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SF’s mini-fringe fest returns

A group of young theater enthusiasts mask at the 2017 Theatre Walk. (Courtesy of Theatre Walk)

A group of young theater enthusiasts mask at the 2017 Theatre Walk. (Courtesy of Theatre Walk)

SANTA FE, N.M. — It’s not exactly a walk of fame – at least not yet.

Theatre Walk Santa Fe grew substantially from year one to year two. And now in its third year, organizers are hoping for the biggest and best one yet.

“It didn’t take much to decide it was going to be an annual event,” said Talia Pura, president and creator of the endeavor. “The first year, we had seven venues and 14 companies. If no one comes, it will still be a success because it proves that we can come together and make something happen. But we were not alone that day. We had 400 people.”

Last year, the numbers jumped to 10 venues with 20 companies, with 800 ambulatory theatergoers.

And this year, 23 companies will be producing mini plays at 12 different venues in Santa Fe from noon-5 p.m. on Saturday.

The concept is pretty simply, Pura said.

Patrons buy a wristband at any of the venues, good for all the sites, and pick up a program and map. Then they watch a play or two, and move on to another performance, she said.

Two companies are stationed at each venue and do their plays on the half hour. Each play is 15 minutes in length, giving patrons a chance to stroll to the next site. All the action takes place within easy walking distance on Calle Marie, Richard’s Lane, Parkway and Mercantile, as street performers enliven the walks with their shtick.

The concept is modeled after Fringe Festivals that grew in popularity in Edinburgh in the late 1940s. The idea spread across the globe, with the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival gaining fame as the largest in North America.

Pura was a big fan of the Canadian festival while living in Winnipeg and after moving to Santa Fe, she thought a scaled-down version would be a great way to boost theater in the city.

“One of the things I observed with my experience in Winnipeg, because you have a provided a venue for people to grow their own work, it (a festival) grows the theater scene wherever it is,” Pura said. “We needed a groundswell of local, producing companies … .”

With the addition this year of two companies from Los Alamos and one from Las Vegas, it seems to be working, she said.

“They have that support now,” Pura said. “It’s really is starting to produce more and more companies.”

The Santa Fe event remains a long way from a true Fringe Festival, which can cover weeks of plays, but it is a solid start toward that end goal.

“This is just the beginning,” Pura said. “We’re starting small.”

Some of the sites on the walk are actual theaters, while others are created specifically for the event and can be a little rough around the edges, but that’s part of the charm, she said.

“It’s real guerrilla theater, but it’s fun,” Pura said.

Venues include The Swan, Playhouse Speakeasy, Teatro Paraguas and Leaf and Hive, among other spots.

Another part of the charm is that the plays run the gamut in terms of style, she said.

“We have a tremendous variety of different plays,” Pura said. “We have stand-up comedy, classical sketch comedy like (Abbott and Costello’s) ‘Who’s on First,’ to Shakespeare and everything in between.”

And it is encouraging the companies to move out of their comfort zones.

“Because we are encouraging as an organization, we are starting to see more people producing the plays,” Pura said. “The people most interested in producing the plays are the people who write plays because it’s a way of getting their work out there.”

Most of the Santa Fe area’s major companies are participating – Theater Grottesco, the International Shakespeare Center, Ironweed Productions, The Santa Fe Playhouse, Teatro Paraguas and The New Mexico Actors Lab, to name a few.

Pura encourages those interested in attending to check out the play descriptions on the event’s website, or simply browse through the free program and pick plays that seem interesting.

“There is a wealth of things to see,” she said. “In five hours, you have time to see 10 shows. They can take pot luck and just wander, or preplan and get into the ones they want.”