What’s a fringe festival? As a newbie, I had absolutely no idea. What I saw at the newly renovated Peale, Baltimore’s Community Museum (and the oldest museum in the United States), was a taste—an interesting mix of the weird, wacky, and fantastic. Launched in 2015, “Nights on the Fringe,” is a weekend-long immersive arts experience. Nearly ten years to the day, Charm City Fringe presented its first-ever event and this was the organization’s return to the stage since the pandemic. In this new, intimate setting, the cabaret was full of Baltimore-based artists who fed off the audience’s energy. Yes, there was plenty of audience involvement. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before in the most amazing way.
…a wonderful and wacky conglomeration of artists who need to be seen and celebrated.
The show started off quite informally, with thanks to the sponsors and Board Members and a few jokes. Aaron Henkin, who created “Out of the Blocks” and “The Maryland Curiosity Bureau” (both have aired on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered) emceed the event. In a small, white-walled room at the Peale, the audience was an interesting mix of every kind of person—and everyone came together to celebrate these local artists.
Devin Martin was the first featured artist, presenting an original puppet short combining shoebox dioramas and live-streaming technology (definitely low tech and high tech joining together). The short, called “The Sabbatical,” presented a dog named Penny who worked from home with her human but was experiencing some job dissatisfaction. So Penny decided to see what else was out there for a working canine. Using a series of dioramas, Devin put together a story about a dog who went on an adventure from being part of a dogsled team in Alaska to joining a sheep farm in Ireland. Cute and creative, everyone could enjoy the story of Penny.
L. Rodgers was up next, with a gorgeous voice which took the audience on a journey of vulnerability, strength, and connection. Her goal was to reach anyone and everyone going through rough times and to get the audience to access their emotions together. She wove stories throughout her songs, whether they were interesting fables or stories from her past. Rodgers’s repertoire included “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” “Valentine’ and “I’ve Been There,” original heartfelt songs in a strong, beautiful voice.
Pariah Sinclair, a drag queen, followed Rodgers, changing the mood once again with her dancing, singing, and audience interaction. She was incredibly entertaining and resourceful as she lip-synced to “Bills” and solicited money from the audience, doing amazing high kicks in the process. You couldn’t help but get into the mood when Sinclair performed.
Juggler Kathryn Carr balanced a rose on every part of her body and rolled objects from one side of her body to the other, bringing a sense of awe and wonder. I think my daughter enjoyed her fancy LED light juggling clubs most of all.
After an intermission, Schroeder Cherry shared his puppet friend, D’Andre, who told an interesting story about his grandfather being part of the Children’s Crusade in Birmingham, Alabama. With clever techniques involving cut outs of children, firefighters, and policemen, Schroeder told the audience an important story in a different and imaginative way.
Alexander Scally followed Schroeder with his impersonation of motivational speaker and psychic medium, David Mark Davids. As Davids, Scally used an easel and flip chart to highlight how to be dead and thriving and experience loss. Definitely unique, he was also interrupted numerous times by some kind of fender bender in the parking lot involving an audience member’s car (although since this was a parody, there was no need to worry).
Liz de Roche finished off the show with her synthesizer smoothness and original songs. She got the audience involved, clapping along as she sang songs that included “I Won’t Let You Down” and “You’re Not Alone.” She had a unique style all her own which got everyone grooving and moving.
Now I know what a fringe festival is—a wonderful, wacky conglomeration of artists who need to be seen and celebrated. I am looking forward to the annual Charm City Fringe Festival which will be returning in the fall of 2023.
Run time: Two hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.
“Nights on the Fringe” ran on November 11 and 12, 2022 at The Peale, 225 Holliday Street
Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21202. For more information about Charm City Fringe, click here.
About Charm City Fringe
Charm City Fringe (CCF) produces an annual performing arts festival in Baltimore that unites people through art, builds community, provides a place for weird, and empowers artists in producing bold, fun entertainment.
Charm City Fringe, Inc. is a nonprofit that develops, showcases, and celebrates new and innovative theatre and performing arts in Baltimore. We aim to connect and elevate the theater community, engage existing audiences, attract non-traditional theatergoers, and reach out to communities not commonly represented. The Charm City Fringe Festival, founded in 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland, provides a platform for artists to elevate their work and reach new audiences, while eliminating obstacles and allowing audiences to discover and explore new artists and works. The Festival is run by a dedicated cadre of volunteers.