By Matt Ritchey
The Hollywood Fringe Festival has ended.
After four weeks and almost 400 shows, it closes down for another year… unless you count the Encore Awards which keeps a large handful of shows running through July in case you missed them the month before!
I started attending and participating in the Hollywood Fringe in 2014 and have loved it from moment one. I always refer to the annual festival as “Disneyland for theatre” and here, I shall bend over backward attempting to link experiencing the HFF to the Happiest Place on Earth.
Like Mickey’s World, there is much standing in line in the sun at the Hollywood Fringe. But the time in line is far shorter and the experience, once you are seated, is always longer (for better or for worse!).
UNLIKE Donald Duck’s domain, however, the people you converse with in Fringe lines are often like-minded artists or theatre-goers and you can often make quick #Fringeships which spark the possibility of collaboration, experiencing and learning about new work, or at the very least, cocktails!
You’re always guaranteed to run into colorful characters on the street!
And I don’t mean Main Street – I mean Santa Monica Boulevard!
Yes, yes, you can get your photo with Goofy in Anaheim, but if you can go for one Saturday at Fringe NOT passing someone in an alien/clown hybrid costume playing the kazoo, you’re doing it wrong. And you’ll probably run into that guy you stood in line with yesterday! Hey! It’s a small world!
The restaurant selection around the main thoroughfare is slim, but clearly, the taco truck outside Three Clubs is the “churro cart” of Fringe. It’s tasty, it’s addictive, and you’ll always find people in line for it. The new Hunter and Charlie’s is not only a great central location on the main Santa Monica Boulevard drag with truly fantastic fare, they’re incredibly supportive of the Fringe and always make your day better. Eat This and the Hudson Lobby are the comfortable go-to faves of Fringe, the Tomorrowland Pizza Planet of the Festival.
Fringe has some terrific locations to meet, chat, and imbibe during the Festival. Even if you don’t indulge, these haunts are great for hanging out and getting some oft-needed A/C. Day drinking! Just like in Disney—sorry… I’m thinking of California Adventure. My bad.
Before you can get swept up in the glory of the attractions, you have to enter the themed lands of Disney! And Fringe is no different!
The theaters all offer unique options – whether you’re watching a spectacle against a cyclorama at Studio/Stage, getting close and personal at The Lounge, having your hair blown back in the force of the Three Clubs backroom, experiencing the wide palette of the Hudson Mainstage, the intimacy of Studio C, the proscenium/blackbox/studio trifecta of The Broadwater, the living room coziness of the Stephanie Feury, Actor’s Company’s tiered landscapes, and options for literally everything at the centrally-located The Complex (a Fringe mainstay for years), or any of the other great venues on the fringe of the Fringe (yes, I went there), you’ll get to revel in new exciting surroundings for each show you take in. Which leads me to…
Most importantly, Disneyland does a great job of creating atmosphere and giving you countless environments to experience – pirate grottos, haunted mansions, futuristic space trips, etc. But Fringe? Whoo! Fringe has that beat!
You want Shakespeare? Done: traditional, dance, deconstructed, Klingon, reinterpretation, updated? It’s there.
New musicals? Just choose a genre.
Zombified striptease yodel-fest telling the story of the Bhagavad Gita? ….working on it for next year, but you get my point!
Done correctly, a day at Disneyland should leave you blissfully sacked out in bed after Fantasmic and the long slog back home.
Similarly, July should leave the Fringer in a stupor of theatrical onslaught, smiling at memories and reminders of new friendships, and probably with a higher blood alcohol content than May.
Yes, attending the annual Hollywood Fringe Festival is like visiting the land that Walt built, without the distraction of clean streets. And depending on where you walk, both locations have giant mice!
But where the Fringe clearly comes out on top is its ability to connect scores of people on a personal level and create unique experiences every June. It’s a community that gets bigger every year and allows artists to try out new material and strive to push their art to new levels. It makes friends out of strangers and brings old relationships together in new ways. If you fall, others will catch you, and when you soar, others will join.
And that makes the Hollywood Fringe Festival my Happiest Place on Earth.
Photos (all) by Matt Kamimura