Fringe Festival gives ‘edgy’ artists their star turns

Tasia A. Jones: One of the performers in this weekend’s first- ever Dorchester Fringe Festival. She will appear on Saturday at the Erick Jean Center for the Arts in Four Corners. Photo by Luke BaroskyTasia A. Jones: One of the performers in this weekend’s first- ever Dorchester Fringe Festival. She will appear on Saturday at the Erick Jean Center for the Arts in Four Corners. Photo by Luke BaroskyThe first-ever all-free Dorchester Fringe Festival (DFF) filled with “edgy” entertainers will take place this weekend at two venues. Supported by the Dorchester Arts Collaborative (DAC), the DFF will showcase theater and performing artists, mostly from Dorchester, but some from greater Boston, in a wide range of genres, including theater, musical theater and spoken word.

The fringe festival concept originated in 1947 in Edinburgh, Scotland when a group of performers who had been excluded from that city’s main theater festival, found alternative spaces on the “fringe” of the city in which to perform. Now Edinburgh is perhaps the most prestigious theater festival in the world.

“Fringe festival” means different things in different places, but generally connotes no formal jury process, minimal staging, and a predilection for experimental and up-and-coming artists whose work may be hard to categorize.

Dorchester has no mainstream arts festival, so there’s nothing technically to be on the fringe of, but that didn’t faze DFF co-producers: Uphams Corner poet Liam Day and Savin Hill performance artist Obehi Janice.

Day, a Cushing Ave. resident, describes the unexpectedly strong response of local artists: “We actually had to turn down many people because we had no more room. We wanted to start small without getting too complicated. Our goal was just to get something up, even if it wasn’t perfect, hoping that it will eventually become an annual, signature even, maybe at the Strand.”

Co-producer Janice, who will do her current solo show “Fufu & Oreos,” adds, “Performing artists thrive in a city when spaces welcome them with open arms. It’s important that those spaces exist further away from the center. I think the idea of seeing a show downtown can be complemented by seeing a show in our neighborhoods.”

On Friday, May 17 there will be a full program at the Savin Bar and Kitchen, 112 Savin Hill Avenue, and on Saturday a completely different line-up at the new Erick Jean Center in Four Corners. The acts range between 8 minutes and half an hour in length. All performers will be waiving their regular fees since the festival is free.

“The Dorchester Arts Collaborative was excited to be approached by the organizers of the Fringe, and particularly thrilled that they are using the new Erick Jean Center for the Arts as one of the venues,” said Andrea Kunst, outgoing board chair of DAC. “We have been working with Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation for over a year to provide an arts and performance space in the Four Corners neighborhood of Dorchester, and expect that the festival will expose more people from around Boston to several of our neighborhoods and to our extraordinary talent.”

On tap this Friday, at Savin Bar and Kitchen, will be literary performances by Willie Wideman-Pleasants, Bob Follansbee, U-Meleni, Fay Fay, Bolaji Ogunsola, Obehi Janice, and London Bridgez; Mary Casiello, Musical Performance (Acoustic); Doug Fitzgerald, (Comedy); Dead Pony Party (Improv); and Friends of Gertrude, (Sketch Comedy).
On Saturday, over at the Jean Center, come for literary selections by the Codman Square-based Pentimenti Women’s Writing Group, and by Write on the Dot, a collaboration between UMass Boston students and Dorchester authors. The latter group is folding into the DFF its season finale showcase and release party for its second annual literary publication. Also appearing will be
Marlon Carey (Hip Hop); Marquita Niles (Hip Hop); Kendall Ramseur (Musical Performance); and Shawn Lavoie, (Performance Art).

There will also be theatrical presentations by April Ranger; Aforementioned Productions, doing a staged reading of “The Daughters”; Roxbury Repertory Theater; Urbano Project; and Tasia Jones.
For exact times and more details visit the DFF Facebook page.