Fringe Takes Over Westmont, Downtown

The Fringe Festival Hub outside Porter Theatre

The Fringe Festival Hub outside Porter Theatre

The annual Westmont Fringe Festival, featuring 11 original student plays being performed in 10 different venues at two different sites, including the downtown Alhecama Theatre and around Westmont’s Porter Theatre, is Thursday, April 19, from 7:20-10:30 p.m.; Friday, April 20, from 7-11:15 p.m. (9:30-11:15 p.m. downtown); Saturday, April 21, 2-4 p.m., with Phoenix Night, which includes art, poetry and music, starting at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, April 22, from 6:30-11:15 p.m. (9:30-11:15 p.m. downtown). Festival passes ($15 general admission, $10 students/seniors) or daily tickets ($10 general admission, $7 student/seniors) are available online at For more information, please call (805) 565-7140.

The Fringe, which began in 2005, has steadily grown to include more than 100 students, featuring 29 pieces of film, dance, performance art, Phoenix night acts, original plays and Hive plays, which are the result of playwriting MFA students working with student writers during a week-long developmental process. 

“I’m looking forward to the interdisciplinary nature of the festival,” says Olivia Stowell, production manager. “It was really important to this year’s core team that we have involvement from students outside the theater department, and that has led to tons of cool collaborations, including non-majors writing and directing original plays. It’s amazing to have almost 10 percent of the student body involved in getting this off the ground, and to give students a platform to explore all kinds of themes and subject matter through art.”

The original plays, written, produced and directed by students, explore themes of feminism and the female body, surrealism and postmodernism, bananas, sexual identity, family relationships, racism, faith, fairy tales, authoritarianism, and the TV show “Twin Peaks.”

For the first time ever, some of the Fringe will be performed at the Alhecama Theatre, part of El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park. “Every room is specific and will influence a piece in different ways,” says Leslie Duggin, artistic director.  “The Westmont campus has a specific atmosphere and cultural context, and the Alhecama Theatre is a place where students can express themselves and their art without that weight and from a different point of view. It’s also going to make the Fringe more of a community event, engaging people outside of Westmont.

“The Fringe is hands down the best weekend of the semester. There is so much energy and focused attention given to art and creativity. With pieces spread all over campus and students from practically every major, it really feels like Fringe is taking over.”

At the hub outside Porter Theatre, students will host poetry readings and improvisational games, while the Porter Hall conference room will be transformed into a mini art gallery. “This year is really pushing for more student work and branching out from theater, film and dance to include other mediums, which is important and exciting,” says Karly Kuntz, artistic director. “I love the energy in the department right now. Every space is buzzing with rehearsals — creating something wacky, tasty and jabby to show to audiences.”