Four years ago, a thrilling thing happened to local theater:
The Tucson Fringe Theater Festival. It’s been annual ever since — the 2014 event is this weekend.
The weekend-long showing of new plays by playwrights here and beyond was the creation of Sara Habib and Yasmine Jahanmir. The two grew up in Tucson, graduated from University High School, and went on to schools and lives beyond the Old Pueblo.
But they’ve never forgotten their home town, nor lost their love of theater. They knew about the fringe fest concept — had attended festivals in such places as New York City — and had a hunch Tucson would love it.
And why shouldn’t we? It’s an unabashed celebration of creativity: All fringe fests — and they happen around the world — present plays that are randomly selected from submissions. None of the works are censored for language or content. The quality isn’t always pristine, but the creativity and courage is abundant. And there’s something soul-stirring about watching such raw material put on by artists who are willing to make themselves vulnerable enough to allow us to see productions of their often untested works.
Some of these works may never see stage lights again. But some may: Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” came out of the 1966 Edinburgh Festival Fringe; the Tony-winning “Urinetown” was first seen at the New York International Fringe Fest in 1999, and Monty Python’s John Cleese and Graham Chapman performed “A Clump of Plinths” at the Edinburgh fringe in 1963. The show then opened in the West End, and paved the way for their success with Monty Python.
This year, there will be nine plays on the bill, with two venues and two performances of each work. Who knows: there could be a future Tony winner among them. At the very least, the playwrights and players are taking a deep breath and letting it all hang out for Tucson audiences. That deserves a lot of applause.