RiNo Fringe Festival Returns—In Person

By Helen Driesen

For the third year in a row, the Denver Fringe Festival will host about 40 different theatrical and acrobatic performances in the RiNo and Five Points neighborhoods.

After an entirely virtual first festival, which took place during the first summer of the COVID-19 pandemic, this will be the first year that all performances will take place in person. The festival’s executive director, Ann Sabbah, estimates about half of the roughly 40 acts featured at this year’s festival are local artists.

“I just try to do a lot of outreach to neighborhoods, communities, theater groups, dance groups from all over Denver,” Sabbah said, “so that people can start to understand that this is available and something that everybody is invited to participate in.”

True to the original Fringe Festival’s intentions, the Denver Fringe gives 70% of proceeds back to performers and provides a slew of performance spaces for both established and emerging artists to show off their work.

In-person performances will take place for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic this year. The festival takes place June 23-26 in the RiNo Arts District and Five Points neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Denver Fringe Festival / Kalen Jess Photography

Some venues, like the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theater, are already equipped with lighting and sound. Festival organizers work to ensure nontraditional stages, like the one sponsored by Blue Moon Brewery, are supplied with the simple but effective setups necessary for emerging artists to put on professional- level performances.

The Denver Fringe Festival boasts a wide variety of art forms—audiences can hop from cabarets and circuses to musicals and one-woman shows, and the festival aims to support a diversity of voices represented through the performances themselves.

“I would always like to see more diversity, and I think it’s just a question of having people really understand what the Fringe Festival model is, and that we really welcome all voices,” Sabbah said. “We really want to continue to build diversity into the festival as much as we possibly can.”

One of the many performances Sabbah said she looks forward to seeing is Josephine—a “burlesque cabaret dream play” that tells the story of Josephine Baker, “the first African- American International Superstar.”

The award-winning play has toured to multiple Fringe Festivals and stars Tymisha Harris, whose acting credits include the national tour of Rock of Ages and the popular cheerleading movie series “Bring It On.” On the opposite end of the spectrum, another performance on Sabbah’s list is an immersive theater experience called SALT MOTHER.

According to the Denver Fringe Festival website, the local team behind SALT MOTHER invites audiences to “come and join a group of people destined to be your friends.” Fringe festivals were founded in 1947 by a group of artists who had been rejected by the prestigious International Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, according to a city tourism website.

Today, the festivals take place in over 250 cities worldwide and follow an unjuried model, meaning that as many submissions as possible are given a performance slot.

Audiences can learn more about the festival, which takes place June 23-26, at denverfringe.org.

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