From Funky Documentary to Circus and Senior-Citizen Ensembles, Houston’s Fringe Festival Pushes the Envelope

From Funky Documentary to Circus and Senior-Citizen Ensembles, Houston’s Fringe Festival Pushes the Envelope

Houston Contemporary Dance Company (Photo by Lynn Lane)

DURING A TWO-DAY celebration Aug. 31-Sept. 1 at MATCH, the 2023 Houston Fringe Festival commemorates 17 years of exploring the outer limits of dance, theater and film. The weekend includes a retrospective screening of Houston filmmaker Jonathan Caouette’s Tarnation, and “Anything Goes,” the festival’s signature mash-up showcase, with performances by Houston Contemporary Dance Company, Cai Circus, performance artist and self-proclaimed “internal humorist” Margo Stutts Toombs, and many other returning and first-time performers. For adventurous Houston theater-goers, or anyone in any field of the arts looking to get out of their comfort zone, the Houston Fringe Festival is a smorgasbord of creative ingenuity, heartfelt vision, and irreverent experimentation.


The festival opens with a special benefit screening of Caouette’s groundbreaking 2003 documentary Tarnation. Culled from more than two decades of Super 8 movies, VHS recordings, family photographs, and answering machine messages — and initially assembled and edited with free iMovie software to create its collage-like and hallucinatory narrative — this intensely personal film traces Caouette’s relationship with his schizophrenic mother, Renee, beginning with her accidental overdose of lithium medication. The film also traces Caouette’s burgeoning artistic growth and coming out at a young age as gay. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion led by Houston film makers Stephanie St. Sanchez and Kristian Salinas.

Cai Circus

In addition to the aforementioned dance, circus, and comedic artists, the festival’s second night of “Anything Goes” revelry includes a realization of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Conqueror Worm by the spoken word collective Invisible Lines, freely improvised music and noise by artistic collective The Magpie Parliament Society. There will be performances dance companies artistic edGe and KIMA, and, all the way from Brookdale Galleria independent and assisted living, the senior-age Off Our Rockers Ensemble. (We think they play kazoos, but you’re gonna have to just go to MATCH and be surprised.)

The Houston Fringe Festival is a program of the Pilot Dance Project, a non-profit arts organization led by artistic director and choreographer Adam Castaneda that seeks to empower and transform communities through innovative dance, theater and visual art.

Karen Imas (Photo by Lynn Lane)

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