If a performer can create it, PortFringe will present it.

Portland’s summer festival for cutting-edge theater pieces this year will include a musical where the lyrics come from the labels of household products, a performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar” using 5-inch-high action figures, and a one-man show about being an Airbnb host.

PortFringe, in its seventh year, will run June 16-23 at venues around downtown Portland. There will be some 35 individual shows, performed multiple times, totaling more than 120 performances.

The festival performers are not selected by a jury of theater professionals but are picked at random in a lottery. That’s why the selection of works is so diverse and so, well, fringe.

Take the show “The Surreal Vetting of Martin Mann,” for instance. It’s a two-man play by Mark Magee and Ashley Kotzur, who host a comic radio show on Portland radio station WMPG. Their play is about a man being questioned at some sort of confirmation hearing, likely by a Big-Brother-type government body, though the reasons for the questioning are not completely clear. At various points, there’s a monologue and a musical number.

Magee and Kotzur, who met while working at a financial research company in Maine, aren’t traditional theater types. They’re not in other plays, and they don’t audition for shows.


“We liked that (PortFringe) doesn’t have any rules,” said Magee, 54. “You can do whatever you want for however long you want, and (the festival organizers) take care of the rest.”

The first fringe theater festivals started more than 40 years ago, and now there are enough across the U.S. and the world to create a circuit of sorts for fringe-type performers, said Deirdre Fulton McDonough, a member of the festival’s organizing committee.

The volunteer-run PortFringe festival started in 2012. Each year, the number of performers and shows has increased, as has the number of performers from outside of Maine who also do other fringe festivals. This year, about half the performers will be from outside Maine, McDonough said.

“We attract the kind of artists who do fringe, who do experimental and original work,” said McDonough. “That kind of work sort of lends itself to pop-up kinds of shows.”

During the festival, there could be a dozen shows happening on any given night, since each of the 35 shows will be performed three to five times.

The venues are all within walking distance in the city’s arts district: Portland Stage Studio and Storefront on Forest Avenue, Bright Star World Dance on High Street and Space Gallery and Mechanics Hall on Congress Street.


The shows range from comic to serious, with some mixing both.

“The Cardboard Countess” is a show that explores the friendship between a troubled teen and a homeless woman who wears a gown made of garbage bags. “Man on a Treadmill” is about an everyman going through his day, wondering what it’s all about, and then doing it all again the next day.

“Body | Mass,” according to performer/creator Jess Lauren, is “a liturgy to the physical body, honoring and exploring the vessel we use to navigate the world.” Lauren says her performance borrows from the structure of a Catholic Mass, with readings, exercises and audience interaction and response. She says the audience will leave the show with gold dust on their skin.

For descriptions of all the shows at PortFringe, go to portfringe.com.

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: RayRouthier

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: