Where can you see a lesser-known David Mamet play, a stage version charting the story of Disney’s Mr. Toad, as well as multiple shows written by local playwrights? Only at the Vegas Fringe Festival, which takes place June 3 -12 at the Las Vegas Little Theatre (LVLT).
The original Fringe Festival began in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1946 as a counterstrike to the Edinburgh International Festival. As the Fringe gradually became more successful, other cities created their own Fringes. Last year, LVLT joined the fray, organizing the first Fringe in Las Vegas. “We thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase theater in Las Vegas,” LVLT President Walter Niejadlik says. “There is so much talent in our community and such great theater going on, it is our hope this festival will shine a spotlight on live theater in the hopes of getting more of the community to go and see a show.”
Like the original Fringe, the Las Vegas version is, in a way, a response to larger productions. As organizer TJ Larsen puts it, “At its source, this event is important because Las Vegas theater, at least on the community level, is ‘fringe.’ We are creating art next to the colossus that is the Strip; the festival puts many of our voices together to hopefully be heard over the din of slot machines, lounge singers and composed circus acts.”
While the local incarnation has a long way to go to be compared to Fringe Fests in cities such as San Francisco or Minneapolis, Larsen has big dreams for Vegas, “Eventually we would like this event to become a regional event, including other parts of the Southwest. Then, further down the road, expand to include companies from around the nation, and then international companies.”
With all shows being performed on either the Main Stage or the Black Box at LVLT, the tight venue spacing offers unique opportunities for the theater companies partaking in this year’s fest. According to Larsen, “Productions have to be mobile and flexible. Load-in/load-out times are short. Tech rehearsals and resources are sparse, so the companies involved have to be very creative in order to produce high-quality theater under those constraints. I believe this brings out the best in our local talent.” Frankly, it wouldn’t be Fringe if things were easy.