San Francisco Fringe Festival 2009


It is that time of year again, when a localized theatrical system emerges in the Tenderloin (and spreads to various satellite venues) featuring hundreds of high density, low budget, short attention span events over the course of two weeks.


PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Comedy and Justice for All by PSA Ensemble

The San Francisco Fringe Fest is now in its 18th year. Following in the tradition of the Edinburgh Fringe, the SF Fringe is the 2nd oldest Fringe in the US and is produced each year by The Exit Theater, which is now 26 years old and includes 3 stages plus a cafe in two buildings near the intersection of Taylor and Eddy.

Most shows are less than an hour & cost less than $10 (you pay $2 more to buy advance tix online, but 50% of all tix are saved to sell at the door for each show). Venues are small, staging is minimal; it is accessible, palpable theater. The festival runs September 9th through 20th.

The Frank Diary of Anne

The Frank Diary of Anne from Toronto’s Fishbowl Theater – photo by aMuse

Every production is designed to set up and break down very quickly, so there is only 30 minutes between shows, thus maximizing the number of performances in a night and over the 12 days. However there’s enough time for the audience to switch venues after a show, which multiplies the options for a choose-your-own-adventure style multi-play night.


Survival Tips for the Reckless by Carnival of Chaos – photo by Liz Payne

The festival is uncurated, which means that there is a wide and wild range of professionalism, style, quality, and charm. Like the program says…

The unjuried format of the Fringe Festival allows the artists to have total creative freedom when producing their work and provides for a unique theater-going experience. As a result of this boundary-free approach to creating theatre, the Fringe has become a popular development tool; encouraging artists to take risks, explore ideas, pose questions and tell their stories in new and exciting ways.

Jesus In Montana

JESUS IN MONTANA: Adventures in a Doomsday Cult a solo show and true story about someone who lived in Jesus’ basement by Barry Smith – photo by Victor Des Roches

In all this year’s SF Fringe Fest features 250+ performances of 43 shows (2/3 of them on The Exit’s 3 stages). In addition to numerous Bay Area performers, there are shows from L.A., Boston, New York, as well as Montana, Colorado, and international travelers from Canada, Brazil, Slovenia, Germany, and Andorra.

Suicide Me!

Suicide Me!, a “darkly humorous one-woman puppet show for adults” by Iris Schleuss from Koeln, Germany – photo by Torsten Wolber

A full range of genres await from sketch comedy to horror rock musical to “Queer Performance Spectacular”. So there’s really something for everyone, and probably several things you won’t like. The online audience reviews, updated daily, can help you home in on shows you want and don’t want to see. And you can post your own review to rave or warn based on your experience.

The Godling

The Godling a modern guignol by End Times Productions – photo by Matthew Kriener

Here’s a quick peek at the action in Poste Restante which looks to be a fun, clown-y dance show….

Poste Restante

Poste Restante by They Gotta Be Secret Agents – photo by Androo Sokol

Tickets for the Fringe are now on sale, there are different shows in different order every day (that’s part of the fun). So check the daily schedule.


Actor, nerd, poet, producer, writer mikl-em made his name short so you wouldn't have to. In addition to his blog you can find his writing in "Hi Fructose" magazine and witness him almost life-sized in various plays at The Dark Room Theater in SF's Mission district.

He tends to write about theater, humor, San Francisco culture and history, and stuff that's just plain weird. He thanks Scott for sharing the keys to the Laughing Squid virtual HQ and promises to uphold whatever it is that the mirthful cephalopod would prefer to be uplifted.