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Sugar House Journal

It’s all about performing arts at The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival

Jul 29, 2019 15h17 ● By Spencer Belnap

The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival returns at The Gateway for a multi-day festival of theater, comedy, dance, magic and more.

By Spencer W. Belnap | [email protected]

In 2015, some Westminster College students and staff formed the first ever Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival. It was held in Sugar House, and some 27 companies put on over 100 performances in various venues around the college and neighborhood. It has grown steadily each year, and 2019’s festival is set to happen at The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City Aug. 1-11. There will be over 150 performances of 32 shows this year. The multi-day festival is all about the performing arts and giving Salt Lake audiences a taste of something different.  

Each show at the festival will be less than an hour. This allows patrons to see multiple performances in the same day or one weekend if they wish. There are shows with dance, shows with aerial arts, and plenty of unique and original theater filled with comedy and drama. Five different storefront venues will be converted to performance spaces. Over 90% of the works being presented are original and are first showings.

Kassandra Torres is the writer and director of Seen and Heard Production’s “We Both Know.” The original work is about a young woman who is assaulted by a colleague. Torres has attended and volunteered for the festival in the past, but this is the first year participating as an artist. 

“Our goal for ‘We Both Know’ is to spark conversation,” Torres said. “With strangers, with fellow audience members, with family and friends. We hope every member of the audience will walk away having learned something.” 

Ryon Sharette is another local artist that has written an original piece. His is a one-man show called “Tennessee Williams and the Battle,” a project he actually wrote for a senior thesis as part of the U’s Actor Training Program several years ago. 

“I performed it twice for my professors and student peers, and was told that it’d make a good Fringe piece,” Sharette said. “That was before Salt Lake even had a Fringe festival. I thought for sure I’d have to take it to New York or something.”

In addition to multiple original and world premieres, there are some regional premieres of published theatre that haven’t been seen locally before. One of those is Local Independent Theatre, or LIT Co., and their production of Richard Greenberg’s dark comedy “The Author’s Voice.”

“I’ve wanted to be a part of the Fringe Festival since I started attending a few years ago,” Local Independent Theatre’s Director Darryl Stamp said. “I think this piece is fitting for it in the style of strange and unusual and new. I want to give us a chance to entertain the audience.”

The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival is uncensored and truly centered around the artists involved. This year features several returning companies, but also plenty of first-time participants. With so many different performing groups and styles involved, there is sure to be something that might interest anyone that enjoys the arts scene in Salt Lake. Tickets are cheaper than most theaters as well, with prices starting at $7 per person. 

“We have a famous festival for film,” Fringe Festival Director Jay Perry wrote in a press release. “The Fringe is that for theater. We’ve had companies and artists spring up from our festival, producing their first work at the Fringe, and going on to become award-winning companies, actors and industry professionals.”

The festival fits in with The Gateway’s expanding footprint as a destination arts and culture district. With less and less shopping there, it has transformed some of its old retail space into temporary or permanent arts or cultural event space. Collaborating with groups such as The Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival ensures the former outdoor mall still serves a purpose in the community. 

“I'm very excited to continue our relationship with the Gateway, which began last year,” Perry said. “Our opening weekend coincides with the Beer and Food Truck Festival which brings an extra level of energy. You can really spend a whole day or evening out at The Gateway and have a fantastic time.”

A full schedule of all shows, descriptions, and tickets can be found at