Shenandoah Fringe Festival celebrates the wild, wondrous and weird

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Carmel Clavin curates the Shenandoah Fringe Festival at various locations in downtown Staunton April 9-10. A venue map is available at shenfringe.com. Photo: Pat Jarrett Carmel Clavin curates the Shenandoah Fringe Festival at various locations in downtown Staunton April 9-10. A venue map is available at shenfringe.com. Photo: Pat Jarrett

The second annual Shenandoah Fringe Festival—“a culmination of the wild, wondrous and weird of our region,” according to creative producer Carmel Clavin—is upon us. In a way, the festival, set in downtown Staunton, functions as the Island of Misfit Toys for the arts, by providing a platform for disparate artists not affiliated with a formal organization. “The festival format,” Clavin says, “is not as burdened by logistics because artists aren’t putting their work up by themselves or creating in a vacuum.”

On the flipside, part of the festival’s message is that the arts should not be treated as “other,” separate from society or only accessible to a privileged few. Rather, the arts should be fully integrated into our thinking about social, cultural and economic structure. For this reason, the festival’s tagline is, “We are not other. We are of a kind.”

This philosophy is integral to Spectacle & Mirth, Clavin’s creative production company, and the main reason why the event will take place on a Sunday and Monday. As Clavin points out, people who work in service, hospitality or retail industries are often unable to attend weekend events. As Clavin has spread the word about this year’s festival, a common response she’s received is, “I might actually be able to come to this. Those are my only days off.” Clavins says, “I think if you host events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday you are leaving out an entire half of the workforce.”

As the festival is all about inclusion, Clavin—who is originally from Cleveland, Ohio, and has lived and worked as an actor, belly dancer and henna artist in Staunton for the last eight years—curated it to ensure there is something for everyone. There is vaudeville, chamber music, experimental theater, family-friendly performances (including magic and music), as well as events restricted to mature audiences. One of the highlights is a workshop showcase wherein emerging actors and storytellers present works in progress. Another is a 24-hour performance art piece by Anne Hopestill, during which she will construct a 10′ tower and plant herself on top of it, performing dance or music every hour on the hour. The objective, Clavin says, “is to raise awareness about the homeless population.”

This social and economic awareness undergirds the festival. “We want to empower artists and patrons to take ownership over these things they love, and invest their time, attention, and buy a ticket to support the arts economy. Because the arts economy is part of the economy. It is not a luxury. It is a daily good.”

And after attendees have had their fill of this daily good, they are invited to attend a shindig each night.

“Come to party and swim in the same juice at the same time as other patrons and interact with people you just saw baring their souls on stage,” Clavin says. “We really want everyone in the region to come. This is not other, this is not just for rich white people.

“If you want to be a part of that, if you want to find people also shouting into the dark wanting to be heard, this is the place for you to be.”


James Taylor. Photo by Norm Shafer
James Taylor. Photo by Norm Shafer

Fringe favorites

James Taylor

The festival’s Hostage of Honor, an American sideshow historian, will present his cabinets of curiosities and knowledge of America’s sideshows.

The Pansy Craze

Described as queerlesque, this D.C.-based troupe recreates the underground queer cabaret scene of the early 20th century.

The Sealskin

A shadow puppet show performed by West of Roan explores the wild spirit of human beings.

Magician Cody Clark

Through magic, comedy and storytelling, Clark interweaves his personal narrative of life with autism.

Dr. Dour & Peach

This musical clown act will perform original songs about monsters.

Spectacle & Mirth Teacup Cabaret

A collection of short vaudeville performances.

The Fringe Gallery

Paintings, collages and photographs by five different artists.

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