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The eighth Capital Fringe Festival begins tonight, and with roughly 130 shows on the menu, Washington City Paper has once again handpicked an elite cadre of writers, journalists, theater artists, and learned observers to help us cover them. The selection process was, as ever, a grueling one, but we can say without fear of contradiction that the candidates who survived it to join the august ranks of this year’s Fringe & Purge Action News and Commentary Squad were truly… available.

But they’re also a mighty impressive lot. Let’s meet them now!

Brett Abelman is an all-around human being. He writes plays and fiction and stuff and has a blog at babelwright.wordpress.com and is on Twitter @babelwright, but only for one specific hour a week, chosen randomly from a fishbowl. He loves him some Fringe and is excited to review with the Fringe and Purge team again. See y’all folks at the tent.

Lauren Alexander is a recent graduate of American University where she majored in Public Communication with a minor in Theater. Currently, she is an intern at Method 121, a creative at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, a box office and house manager at Theater J, and a co-founder of Blind Pug Arts Collective. Starting in August, Lauren will be an institutional development apprentice at Imagination Stage. Follow her @lauren_alexand.

Greg Benson is a journalist, writer, and comedian living in Washington, D.C. His writing has apeared in the Washington Post, William & Mary News, and DC Beer. He is the co-founder and co-host of the short story podcast Outside Thoughts.

Lindsey Boyle likes food, theater, lolcats, improv, and spending too much time on the Internet. This year, she’s teching No Sex, Please, Burlesque of Broadway, and the August finale of D.C.’s own Charlie Visconage Show. This is her third year with Fringe & Purge. Follow her at @aria072.

Ian Buckwalter recently migrated northward to Charm City, but he wouldn’t miss his fourth year on the Action News & Commentary squad for all the boarded-up roadhouses on North Broadway. Mostly because Baltimore’s Fringe is in November, and Ian simply wouldn’t know how to review a Fringe show if he wasn’t dripping sweat onto his notebook throughout the performance. Speaking of which, should you see him wandering the Gypsy Tent looking a little wilted, be sure to offer him a beer; he’s probably dehydrated. When not braving the commuter rails between DC and Baltimore, Ian spends the bulk of his spare time writing about film for NPR and The Atlantic. Follow him @ianbuckwalter.

Sophia Bushong‘s life of theatrical lunacy began at a tender age. At eight she donned a blue cardboard box as The Little Engine That Could in the school play. Over the next two decades she didn’t grow much taller but did do lots more acting, directing, and prop making. Eventually the equally loony impulse to write took over. She contributes blog posts and features to Washington City Paper about theatrical goings-on around town. This is her fourth year with Fringe and Purge. Follow her @Sophialefay.

Camila Domonoske is a first-time Fringer and Purger. Over the last few years she’s built houses in the desert, interviewed activists in the Philippines, recorded family histories across America, sorted mail for opera stars, sought out stock photos for a political blog, written and Web-produced book reviews, and mostly forgotten how to lindy hop. She swears that this somehow prepares her to write theater reviews. For most of the summer, she’s working at NPR Books; you can follow her at @camilareads.

Jonathan L. Fischer is the managing editor of Washington City Paper. One day he’ll finish his one-man Fringe show about a self-doubting serial comma. Follow him @jon_fischer.

Maddie Gaw
is a recent graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where she majored in underwater basket-weaving and Theatre Arts. With this winning combination, Maddie has accomplished a lot: As a playwright, a sound designer, a literary manager and an award-winning craftsman (that last one might not be true). She has written for The Washington Post, The Faster Times, and DC Metro Theater Arts , and her personal rants and musings about theatre can be found on her website. Follow her @maddieturg.

Alexis Hauk, an Atlanta native, moved to D.C. after several years shivering herself senseless in Massachusetts. Along with City Paper, she has written for The Atlantic, DCist, Washingtonian, Cape Cod Times, Boston Phoenix (R.I.P.), Time Out, and others. When Alexis first watched Jaws on a family beach trip when she was nine, she fell in love with its lovable, cuddly, jagged-toothed star. (No, not Robert Shaw.) Naturally, her Twitter handle is @fullofshark. You’re welcome to follow her there. Or to follow her around in person. Just try not to make a big thing out of it, OK?

Caroline Jones is the City Lights editor of Washington City Paper. She previously Fringed & Purged the 2009 festival as a City Paper intern and is delighted to be back, even though one commenter insisted she was “completely unqualified to offer an informed opinion to anyone outside of MySpace.” When she’s not scheduling and herding bloggers, you’ll find her near the Baldacchino Gypsy Tent Bar with an IPA in hand. Follow her @caroline_jones_.

