The Blizzard of Odd

A day-by-day look at what to expect from the eighth Cincy Fringe Festival

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re you ready for your eighth consecutive dose of weird? The 2011 Cincinnati Fringe Festival, presented by Know Theatre, kicks off next week for 10 days and more than 30 productions. What can you expect? Well, actually, the unexpected is what makes it fun. Some acts are returning; others are completely new. About half are local, supplemented by performers who tour their acts. This year’s schedule includes 13 plays, nine solo shows, two musicals, five dance pieces, two circus/variety acts and a walking tour.

The Fringe program was a 28-page insert in CityBeat’s May 18 issue, so don’t expect me to tell you everything. But I’ll offer a quick guide to good choices using a day-by-day approach. Study all the offerings and pick performances that appeal to you. (Buy a pass, which reduces the cost to see multiple shows.) Cincy Fringe uses Facebook and Twitter to keep you informed, and there’s an “official” blog at cincyfringe.com. In particular, look for CityBeat’s Fringe blog: Nine writers will catch the first performance of each act and write quick commentary to help you choose.

Venues are throughout Over-the-Rhine. Check out 1411 Vine for an intriguing collection of work,

The Body Speaks: seven photos inspire dance, film and theater

. Check out an exhibit of “calligraphic photos” by Sean Dunn. Dance company Pones Inc. responds with Movement, seven dances inspired by those photos, while Performance Gallery (a group returning for its eighth consecutive Fringe) presents Scripted, a response by six playwrights to the same images. Captured offers Golden Brown Enterprises’ cinematic response to the photos. The interpretations of this unusual collaboration are all presented at the same venue. Check for dates and times.

TUESDAY 31

The Fringe kicks off with a kick-ass party at 8 p.m. at Know Theatre’s Underground, Know’s gathering place and watering hole (which is really only halfway underground — you can look into it from Jackson Street). The party, sponsored by CityBeat, features music by husband-and-wife team

The Bengsons

from New York City, a big hit at the 2010 Fringe. Cincinnati’s own Jon Evans Collective opens. Festivities continue until 1 a.m.

The Underground is also the site of fun every night June 1-11 at around 10:30 p.m. Watch for previews (June 1), a prom (June 3), Fringe Olympics (June 6), the “22.5 Hour Play Project” (June 7) and four nights of Fringe-A-Oke (June 2, 4, 5, 10), your chance to make a fool of yourself. Hang out and see who shows up. You’re likely to meet a performer you just saw onstage.

WEDNESDAY 01

About one-third of the festival shows kick off tonight at eight different venues. The Hanke Building (1129 Main) has two spaces; one where dance pieces are scheduled. The first, at 8:15 p.m., is

S/M/L

(as in “small,” “medium” and “large”) from MamLuft & Co. Dance, based here in Cincinnati. The 90-minute piece explores three choreographers’ takes on scale and size.

In the “Hanke 2” space at 9 p.m., you can see

Opal Opus: Journey to Alakazoo

by Tangled Leaves Theater Collective, winner of the 2010 “Audience Pick of the Fringe” for Sophie’s Dream. Opal Opus is a “pop’ra,” according to its creators — writer, composer and performer Serenity Fisher and writer and coach Robin O’Neal Kissel. Their 90-minute work is described as “navigating the dark, whimsical, romantic, eccentric, creative processes of the soul.”

The temp-venue 1423 Vine is a renovated space awaiting a new life. It’s appropriate that its first show (at 7 p.m.) is

Curriculum Vitae

by Jimmy Hogg, a one-man piece about entering the world of work at a young age. He calls it “a user’s guide as to how to get a job.” His A Brief History of Petty Crime was well received during the 2010 Fringe.

Another new venue is ArtWorks (20 E. Central Pkwy.), the teen artist organization that fosters murals around town. Their Vance Waddell Project Space will host

Headscarf and the Angry Bitch

(7:30 p.m.) and

White Girl

(9 p.m.). The former is an irreverent monologue about the American Muslim experience by Zehra Fazal (it won the best solo performance in the 2009 Capital Fringe in Washington, D.C.); the latter is another solo work, featuring African-American performer Maythinee Washington in a piece about beauty and race through the filter of pop culture.

Know Theatre’s upstairs space is a nightly venue, of course. At 7 p.m., one of several circus-themed acts,

Transfringement: Circus Mojo Refudiates the Norm

, gets things started with politics, literary allusions, acrobatics and clowning. At 9 p.m., it’s a more traditionally theatrical piece,

Denali

by Austin Bunn, winner of prestigious Pushcart Prize in 2010. Working Group Theatre from Iowa presents the story of climbers attacking Mount McKinley in Alaska’s Denali National Park.

THURSDAY 02

The FringeNext shows, assembled by Cincinnati-area high school students, will be offered today through Sunday at the black box theater at the new School for Creative and Performing Arts (108 W. Central Pkwy.).

The Color of Harmony

(7:30 p.m.) by an SCPA group is about a blind boy in 19th-century France;

The First Book of: The Bible

(at 9 p.m.),

by another SCPA team, is about topics found in Genesis — sex, violence, thunder, lightning, plagues, circumcision, death and music. A group from Highlands High School presents

Talk to the Hand

, a satiric comedy about the mistreatment of left-handed people. (It debuts on June 3 at 9:15 p.m.)

Another third of the Fringe offerings kick off June 2. Those seeking traditional theater should check out two productions at Know. At 7 p.m., it’s

Missing: the fantastical true story of my father’s disappearance and what I found when I looked for him

. The “magical realist detective story” features Jessica Ferris, who performs solo pieces that connect intimate personal stories with wider social concerns.

At 9 p.m. you can see the return of New Edgecliff Theatre to the Fringe after an absence of several years. The troupe, whose home is in the East End, presents a new script,

Darker

, by playwright-in-residence Catie O’Keefe. The London-trained writer’s script is about a fellow with a sense of déj
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