SCRANTON — A drag queen playing eight Gameboys, a young family trapped inside an Applebee’s, and a show about farts. It’s not MTV’s Thursday fall lineup — it’s the Scranton Fringe Festival.
From Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, the second Scranton Fringe Festival takes over venues throughout downtown Scranton with more than 50 performances produced by artists from nine different states. There is also a teen playwriting workshop, a six-session program hosted by the Everhart Museum.
“They’re using the items in the museum to inspire the writing of short plays, so that’s one way we’re involving the community,” said Scranton Fringe associate director and co-founder Elizabeth Bohan. “They’re going to have a stage reading during the Fringe that will be free to the public so that the writers can see the process behind the scenes of getting everything together, producing their own show, what works on stage, what doesn’t.”
Bohan said the goal of this year’s festival is to focus more on community events and producing shows, like the 10 p.m. Oct. 1’s Big Gay Story Slam at the Scranton Cultural Center. The festival also focuses more on local theater, including Dunmore resident Joe McGurl’s “Relationships,” performed 6 p.m. Oct. 1 and 2 p.m. Oct. 2 at Scranton’s Leonard Theater. McGurl was an actor in last year’s festival, but when he was asked to write a script for this year, his natural propensity to challenge himself led to 40 different scripts — and he’s going to use all of them.
“I thought, ‘Instead of one 40-minute play, I’ll try to do 40 one-minute plays,’” McGurl said. “At first I was like, ‘Oh yeah, this will be fine, it’ll be really easy to do,’ but as I started writing I was like, ‘Oh man, to do 40 original ideas is actually quite difficult.’”
“Relationships” explores the concept as it applies to couples, siblings, and other intimate partnerships people are either born into or seek. Oct. 1’s stand-up performance from Clarks Green native Ellen Doyle is partially pulled from that same pool of inspiration.
“A lot of my comedy revolves around my family, which are all pretty good sports about it. They seem to like the punishment of it,” Doyle said.
Doyle has lived in California for the last five years, working in reality television and honing her comedic skills. Her father, while also being a good sport, had a warning for her when she returned for last year’s Scranton Fringe Festival, but Doyle was confident she could connect with the crowd.
“Last year my dad was like, ‘I don’t know if your comedy’s going to go over well with a Northeast Pennsylvania crowd,’ and I was like, ‘What do you mean? This is where I grew up, everyone there is a drunken Irish person who likes to laugh,” Doyle said. “My comedy comes from these people, we all relate to that.”
Whether it’s to attend an R-rated show such as Doyle’s 8:30 p.m. Oct. 1’s “Ellen Doyle Learns to Love (and other lies)” or University of Scranton alumni Anthony Mercato’s science fiction-inspired “Escape from Applebee’s,” at 9:30 p.m. Sept. 30 or 4:30 p.m. Oct. 1 at the Scranton Cultural Center, this year’s Scranton Fringe Festival has a number of options spread across a variety of mediums. Those options can be sampled at the free preview party, 6 p.m. Sept. 29 at the cultural center, 420 N. Washington Ave.
Shows during the week are $10, or $7 with a Scranton Fringe button that can be purchased for $5 at Fringe Headquarters, 222 Wyoming Ave. Buttons will also provide discounts at partner locations including Adezzo and Auntie Anne’s Pretzels for the rest of the year. VIP passes are available at Fringe Headquarters for $50 and provide priority access to all performances.
For more information, call 570-591-1282 or visit ScrantonFringe.org for a full list of shows, show times and ticketing options.