2021 was a year marked by pandemic uncertainty and the inventiveness of theatre artists, many of whom turned to digital in order to keep creating. BorderLight pivoted to a digital-only model, featuring 31 newly minted on-demand and live-streamed fringe shows on our website. We also presented two self-guided audio experiences that offered social distance: “The Walks” was created by Berlin-based Rimini Protokoll, and the other, “Under the Sycamores,” was produced by Cleveland’s Radio on the Lake Theatre, written by playwright Les Hunter, and performed by local actors. The 2021 BorderLight Virtual Fringe took place July 22-31. Here, we share with you some highlights from that special year.
1 newly-commissioned work
5 local/regional premieres
Audiences from 23 states and 10 countries
#txtshow (on the internet)
“#txtshow (on the internet)” is a crowdsourced, immersive, multiscreen performance featuring a mysterious character named txt (pronounced “text”) who recites a script written anonymously in real-time by YOU! It’s the best show you’ll write all year.
Please Note: This LIVE online show relies on a high level of audience interaction. Audience members must keep their camera and microphone on the entire time they are in the show. The content of the show is based entirely upon what audience members write in anonymity and, as such, may contain mature themes, profane language, sudden loud noises, and potentially triggering content or themes.
Awards + Achievements:
Audience Choice Award, Pittsburgh Virtual Fringe Festival (2021)
Experimental Production of the Year, The Young-Howze Theatre Awards (2021)
Les Meilleures Expériences Immersives, UXmmersive (2021)
NoPro Critic's Picks, No Proscenium (2020)
Best Artful Adaptation to the Pandemic, Orlando Weekly Best of Orlando (2020)
Artistic Innovation, St Lou Fringe Virtual Festival (2020)
BE LOCAL by Juliana Silva is a solo monologue that tells the story of her mother´s migration from the northeast to the southeast of Brazil, Pernambuco to São Paulo, during the early years of her childhood. The work crisscrosses her immigration from São Paulo to NYC, bringing to the stage the beauty of a multitude of experiences, the power of diversity and the simple feeling of belonging nowhere.
Beauty Freak: A Staged Reading
BEAUTY FREAK is a new multi-media play exploring the complex and controversial life and legacy of the German filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl. Riefenstahl was born in Germany and rose to prominence as a silent film actress. In the 1930s, she turned her astonishing talents as the pioneering female filmmaker of her time to the service of the Nazi regime.
Set between 1935 and 1939 in both Germany and the United States, this source-based play explores the creation of art as propaganda and questions the culpability of the artist in how their work is consumed. This piece puts on stage the hatred and hypocrisy at the core of that regime, and places a magnifying glass over Riefenstahl’s unique life. Performed as a staged reading.
Embodying creative resistance against oppressive gender stereotypes and domestic violence, BEING B.A.D. is a piece about personal acceptance and redemption from the cycle of abuse. This show explores the lengths to which one decides to take that power back after years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her family and romantic partner. In the wake of the #MeToo and Times Up movements, this applied theatre work is relevant to our community in providing insight to a cathartic resolution and engaging in civil dialogue.
Black Mass is a drag and burlesque group in Cleveland, Ohio that features alternative, spooky, gothy, and avant-garde performers. From Drag kings, drag queens, burlesque acts, and ballet dance, they bring glitter and likely a bit of fake blood. The acts are often irreverent, sacrilegious, campy, and chaotic. This isn't your Nan's brunch. Dusty Bucket shaved her head for this. Dr. Lady J tied her arms to a corn stalk crucifix for this. Kimmy Katarja jumps into a split over your face for this. It's not to be missed.
Told in four short episodes, BLACKBLADE reveals the climax of a decades-long witch hunt through various perspectives: a charismatic wayfarer who has seen more of the world than almost anyone else alive; the bartender of a famed tavern with a wild history of violence; two of the most brutal, feared assassins the world has ever known. Featuring ancient forests, mythical creatures, and unearthly magic, BLACKBLADE tells the story of a world wracked with power struggles and environmental crisis.
BLACKBLADE is the second part of a theatrical fantasy series called THE TITAN CYCLE, conceived and written by Arif Silverman, and developed and directed by Lillian White. Each play tells a standalone story with its own cast of characters, chronicling sixty years of tumultuous political and environmental transformations in a world not unlike our own.
BLACKBLADE was originally commissioned by the Dixon Place theater, a non-profit, NYC-based company committed to telling diverse, radical stories by emerging and established artists.
Blood Earth Water
"Blood Earth Water" unites historical language, physical theatre, and autobiography to depict the lush and complicated experience of being mixed-Black in contemporary America. This solo performance was inspired by the author's travels, ancestry, and particular brand of suburban angst. Conjure the past, present, and future as we explore the age-old question: "What are you?"
