FRINGE FESTIVAL kicks into high, diverse gear

“Defying Convention.”That’s the official theme of this year’s New York International Fringe Festival, the annual downtown avant-garde theatrical extravaganza. Sounds a tad obvious, no?

Yet according to Elena K. Holy, producing artistic director for FringeNYC since its inception eight years ago, the theme harbors at least one extra layer of meaning.

“With the festival occurring days before the Republican National Convention, [participating artists] are seizing the opportunity to express their views,” she said. “We have16 days to celebrate the freedoms in this country we’ve come to determine are not necessarily guaranteed.”

Holy likened the festival to a political party—the fun kind—where politics are flagrantly displayed while performers and audiences alike have one hell of a time in the process.

“We are staking claim to our city and filling it with positive energy,” she enthused. “This is our New York, this is what we do, this is who we are.”

This year’s FringeNYC is, in a sense, defying its own quirky conventions. Bigger and more selective than ever, the event showcases more than 200 shows in 20 venues—ranging from theatre, dance, buskers, spoken word and multimedia. Shows were culled from a record number of 800 well-qualified hopefuls, nearly double the amount from a few years ago.

“Our adjudication process is nothing short of excruciating,” Holy said. “Teeth are gnashed, tears are shed. It’s really tough.”

According to Holy, this year festival organizers have assembled the most diverse, powerful and entertaining array of work from all over the world. More countries are represented than in any past year—including Australia, Germany, England—even Cypress.

“It’s a harsh geopolitical climate these days,” Holy explained. “Frankly, participants come from countries that face a situation similar to us here. They are not necessarily supported by their government, so it’s a challenge to get their groundbreaking shows fully realized. God bless these artists who want to be in New York City as part of this celebration.” Various venues downtown. Through Aug. 29, All shows $15; fringenyc.org, 212 279 4488. (D. Kennerley)

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