Capital Fringe Fest features ‘Arcade’ contest, ‘Simpsons’ Shakespeare roast

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

Do you enjoy cutting-edge creations where the proceeds actually go to the artists themselves?

Head out to the 14th annual Capital Fringe Festival, which returns to D.C. from July 8 to 29.

“We’re doing 90 productions in eight venues with 13 stages,” founder Julianne Brienza told WTOP. “Seventy percent of the artists are from the DMV area and 47 percent are residents of D.C., so we’re really excited to showcase the local talent, because that really is the core of what we do. … Last year our ‘capacity filled’ went up 10 percent. The artists get 60 percent of the ticket revenue, so to get more money to the artists is always a big part of our mission.”

As a result of the attendance spike, the festival is returning to Southwest D.C. for a second straight year after many years in the Trinidad neighborhood and Downtown D.C. before that.

This year’s venues include Arena Stage, St. Augenstine’s Episcopal Church, Christ United Church, Westminster Church, St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church and Riverside Baptist Church.

“Southwest is a great festival neighborhood with all of the public transportation options, so we’re really pleased to be back,” Brienza said. “The community vibe is so welcoming with the many community organizations that are there. Our venues are just really friendly. It’s a great neighborhood to walk around. On our website on the ‘Visiting Southwest’ page, we have a lot of walking trail maps that you can do between shows, like go to the Titanic Memorial — only an eight-minute walk from Arena Stage — right next to the Eleanor Holmes Norton Park.”

This year’s highlights include the “Arcade” experience on The Wharf at 998 Main Ave SW.

“We have 66 individual (video game) experiences that patrons can take part in,” Brienza said. “There are going to be about 20 video games in the installation. So, you buy your ticket, you go in, patrons will be broken up into teams, there will be a winner of each round and if you are the winner of one of the 66 experiences, you get two free tickets to any Fringe show. Then, you get entered into the grand finale prize at our award ceremony, which is July 28.”

How did creator Robin Bell come up with the arcade exhibit?

“I’ve been examining arcades my entire life,” Bell told WTOP. “I do a lot of projection maps for installations, so I wanted to combine my love of games and the community build-in that happens from playing games together. Most of the time, we play games on our phones or in our homes, but not in public spaces. So, the idea of doing this performance projection experience is that people will come in and interact with this space and with each other. Some of the games we’re actually going to take the images and project them up onto the walls.”

Bell is keeping the specific games under wraps, but promises plenty of variety.

“There’s two kinds of ways that people can play,” Bell said. “One is ‘Top Scores’ where people compete for top scores, and the other is ‘Competition Games.’ … We’re not going to have any games with guns in them. … The idea of hearing gun shots all day wouldn’t be pleasant for the people working inside the spaces. It’s challenging what a game is and how do we interact?”

Meanwhile, you can see Mike Daisey’s perception-shaking production of “A People’s History.”

“He takes Howard Zinn’s book ‘A People’s History’ and compares it to his high school history textbook and discovers inaccuracies that are very present in the U.S. educational system,” Brienza said. “That’s an 18-performance run, it’s about a 30-hour durational theater experience. Not that the patron has to sit there for 30 hours, but it’s an 18-show cycle.”

Also, don’t miss “Shakespeare’s Worst” by Mike Reiss, the head writer of “The Simpsons.”

“His college buddy Nick Newlin, who’s a local actor and educator here, they wrote this play together called ‘Shakespeare’s Worst’ that’s going to be performed at Arena [Stage],” Brienza said. “It’s kind of poking fun at ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ — the worst play that Shakespeare ever wrote. It’s done through the lens of a community theater company. … Mike will also be releasing his new book ‘Springfield Confidential’ at the Politics & Prose on The Wharf.”

No matter which events you choose, you can get involved with this year’s theme “Selfies.”

“We collected about 250 selfies from all of our artists in the festival and that is actually the image of the festival,” Brienza said. “Additionally, if you go to our website at, you can upload your own selfie and it will immediately appear on our site — no censoring!”

Learn more on the festival website. Hear our full chat with Julianne Brienza & Robin Bell below:

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Julianne Brienza & Robin Bell (Jason Fraley)

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