Welcome to the Fringe Festival, a first-come, first-staged, egalitarian marvel

Mother Fuppets rehearses for Fringe Fest.
Photo: L.E. Baskow
Molly O'Donnell

Beyond egalitarian—that’s the Fringe Festival approach. “We have yet to turn a group away,” says Walter Niejadlik, president of the Las Vegas Little Theatre, where the Vegas Fringe Festival will run June 9–18. It might not be common knowledge, but all the productions presented annually at Fringe are first come, first served. The works aren’t selected or produced by a single company, but instead submitted by various Valley groups. After 15 submissions are received, the slots are closed.

“The mantra of Fringe is keep it simple,” Niejadlik says. “We encourage groups to be creative and keep sets to a minimum.” The plays themselves are also shorter than most. “No play is longer than an hour and a half, so you could grab a friend and theoretically see them all,” Niejadlik slyly encourages.

Open booking, shorter works and simplicity don’t add up to a less than entertaining experience, though. “It’s a great opportunity to get something on its feet that you normally wouldn’t see, and the works themselves are always a lot of fun to see,” says Trina Colon, who plays Karen in the Little Theatre’s entry, Neil LaBute’s The Money Shot. Fun is certainly what the satire promises, with Colon playing what she describes as “an aging A-list movie star dealing with the duality of staying exposed during the twilight of her career.” Rather than aging gracefully, however, she and a whole cast of narcissists promise to bring audiences a mixture of tragi-comedy that will make them think as they laugh. “I’m learning a lot playing this role,” Colon says. “There are aspects of the human condition that are not pretty but are, perhaps for the same reason, transfixing.” Colon further tantalizes theatergoers by referring to the characters’ narcissism as “timely in our country.”

It would be tempting to try to categorize the material put on at Fringe. But aside from the random abundance of sketches, produced by three groups with equally wacky names (Aztec Pyramid Scheme, Cardio Spider and Mother Fuppets), the productions are diverse. The wide array of offerings run from Greek comedy (Aristophanes’ The Frogs) to Harold Pinter’s unflinching look at government-sanctioned torture (One for the Road). There’s also a great variety of topics, from polygamy (Oliver Jones’ 32112) and religion (Richard Rosario’s In the Beginning) to music (the Matt Martello-inspired Soundtracks) and fairy tales (Kate Labahn’s Frogged).

To some, all this diversity might make for a mixed bag. The truth is its variety makes for good entertainment, giving every theater lover something to love. To ensure you don’t miss your something to love, you can always take Niejadlik up on his challenge to see them all. Pro-tip if you do: Bring a cushion. Or you can pick your probable favorites and ditch the added padding. Either way, Fringe is still for everyone, in the best possible way.

Vegas Fringe Festival June 9-18, times vary, $12 per show, $110 festival. Las Vegas Little Theatre, 702-362-7996.

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