Paris’s English-speaking community has always been infected with the theater bug. Today, companies like Cinémorphe, the International Players, The Improfessionals and Dear Conjunction regularly present new productions in their native language. Now they have been joined by a new festival, Paris Fringe, which was founded last year by playwright Dom Douglas and theater director Reka Polonyi. Its success has encouraged them to return this year with an expanded festival, presenting 30 shows in nine venues between May 18 and 28.
A “fringe” festival was originally a kind of wildcat theater festival that took place alongside an official one, as in Edinburgh Fringe or Avignon Off. Now Fringe has become a sort of independent movement on its own.
“We are part of a huge Fringe network,” says Douglas, “which is now all over the world. Most of them are not taking place next to an official festival.” “Fringe” has come to refer to festivals that give a chance to emerging, less-
experienced companies and artists to perform in a festival context with a more multi-disciplinary approach than traditional festivals. “You can find everything at Fringe festivals,” says Douglas, “which have a more open access policy.”
For Douglas and Polonyi, another goal is to bring together and encourage interaction between theater people from all over. They hope to eventually add workshopping and training to the festival’s program.
This year’s Paris Fringe will present everything from traditional plays to comedy, dance, magic shows, poetry, singing performances, a rehearsed reading and a piece that has been developed in a school’s English classes.
The selected performers and performances were winnowed down from some one hundred applicants after an open call. “We’re looking for companies, shows, ideas and types of theater that you would otherwise struggle to find in Paris,” says Douglas. “And they have to be appropriate for an international audience.”
On the calendar are such shows as a dance company from South Africa, a clown/magician from Brazil and an improv comedy troupe from Singapore (whose show is called “Fat Kids Are Harder to Kidnap”).
Some plays have a science theme, including an improvised musical based on a scientific topic and a Canadian scientist’s play on cryogenic freezing, called “Let Me Freeze Your Head.” The opening ceremony on May 17 will offer a preview of what’s to come.
New this year is Free Fringe, 10 free mini-shows (20-30 minutes long) in unusual settings, and a competition called the 24-Hour Play, for which the five participating teams are given a theme or props and must create a five-to-10-minute play using those elements within 24 hours and then perform it in a theater.
While some works will be presented in traditional theaters, others will be put on in such unusual venues as a restaurant, library and art gallery, with ticket prices ranging from €10-€25. See the Web site for details.