13th annual Capital Fringe Fest moves to Southwest DC to salute local artists

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews the Capital Fringe Fest (Jason Fraley)

WASHINGTON — The 13th annual Capital Fringe Fest returns to present local performing arts.

But after spending the past three years in the hip Trinidad and H Street neighborhoods of Northeast D.C., this year’s festival moves to burgeoning Southwest D.C. now through July 29.

“Capital Fringe overall is going through a huge evolution right now,” founder Julianne Brienza told WTOP. “This year, we are doing the entire festival in Southwest D.C. … We are right near the Waterfront Metro stop. Also, the new Wharf development is in the neighborhood. We have five venues over there all within a five-to-seven-minute walking radius of each other.”

That includes two venues at Arena Stage, three venues at St. Augustine’s Church, two venues at Westminster Church, two venues at Christ United Church and two venues at Blind Whino.

Brienza wants to make it as easy as possible for guests to find their way around the new area.

“Being in a new neighborhood, where do you go? How do you know what’s going on?” Brienza asked. “Market Southwest, right at 4th and M Street … we’ll have a pop-up tent that’ll serve as our main box office. … We’ll be doing free yoga lessons on Sundays at 10 a.m. … Wednesdays, we’re doing a gelato social from 4 to 8 p.m. We’re also doing free live entertainment Tuesdays to Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. … It’ll be a good way to get the buzz of what’s going on.”

The new location also allows for the first-ever Fringe Curated Series at Arena Stage.

“We have two shows that Capital Fringe is presenting, which means we’re paying the artists a fee and they come with their full production,” Brienza said. “We’re doing ‘Barococo’ by Happenstance Theater, which is a local theater company. They actually did their very first show in the 2006 Fringe Festival, so it’s a nice little coming back together. The show is about the Gilded Age, which actually plays into our times today and the absurdity of the 1 percent.”

The other show is “O, Monsters” by the New Paradise Laboratory from Philadelphia.

“The show is very visually imaginative and messes with the time-space continuum,” Brienza said. “Three thousand Ping-Pong balls fall from the ceiling, a knife falls from the catwalk and goes into a table, there’s a robotic spider. … We’re really excited to welcome them to D.C.”

Arena Stage will also host three brand-new plays commissioned by Fringe.

“We really put out a call for non-western myths, folk tales and that sort of stuff,” Brienza said. “We have ‘Andromeda Breaks’ by Stephen Spotswood … which is a Greek myth. We have ‘The City Of’ by Matthew Capodicasa, which is a French short story from the 1940s about the loss of memory. … And the third one is ‘America’s Wives’ by Farrah Harris, a local D.C. playwright. She is Nigerian and it’s a Nigerian folk tale where America is the absent husband.”

Outside of the curated series at Arena Stage, you can see all of the other usual indie variety.

“We’ve got 80 shows happening in all the other venues,” Brienza said. “They run the gamut from solo shows, dance, improv shows, serious dramas, comedies, wacky crazy things that don’t fit into any category. We have people from all over the country … doing all sorts of stuff.”

One of those shows is the rapid-fire production “50 Ways” by Samir Bitar, presenting 50 ways to break up, inspired by Paul Simon’s No. 1 radio hit “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”

“Fifty one-minute vignettes of lovers leaving and being left, some of them poignant, some of them abstract and crazy and weird, all of them relatable, some of them are hilarious, some of them are tear-jerkers,” Bitar told WTOP. “They range in age from prom king and queen to an 83-year-old on his deathbed. It runs the gamut: gay, lesbian, transgender, straight, black, white, young, old. It’s humans breaking up with each other and this is how we do it.”

Yours Truly will host Jon Gann’s film trivia event “Movie Magic Live!” on Friday July 20, followed by other guest hosts on Saturday July 21 and Sunday July 22 at Blind Whino on Delaware Ave.

“Everyone is so serious and worried and stressed that the world seems like page from The Onion,” Gann told WTOP. “Movie Magic Live! is a chance for audiences to sit back and laugh and be silly. I think we all need a release. There are games of trivia, games of chance, silly challenges, and, of course — the chance to recreate two famous movie sequences.”

In addition to the various shows, you can also mingle at the festival’s official rooftop bar.

“One of the things that’s fun this year is we have an official rooftop bar,” Brienza said. “It’s City Bar, which is located at Hyatt Place on the National Mall. You walk up there and you can’t help but be in a positive, summer mood. … That’s also our official hotel where we’re housing all of our out-of-town Fringe touring artists, so the neighborhood has been really gracious to us.”

Above all, make sure to get your Capital Fringe button for $7 in order to receive discounts.

“The artists make 60 percent of the ticket revenue from the festival,” Brienza said. “That’s a big chunk of the revenue we bring in; that’s why the button helps support Capital Fringe overall. … Since our founding, we’ve given back $2.1 million to the artists [over the past] 12 years.”

Find more details on the festival website. Hear our full chat with Julianne Brienza below:

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Julianne Brienza (Full Interview) (Jason Fraley)
WTOP's Jason Fraley talks '50 Ways' with Samir Bitar (Jason Fraley)

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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