Actors Bridge Ensemble is hosting Nashville’s first annual SIDESHOW Fringe Festival Thursday, September 29th through Sunday, October 2nd, 2011. The four-day festival will take place in the Belmont/Hillsboro neighborhood and features dozens of performing artists and as well as interactive visual art, community singing circle and open mic. I had a moment to ask program director Jessika Malone a few questions.


Can you briefly describe your background and connection to the SIDESHOW Fringe Festival?

I’m the Artistic Associate at Actors Bridge Ensemble and the program director for SIDESHOW Fringe Festival. I come to Actors Bridge by way of Belmont University and the generous mentoring and support of Vali Forrister (Actors Bridge Producing Artistic Director), Bill Feehely (Actors Bridge Founding Artistic Director), and Paul Gatrell (Chair, Department of Theatre and Dance, Belmont University)

Why call it “SIDESHOW Fringe”?

The name SIDESHOW for our Fringe Fest came from our ensemble project — the Sideshow Ensemble, which is a group of 12 emerging artists going deeper with training in their current discipline while cross training in additional disciplines in the performing arts because at Actors Bridge we believe the future of theatre lies in versatile, multidisciplinary, ensemble artistry. The ensemble serves as producers of the Fringe Festival. We loved the name SIDESHOW because 1., it’s a “show on the side” of our traditional season at Actors Bridge and 2., it evokes the idea of a circus/carnival where unusual acts are showcase and there’s a community/festival spirit happening!

What is the appeal of a Fringe Festival for participating artists and patrons?

Fringe Festivals are a great way for emerging artist to put themselves in front of an audience ready to experience something new as well as for established artists to try something previously untested and try to push themselves to new levels of innovation. It’s a great way for artists to gain exposure and experience community with other artists and learn from one another as well as have a chance to showcase their skills. It’s great for audiences to have an opportunity to exercise some choice in viewership as a Fringe offers a wide variety of performances of all different performing arts genres. It is an excellent way to find out what is the coolest new thing happening right now as well as try some adventurous theatre going by watching a world premiere of a new work or seeing a type of art that is just being developed or is not widely programmed because of the technical requirements of production. Plus -it is simply a great value for the patrons as you can pay $25 to have access to over $150 worth of performances!

How do you expect or hope this festival will affect emerging or fringe artists and companies in Nashville?

I hope very much this festival will be a platform for emerging and fringe artists to gain new and wider audiences that will translate into followings for them as individual entities. I also hope it will continue to encourage collaborations among performing groups that may spring from the festival and then perform at the festival in later years. I also hope everyone just has a great time and gets to experience something magical!

Do you have any favorite Fringe experiences to share ~ either in planning this festival or attending others?

So far, my favorite Fringe experiences are the ones where we’re making connections; connecting artists with a space to do what they do best, connecting audiences with something they’ve never before seen, connecting creative people together to forge new ideas, connecting deeper with our selves as we look inward for our best gifts to give outward as we journey to connect this festival with the city!

SIDESHOW Fringe Festival

Amanda Cantrell Roche