By Carole Reedy
Two events dominate the cultural scene in Mexico this fall. First, the state of Guanajuato will be buzzing next month as Latin America’s largest and most significant festival, The Cervantino (Oct 9-27), takes place in the capital. The excitement spills over to San Miguel de Allende, where the first Fringe Festival in Spanish speaking Latin America (Oct 11-19) makes its debut.
Guanajuato and the nearby San Miguel de Allende (about 1.5 hours by bus or car) are two of the most charming colonial cities in the country. Just 3.5 hours from Mexico City via bus or car, you can also fly into Leon Airport (close to Guanajuato), which also services international flights.
What exactly is fringe theater?
The term comes from Robert Kemp, who in 1948 described the unofficial companies performing at the same time as the second Edinburgh International Festival as a “fringe.” He said, “Round the fringe of official Festival drama, there seems to be more private enterprise than before.”
Since then the term has been adopted by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and now by alternative theatres and theatre festivals the world over. Most fringes are a smorgasbord of performing arts (theater, puppetry, dance), are uncensored, use original material, are easy to participate in, and are more reasonably priced than main festival events.
The philosophy and organizers of San Miguel’s fringe
Fringe is about being inclusive and reaching out to new audiences in new ways, to revive the excitement of veterans, and to generate interest in the newcomers. The festival is committed to making itself highly accessible to audiences of varied backgrounds.
Kathleen Bohne Lowenstein, in addition to being a co-executive producer of the festival with John Morrow, is a multi-talented musician and actress. She was recently a featured speaker on the future of theater at the TedX talks in San Miguel.
John Morrow spent more than 40 years in theatre in New York City, mostly in the avant garde scene as a director and writer for theatre groups. His plays and performances have been produced at La MaMa, the Museum of Modern Art, and in venues all over the US and Europe. He helped found the theatre department at Naropa (a Buddhist University) in Boulder, Colorado.
Fringe featured events
This Fringe Festival is unique in that it offers bilingual workshops and theater presentations throughout the week Some of the best actors and instructors of theatre in Mexico and the US will provide intensive instruction for performers and students of the theatre. There are also plans to utilize unexpected venues for productions, as well as more traditional theatres and auditoriums.
Vicky Araico will lead off Oct 11 with her amazing one-woman show “Juana in a Million” (one night in Spanish and one night in English). This show won “Best of the Fringe” in 2012 at the world’s largest fringe festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Araico will also be giving a four-hour master class on Movement for Actors Saturday Oct 12.
More than 15 bilingual workshops range from acting, movement, how to write a 10-minute play, screen writing, improvisation, and voice and body work to children’s theatre.20+ presentations—including serious drama, comedy, cabaret, poetry, and dance–will fill the week with culture. Some of the fun includes:
- The large and wonderful puppet show “Adios Carlota!”
- A wild drag-queen show, a cabaret with New York City’s famous Joey Arias singing his Billie Holiday hits in a San Miguel nightclub.
- Iluminaciones VII, by prize-winning dramatist Alfredo Hugo Hinojosa, directed by Alonso Barrera from the La Fabrica theatre in Queretaro.
- Richard III, a modern and spellbinding one-man show by Erando Gonzalez from DF (one night in Spanish and the second night in English)
Several new productions will carry you late into the night. Programming is augmented daily, so check for updates at fringesanmiguel.com as well as on facebook and twitter.
John Morrow sums up the experience of having a hand in creating this new exciting venture with hopes for the future: “The ticket prices will be very reasonable considering the high quality of the performances. Since there has not been any government funding, an amazing team of volunteers has been behind Kathleen and me in the creation of what we hope will become a permanent and annual international Fringe Festival in the little arts community of San Miguel de Allende.” We hope so, too, John.
San Miguel de Allende: the basics
San Miguel de Allende (SMA) is a popular tourist destination for Mexicans as well as foreigners. Everyone loves the ease of getting there. Once you’re settled you’ll drink in the serene atmosphere, striking architecture, friendly people (most are bilingual), Bajio cuisine, and diverse selection of places to rest your weary head after a day of sightseeing. San Miguel is a tourist’s dream vacation–beautiful, easy, and stimulating.
Cafes, restaurants, hotels, apartments are within walking distance or short taxi rides from Centro. Being a tourist is easy and comfortable here. Gather in the Jardin (the town’s zócalo and popular meeting place), where you can buy a copy of Atencion, the weekly newspaper that offers information on the week’s activities, from yoga classes to cultural events.
For houses and apartments to rent for the festival, look at VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) online. You can find hotels on the internet too. There’s a fine selection for all pocketbooks. As mentioned above, Leon is the closest airport (1.5 hours from SMA). The Mexico City airport is 3.5 hours to the southeast, with buses directly from the Mexico City airport (or from local bus station Central de Autobuses Norte) to San Miguel.
Bring your bathing suit. A variety of hot springs just outside town provides a welcome respite from your sightseeing days. Be sure to visit La Gruta, a favorite spot for taking the waters.
Plan at least a week in San Miguel in order to enjoy the entire Fringe Festival as well as all the town itself has to offer. And if you’re planning to pop over to the Cervantino in Guanajuato, you’ll need the entire month! Enjoy, and remember to pace your travel “on Mexican time.”
Recommended reading before you go
On Mexican Time by Tony Cohen, Sliced Iguana by Isabella Tree, Nothing to Declare by Mary Morris.
Carole Reedy lived in San Miguel de Allende and Oaxaca before settling in Mexico City. She’s happy to answer any questions you may have. Contact her at carolina_reedy(at)yahoo.com