For years, the New Orleans Fringe Festival promoted itself with the motto, “Fearless performers, fearless audiences.” Now, a new festival evolving from the Fringe format hopes to draw in people who are passionate about other artistic endeavors as well.
The Faux/Real Festival hopes to capitalize on the interest and energy that Fringe Fest generated in November and expand it to the literary and culinary arts. Ben Mintz, the festival’s executive producer, believes in time the festival will attract investors and industry professionals who are curious about New Orleans’ creative class with over 80 performances, dozens of cocktail-centric parties, creative food events and literary readings.
“We’re trying to create an incubator-type structure. The idea is to allow people to build a career out of this, but the flip side of that is that we’re dumping a lot more responsibility on them,” Mintz said. He cited Sparklehorse, an Asian-inspired pop-up by sous chef Marcus Jacobs as an example. “It gives him an opportunity to beta test his idea and gives his investors an idea of how it works.”
While the breadth of the festival has grown, the core programming is still independently produced theater shows that push the boundaries of traditional performance. These shows incorporate vaudeville, dance, burlesque and experimental multimedia, and many are from theater ensembles outside of New Orleans.
This year, however, by reworking the nature of the festival, Mintz has allowed more established companies like the NOLA Project to join in under the Faux/Real umbrella. The festival acts as an organizer, ticket facilitator and promoter, and each production is allowed to set their own price of admission and keeps their full earnings from ticket sales. The old Fringe model had a ceiling on ticket prices and also sold multi-show passes, which limited the ability of larger budget shows to participate.
Faux/Real also did not pick and choose which performances could be included under the event umbrella, allowing venues that have matured over the past decade to have a stronger say in what shows stalk their stages. For instance, the Theater at St. Claude, now under the management of veteran theater advocate Jim Fitzmorris, is presenting Nerdlesque, a series of burlesque shows that combine striptease with send-ups of pop culture touchstones such as Jurassic Park, comic books and video games.
The New Orleans Opera Association will kick off their season during Faux/Real with Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus” at the Mahalia Jackson Theater, as will Southern Rep with “Song of a Man Coming Through,” a play based on the true story of a convicted killer’s transformation written by the priest who helped him.
Two shows that are sure bets are remounts that played Fringe in previous years.
“The Other Mozart” is a one-woman show about the famous composer’s equally talented sister whose work and fame has been overlooked. “Never Fight a Shark in Water” is an extremely moving show written and directed by NOCCA’s Lara Naughton, in which Gregory Bright tells his story of being wrongfully imprisoned in Angola State Penitentiary for almost three decades before finally winning exoneration.
“Uncle Vanya: A Quarter-Life Crisis” is the latest from local powerhouse Goat in the Road Productions. Their adaptation of the famous Chekhov play moves the setting from remote Russia to post-recession New Orleans. Momma Tried, a local art duo, will complement the show with an art installation and miniature sets.
Faux/Real will span three weekends to incorporate these longer-running shows, but the time frame also gives some breathing room. Dancing Grounds is presenting its own “mini-festival” with a completely different show each weekend of Faux/Real’s run. Michael Martin has organized Caffecoppia, which, over seven days, will recreate the edgy w scene of mid-century New York in the Lost Love Lounge with shows that first appeared in late night cafes of the Lower East Side.
The full schedule is available at fauxrealnola.com. Tickets can be bought from the website, at the festival box office located inside the New Orleans Healing Center (open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday), as well as at each venue the day of the performance. Admission to all shows requires a Faux/Real Festival button, purchased at a one-time cost of $5.