Rich Howells

Scranton Fringe Fest hosts live performances in Nintendo’s ‘Animal Crossing’ video game Feb. 26-28

Scranton Fringe Fest hosts live performances in Nintendo’s ‘Animal Crossing’ video game Feb. 26-28
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From a press release:

Like many arts organizations, the Scranton Fringe Festival has had to get even more creative over the last year, hosting live streams and even shows behind glass.

As the coronavirus pandemic and government restrictions continue in a socially and politically divided 2021, the Scranton Fringe is offering an escape to a safer, happier world next month.

The Animal Crossing Fringe Fest will be a virtual celebration of theatre, comedy, storytelling, cabaret, and more that combines the live streaming visuals of the popular video game “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” with simultaneous live audio on Friday, Feb. 26 through Sunday, Feb. 28.

Performers, who will be represented on screen by the cute little animal avatars that populate Nintendo’s bestselling social simulation game, will be announced soon. Artists interested in participating can still apply at scrantonfringe.org.

Audiences won’t even need to own a Nintendo Switch to enjoy the shows – all performances will be live streamed on the Scranton Fringe’s Facebook, Twitch, and YouTube accounts. It is free to watch, though audience donations throughout the weekend via Venmo, PayPal, etc. will be encouraged.

This special project was inspired by the ACNH Fringe Fest, which launched at the 2020 Melbourne Fringe Festival in Australia, and comedians like Jenny Yang, who have hosted stand-up comedy shows using the game. This makes the Scranton Fringe the first organization in North America and the second in the world to coordinate such an event via “Animal Crossing,” organizers believe.

They said they are putting this on “to further stretch our creative muscles and provide paid work to a variety of performers and creatives based in our own region, Northeast Pennsylvania, and across the globe” and “try something new and have fun in the long winter ahead.”

“We love a challenge, and what better organization to help experiment with new mediums and methods than an award-winning Fringe Festival?” they posted on the Facebook event page.

“Scranton Fringe is an incubator for creative ideas and exciting works of performing arts. We help independent artists bring their work to life via a professional platform that is affordable and accessible to our brave audiences. Since 2015 and even through the ongoing pandemic, we’ve helped present hundreds of unique works of the performing arts and interactive community-based programs.”

For those unfamiliar with the game, Nintendo’s official description reads:

Escape to a deserted island and create your own paradise as you explore, create, and customize in the “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” game. Your island getaway has a wealth of natural resources that can be used to craft everything from tools to creature comforts. You can hunt down insects at the crack of dawn, decorate your paradise throughout the day, or enjoy sunset on the beach while fishing in the ocean. The time of day and season match real life, so each day on your island is a chance to check in and find new surprises all year round.

Show off your island utopia to family and friends – or pack your bags and visit theirs. Whether playing online or with others beside you, island living is even better when you can share it. Even without hopping on a flight, you’ll meet a cast of charming animal residents bursting with personality. Friendly faces like Tom Nook and Isabelle will lend their services and happily help you grow your budding community. Escape to your island getaway – however, whenever, and wherever you want.

The Scranton Fringe Fest is still planning to produce more programs in the real world this year. Following an online-based Social Distant-Scene Theatre initiative, the festival presented “Fringe Under Glass” in September, a unique theatrical experience with strong visuals to engage small groups of audience members as they were led from window to window through downtown Scranton by trained fringe tour guides. The in-person live shows featured wireless audio transmission by solo artists or small groups of creative talent who were already living or working in close proximity, providing a safe performance space and allowing the artists an opportunity to incorporate new technology into their work.

In addition to streaming live drag shows and election coverage by drag queen Pissi Myles in 2020, the nonprofit organization also launched an emergency fund that distributed over $8,000 worth of mini-grants to local artists and creative gig workers who were affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Since 2015, the Scranton Fringe Festival has entertained over 10,000 unique audience members and helped generate over $250,000 each year in the local economy. 2020 would have been Scranton Fringe’s sixth annual celebration of the performing arts before it was canceled, hosting more than 50 acts in a dozen venues in downtown Scranton over 11 days.

With 100+ performances each year, the majority of the festival’s programming 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, and the Scranton StorySlam series, which has found a home at the Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple for the past few years.

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