For those who love the performing arts, but feel mainstream tastes often stifle potential genius, the Houston Fringe Festival is for you. Adam Castañeda, festival organizer and head of FrenetiCore, promises a wide variety of displayable talent, including music, dance, theater, performance art, circus performances, poetry and comedy. One of those special talents will be the choreography of Heather vonReichbauer, a North Carolina native who will present a debut work as part of the festival closing-night tradition, Anything Goes!
“Anything Goes is the part of the fringe festival that breaks the mold. Acts of no more than ten minutes [each], open to numerous genres [which will include] a mixture of a lot of different types of performance,” vonReichbauer says. The choreographer, who moved to Houston four years ago, will be presenting a segment from her upcoming full-length Dark Waters, which she says is “inspired by Appalachian Murder Ballads” – which are “dark tales about women being murdered, passed down through [an] oral tradition that traces back to Welsh poetry and folklore. They’re dark, but incredibly catchy!” This dance piece will be one of a dozen avant-garde performances during the festival’s Sunday slot, beginning at 8 p.m.
For vonReichbauer, part of the thrill of developing Dark Waters for the event has been the opportunity to work with her husband, who is a musician. “It’s a quintet of five dancers, and he’ll be playing the music of the murder ballads live, alongside the performance,” the director of the dance program at Rice University explains. VonReichbauer is also quick to point out that dance is not a traditional component of the Appalachian Murder Ballads, saying the vivid imagery evoked in some of the moodier ballads seemed to lend itself to movement and also offered the opportunity for her to collaborate with her significant other. “There were some [murder ballads] he already knew, some he was eager to learn. But they all paint such a visual picture.”
Despite moving to the Bayou City relatively recently, the choreographer is used to the oddball style of the Fringe Festival. “When I lived in North Carolina, I actually participated in the Greensborough Fringe Festival, [an event] they’ve had for over ten years. I think fringe festivals in general are a great way to get exposure to different kinds of artists at once.” One of the perks of teaching at Rice, the director reveals, is the round-the-clock access to rehearsal amenities, like a dance hall or a black box. “That’s one of the prohibitive elements of producing a dance show, the lack of space. It’s expense for people to even show their work. The Fringe is a great opportunity to build your own audience and invite people to come see your work again.”
The frenzied, fast-paced nature of Anything Goes — which features the largest grouping of artists of any single production — is by design, an undeniable charming grab bag of lots of local talent.
The ninth annual rendition of the festival has been reimagined, jettisoning the multiple-venue format and moving all performances back to The Pilot on Navigation, formerly known as Frenetic Theater. Once again, Houston Fringe offers a little bit of something for everybody.
7:30 p.m. August 24, 6 p.m. August 25, 7 p.m. August 26, 4 p.m. August 27, 2 p.m. August 28. 5102 Navigation. For information, call 832-387-7440 or visit houstonfringefestival.org. $10 to $90.