As low-budget options are quickly decreasing for theater-makers in this city, the Seattle Fringe Festival remains an accessible testing ground for new, independently produced work. In the jam-packed two-weekend pool of performance, there is, refreshingly, a lot of risk-taking. This year’s lineup is the biggest yet, with 33 productions at four different venues on Capitol Hill and in Lower Queen Anne. The shows cover a lot of ground: opera, drag, burlesque, dance, theater, solo performance, improv, performance art, even some clowning. All the productions are artist-driven, with 100 percent of the proceeds going straight to the artists. Navigating all 33 shows can be a bit tricky, but here are three highlights to give you some direction:
Dragon Baby Sara Porkalob is back at the Fringe Fest this year, something folks will likely be excited about given that she won the Fringe Fest 2016 Audience Choice award. Since then, she was selected as the co-curator of the Intiman’s 2017 season, further establishing herself at the creative center of the Seattle theater scene. Porkalob will continue her Dragon Lady saga, a hilarious and poignant autobiographical series of shows she creates, produces, and performs, with Dragon Baby, premiering at this year’s festival. It will delve into various aspects of Porkalob’s past, from queer relationships to “how being a phone-sex operator can pay for a theater degree” to a child’s experience “growing up brown and poor.” Her work is made through an intersectional feminist lens, packing in equal parts humor and biting political poignancy that always feels relevant and nuanced. Dragon Baby promises to continue that trend. Theatre Puget Sound Blackbox, Seattle Center Armory. 3:30 p.m. Sat., March 25; 2:15 p.m. Sun., March 26; 6:30 p.m. Wed., March 29–Thurs., March 30.
Carry We Openly The talents of two Seattle theater-scene visionaries for decades—writer Nick Stokes and director José Amador—intertwine in Carry We Openly, an “absurd tale of gun culture set among ethnic minorities in modern-day America” that follows the lives of a son, mother, and grandfather. Framing a play about gun violence through an absurdist lens is a thought-provoking approach, particularly considering how theater can be used to question and dismantle authority. When political narratives are carried from the street to the stage, reality can be twisted and reformulated—something to look forward to in this production. Amador and Stokes note that Carry We Openly features an all-POC cast and questions ideas of justice and liberty. For the curious, Stokes has posted his script on seattlestar.net. Theatre Puget Sound, Center Theatre. 7 p.m. Thurs., March 23; 4 p.m. Sat., March 25; 8:45 p.m. Thurs., March 30; 5:45 p.m. Sat., April 1.
Dancing on the Wall Created and produced by the Tessellation Dance Project and directed by Jeremy Cline, Dancing on the Wall is a multi-genre dance-theater piece. Its center, both visually and thematically, is a wall. It could mean many things—literal borders, class barriers, emotional walls, prison walls, etc. But these interpretations aside, one thing the wall will concretely represent is a physical blockade among the dancers. The theme of working with and against walls is intriguing, particularly as our political situation has, and always has had, a massive emphasis on borders and barriers as a form of domination and control. How many different ways can dancers interact with a wall? I guess we’ll find out. Theatre Puget Sound Blackbox. 8:45 p.m. Thurs., March 23; 2:15 p.m. Sat., March 25; 6:30 p.m. Fri., March 31; 8:30 p.m. Sat., April 1. Seattle Fringe Festival, Various locations, seattlefringefestival.org. Ends April 1.