Laughing Stock: Fringe Freedom Finds the Funny

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Bill Santiago presents his comedy set, The Immaculate Big Bang, as part of the Tucson Fringe Fest 2019, Jan. 10 through 13. - MORGAN SHORTELL, KMESTUDIO12.COM
  • Morgan Shortell, KMEstudio12.com
  • Bill Santiago presents his comedy set, The Immaculate Big Bang, as part of the Tucson Fringe Fest 2019, Jan. 10 through 13.

The first time actor, director and Rincon High School drama teacher Maryann Green staged a play she’d written herself, she sold out the house. Twice. Those two shows were part of the 2013 Fringe Festival that hooked her on fringe for life.

Now she heads up a volunteer crew of 15 to produce the Tucson Fringe Festival 2019, from Thursday, Jan. 10, through Sunday, Jan. 13. The fest includes 50 performances in 12 local venues. Admission to each show is $10, but a range of multi-show options are available, from a $15, two-admission pass to a $95 all-access pass.

A growing phenomenon around the globe, fringe theater is unique in its artistic freedom. Fringe productions often radically disregard conventions of structure, space, physical language and audience engagement. Acts self-identify as Fringe, pay an artist’s fee and get their names drawn from a hat, or not, as luck will have it.



Green says, “The first week of September, we hold a party where guests take turns pulling shows out of the hat until we have a full line up.”

Tucson Fringe sometimes pays a price for that artistic freedom. “Comedy shows tend to do better, ticket-sales wise,” Green says. “But some of my favorite past shows have been thought-provoking, heavier pieces.



“I was also really happy to be able to offer The Esperanza Dance project a last-minute spot in the festival,” she adds. “They help victims of childhood sexual violence heal through dance and multi-media performance.”

For comedy, we especially look forward to the first entries we’ve seen whose subject matter is entirely about work life: Name Tag Blues, Shane “Scurvy” Spears’ send up of the ignominies along the path to a window office; and Moira Keefe’s, Life as An Associate ...AKA F**ing Cashier, about a retiree’s return to the workforce.

We also like the funny, full-frontal feminism of Mo Urban and Steena Salido’s C*nts vs C*nts Talking About C*nts variety show and Elaine Orion’s Delightfully Rude, winner of the “Best Comedic Performance” award at the 2018 Boulder Fringe Festival.

And we’re looking forward to the Tucson fest’s first straight-up stand up performance, Bill Santiago’s The Immaculate Big Bang, a parody of every deeply believed origin story of everything.
Complete descriptions and tickets for all performances are at squareup.com/store/tucsonfringe.

From 3 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13, the Comedy Alliance of Tucson and the Tucson Fringe Festival co-host “What Are You Laughing At,” a free, audience-participation panel discussion about the comedy scene in Tucson. Details are at catcomedy520.org. 

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