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St. Lou Fringe Fest Goes Virtual With 20+ Acts Over 8 Days

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Karen Elias
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St. Lou Fringe’s late-night headline act, “Quarantini with Deenie Nast,” promises to be quite the show — delivered straight from the confines of a south St. Louis home.

In a way, the reinvention of performing arts in the age of coronavirus fits right in with the founding spirit of the St. Lou Fringe Fest. Now in its ninth season, the festival draws its inspiration from mid-20th-century Scotland, where avant garde artists responded to a more traditional festival by setting up makeshift venues in alleys and streets — anywhere they could connect with an audience.

Now places like couches and closets are among the best and safest spots to do so, with a little help from technology. And the roughly two dozen acts that comprise this year’s St. Lou Fringe Fest are making the most of this challenging environment.

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Colleen Smyth & Kristen Cassidy
Matthew Kerns, left, is the executive director of St. Lou Fringe. Audrey Crabtree is an award-winning performer based in St. Louis.

“You can turn anything into a studio,” Matthew Kerns, executive director of St. Lou Fringe, pointed out. “COVID-19 is forcing artists to think in a new way, and I am a firm believer that artists comment on the time and space they’re in.”

This year’s eight-day virtual extravaganza gets underway Saturday with plays, poetry and even an opera grappling with topics such as the pandemic, trans rights and Black Lives Matter.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with Kerns and with local performer Audrey Crabtree, whose “Quarantini with Deenie Nast” is one of the festival’s headline acts.

The broadcast included a preview of another headline act, “HERstory of HIStory,” from Chicago-based slam poet Heather "Byrd" Roberts and Company — and an appearance by fictional film star Nast herself.

Related Event
What: St. Lou Fringe Fest
When: Saturday, Aug. 15, through Sunday, Aug. 23
Where: Online (tickets for virtual performances available on St. Lou Fringe website)

Performers and audience members alike are missing concert halls and playhouses these days. Have you found ways to interact meaningfully in a virtual space, either as a performer or audience member?

Tell us about it. Tweet us (@STLonAir), send an email to talk@stlpublicradio.org or share your thoughts via our St. Louis on the Air Facebook group.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

Stay Connected
Evie is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.