Capital Fringe Festival will stay put for another year

The Capital Fringe Festival just heaved a sigh of relief: This won’t be the last year the quick-hit performance extravaganza occupies its ramshackle compound on New York Avenue NW after all.

Plans for redevelopment of the block are underway, and Fringe’s executive director Julianne Brienza said she thought the end of the annual summer festival’s tenure there was in sight. Brienza met earlier this week with developer Douglas Jemal, who owns the property, and received assurances that Fringe can continue in its current location through next summer’s festival.

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“Thank God,” Brienza said Thursday afternoon. “It’s such a large operation.”

Fringe, which concludes its seventh annual summer festival this weekend, presents more than 100 acts in more than a dozen small venues; by Sunday, ticket sales are expected to surpass last year’s total of 27,000.

A handful of converted rooms and an outdoor tent form the core cluster of Fringe’s performance space, on the same block as Fringe’s spacious but intensely unfinished headquarters on New York Avenue between Sixth and Seventh streets. Brienza never expected to stay on New York Avenue forever, and already had begun looking for a new neighborhood hospitable to Fringe’s particular needs. (Tickets are cheap, but with 18 separate performance sites this year it’s fairly sprawling.) Finding something raw and unfinished — a Fringe aesthetic — where patrons can congregate and take in a few different hour-long events in a variety of small rough rooms is a challenge.

Transportation also is an issue, and having a central hub is a goal. Getting an extra year to search for viable locations and talk through options came as a relief.

“This will allow us until beginning of 2014 to plan and execute moving our entire operation,” Brienza said. “It allows us to be more thoughtful about it.”

Brienza said she has been in touch with the D.C. Council and the Office of Planning, and that Fringe has received expressions of support from civic and community leaders and patrons.

But how do those expressions translate into action? “We’re right in the process of figuring this out,” Brienza said.

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