New Orleans is known for hosting a diverse collection of cultural traditions, from traditional jazz and St. Charles mansion tours to alternative music venues and off-the-wall theatre productions. From November 19-23, the city opens its doors to the annual New Orleans Fringe Festival, a collection of more than 80 shows and creative installations that aim to push the limits of cultural interpretation and embrace the weird and wild aspects of life and art.
The theming of shows runs the gamut and includes everything from sideshow circus arts to interdisciplinary comedy and cabaret and musical theatre to burlesque and documentaries. Nudity and strictly adult content are not uncommon at many of these shows and reflects the open and free spirited nature of the fest, so come prepared if that’s not your thing. This festival doesn’t carry the tagline, “Fearless Performers, Fearless Audiences” for nothing.
Fringe Fest has a few official venues that host shows throughout the city, particularly in the Marigny and Bywater area. They include such spots as the Marigny Opera House, Shadowbox Theatre, Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center, Old Ironworks and Mardi Gras Zone, among others. In addition, more show venues will pop up across New Orleans in a wide range of locations as a part of the Bring Your Own Venues (BYOV) initiative, which allows artists to organize shows at venues of their choice. They include everything from music venues like Hi-Ho Lounge, Siberia and Café Istanbul to other cultural centers, such as Ashe Cultural Arts Center, Marigny Theatre and Contemporary Arts Center, plus many more.
In addition to wild, wacky and more risqué lineup of shows, Fringe Festival hosts Family Fringe and Kid-friendly shows. Shows include multimedia projects, such as “Composition 1: What is music?” where audience members are encouraged to interact with a kinetic music sculpture designed to challenge traditional ideas of music; aerial theatre productions, like LoopsEnd; and The Garden Variety Show, which features a campy and enchanting garden with impressive puppetry, humorous songs and jokes that adults can enjoy and mostly go right over the kids’ heads.
If you’re looking for something that’s completely off the beaten path in local culture and entertainment, be sure to plan your stay for the weekend of Fringe Fest, just before Thanksgiving week.