But to work!
Using keen awareness of her physical senses and propelled by a strong commitment to family, a young mother navigates through a medical crisis as a black woman in the US health system.
Cookie Tongue’s Kaleidoscopic Bone House
A theatrical freak-folk musical menagerie, tumbling through a series of animated worlds with puppetry, animation, butoh-inspired dance, and ritual magic, featuring original songs and whimsical interludes inspired by Cookie Tongue's surreal mythology, fairytales, childhood, ghost stories, and a sprinkle of the occult.
Di Yiddishe Vayb
Adapted from the stories of Chelm and Bertolt Brecht’s “The Jewish Wife,” Di Yiddishe Vayb deftly interweaves classic Yiddish folk tales with a frank look at the choices we make when confronted with the rise of authoritarianism. Both comedic and cutting, Di Yiddishe Vayb is a great family show for audiences from 3 to 103. Musician Byron Asher’s emotive score carries the audience between the worlds of recent memory and ancestral story. Performed in English with a small amount of Yiddish.
FIVE SPOONS is a uniquely interactive, community-building theatre piece for adults and children alike. Created by the “powerful” Maryland-based devising team of Natasha Mirny and Tia Shearer Bassett, the piece combines clowning, object puppetry, meditation and physical theatre (thru Zoom!) to guide you through an experience inspired by a Hindu parable of the five Powers of Life.
Join these two brilliant kooks as they make silly, beautiful magic (with the help of YOUR brilliance!) from their cozy homes. You are invited to sit around the table with them as, together, you cook up a Happy Soup and an experience that will leave everyone more connected to the self and to each other, like the best meals do.
It's basically "Sesame Street" for grownups. (But kids are invited, too.) Recommended for ages 7 to 107!
HARD CANDY is a laugh out loud, adult themed comedy that takes a revealing look at the human side of the phone sex industry. A consultant for the phone sex industry signs on to help a small company and finds a group of women struggling with more than slow business growth. As she navigates through a series of revelatory online meetings that culminate in a fistfight between one of the operators and her ex-boyfriend, the consultant comes to realize this eccentric family of women has just as much to offer her as she has to offer them. At once old-fashioned and forward looking, this funny, heartwarming and quirky play explores the idea of family, friendship and finding your tribe.
A true-life account of three generations of a Cleveland family affected by incest, alcoholism, violence, and genocide. Based on interviews and historical records, "Heirloom" is a non-fiction solo performance that examines this social and emotional inheritance, in an attempt to shed understanding on how any single person may affect the generation of family members that follow.
INHABITANTS follows the process of two bodies, Maya and Aysia, finding, making, and exploring space inside of a twig hut in snowy winter woods. In an ecological journey, Maya and Aysia access a deep connection between each other and the environment.
It’s Now or Never: My Life in the Late Middle Ages
Boston-based/Cleveland-raised writer/storyteller Judah Leblang presents a humorous look at middle age, life on the road, and dealing with times when "man planned and God laughed" in a fast-paced 50-minute performance. Leblang’s show, “It’s Now or Never: My Life in the Late Middle Ages,” is an exploration of aging, dating/looking for love, and pursuing one’s dreams in mid-life and beyond.
The show was chosen “Best of Festival” at the Calgary, Alberta Fringe Festival 2019, and won praise from audiences in Boston, and Edmonton, Canada. The show combines humor, pathos and vulnerability in reminding us that time is precious and that dreams -- such as taking our stories on the road -- can come true. Performed in English with some American Sign Language.
Journey to the Kingdom of Hypnos
Do you remember where Sleep is, Dear Ones? Mnemosyne invites you to close your eyes and journey to the court of that benevolent Greek god-creature of Slumber. But beware, here in the Underworld the River of Oblivion is spilling over her shores and threatens the Waking.
This will introduce you to a place you’ve rarely been deep enough to find. The source of your sleep. Stand near, listen, and remember your way to this place again and again. Travel and discover the vast environs of collective unconsciousness... all whilst the outside environment restricts where our physical forms may go.
*This immersive audio experience is meant to be listened to on headphones.*
Awards and Achievements:
Carmel's previous work "The Marvelous Mechanical Maiden" earned two Innovation Awards - Adelaide Fringe Festival (2019) and New Zealand Fringe Festival (2019)
O followed her friend Liam in the woods. He thinks he’s turning into a wolf. If only that was their worst problem. A raw and chilling quest to find togetherness, a descent into hell told through the eyes of two school children. Says Neph Frank, writer and founder of Les Choreutes: “My goal is always to write something haunting, that stays with you for days afterwards”.
