Charlotte bankers and financiers, hold onto your portfolios! NASCAR gearheads, get a grip on your wrenches! The new Queen City Fringe Festival is rolling into town, and life as you know it will change — for four loud, left-leaning, funk-driven nights, Oct. 3-6.
Splayed out across NoDa, Elizabeth, Plaza Midwood and points east, Queen City Fringe is many things at once: comedy, theater, music, dance, visual arts, spoken word, puppetry, sideshow and beyond category. The potpourri is poppin' at 18 venues, with possibly more to come after we go to press.
As chronicled in our March 27 cover story, fringe theater has already exploded in NoDa. Three of the key players we singled out then are involved in the guerilla action now. James Cartee and his Citizens of the Universe are supplying the vision, the energy and the organization. Pitching in with their bustling venues are Michael Simmons with CAST @ 28th and Michael Ford with his Wine Up @ 36th, newly rechristened as the UpStage. These are key hubs for the Queen City Fringe action, along with such familiar Boho haunts as the Chop Shop, NoDa Brewing, Snug Harbor and Philosopher's Stone.
It was easy to doubt whether Cartee could pull all this off last spring when he was flat on his back. A heart condition that could possibly require surgery was causing him to pass out at odd moments, and his physician had ordered strict bed rest. Prescribed meds have stabilized his heart condition for now, and he has forged ahead with his fabled determination. Since returning to the scene, the quixotic Cartee has produced Titus Andronicus at Snug Harbor; wrangled the venues, funding and participants for Fringe Fest; and played the title role in Hamlet down in Rock Hill for Shakespeare Carolina, one of three South Carolina companies appearing at the festival.
Jason Michael, one of the co-owners of Snug Harbor, is an old acquaintance of Cartee's. Thinking a bloody Shakespearean tragedy would be an interesting fit for the back patio, he took a chance on Titus back in July.
"We have a sweet space in a sweet neighborhood," Michael says, "so we're always looking for cool ways to have fun with it and do different things. And Titus went off pretty well."
Now the Plaza-Midwood hangout is the nerve center of Fringe Fest, programming an eclectic mix of events and serving as a staging ground where visiting artists get their bearings. The Harbor has harbored comedy, installation art, one-acts and filmings before, and with Titus now under their belts, Keely and Du, Edge Theatre's [title of show] and Serial Productions' Marx in Soho — among a total of 18 different Snug events — won't be much of a stretch.
"It's almost a part of our overall community center vibe," Michael says. "We like to think of [ourselves] as the rec center where we occasionally break into 'Electric Boogaloo'!" That's basically why Michael told Cartee "Whatever you need" when approached with the idea of hosting the new festival.
More than a couple of Charlotte's pre-eminent actors moonlight in stand-up or sketch comedy groups, so Queen City Fringe will provide great opportunities to see them come out. Smelly Cat, Evening Muse, Heist, Common Market, Krazy Fish, Petra's, NoDa 101 and The Comedy Zone will all donate to the laughter. Drop in at any Queen City Fringe venue, and you can pick up a handy schedule and map.
Scheduling conflicts are inevitable when strategizing ticket purchases. "That's why we're trying to get all our participants to schedule at least two performances," says Cartee. "Sometimes they're at multiple locations. You have to be able to move quickly at fringe festivals."
When we last looked at the website, we couldn't determine when or where you might encounter buskers and street performers, so that's all the warning we can give. We can tell you that Charlotte Dance Festival has been enfolded into Queen City Fringe. Professionals and university students will compete in their respective categories to present their new pieces at Dance Charlotte next spring. It's a little out of the way at 9129 Monroe Road, Suite 150, but all winners will be chosen by the audience.
Festivalgoers and performers will converge on the Comedy Zone for the Queen City Fringe finale, with doors opening Sunday night at 9 p.m. to all with $5 to spare.
"Comedy until we drop!" Cartee promises.
If you absolutely can't wait another second to find out about the whole vast smorgasbord, go to the website at qcfringe.com, where events are catalogued by venue and genre.