The 2018 Charm City Fringe Festival returns to the Bromo Arts District with 23 productions and more than 80 performances taking place between November 1 and November 11. Baltimore talent for this adjudicated festival, now in its seventh year, share the stage with fringe artists from the U.S. and Canada.
Charm City Fringe was the brainchild of co-founders Zachary Michel and Michael Brush, who eight years ago, were recent grads who realized all their theater friends had moved away because they couldn’t find enough work in the area.
“I had performed a few times in DC’s Capital Fringe Fest and loved my experience,” Michel says. “Mike and I got to talking and thinking about how if there weren’t ample opportunities for young artists to find work and exposure in Baltimore that we may be able to help that.”
With an idea in place, the two started planning what would be the first Charm City Fringe in 2012 and little by little, the festival has matured and grown. What started as a Maryland-focused festival now features performers from all over North America presenting new and experimental work.
“The first four years were a doozy. It’s still not easy in year seven, but those first four were year-to-year,” Michel says. “We learned from experience, talking with everyone who would offer insight and plenty of troubleshooting. We’ve done it without any major investments and no debt. It’s pretty incredible. I don’t know if I’d do it exactly the same again, but it helped us learn, and we definitely were in a place where that was valuable and necessary.”
Unlike those first few years, everyone in the local theater community seems to know about the festival and look forward to it every year.
“The buy-in from the city as of late has been tremendous. We knew how Fringe in other cities has been a platform for the arts industry to develop, connect, and launch careers and businesses, and they did it with a good deal of community support,” Michel says. “It’s a symbiotic thing, and it’s been exciting getting that now in Baltimore. I feel we’re in a good spot for us to help the city’s artists and creatives and makers, and for them to help us—by participating.”
Past successes include Natural Novice going on to tour the world and That Way Madness Lies performed to sellout crowds at Edinburgh Fringe.
Each year, about 30 percent of the production companies return, but it’s always been a mission of both co-founders to bring in new blood. Unlike the early days, not all the performers are from the Baltimore area, although more than half are.
Cost per show is $10 plus a one-time purchase of the $5 Charm City button.
This year’s festival features 13 productions by Maryland artists, nine from other states, and one from Canada. Shows include a comedy about Hillary Clinton immediately following the 2016 election, a tribute to French and German cabaret during the Nazi years of the late 1930s, an adult variety show starring Get Out Magazine’s LGBT Comedian of the Year Ike Avelli, and a comedic Victorian circus spectacular.
Michel says theater fans should also look out for the 2017 Best of the Fringe award winner debuting a new play, Forgive Us, Gustavito! which sounds utterly outrageous and completely entertaining about the murder of the Zoo’s beloved hippo; Falkland: The War the World Forgot, which covers the war of the Falklands that was as tragic as it was unknown; and ’33 (a Kabarett), which tells the tale of a cabaret’s last days during the impending advances of the Third Reich.
“There’s a great range this year, with ballet (Edges and Dimensions of Dance) to the utterly bizarre teachings of a self-help guru coming undone in Building Your Emotional Home,” he says. “It’s really worth seeing what strikes your fancy at the opening party previews Nov. 1.”
Shows are chosen based on criteria such as Do you have a vision? Can you pull it off? Can you show people why and how it’s special?
“We’re proud and honored to have a great panel of adjudicators that help us to pick out the best of the applicants each year,” Michel says. “It’s no small feat. We’ve got people from across the theater and arts community and make a point of getting people of different backgrounds.”
All festival venues are conveniently located within three blocks in the Bromo Arts District. “Every fringe fest has its local flavor, and Baltimore’s is no exception. We work really closely with our artists and offer professional development, we go and see as many shows as possible, and we get Baltimore artists performing in Baltimore spaces,” Michel says. “This is your ticket to see some of the best and most exciting, fresh new art debuting in the state.”
2018 CHARM CITY FRINGE SHOWS:
33 (A Kabarett) by Big Empty Barn Productions
50 Shades of Gay by Ike Avelli
A Lesbian Belle Tells… by Elizabeth McCain
Edges and Dimensions of Dance by Ballet Theatre of Maryland
The Male Gaze by BlueShift Dance
Building Your Emotional Home with David Mark Davids by Bouxscal Productions
Problem Child by Arielle Conversi
Nurse! by Lisa Hayes
Mt. Rushmore by Monica Hunken
Let Them Eat Cake by In the Dark Circus Arts
I Know It Was the Blood: The Totally True Adventures of a Newfangled Black Woman by Tara Lake
Crankie Cabaret, by The Lantern Sisters
Black Confederates by Lights, Theatre, Action!
Beaver Dreams by Lost and Found Puppet Co.
Un-a-Parent by Joe Minchik
Forgive Us, Gustavito! by Otherland Theatre Ensemble
Proxy by Out of Ink Productions
Wunderkammer by Positive Impact Theatre Company
Black Dog by Present Tense Theatre Company
Hillary’s Song Cycle: Witness by Rebecca Pronsky
Too Hip for the Room by The Siegfried Olsson Band
Falkland: The War the World Forgot by Tasty Monster Productions
The End of Things by Three Princes Theatre
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