Brian Feldman, above, was inspired to create his one-man (and one-audience-member) Fringe show “BFF” when he moved to D.C. and started trying to make friends.

The 2012 Capital Fringe Festival kicks off Thursday, with all its theatrical insanity running through July 29. Fringe brings together dozens of small theater groups from all over the country to perform in makeshift spaces around the city. Tickets are cheap ($17, plus a $5-$7 Fringe button, see below), and the shows, while a mixed bag, have a homegrown vitality that can be hard to find at more polished D.C. theaters.

Kickstarter, a website where artists, activists and others can solicit donations for projects, is a natural fit for the festival, and Fringe HQ estimates that 30 to 50 of this year’s 134 plays were funded through the site. Here are a few shows made possible by the kindness of strangers (with debit cards and Internet connections).

Various locations and dates, through July 29;


A group of teens creates a theater piece involving a rock band, extensive dance and a search for truth. It seems pretty fearless. But “Mindset,” which bills itself as a surrealist rock opera, is all about fear. “We were all thinking about the theme of fear and how it controls how we live,” says Jace Casey, the 16-year-old co-founder of Off the Wall Theater Company. “How it affects our ability to follow our dreams.”


Fringe exposes us all to new forms of performance — after all, it’s a lot easier to commit yourself to art when it’s cheap and relatively short. Brian Feldman’s performance art piece (“Show is a relative term,” he says) is called “BFF” and sells only one ticket per performance. “It’s about what it’s like to spend two hours with a stranger,” Feldman says. “Hopefully, there are people out there who are willing to get to know someone.”

“In This Economy”

John Krizel’s play, which follows a young man in his aimless post-college phase whose new girlfriend encourages him to get his life together, may be a little bit based on his own life. This is Krizel’s first Fringe show. “I wrote this play in my bedroom and just sent it in to Fringe on a whim,” he says. “They accepted it, and I was like, ‘This is great! And now I have to spend all this money that I don’t have.’” But then, through Kickstarter (which he used, he says, “because I am very poor”), he raised more than double his $1,200 goal.

What Is a Fringe Button? It’s an actual, physical button. You know, the kind that really jazzes up an outfit. (That’s one at left.) Everyone who attends Fringe needs to pick one up in addition to tickets (you show it at the door), but it’s a one-time purchase. Special bonus: You can also show it at such local businesses as Ping Pong Dim Sum or Nellie’s during Fringe to get nifty discounts.