Sarah Kaplan is an Editorial Intern at Washington City Paper and a rising senior at Georgetown University. Her last stage appearance as Woodstock in a camp production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown pretty much scared her off acting (you try dancing in a yellow plastic poncho costume in the middle of July), but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t enjoy good theater. Follow her @slkaplan48.

Chris Klimek is returning for his fourth year as editor of Fringe & Purge, because no term limits exist in this lawless Thunderdome, apparently. He was a 2011 AltWeekly Awards winner (well, 2nd place) for his theater criticism in Washington City Paper. (He won bupkis in 2012.) Chris was also a 2009 NEA Institute Fellow. He is a contributor to NPR’s pop culture blog Monkey See and occasional guest panelist on its weekly podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour. His writing sometimes shows up in the Village Voice, the Washington Post and even, this one time, the Guardian. Follow him at @ctklimek.

Rachel Kurzius is a television producer and advice columnist in Washington, D.C. She loves textures and wordplay. You can follow her @curious_kurz.

Rachel Manteuffel is super glad to be back Fringing for the seventh time as performer, audience, and drinker, and the second time as reviewer for Fringe & Purge. Two of her previous Fringe shows involved sexual relationships with cream cheese. She’s also a writer for the Washington Post, but that has never involved sexual relationships with cream cheese, even once. The Capital Fringe show she’s performing in this year, Recovery, has rocking A/C. She once wrote an op-ed that angered Maya Angelou and cost the Department of the Interior $900,000. Follow her @RachelMan2.

Ben Cattell Noll is a 26-year-old living in a basement in Capitol Hill and diving into Fringe for the first time. As an undergraduate Ben pursued two majors in order to assuage his passion for theater and balance it out with a kinda-sorta career-path track of study in Sociology. He now spends his days saving the world one case note at a time as a social worker for formerly homeless men and women. When the lights go down in the city, Ben can be found volunteering at Woolly Mammoth Theater, reading, and responding to plays for The Inkwell, and taking in as much other culture as D.C. can offer until burning out. Additionally he is a pitcher for his softball team, The Batitudes, and enjoys watching sports, running, reading, and hanging out with his wife.

Valerie Paschall has spent the past six years creating an exhaustive archive of interviews with local musicians. She’s happy to revisit some of those bands and touch base with a few others for the first time over the course of the Capital Fringe Festival. She’s also the editor of Curbed DC and an amateur stand-up comic. Follow her @vivalaphoenix.

Rebecca J. Ritzel is a theater critic for Washington City Paper. She began writing about theater professionally in 2001, when the entertainment editor at the Intelligencer Journal said, “Hey, new girl! Is it true you read the complete works of Shakespeare?” It was not entirely true, but he still let her write about Othello. She has since earned a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University, and written about music, dance and theater for more than two dozen publications in the U.S., Canada and Great Britain. You can also read her work in that other newspaper in town, the Washington Post. Rebecca’s own interest in fringe theater was nurtured by her parents, who brought her back a Puppenspiel from Germany when she was seven. She stores an impressive puppet collection in their basement. Follow her @rjreporter.

Ally Schweitzer is the arts editor of Washington City Paper.

Cara Lea Shockley trained as an actor at the now defunct Weber-Douglas Academy in London, and remains an ardent amateur who has performed in Commedia Dell’Arte as well as Shakespeare plays and musicals. Most of the time, she’s an informed and enthusiastic audience member who loves music, performance, poetry, and dance. She works for the D.C. government and spent two years as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner.

Dan Singer is an editorial intern at Washington City Paper and a journalism major at University of Maryland. He spent his high school years as an overly enthusiastic theatre kid, playing bass in pit orchestras and starring in The Wedding Singer due to his uncanny resemblance to Adam Sandler. He currently spends his time balancing his fragile journalistic reputation with his X-rated comedic a cappella group, Mockappella, and the Kidz Bop songs he plays on WMUC-FM. This is his first year writing for Fringe & Purge, and he’s come a long way since his parents dragged him to see Bargain Basement Game Show at the 2009 festival. He’s hoping Capital Fringe will someday host a DIY revival of Starlight Express because it is disgustingly colorful and features rapping trains. Follow him at @dan__singer.

Ryan S. Taylor is artistic director of The Washington Rogues. Along with four Capital Fringe shows for the Rogues, Ryan has produced and directed for companies including Arena Stage, Rorschach, The Source Festival, Solas Nua, and most recently the DC Queer Theater Festival. This October, he will produce and direct CapFringe superstar Steven Spotswood’s newest play, In The Forest, She Grew Fangs at the Flashpoint Mead Theater Lab. Follow him @RSTStatusReport.