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Yes, Las Vegas, there is a Fringe Festival

Two words you don't normally associate with local theater: "splash zone." Then again, we're talking about the heady combination of Troy Heard, the venturesome artist named Best Director in Desert Companion’s Best of the Valley issue (February), and the equally venturesome Vegas Fringe Festival — so nothing should surprise us.  What exactly is he bringing to this year's festival, which opens Friday (and goes through June 15)? A.J. Allegra’s Oregon Trail, which is based on the 1936 film with John Wayne on the 1959 film with Fred MacMurray on the 1976 TV series with Rod Taylor on the … really old Oregon Trail educational video game that many of us remember playing as kids? Yep, that’s the one. And befitting such socially uplifting origins, the show is, as Heard tells it, "a raunchy, politically incorrect romp with audience participation and …” wait for it “… a splash zone."

“Once I heard about it, I tracked down the script, and couldn't stop laughing while reading it,” he says.

This is precisely the kind of thing you want a good Fringe Festival to do — frack the cultural margins to draw out the riskier, zanier energies hidden beyond the mainstream. It should incubate artists, ideas, productions and producers not found onstage frequently enough here. It ought to let old hands flash some different moves. And, indeed, along with a host of lesser-known and barely known presenters are such familiar companies as Cockroach Theater, Las Vegas Little Theatre (the host venue) and Table 8 Productions. The titles offer a sense of the festival's let's-do-this spirit: We're Here for You — The Community College Musical Comedy (which "follows the hopes, dreams and challenges of six students and a professor as they try to make sense of the college experience in song") and 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche (about the annual breakfast of the "Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein").

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“As enjoyable as Fringe is to be a part of, let alone see, it is definitely a place where serious work is being done,” says David McKee, onetime CityLife theater critic who’s since taken to the stage as an actor. “It's our best outlet for avant-garde theater and one can see much work that would otherwise go wanting, either due to its brevity (some Fringe plays run as little as 15 minutes) or to the lack of an appropriate niche.”

Heard, again: “The Las Vegas Fringe is still in its nascent stage, but stands to be a major regional attraction over the upcoming years.”

Full schedule is here.

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