Before COVID-19 shut down many parts of the fine arts industry, plans were in motion for a 2020 Fringe Festival but soon changed as businesses began to close. The fine arts, including Theatre Crude, have struggled during the pandemic and are fighting for a respite. 

In 2019, the Fringe Festival took place over the course of two weeks at the indoor Plenty Mercantile Venue in Oklahoma City, showcasing 10 acts made up of both local and national performance companies.

This year will be a little bit different. The festival will start on Oct. 1st and will be completely online. 

Jenny and Adam Brand, co-founders of Theatre Crude, worked hard with their board members and a large number of artists and performers to bring everything back together.

“It has been a learning experience,” Jenny Brand said.

The term “fringe” in theater often means a low-tech performance, but a higher number of visual and audio recording equipment had to be utilized to move everything online, Brand said. Their goal is to keep all tech at the lowest level possible, and they are working to stay true to “fringe” and all it entails.

In deciding to move online, Brand and the board sat down with all the artists they had lined up and asked what they wanted to do. 

“Every single one of them said this is something that is important to us and the community,” Brand said. 

Brand said they worked to find all types of performances and companies, and their goal is to demonstrate all levels and types of performance. 

One of the performances is a musical puppet show from the company Floor Banana. Another is a comedy from Namron Players Theatre, a nonprofit, and will portray a worker responding to “willfully negative online reviews.” A more serious production entitled “Birthday Boys” is the story of two older men discussing their lives.

In fringe festivals, performance companies are typically selected on a “first come, first serve” basis, said Brand. This year, they chose to do a curated festival in which an interview and audition process was used to select the performers. 

All the performance videos will feature a link to a virtual “tip jar” where the audience can directly send money to the artists. These “tip jars” can be found through the Theatre Crude website by going directly to each performance’s page.

In an effort to ensure the audience gets the most out of the performances, Theatre Crude and the artists have also listed suggested age ranges and possible triggering content in each show at the bottom of the performances’ pages. 

“Our audience are such an important part of this artistic process,” said Brand. 

Acts premiere at 7 p.m. Oct. 1–10 on the Theatre Crude YouTube and Facebook pages for free, with additional premiers at 8:30 p.m. Oct. 2 and 9. All performances will be available until Oct. 31 with a $5 purchase of an all-access pass.

Brand said the festival is a great opportunity for the artists involved and the community to renew the fine arts during the pandemic. 

“A lot of the art that most people have been exposed to in theater have come from, if not fringe festivals, then something very similar,” Brand said. “A big part of that is audiences taking that journey with us.”