Last year’s inaugural Faux/Real Festival of Arts left many audiences, performers and producers less than impressed, but major changes this year give organizers an opportunity to prove that Faux/Real is for real, despite continued cause for concern.
Faux/Real was originally launched as a successor to the New Orleans Fringe Festival, an experimental theater showcase that ran from 2008 to 2014, when Fringe organizers passed the baton to Faux/Real.
Unlike Fringe, which was a weekendlong event devoted almost solely to downtown theater, last year’s Faux/Real was a three-week free-for-all that included nearly 200 events scattered across the city, including cocktail and culinary events, literary readings and a wide range of performing arts.
Ben Mintz, executive producer of Faux/Real, said the fest tried to do too much too fast in its first year.
“The overwhelming piece of survey feedback was that people felt overwhelmed by the whole thing,” said Mintz. “They felt like there’s just too much going on, and they kind of got lost.”
The problem, he said, wasn’t a lack of attendance, but rather a menu of options that spread audiences thin and resulted in a disappointing turnout for a number of shows.
(The perceived lack of success of Faux/Real among some members of the New Orleans theater community, many of whom lamented the loss of the annual Fringe festival, led to another inaugural theater festival earlier this year, InFringe Fest, so named because of squabbles with former Fringe organizers over the “fringe” designation.)
This year’s Faux/Real fest has been trimmed down considerably, and the approach has been overhauled. While last year’s event provided an umbrella for a variety of shows and promised promotional support and centralized ticketing, this year’s intention is to be less of a catch-all and more of a cohesive festival, with about 40 events taking place in the downtown area over a 10-day span.
“It’s much more of a curated festival this year,” said Mintz. “There are going to be one or two things every night, then five things on a weekend night, and they’re not going to cannibalize each other.”
The headline event of this year’s Faux/Real fest is Grammy-award winning jazz musician Esperanza Spalding, who will present her new stage show “Esperanza Spalding Presents: Emily’s D+Evolution” at the Orpheum Theater on Thursday.
“The way she’s staging it, it’s essentially like a giant experimental theater piece with, obviously, a very strong musical element,” said Mintz.
Putting together the rest of the schedule, according to Mintz, has been a hectic last-minute affair, with only a handful of events firmly in place at press time: a showcase of poets and writers, a “tour of colonial cocktails” with mixology experts Nathan Dalton and Wayne Curtis, and an election night party with colonial food and drinks, featuring a costumed “town crier” announcing election results as they come in.
Ticketing information for all events (with the exception of “Esperanza Spalding Presents: Emily’s D+Evolution,” which is ticketed separately) also is still forthcoming.
Information will be posted on the festival’s website as it becomes available.
Mintz recognizes that these kinds of growing pains are inevitable as Faux/Real continues to come into its own.
“This year’s going to have its problems also,” said Mintz. “There’s always going to be problems, that’s just the nature of the beast. But you listen, you learn, you tweak them, and you move on. I’m hoping that by year three we’re not as tied to Fringe, and we can be judged as our own festival as opposed to the successor of the Fringe.”
WHEN: Nov. 3-13
WHERE: Various venues