A performance art video about a woman in a wheelchair's needs and an awesome friend's needs. With humor and connection, Amanda and Tom peel back the curtain to share their everyday life as performance art. Featuring beautiful original music by Joy Hughes.
Quest for Equality
In QUEST FOR EQUALITY, the Dancing Wheels Company brings a unique concert that speaks to the importance of equality and features two works by choreographers Dianne McIntyre and David Roussève.
“Dancing on a Dream,” choreographed by Dianne McIntyre, was inspired by events in the life of Mary Verdi-Fletcher, President and Founding Artistic Director of The Dancing Wheels Company & School, in celebration of three decades since the Company’s inception in 1980. The Company is now celebrating its 40th anniversary season in its quest for fully integrated and inclusive arts for all!
"Walking on Clouds" was choreographed by David Roussève at the request of Artistic Directors Mary Verdi-Fletcher and Michael Medcalf (of then Cleveland Contemporary Dance Theatre) to bring to the stage a work that would reflect the similarities and challenges encountered throughout history by people with disabilities and people of color.
“Mixing words and movement into a powerful cauldron, this new work celebrates a common humanity that survives the boundaries of difference. With equal parts humor and grit, the work blends fact, fiction, and possibility to find the connections- both emotional and historical- between people with disabilities and people of color. Commissioned by both Dancing Wheels and Cleveland Contemporary Dance Theatre, this work represents the first time the two companies have culled forces to share, create, and comment.” - David Rousseve
Readings in the Shed – Letters of Love
“Readings in the Shed,” presents a theatrical reading of original love letters (some scandalous, some passionate) from some of the world's best known creative geniuses. The show includes love letters between writers Zelda & Scott Fitzgerald, the yearnings of photographer Andre de Dienes as expressed to actress Marilyn Monroe, letters from painter Frida Kahlo to her lovers, as well as private letters by Oscar Wilde, Kurt Vonnegut, political dissident-turned-statesman Vaclav Havel, and school teacher Hildreth Heiney, among others.
Sister Daisy is trapped in a house on an isolated mountaintop in the middle of nowhere during a global pandemic. This post-apocalyptic scenario corners the young nun as she tries to take care of the last ones left in her small community, while facing looming fears of death and an increasing doubt of the existence of God.
"Best of Fringe Festival" - Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival (2020)
"Audience Choice Award" - Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival (2020)
Slanted: How an Asian American Troublemaker Took on the Supreme Court
When Simon Tam started an Asian American dance rock band called The Slants, he didn't realize that he was starting an entire movement around freedom of expression and discussions on identity. The band flipped stereotypes with their bombastic live shows and community activism. But when Simon applied to register a trademark on the band's name, the government dragged him all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. SLANTED is the story of an indomitable spirit who so believes in the idea of justice that he's willing to risk everything along the way for the dignity of self-identity.
Simon shares a deeply personal account that will take you from anime conventions to the Supreme Court, all in the name of justice. The story provides a raw look at our legal system with unflinching honesty and offers timely insights on freedom of speech, how to connect with others we disagree with, and the power of music. Gripping, funny, enlightening, and ultimately uplifting, SLANTED proves that no obstacle is too difficult to conquer - as long as you have a little heart and a lot of rock n' roll. It's an irrepressible story that is fresh, alive, and defines what it means to be American.
Based on the book by the same name, as featured in Rolling Stone, Billboard, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, New York Times, Washington Post (also editor's choice), and many more.
Winner, Indy Week Theater's Critic Choice (Feb 2021)
Come with a story. Leave with a song. If you journey into their virtual studio, Cleveland artists Rachel Drotar, Julia Fisher, and Vickey McBride will gift you with a personalized, once-in-a-lifetime musical experience that will leave you feeling seen - and changed. Rachel will engage you in a heartfelt conversation about your hopes, dreams, memories - whatever you feel compelled to share. Inspired by this conversation, Julia will write and Vickey will compose an original song on the spot, immersing you in the collaborative, creative process. At the end of our 25-minute session, Vickey and Rachel will bring your brand-new song to life in an intimate, personal performance created just for you.
SUNDAZE at the Fringe with Tania Timmons & Ramon Rivas
TANIA TIMMONS is one of Cleveland comedy's strongest and most distinct emerging voices. Only a few years into her artistic path, she's already a regular fixture at prestigious Cleveland comedy institutions like The Improv and Hilarities 4th Street Theater. Whether it's being a featured performer at national events like the Detroit Women's Comedy Festival or highlighted in regional festivals like The Cleveland Comedy Festival or Rubber City Comedy Fest or hosting the weekly SUNDAZE series, her growth and development is an indicator of a healthy and fertile comedic arts scene.
