Erie theater festival expands

Imagine 49,497 performances of 3,193 shows in 299 venues all occurring in the course of three weeks: The Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The festival started in 1947 when eight theater groups arrived at the Edinburgh International Festival uninvited to perform their works and show their love for the spectacle of the art.

Gannon University may not have the capacity to perform 3,193 shows, but Fringe Fest Erie returns once again to showcase theatric works of students and those in the Erie community. Gannon, with the Erie community, has produced Fringe Fest Erie for the past five years and the festival has grown in size every year.

For 2015, during the months of February and March, the festival will showcase seven student productions and five productions from associating theaters, such as the Erie Playhouse – which has agreed to produce a show written by members of the Erie community.

The seven student-driven productions taking place on the Gannon’s campus range from the original works and collaborative efforts of theater-loving students to a classic Greek musical set in the Wild West to a two-person comedy bit that will make you laugh, cry and cringe a little.

With so many different shows, some students have to adapt and learn new skills to construct the shows in a matter of weeks.

Jacki Kubiak technical director for Schuster Theater, is producing Fringe Fest Erie for its fifth year

“[Fringe Fest] gives students the opportunity to create every aspect of the show,” Kubiak said. “Fringe Fest gives students every opportunity to direct, act [and] produce aspects which they might not have the opportunity to do elsewhere.”

The opportunities Fringe gives helps the students grow and develop.

Michael Haas, a sophomore political science and theatre major, has taken the opportunity of Fringe to help produce a sketch comedy, a concept by Mike Fujito and a collaboration of the works of many Gannon students. He is also involved in the two-actor show, “A Little Nonsense.”

“It’s an interesting experience [writing],” Haas said. “It improves you as an actor because you have more respect for the script and writers and the whole process, because theater is so collaborative.”

Fringe aims to give many possibilities for learning as well as a better understanding for the world of the theater arts.

Leah Johnson, a sophomore social work major, is working in collaboration with Conor Grey, a Gannon alumnus who currently attends LECOM, on Grey`s original work, “Hipsters.” The show satirizes the life of the average hipster and the stereotype placed upon them.

Johnson said she approaches the possibilities of Fringe with a similar attitude as Haas, wanting to grow and develop in her abilities in theater, not as an actress, but in the area of production.

She said she examined the traditional aspect of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where acting companies set up in coffee shops and taverns, wherever an open stage is available.

Gannon embodies this tradition by locating shows all over campus, from the main stage of Schuster Theater to Zurn 104 and all the way over to Morosky.

“Fringe is made to be minimalist,” Johnson said. “It’s meant to be taken down and put up in mere hours.”

Johnson said she is excited about new learning experiences and also very enthusiastic to accept the challenges of casting a show and working on the project with the support of the alumnus playwright.

“Fringe is a repetition of Erie’s artistic community and it’s incredible how art can bring people together,” Johnson says.

Shows from last year’s Fringe Fest Erie included “The Termination,” “Women Without Skin,” “Scooter Thomas Makes it to the Top of the World” and “Inside the Actors’ Studio.”

Auditions for the festival will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 8 – 9 for the different productions.

The final productions take place throughout February and March. You can follow the development on the Schuster Theatre Facebook page.




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