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Site Specificity At SF Fringe

July 17, 2008

The 17th annual San Francisco Fringe Festival kicks off on September 3. Judging by what I've read about the lineup so far, a notable difference between this year's Festival and its previous incarnations seems to be the plethora of site-specific work.

In recent years, the festival has offered one or two site specific shows -- I caught one offering in a cramped hotel bedroom last year; another company staged a show on a traveling bus a couple of years earlier.

In addition to hosting 30 shows at the festival's headquarters, The Exit Theatreplex, the festival will present a further 18 shows at venues ranging from Grace Cathedral (pictured left) to doorways on Market Street (the main road that runs like a backbone through the middle of the city.)

Some of the Festival's most creatively situated shows include:

To Kill For, film and theatremaker Lucy Gray's remake of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo at Grace Cathedral. Probably the most famous film ever shot in San Francisco, Vertigo celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The show will be staged in the 99-seat chapel in the nave of the Cathedral.

The Doormen, a street theatre-esque tour led by performance artist Barbara Michaels of the seedy doorways of Market Street.

Theatre that Moves, another tour, this time on a 15-passenger bus, led by artist Mercedes Segesvary.

If You're Going to San Francisco, a series of 16 performances by Greedy Fish at Union Square. The series is billed as "a celebration of some of the unique characters and conflict that have shaped the city "built on vice, ambition, and sand dunes."

Peg-Ass-Us, a puppet-infused burlesque show staged at the Centre for Sex & Culture on Mission Street by New York artists John Leo and Sophie Nimmannit.

Last Exit, a show staged in a basement by San Francisco company Scrap & Salvage. The location can't be revealed, according to the Festival's organizers, because the landlord "sort of doesn't know about it."

"I was looking for more site-specific pieces and I'm happy to say I got them," Festival director Christina Auguello told me over the phone yesterday.

No Fringe Festival is complete, as far as I'm concerned, without giving audiences the chance to explore the strange and cobwebby nooks and crannies of a city. It's all part of the adventure. I'm happy to hear that SF Fringe is embracing the concept.


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