NEW ORLEANS — By night, the New Orleans Fringe Festival Free-For-All tent, in Plessy Park on the corner of Press and Dauphine, plays host to music and naughty comedy troupes that would fit right in with the satirical shenanigans of Mardi Gras’ Krewe du Vieux, which is housed in the nearby Den of Muses.
But by day, this place, the focal point of a citywide celebration of theater and artistic performance, changes into an environment built for kids — Family Fringe.
“The events and theater productions of the Fringe Festival are generally geared toward an adult audience,” says the festival’s special events coordinator, Pamela Davis-Noland. “That’s why Family Fringe is so important — it gives us a chance to get the kids involved.”
Near the Free-For-All tent Saturday, Tiara Murray, a Sankofa Community Development Corp. outreach intern, leads excited children through an exercise in which they use markers and paper plates to create their own impressions of healthy meals.
“We’re based in the Ninth Ward,” Murray says, “so this area is our community. Our mission is to help improve family health and nutrition, and Family Fringe offers us a unique chance to interact with both kids and their parents together.”
Three-year-old Wesley Woodruff excitedly colors his paper plate while his mother, Anne Woodruff, laughs.
This is the second year Woodruff has brought Wesley to Family Fringe, and he’s loved it both times. “He doesn’t generally even like doing art,” she says, “but here he is, drawing, just because the Fringe has made it such a great social experience.”
Woodruff — originally from New York City — is a Central Business District resident. She, along with a great number of the families that take part in Family Fringe, hails from the more urban neighborhoods down river from the tree-lined St. Charles Avenue.
The event, Pamela Davis-Noland says, is a chance for young urban adults, who have, down through the years, been such a part of the burgeoning Marigny, Bywater and St. Claude artistic scene, to share their interests with their new children.
Under the Free-For-All tent, an Open Mic begins. A Girl Scout troop takes the stage.
The girls are wearing floaties and swimsuits over their cool-weather, fall clothes. The name of their song is “Swim.”
Most of them live in the immediate Marigny-Bywater area, says the troop’s Brownie assistant leader, Kristina Cannon.
“We want to get the kids involved in the community,” Cannon says. “We meet at St. Margaret’s Church on St. Claude, and take part in as many local events, like Fringe or the Mirliton Festival, as we can.”
It was, perhaps, inevitable that the influx of creative, community-minded Millennials into New Orleans would result in a number of similarly creative, community-minded families.
What Family Fringe shows, Davis-Noland says, is that those young adults mean to impart the paired mindsets of creativity and service onto their children, too.
“Because, really,” she says, smiling while, on the stage, a mom and her young son sing together, “It’s all about the kids.”
Family Fringe took place Saturday and continues Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m. in Plessy Park on the corner of Press and Dauphine.