By Pete Zamplas- The Asheville Fringe Arts Festival Jan. 20-27 again has a compelling array of interpretive dancing and other creative and, at times, zany acts.
The 17th annual festival is spread across several venues with the busiest schedules on Thursday-Sunday, Jan. 24-27. Each show typically lasts an hour and is on two days, with separate tickets per performance and also for each night’s after-party.
There are also whacky LaZoom Fringe bus tours, and free Fringe random acts starting with the kickoff this Sunday Jan. 20.
Performers include some Asheville-based, and many from across the country. Artistic Co-Directors Jocelyn Reese and Jim Julien said the aim is to “provide artists with opportunities to explore the edges of their work, to collaborate across genres, and to bring new and innovative performances to culturally-adventurous audiences.”
The kickoff is in Lazy Diamond on North Lexington. The first segment, from 5-7 p.m., features Louly Peacock singing original cabaret-style songs and joined by dancers and with audience participation in the Peacock Party. Then Amy Hamilton leads the monument-chastising skit Inoxia at 7:30 p.m.
The Accidentals will unveil a new routine. The street/alley performers have done statuesque still posturing on the streets, as Fringe tour onlookers tried to goad them into grinning and breaking character. They carried on their craft outside, even in rain a year ago.
Many acts blend disciplines. Physical Poetry is literally poetry in motion, with much fast-paced confrontation and other interaction. Charleston, S.C. Poet Laureate Marcus Amaker collaborates with all-female Meredith Yuhas & Dancers of Columbia, S.C.
Yuhas’ troupe won the 2018 Fringe Fan Favorite online selection for “Yuhas: Experiments in Connection: You and I, Us and Them.” Meredith Yuhas choreographed it.
Moves included keeping balance while tiptoeing on the back of a dancer, who steadily shifted in a circle. Wrestling-like moves best reflected what Yumas calls “connection and disconnection.” She described a theme of “emergence of the individual into society-examining power structures, diversity and privilege.”
Yuhas said her new act will “reflect a world of discourse and kinesthetic empathy, revealing our position of response in the face of adversity — through poetry, dance, and a lot of duct tape.”
The cast of young ladies was diverse racially and in body shape and size, as many patrons noted with praise.
Floor lightning varied, to alter moods a year ago. The routine was on much of the floor of the Mothlight club for an area much larger than on the small stage.
Showtimes for Yuhas are Friday, Jan. 25, 7-8 p.m. and Sunday 4-5 p.m., in The BeBe Theatre at 20 Commerce St. (the alley behind Patton Ave. downtown).
Other dancing includes the Atlanta Dance Collective led by Sarah Stokes then Camerin Watson’s Taproot CLT, both in the Mothlight at Mr. Fred’s starting 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The 7 p.m. triple-header shows on those nights are acts of Hendersonville High School drama instructor and playwright Todd Weakley, Stewart/Owen Dance, then Mothlight owner Walter Beals. Gavin Stewart and Vanessa Owen dazzled dancing together at Fringe a year ago.
Amanda Levesque returns to Fringe, teaming with Tom Kilby in the skit Ba-Ba-Ba in BeBe Friday 5 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Other oratory-based acts include by poets Alli Marshall and Sara Herrera in Sly Grog 7 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, then Asheville Improv Collective anchoring Grog’s late (9 p.m.) show with The Cardigan Club. The early (5 p.m.) show on those nights starts with Perspective Collective’s For Love of Country and then goes visual with Anatomy of a Burlesque.
Toybox Theatre: Rock & Roll Odyssey is Friday at 9 p.m. then Sunday at 6-7 p.m., in Magnetic 375 at 375 Depot St. in The River Arts District. Puppeteer Keith Shubert returns as Gothic witch Toybox, perhaps Fringe’s most recognizable performer.
“A handful of dead rock stars who don’t know they are dead go on a mystical quest for enlightenment,” he explained. Shubert will deploy various puppet styles and techniques.
Last year, his “Total WTF” puppet play won for most hilarious. His fluffy hibernated troll seeks to ascend to cause mischief as the galaxy’s premier “chaos wizard.”
Dead characters is also the theme of the last of the after-parties. That finale is Sunday, Jan. 27 in Crow & Quill at 106 N. Lexington Ave. It is 7:30-8 p.m., followed by the half-hour show “The Lost” by Dark Horse Theatre.
The act’s storyline is this: “Each year, a group of long-dead artists find themselves drawn together for a salon and a ghostly nightcap. As they begrudgingly rehash the faded moments of their own time in the spotlight, both triumphs and missed opportunities weigh heavily. Soon, the old petty slights and tensions begin to boil over. But something seems different this time. We see them, but do they see you?”
The after-party on Thursday at 10 p.m. in Sly Grog has the spontaneously creative instrumentals of Kavalactones — featuring Aaron Price on synthesizer, vox and bass with underground poet Caleb Beissert on percussion. They call their sound “drip noise” with blends of “sonic rock” and “pirate jam.” Price said, “We use synthesizers as ambient background sounds, and cool lead sounds. Once we establish a theme, anything is fair game harmonically.” The lister gets to “channel art and music.”
Fringe venues also include District Wine Bar, Downtown Books & News, Habitat Tavern & Commons, and Static Age. The LaZoom Room/LaZoom Bus Fringe Tour at 76 Biltmore Ave., also houses Fringe Central for mingling and buying Fringe tickets. Check ashevillefringe.org for more festival details, and to buy tickets at least 24 hours ahead of the show.