Riverhead’s Vail-Leavitt Music Hall will be home to the first-ever East End Fringe Festival (EEFF) this summer, with festivities beginning on July 26 and running until August 6 with 30–90 minute plays every night, and other highlights scattered throughout the two weeks.
The lineup of events features new and original full-length plays, short plays and poetry that have been selected from EEFF contest entries, which can still be submitted until March 16.
The idea came to EEFF Artistic Director Debbie Slevin and Production Director Cindy Clifford after they concluded their run of the Apron Strings Project at the Vail-Leavitt in 2014. They are always looking for new projects to produce for the space, because the charming venue doesn’t put on any shows of its own. “We believe in the viability of Riverhead as a place of entertainment,” Slevin said.
She decided to model the EEFF after the New York International Fringe Festival (NYIFF) where she had a play selected to be produced for the fest. She mentioned that a fringe festival is a great “low-cost way to try out new theater.” But just because it’s low-cost, doesn’t mean it’s not of the highest quality. In fact, Urinetown: The Musical, which debuted at the NYIFF, went on to win three Tony Awards after its Broadway debut in 2001.
Slevin and Clifford have been so blown away by the amount of quality submissions that they’ve decided to waive the submission fee for the remainder of the application window. Slevin adds, “It’s hard enough for artists to make a living.” This is one way they’re giving back. Another way is by giving each full-length production 30% of ticket sales for their performances.
The first of the one-time events is TheaterExpress, which will be on July 27 during Riverhead’s summer street fair Alive on 25. All of the plays for this event will be free, family friendly, under seven minutes, and performed outside. Slevin believes that this setup will prove to be an excellent “introduction to theater for people who don’t usually go to theater.” If fair-goers like what they see, they can buy tickets to the other Fringe Festival events.
There will also be a New Orleans Jazz Brunch that will take place on July 30 at the Dark Horse restaurant. There is no contest aspect to this event, but it’s sure to offer plenty of excellent music and delicious food.
Project Poetry is on August 1, where the winners of the poetry contest will be invited to read their poems alongside professional poets, such as Dan Giancola, author of Data Error and Songs from the Army of Working Stiffs.
Tickets for all events will go on sale on May 25.
Playwrights and poets interested in entering their full-length play, short play (TheaterExpress) or poem can do so on the EEFF website until March 16. Anyone looking to volunteer as an usher can contact Slevin at [email protected].