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DC’s 2011 Fringe Festival: What Not to Miss

We know it can be hard to pick through the festival’s more than 100 different productions around town, so we highlighted some can’t-miss performances

Happenstance Theatre's Manifesto! is just one of the many productions at this year's Fringe Festival. Photograph courtesy of the Fringe Festival

The last time this writer experienced a fringe festival, she was wearing a corset, a five-pound hairpiece, and what one unkind passerby described as “zombie makeup,” while navigating the cobbled streets of Edinburgh in three-inch heels. So to say it’s a relief to be offstage at this year’s Capital Fringe Festival is an understatement. The festival returns tomorrow for its sixth year, showcasing over 2,000 artists in 100 different productions around town. It’s a great opportunity to experience some of Washington’s lesser-known talent, as well as some quirky and entertaining productions. Here are our picks for shows to look out for.

July 7 through 23, Faction of Fools Theatre Company, Washington’s own commedia dell’arte troupe, presents 2nd Annual Fool for All: Tales of Courage and Poultry. FOF’s 2010 show, Tales of Love and Sausages, was praised as “really, really funny” by the Washington City Paper. And who doesn’t love clowns in masks? The show is at Mount Vernon United Methodist Church; for more information, see the Capital Fringe Web site.

Most of us grew up with Shel Silverstein, but hopefully not with Uncle Shelby’s ABZ Book, which offered insight to readers such as “Mommy loves the baby more than she loves you,” as well as over 60 different words for “boobs.” The writer and cartoonist’s dark side is explored in Actors Repertory Theater’s An Adult Evening with Shel Silverstein, billed as “twisted, darkly comic exposes of our human frailties.” The show is at Studio Theatre’s Mead Theatre July 7 through 22; for more information, click here.

The two-year-old No Rules Theatre Company was the recipient of the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company this year, and has snagged none other than Holly Twyford to direct the company’s upcoming production of Stop Kiss this fall. Founders Joshua Morgan and Brian Sutow perform in Assembly Required: Comedy A to Y at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church July 9 through 23; the show aims to teach audiences about comedy with its own brand of “edutainment.” For more information, follow this link.

Landless Theatre Company, which brought us such unforgettable productions as 2007’s A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant and this year’s TarXXXanadu (a mashup of Tarzan and Xanadu set in the world of gay porn) returns to the fringe this year with Captain Freedom, a comedy starring Tzadik Friedman as the eponymous superhero. Details on the show seem to be hazy, but the company won “Best Musical” at the 2008 Capital Fringe, and here’s hoping it’ll be as inappropriate as ever. For more details, click here.

The estimable Washington Shakespeare Company has a production July 7 through July 16 at the Fort Fringe on New York Avenue with a name which we unfortunately cannot repeat; however the first word is “Hotel” and the second is a four-letter obscenity commonly used on Metro. The play, by avant-garde theater pioneer Richard Foreman, was called “a very lively study of carnal appetites” by the New York Times when it ran in 1999 at St Mark’s Church. For more information, click here.

Happenstance Theatre, Mark Jaster and Sabrina Mandell’s highly creative physical theater company, stages Manifesto! at Studio Theatre’s Mead Theatre July 8 through 23. The show, billed as a “surreal Cabaret Revoltaire,” debuted at the 2008 Capital Fringe, where it was called “an ingeniously oddball deconstruction” by the Washington Post. In other words, if you’ve ever wondered what happens when futurism, dadaism, communism, and capitalism get together for coffee, this is your answer. For more information, click here.

No fringe experience is complete without some improv, so it’s worth checking out Washington Improv Theater’s The Audio Files, playing at Source July 7 through 23. The company’s 2010 fringe show, iSchool Musical, created a brand new musical each night; this show takes inspiration from old-school radio shows and audience members’ iPods. For more information, click here.

Tickets for all Capital Fringe shows are $17 plus $7 for a one-time Fringe pin purchase; for full listings and more information visit

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