BWW Preview: 2019 Capital Fringe Festival

The Capital Fringe Festival, now in its 14th year, has undergone many changes, but one thing has remained a constant: there's a wide assortment of things to see. Presented by artists local to DC and traveling in from other areas, if you have a theatrical itch, something at Capital Fringe will scratch it. This is the festival's second year being based out of the Southwest Waterfront area while work is done on their new space near H St, and on Friday June 28, artists and audiences gathered at Market SW to sample some of what's being offered this year.

Capital Fringe Founding Director Julianne Brienza took the stage at 7pm to introduce the festival this year and to announce one key difference: this year, while there will be festival buttons, they are no longer a requirement for entry to shows. In past years, buttons - between $5 and $7 - were a necessity before buying tickets. They also offered bonus discounts at local organizations, a tradition that will stay. It's important to note for patrons that while buttons are no longer required, tickets have gone from $17 to $20.

All 90+ shows will be performed at eight venues within walking distance from one another. 70% are from the DC area, and we paid witness to a number of short offerings from locals. There were some challenges with microphones - because Market SW is an outdoor setting, mics were the only way to go - but every artist that experienced troubles forged on ahead. Such is the Fringe way.

Here are a few of the shows that really popped out:

  • How's That Workin' Out for Ya? 2.0 - This collection of five short scenes, all written by women, tell tales of "persistent women confronting corporate, personal, and ideological adversity." Presented by Pipeline Playwrights, we were shown snippets of all five shows - and with a four minutes or under preview rule, the actors handily snapped between each scene. Pipeline has enjoyed sold out runs at Capital Fringe before, so don't count this one out. Opens July 11 at St. Augustine's Episcopal Church.

  • Thanksgiving at Macbeth's - Annexus Theatre Company, in a pretty bold move, has assembled a brand-new text from 10 Shakespeare plays. It's hard to garner what exactly it's about (though the title is self-explanatory), but a man wears a turkey suit and runs through the audience at one point, hinting at a more satisfying lunacy a preview setting can only scratch at. Opens July 12 at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church.

  • H.P. Lovecraft's: The Call of Cthulhu - In a moment of welcome audience participation, the playwright of this immersive show, based on the works of Lovecraft, asked us to shout out our definitions of "annihilation." Lots of good answers, and all ended up being incorporated in a very strange and enrapturing display of impromptu stage tableaus. Opens July 11 at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

  • Shakespeare's Worst - One of this year's Fringe Curated series, a group of shows produced by Capital Fringe themselves, this is a funny take on a theatre troupe performing a production of Shakespeare's oft-(rightfully-)maligned Two Gentlemen of Verona. We were treated to a scene that riffs on one the most famous and funny from that show, in which the clown Launce laments the behavior of his dog. Hand puppets abound. Though there's a poorly-timed jab at Keanu Reeves, this offering, co-written by a Simpsons scribe, is fresh and funny. Opens July 9 at Arena Stage.

  • We're All Going to Fucking Die - What a title. And what a concept - sex educator Twanna Hines presents a one-woman show where she has frank conversations with the audience about sex and pleasure. The preview was more of a pitch from Hines, but one made convincingly - her energy, knowledge and dedication to open dialogue make up a worthy enough vortex to draw in audience members. Plus, she's giving out sex toys. This one might sell out. Opens July 9 at Arena Stage.

  • EyeSOAR - Dance is a mainstay at Fringe, and this is one of the most intriguing dance offerings this summer. Utilizing dance, audio and video, EyeSOAR highlights an increasingly cramped and changing neighborhood in Northern Virginia. Two performance danced along to original music and an audio recording of an interview with a wistful Nova resident, resulting in a pretty remarkable final image. Opens July 13 at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church.

  • Acuña Acuna - The preview that packed the most into its short timeframe, this half-stand up comedy, half-biographical show from Erick Acuña follows his journey as a Peruvian native navigating life in the United States. His comic timing is impeccable and looks to be one of the freshest voices at Fringe this year. Opens July 13 at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

  • A People's History - Another of the Curated series and easily the hot ticket this year, A People's History is the new solo show by Mike Daisey, known for sold-out runs at Woolly Mammoth. It's a pretty unique concept, explained to us by Daisey over a recording (busy as he is, he naturally couldn't be at the preview). 18 monologues told over the course of six performances at 30hrs total, this show is an active conversation between Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, and Daisey's US History textbook he was taught from growing up in Maine. Initial tickets for this one are $35; after your first, each ticket you buy is the normal $20. Opens a bit earlier than the rest on July 5 at Arena Stage.

What you read about above only make up a fraction of what's available. There's more in the Curated series, a bank heist simulation, more H.P. Lovecraft, and a whole lot more. Take a thorough look at the Festival Guide, and look for reviews on Broadway World.

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From This Author Jack Read