, it’s so accessible to go and talk with [the artists] afterward,” Oslund said. 

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