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What to watch for at this year's off-the-wall FronteraFest

What to watch for at this year's off-the-wall FronteraFest
Photograph: Bret Brookshire
Olga and Volga's Happy Hour

When you hear the term “fringe festival,” you may think of the massive, city-wide performing arts festivals in Edinburgh or New York that spotlight the original, the eclectic and the new in the worlds of theater, dance, puppetry, music and comedy. But did you know that Austin’s own fringe festival is in the midst of its 25th season right now?

FronteraFest, presented by Hyde Park Theatre, is an annual celebration (Jan 16-Feb 17) that consists of five weeks of alternative and offbeat fringe theatre. Here’s what to watch for this year!

The Short Fringe
The heart of FronteraFest is the Short Fringe, hosted at Hyde Park Theatre itself. Four to five works (no longer than 25 minutes each) are performed each evening, and range from short plays, poetry and one-person monologues to improv and sketch comedy. The best of these are selected by a panel, as well as by audience vote, to become part of the “Best of Week” and “Best of Fest” anthology shows.

This year, the short fringe performances include an improvised Spanish telenovela (Corazon de Tragedia), a play relating the history of Austin’s infamous “Servant Girl Annihilator” serial killer (The Servant Girl Annihilator), the very unofficial sequel to Rent (Rent II), the story of three women attempting to break into the White House and rescue the first lady (The Kitty-Cat Brigade), and a pair of teenage actresses portraying old Russian ladies out to take over the government (Olga and Volga's Happy Hour).

Heidi
The first B.Y.O.V. (Bring Your Own Venue) production of this year’s festival is Heidi, a new musical by Anne Adams Notario. Based on the novel by Johanna Spyri, this will be a staged reading with a piano-vocal soundtrack that relates the tale of an orphan girl who lives in the Swiss Alps with her grandfather.

Strip the Musical
The second B.Y.O.V. performance this year is also a musical, but one that is a bit more experimental than Heidi and decidedly less family-friendly. Strip the Musical, by Amparo Garcia-Crow with composer Arthur Shane, combines the true stories of Candy Barr, Lenny Bruce and Josephine Baker into a self-proclaimed “Best Little Whorehouse Meets Godspell at Our Town."

Mi Casa Es Su Teatro
One of the most popular and exciting features of FronteraFest is its annual Mi Casa Es Su Teatro, a day of site-based work performed in private homes and other surprising locations across Austin. This year, the performances will be curated by Hyde Park Theatre literary manager Megan Thornton and local performer/dancer/choreographer Kelly Hasandras.

FronteraFest runs January 16 through February 17. See the festival’s website for more information about dates, times and ticket prices for individual performances.

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