PREVIEW: 2019 Cincinnati Fringe Festival

It’s almost Fringemas and that means it’s time to preview and highlight what should be some of the most unique and highest quality shows offered at the annual Cincinnati Fringe Festival, produced by Know Theatre of Cincinnati. If you’ve never attended the Fringe Festival, here a few things you should know.

First, it’s billed as “kinda weird . . . like you.”  There really is something for everyone and you just have to take some time to discover your taste.  For instance, I know that I enjoy solo performances a lot.  I also know that I like a good straight-forward narrative.  I tend to avoid dance pieces or things that are too avant-garde.  However, I’ve also discovered some amazingly talented people who do their thing well even if it’s not my taste.

The Fringe Festival takes place throughout Over-the-Rhine in a variety of venues from churches to classrooms to theatres.  There are fewer venues (the Art Academy is opening up several new spaces for performances this year), which makes it somewhat easier to plan your show-watching schedule.  The Festival lasts a full two weeks this year, which should allow plenty of opportunities to see as much as possible.  And tickets are affordable; each show is only $15 but there are passes ($75 for six shows or $250 for all the shows) available, too. I have created a database and calendar to help you figure out what to see when.

Here are some of the things I’m looking forward to the most:

Paul Strickland

90 Lies an Hour from Paul Strickland Presents

Paul Strickland is a Fringe icon.  His weird storytelling style is nothing short of genius and he always manages to find a new angle, a new idea, or a new story to tell that delights and charms audiences.  I’ve never walked away from a Strickland show unsatisfied.  He’s quintessential Fringe; dont’ miss this show.

The MILF Also Rises from Jen Joplin

Jennifer Joplin is one of Cincinnati’s best actresses.  She comes from a family full of talented performers and she has taken on roles as diverse as Cleopatra to Typhoid Mary to Erma Bombeck. It’s her work as the everywoman characters that I’ve enjoyed most (“On Golden Pond,” “The Humans,” “Other Desert Cities.”). I also know that she’s a passionate mother and wife and activist.  I can’t wait to hear what she has to say.  My guess is we’ll laugh some and cry some – but we will probably leave ready to take on the world.

SUFFER Fools from Homegrown Theater

Every year I wonder what the team led by Leah Strasser and Buz Davis is going to do. They’ve delighted with pieces ranging from comedy to horror. This year they’re tackling social issues through clowning and the description warns of nudity and simulated sex acts.  I imagine this will be shocking but not sensationalized satire as both Strasser and Davis, talented actors and directors, both have a definitive edge to them.  Buckle your seat belts.

Alexx Rouse

Stow Your Baggage from Alexx Rouse

Two years ago, Alexx Rouse burst on to the Fringe stage with her solo show “Busted Bumpers and Other Metaphors,” which told a compelling story full of laughter and tears.  This new show is billed as “A Flight Attendant School Drop Out Comedy” and I’m excited to see what Rouse has cooked up for us. She’s charming and funny and as sincere as they come.


Mac Rogers

This House Will Never Let Us Go from Gideon Productions

Typically, I try to spotlight local artists; after all, I think of myself as more of an advocate for theatre in Cincinnati than anything.  But every year, Gideon Productions has wowed me with their intelligent writing (by playwright Mac Rogers) and powerful performances. So, I’d be remiss not to encourage everyone to go see this year’s horror piece.  “For a year Joan has been living off housesitting jobs, with no home of her own. When she arrives for a choice summer gig looking after a lavish beach house, she discovers she’s sharing it with an eerie housemate who will force her into a shocking reckoning with her future.”  Don’t miss it.


Desperately Seeking the Exit: Cincy Celebrity Reading and Show Up, Kids! from Peter Michael Marino

Speaking of out of town performers, Peter Michael Marino blew into town last year with his improvisational show, SHOW UP! It was unique and original and Marino is as charismatic as can be.  He’s currently appearing in New York as the villain in “Pip’s Island,” but he’s taking a short break to come play with us in Cincy.  “Show Up, Kids!” is a children-friendly version of the show we saw last year and best of all tickets are free.  Marino is also bringing us a reading of his one-man show “Desperately Seeking the Exit,” which chronicles the musical he wrote and brought to the West End in London based on the Madonna film, “Desperately Seeking Susan.”  He’s cast it with local and Fringe “celebrities including Burgess Byrd, Darnell Pierre Benjamin, Sara Mackie, Patrick E. Phillips, Rory Sheridan, Les Kurkendaal-Barrett, Sarah Knittel, Erika Kate MacDonald, Robert Macke, and Paul Strickland.  I’m really looking forward to seeing Peter and both of these shows.

the Vegetables! from Old, Old, Very Old, Man Productions
Maybe the most mysterious show on the schedule this year, the bio says “Old, Old, Very Old, Man Productions has been in gestation for over 60 years, only now with the gravity of an additional 24 years, they have reached the perfect age to write a Musical/Comedy about people in a vegetative state.”  I’m know that Kevin Crowley is involved.  That’s enough info for me to at least bravely check it out.

ZOINKS! from Queen City Flash

Finally, Bridget Leak and Trey Tatum have created a show that is Nancy Drew mixed with “Stranger Things.”  Every year, they change their game (and even produced a Jaws-themed play that was too long for Fringe) mid-year.  Jordon Trovillion stars as Nancy Drew while Tatum plays . . . Scooby Doo?  Sounds weird enough for Fringe to me! 

Be sure to check out my friend David Lyman’s preview piece and pick up your copy of CityBeat for all the official coverage. Tickets and passes and all the official info can be found here.

I’ll be reviewing as many shows as quickly as I can through the first weekend so stay tuned to this blog for updates, too.  I hope to see you all there!