By Stephen A. Mintz
The Rogue Festival’s 13th year started planning about 15 minutes after the 2013 festival ended, started chugging on Feb. 27 and steams along for the entire first week of March, culminating in a public party at Strummers on March 8. All are invited to hear Rockville bring on the classics and to meet those previously unknown talents who are now autograph-worthy celebrities after folks have seen them onstage.
Well, saying “onstage” at a fringe festival is a misnomer. As long as you feel like “onstage” is anywhere an audience happens to be looking, be it a street corner or right next to them in a seat, or in the air, then sure, you’ve seen them onstage. But how to see them all?
You really can’t.
The 10 venues are all within walking distance (or a pedicab ride) in the Tower District, but even with four or five performances each, you have to be mighty picky and well-planned out to see a maximum quota of Rogue shows. Better to just find a Rogue Map (their clever word for the program) or hop online to find the shows you really want to see, and then play it by ear after that.
Especially in this 13th year, the Rogue has many new devices and diabolical options for a wide range of audience members. Aside from the aforementioned acting/singing/dancing extravaganzas, Rogue is mixing up the weeknights with karaoke and beat-down poetry slams (all open to the public), offering a scavenger hunt throughout the festival and, for the first time in any known fringe, is dedicating one day and one main stage venue to a “Kid’s Rogue,” designed as both a performing option and fund-raiser for local schoolchildren.
The Kid’s Rogue first. On both Saturdays, the Neighborhood Thrift on Olive Avenue opens up its stage to a barebones, no-holds-barred, kids’ choice performance. The schedule is below:
|2 p.m.||Cooper Academy|
|12:30 p.m.||Cooper Academy|
Many of these schools are using the times as a performance showcase, whereas one (the “Sing!” show) is a specially produced piece just for Da Rogue (that’s the correct pronunciation). The Rogue Web site is your best bet for descriptions of the above shows.
The scavenger hunt is such a huge deal this year the Roguers are charging $10 to participate, for anyone brave enough for the challenge. Think large-scale geocaching, if you will. The hunt starts with the first clue you’re handed, and although there are daily challenges, you can start your hunting at any given Rogue moment. Prizes for success include specially produced swag bags, directions to hidden shows and one day will feature a special “Amazing Race” like deal, where folks scurry through the clues and places until they end up at a special destination, where winners will get rewarded for their efforts. That one is a team challenge, though individuals can and are encouraged to participate as well.
And how does one Rogue?
Audience members need Rogue Bucks (no trademark?) to get into the shows, available only at the Tower Box Office and Livingstone’s. The shows themselves sell nothing in advance, meaning again folks will have to plan accordingly. Although a couple of venues/shows accept cash also, tickets won’t be sold for any show until one-half hour prior to the performance. This means if you have a show you want to see on the outskirts of the Rogue (say, Dianna’s School of Dance), you’ll have to allot time to grab your Rogue Bucks so you can use those to purchase your actual tickets at the venue. Unused Rogue Bucks can be donated back to the Rogue, or you can be reimbursed at the sales slots.
Ah, donations. The begging buckets will be presented at each and every venue, which seems a bit much until you figure out that every Rogue volunteer is, well, a volunteer. Unpaid. So why is the money needed if even the head producers are unpaid staffers? Because all of those venues have sound systems. And lights. And programs. And that Web site. And, well, you can see where the Rogue needs actual dollars to keep going. They’ve made it for 13 years now, but by the skin of their teeth each time, because the ticket monies go directly to the performers.
It’s why the Rogue held an opening night fund-raiser at the Tower Theatre. It’s why they sell T-shirts and have scavenger hunts. It’s why you’ll see wide-eyed and hungry-looking people wearing “Staff” badges at the local watering holes looking wistfully at those who can afford food and drinks. It’s why you might want to buy those tired folks a cocktail or a bite to eat.
Think of it as supporting the arts.
And think of Da Rogue as the premiere arts festival in all of California.
Once you go there, you’ll likely agree.
(And if you don’t, go back to the Web site; each and every show has a slot for audience reviews—your chance to contribute directly to the arts without costing any dollars. Or in this case, Rogue Bucks (still no trademark because that costs money, too)).
Stephen A. Mintz is a freelance writer for national publications.