Amanda Huotari performs at a previous PortFringe festival. Photo by Sokvonny Chhouk

Mackenzie O’Connor has been volunteering with the annual PortFringe festival since 2016 but said promoting the event is still a challenge.

“I think of PortFringe as a place where you can see performances you can’t see anywhere else, performances that are uncensored and non-mainstream,” she said.

O’Connor knows that description sounds like it’s geared toward a limited audience, but she said audiences have shown they are increasingly willing to take risks.

“Art is expanding,” she said. “It doesn’t just fit into these little boxes we think of anymore. Theater. Classical music. Even visual art. There is a lot more mixed media. The boxes are expanding and morphing into each other.”

This year’s PortFringe festival celebrates both its 10th year (the event was canceled in 2020) and a new location: Portland’s growing East Bayside neighborhood. The festival features 70 performances – comedy, dance, sketch, puppetry, film and more – spread out over six days from June 13-18 at various locations.

O’Connor said, in some ways, moving the festival to East Bayside returns PortFringe to its roots. In the beginning, performances were set up in garages and other offbeat places before moving to more traditional arts venues.


But PortFringe doesn’t want to be traditional.

“We had to pound the pavement and explain to the neighborhood what this is, but they’ve been so welcoming,” she said. “I guess we’ll see how willing they are to go along with the ride.”

The festival is broken up into blocks. Patrons can buy one ticket for three performances, each of which is about 15-20 minutes. Showtimes are staggered to encourage attendees to take in as much as they can. Each day of the festival also will feature a late show.

The Rhythym Project is performing a late-night show on June 17 as part of PortFringe. Photo by Darren Dockery

Eliza May is performing for the first time at PortFringe with a group that calls itself The Rhythm Project. Their late-night show will feature dancing, spoken word, drag and burlesque, set to hip-hop sounds.

May said the performance is meant to elicit emotions through movement, but finding places to showcase the work isn’t always easy.

“Our show isn’t toned down to make audiences comfortable,” she said.


Because the festival is run by volunteers, the revenue from tickets all goes to the performers. May said she’s often asked to perform even when she’s not paid and often says yes.

“I just love performing,” she said. “But to have PortFringe support us … it’s nice to feel appreciated.”

Mark Magee and Ashley Kotzur, both of Portland, have performed at several PortFringe festivals in the past. This year, Magee will star with another local actor, Philip Hobby of Gorham, in show he wrote with Kotzur.

The show is closer to a one-act play, involving a character Magee and Kotzur created for a radio show they host.

“I think it’s probably less fringe-y than some shows, but it’s not conventional theater either,” Kotzur said.

Magee said what makes the festival special is that it provides opportunities, even for people who have little experience.


“We didn’t have any theater background before,” he said. “They provide everything for you and give you carte blanche to do whatever you want.”

Kotzur said that can sometimes lead to unforgettable performances, both good and bad, and he’s seen both.

“That’s sort of what’s good about the festival,” he said.

An opening night party will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 13, at Belleflower Brewing Co. The full schedule is available online at

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.