It’s only been a couple of months since Capital Fringe decamped from Fort Fringe in Mount Vernon Square for the old Connersmith gallery space in Trinidad, but the new venue’s first performance is already on the books for Feb. 9.
That’s an impressive turnaround—-Fringe moved into 1358 Florida Ave. NE in October, and the building was far from theater-ready. Now, in addition to the venue’s inaugural performance (Clown Cabaret, which will hold its monthly shows in the space), the theater is fully booked for the rest of the year. Fringe CEO Julianne Brienza sees it as a way to build confidence in the funders Fringe will need to move on to the next phase of the build-out.
“It feels really quick. We have a lot to prove,” she says. “Prove we have the gumption and capacity to get this done.”
Phase one has involved some unexpected challenges. There was no wireless network in the building—-Fringe, apparently, is the first tenant or owner to use wireless internet. Several of the outlets on the second floor only accept European plugs. And the downstairs toilets are residential models, not made for a steady flow of theater patrons or bar-goers.
But Brienza’s bigger concern has been molding the space to fit the Fringe aesthetic. Fort Fringe was lovably scruffy, with loads of character and history marked on the walls in layers upon layers of paint, all manner of design quirks, and an eclectic, just-pulled-together vibe. The new spot is far sparser. “People come in and see it’s this white box, and people are like, ‘Oh, that’s so cool, its like a blank canvas,'” she says. “But … we’re not an art gallery, and so how [do we decorate] in a way that’s not just putting paint on the walls, but really thinking about texture and dimension?”
Fringe’s most unequivocal gain from the move, Brienza says, has been the Trinidad area, where neighbors greet her on the street, excited to see a new cultural center rise nearby. At an ANC meeting on Tuesday, Brienza announced that the theater had been booked up for the entire year and was met with a round of applause. “It’s really cool to be in a neighborhood that has that sort of vibe,” she says. “Downtown was a different sort of commerce center.”
Brienza bought Fringe’s new bar from Hogo—-the short-lived Mount Vernon Square tiki bar—-when it closed, but much of the decor for the new space will come from from Miss Pixie’s, which used to lend out secondhand pieces for temporary use at Fort Fringe each year. Now, all furnishings at Fringe will be available for sale on the spot through Miss Pixie’s. You’ll be able to literally buy a chair out from under someone or get it delivered at a later date at a discount.
Another new addition to this year’s festival: shuttle buses. Fringe plans to enlist four or five venues in Brookland, where Metro-riding theatergoers will be encouraged to congregate and catch a shuttle to the seven or eight venues in the Trinidad and H Street area, including Gallaudet, the Atlas Performing Arts Center, and possibly the church next door to the Atlas.
The new Fringe space will open for the first time on Feb. 3 for a private party for investors, neighborhood leaders, and artists who are slated to perform in the space. If you’re not any of those things, and you want a first look at the venue, show up on Feb. 9 for the clowns.
Photo via Google Maps