By Leland Strott
Before November 2011, Charm City Fringe co-founders Zachary Michel and Michael Brush were outsiders of the Baltimore theatre community.
“We knew that theatre existed beyond Centerstage and Everyman, but we didn’t know exactly where to begin looking,” said Michel. “We would find a show here or there, but there are clearly two groups of people in Baltimore: people who know and follow the theatre community, and the overwhelming majority who have no idea it exists.”
“I love Baltimore’s music scene, but before I started working with Fringe, I had a difficult time keeping up with local theatre,” said second year festival volunteer, Alex Ward.
To the founders, it became quickly apparent that a unifying organization, something made to celebrate and actively promote theatre within the city, would be a fun way to highlight the theatre and performing arts scene and grow support for the artists and their neighboring businesses. They built on the idea, and Charm City Fringe was born.
Charm City Fringe launched in 2012 with a preview Nights on the Fringe festival, what they considered a sneak peak to their festival plans of the future. They hosted ten acts over a November weekend at the Autograph Playhouse in Charles Village.
The expanded festival returns on November 6-10, 2013, to venues across Baltimore’s Station North neighborhood.
“I can’t wait for this festival to kick off,” said Michel. “It’s going to be a great year for Baltimore theatre and Fringe as a whole. We’re looking at a moment where Baltimore theatre is really going to start getting the attention it deserves.”
Fringe will feature several local performance groups, including Baltimore Improv Group, Baltimore Shakespeare Factory, Playwrights Group of Baltimore, and Single Carrot Theatre. Two local artists, Nicholas Horan of Hyattsville, MD, and Rob Jansen of Berwyn Heights, MD, will also bring one-person shows to the Fringe stage.
Three visiting artists round out the Fringe schedule: Siobhan O’Loughlin of Brooklyn, NY, Lucie Pohl of New York, NY, and Adam Ruben of Washington, DC.
Tickets to each production are $10 with the one-time purchase of a $3 festival button. The schedule of performances, along artist bios, performance descriptions, and ticketing information can be found on the festival website, www.charmcityfringe.com/tickets.
The Charm City Fringe Fest opening party and media night sneak peek will be held at Liam Flynn’s Ale House, Sunday November 3rd, at 6 p.m. This event will be an opportunity for area journalists and audiences to kick off the festival, network with other festival attendees, and watch sneak previews of each scheduled production.
While Michel and Brush are still focused on making this year’s festival a success, they have their sights set on a community impact through performing arts: expanding, strengthening, and enhancing creative learning opportunities for Baltimore’s youth.
“In the long term, we aim to overlap our festival and educational efforts. We see a future where artists help their own cause through the festival, and lead extracurricular student workshops and in-school presentations for future generations,” said Michel.
“Through our future theatre educational opportunities, we don’t want to just teach theatre to students. We see value in not just creating artists, but in creating people who understand and value art,” said Michel.
Michel sees Fringe as a dual effort to attract those within and outside of the city who are hungry for art and grow the passions of future generations through education and exposure to the arts.
“We see Fringe remaining an important part of the theatre and arts community,” said Michel. “No matter how large a city’s arts scene may grow to be, it must retain its roots and support the new, experimental, student-made, and emerging artists.”