NEPA Scene Staff

Scranton Fringe Festival goes ‘Under Glass’ with outdoor window theatre on Sept. 25-27

Scranton Fringe Festival goes ‘Under Glass’ with outdoor window theatre on Sept. 25-27
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From a press release:

As announced earlier this week, the Scranton Fringe Festival organization has officially canceled the 2020 festival as a direct result of the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis.

Originally scheduled for Sept. 25 through Oct. 4, this fringe fest would have been the sixth annual celebration of the performing arts, hosting more than 50 acts in a dozen venues in downtown Scranton over 11 days. Scranton Fringe has focused its efforts in the past few months on supporting their community of artists, launching an emergency fund that has so far distributed over $8,000 worth of mini-grants to Northeastern Pennsylvanian artists and creative gig workers who have been affected by the pandemic.

While the large fall festival of arts, culture, and community is canceled, today the Scranton Fringe announced the introduction of a smaller but exciting new project that will provide a unique and safer experience for local audiences.

“Fringe Under Glass” is an innovative pilot program of performing arts across three dates, Friday, Sept. 25 through Sunday, Sept. 27. These live weekend performances will be set behind the windows of various downtown Scranton venues and small businesses.

The live works will feature solo artists or small groups of creative talent who are already living or working in close proximity, creating strong visuals as well as engaging live audiences safely from a distance.

Wireless audio transmission will be utilized to provide the artists with an opportunity to incorporate new technology into their work, as well as giving small groups of live audience members the ability to maintain a safe distance from each other as they travel from window to window in the Electric City.

“Our incredible community of creative artists and brave audiences have been so supportive of us over the years; we are confident they will rally behind this concept,” said Conor Kelly O’Brien, Scranton Fringe co-founder and executive director.

Scranton Fringe will work with downtown-based businesses and empty storefronts with large window spaces to present unconventional guerrilla stages familiar to prior festival attendees. Audiences will follow a set walking tour through the streets of downtown Scranton to enjoy and experience unique works of live theatre and performance art. The small groups will be guided by a trained fringe ambassador acting as a tour guide.

All audiences and fringe tour guides will be required to wear masks while attending this event. Masks, gloves, and other PPE supplies will be available at all times during this event, and extra team members will be available to sanitize the area and ensure proper social distancing.

“We are excited to launch this new artistic vision, but our top priority is ensuring the safety of our artists, volunteers, and audience members,” said Elizabeth Bohan, Scranton fringe co-founder and managing director.

“As disappointing as it would be to have to cancel this project, we are following all recommendations on in-person gatherings and are taking every precaution as we continue the planning process.”

The Scranton Fringe Festival leadership team have been attending online-based workshops and panel discussions to learn the most updated safety standards for public art organizations, as well as diligently following the ever-evolving standards set by local and state government as well as the CDC.

The arts coming alive in the windows of downtown venues represents a new way of connecting artists and audiences for Scranton Fringe. The nonprofit organization has committed to providing advance stipends to the artists participating in the project, ensuring that they can invest in their best ideas after months of lost work without depending on ticket sales or the status of coronavirus. Sponsorships and donations are being sought to increase these stipends as well.

The full list of presenting artists/performers, storefront venues, and ticket sale information will be announced by Scranton Fringe over the next few weeks. Scranton Fringe is also considering additional outdoor-based programming for the following weekend, Oct. 2-4.

Since 2015, the annual Scranton Fringe Festival has presented hundreds of creative works to over 10,000 unique audience members and helped generate over $250,000 each year in the local economy.

The majority of the festival’s programming (100+ performances each year) is chosen from an open application that invites artists and creatives from across the globe to submit. Theatre, dance, music, puppetry, children’s arts, improv, and many other genres of work have been presented over the past five years.

Noteworthy programs helmed by the Scranton Fringe include the Big Gay StorySlam, which toured to the Soho Playhouse in New York City and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland in 2019; the Scranton StorySlam series, which has found a home at the Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple for the past few years; and the Teen Playwright and Visual Art Workshops in partnership with the Everhart Museum in Scranton.

Recently, the pre-recorded performances showcased in the festival’s online-based Social Distant-Scene Theatre initiative have helped audience members access theatre from home while providing income for the fringe community of artists during this difficult time.

Watch Episode 132 of the NEPA Scene Podcast, a coronavirus shutdown panel discussion recorded at the onset of the pandemic in the area with Conor Kelly O’Brien, F.M. Kirby Center Artistic Director Anne Rodella, and Wilkes-Barre singer/songwriter Dustin Douglas, below:

Photos of New Vintage Ensemble members Kimmie Leff and Maggie O’Brien by Brent Pennington