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Fringe Turns Four

Now in its fourth year, festival enjoys growing success

RODNEY WILSON | CIN WEEKLY CONTRIBUTOR

Four years ago, New Jersey native Jason Bruffy decided it was time for Cincinnati to step onto a different kind of cultural stage than it was known for - to embrace the darker corners of theater, where the profit-earning likes of Andrew Lloyd Webber aren't seen.

When starting the Cincinnati Fringe Festival, Bruffy looked to avant-garde European festivals that have found success in major cities such as New York and San Francisco. Needless to say, it wasn't a surefire bet - more than a few weren't all that confident about the choice to bring cutting-edge culture to the Queen City.

"I think Cincinnati's embraced it really well," Bruffy says. "Cincinnati loves its festivals, and I think that they're starting to fall in love with this one as well. People are actually looking forward to it - planning to take time off during the festival so they can see as many shows as they can."

FINDING SUCCESS
Indeed, the Fringe Festival has earned its place in Cincinnati's heart. With the stated aim of being a venue for lesser-known playwrights to attain a much larger audience, the Fringe even has launched breakout hits that have found continued success.

"Last year, we had a show called The Catholic Girl's Guide to Losing Your Virginity, which was a sellout show," says Bruffy, illustrating the festival's growing significance. "Each production gets five performances within the festival, and they sold out every show. Then (the show) actually wound up getting a reprise at Playhouse in the Park this past January, when they did a two-week run that sold out completely. I think Playhouse in the Park really gave us value and viability here in Cincinnati, saying the festival is something to watch."

THE 'NON-CENSORED' FESTIVAL
Of course, doing cutting-edge shows in the town that made news with an obscenity battle over a Mapplethorpe exhibit is a gamble. "I think it's a fun town to play because of that conservative reputation," Bruffy says, "but I don't think that stops anyone from doing what they want to do.

"We lost a venue one year because we're the 'non-censored' festival - we were running around boasting, 'We're the non-censored festival.' And we are - we don't tell our artists what they can and cannot do, but that does not mean that every show has people running across the stage naked and doing drugs and things like that. Those are things you rarely see in our shows. It's just about providing a home for anything - there's as much family-friendly work in the festival as there is non-family-friendly work."

SHOWS FRINGE FOUNDER JASON BRUFFY IS EXCITED ABOUT THIS YEAR:

CALCULUS: THE MUSICAL!

• 7 p.m. June 5, 8:15 p.m. June 6, 9 p.m. June 7, 9:30 p.m. June 9
• Art Academy of Cincinnati
"It's all about calculus, so if you're a math geek, then this is the place for you. If you're not, then they're going to make you laugh and bring you back to your childhood. It's actually a very amusing show."

ART OF LONGING
• 9 p.m. June 8 and 6:30 p.m. June 9
• Ink Tank, 1311 Main St.
"This one's being produced by the Ovation Theatre Company, which has been around seven or eight years in Cincinnati - they perform at the Aronoff Center, and this is their first time as part of the festival, so I'm interested to see what they bring to the table. They have a new artistic director, Alana Ghent, who's played a major hand in putting this piece together. It's an original work about love and longing, wants and desires."

THE KID IN THE DARK
• 7:15 p.m. June 9
• Know Theatre, 1120 Jackson St.
"Richard Hess is bringing this one-act musical into town. Hess is the UC professor who brought Don't Look Down, which is one of the top picks of the Fringe two years ago, as well as last year's pick of the Fringe, which was Unnatural Disaster. So he's become a mainstay of the festival as well, and it's always a joy to see what he brings to the table.

Wednesday, May 29, 2007 | CiN Weekly
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