RAMON RIVAS grew up in Lorain OH and has been featured in his own Comedy Central Half Hour Special, as a featured performer on HBOLatino's Entre Nos Stand up series and has projects in regular rotation on Sirius/XM comedy stations. He's performed at prestigious international festivals such as Just For Laughs, SXSW, The Edinburgh Fringe Festival & many more. Rivas is excited to partake in the Borderlight Fringe Festival and help highlight the vibrant comedy scene in Cleveland.
The efforts of Tania and Ramon as 2 resident artists continue to validate Cleveland as an arts destination locally, regionally and nationally. Week in, week out at Dunlap's Corner Bar 3258 w 32nd Street, 44109 in the heart of the Clark-Fulton area of Ohio City.
A uniquely interactive, choose-your-own adventure experience by acclaimed Philly-based theatre ensemble, Die-Cast.
Have you been feeling isolated? Craving human experiences beyond the walls of your home? Reserve a night in Vicurious, our boutique hotel experience. Temporary Occupancy uses a single hotel room as the location for a series of interconnected stories. Each explores a different moment of the suspended life of the occupant. A love affair. A moment of grief. But who are these people whose lives we are temporarily occupying?
This digital piece uses an interactive website, video, and chatting to weave a story about the lives we take on and why. Please note the piece is formatted for desktop, laptop, or tablet devices and is not formatted for mobile phones.
“Weird and wonderful”- Philadelphia Gay News
“As the Die-Cast ensemble plays out realistic, understated yet high-stakes vignettes inside a real hotel room, the show succeeds.” - Broad Street Review
Awards + Achievements:
Art Week Miami Juried Prize (2020)
The Frances Films
In this series of short experimental films, solo artist Chris Szajbert uses simultaneously performed multi-screen Zoom recordings to depict the sexual awakening of a young starlet and the web of misguided souls who contribute to her downfall. These dark yet playful shorts use found toys and original soundscapes to explore mature themes and create a unique and compelling world. Adult content.
The Living Doll
Patriarchy with its message of ‘happily ever after’ are still transforming women into living dolls, devoid of independent thought, with a ‘home’ as their coveted anchor. "The Living Doll" journeys from an old nursery rhyme in Bengal, to early-twentieth century US and India, to now, only to find that patriarchy and the pressure to conform to certain societal norms have boxed women into narrow roles. Caught in the midst of this choreographed existence, are they able to walk away from it all?
The Peek-a-Booth is a pop up performance art vending machine. Only one or two people are allowed to view the private show at a time.
The viewer approaches the Booth and exchanges money for tokens. They enter the curtained area and see an array of 6 buttons corresponding to a menu. The viewer inserts the tokens, presses a button, puts on the headphones, and the Booth activates with lights and sounds with a performer inside.
Every hour a new performer is in the booth, so you never know what you're going to get!
The Poetry Psychic Project
“Can you find your fortune in a random poem?” The Poetry Psychic Project is an interactive, virtual performance where audience members volunteer to divine their fortunes from a randomly selected poem while the rest of the audience listens in. Created and performed by Denis M. Griesmer.
Awards + Achievements:
2019 Gordon Square Arts District Artist-in-Resident
The Small Garden
“A variety show! stand up, performance, shorts, theatre, and a meeting with a deity. “a hodgepodge of fringe”.
The TERRA Project 184.108.40.206
A new play by Kent State's Transforum Theatre explores "What if 2020 had just been a simulation?" Larry is a new hire at Life Co., an organization that runs the simulations for our yearly life. When Larry is tasked with managing the 220.127.116.11 version of the simulation, things start out normal, but as the simulation begins to provide some interesting data Larry begins to wonder, "How much can I learn in the name of science?" His changes to the simulation cause a slow and meltdown in the system. The audience gets to witness the 2020 simulations as the pandemic situations get more and more ridiculous.
THE WALKS is an app with a series of walks by German theatre company, Rimini Protokoll. Each walk is a short audio experience for a specific place in your city, and an invitation to rediscover and interact with your environment.
It takes approximately 20 minutes to do an audio walk. Get going whenever you want. You decide how many of the walks you’d like to do and in what order. The stories and soundscapes in the short audio experiences are global in scope. "The Walks" connects people around the world in a local experience via the fundamental human action of walking.
Walking in public gained new meaning with the COVID-19 pandemic. An ancient, daily ritual became an integral part of the new normality. People meet, walk, stroll through neighborhoods, play in landscapes, and perceive their environment anew with every stride.
THE WALKS understands walking as a theatrical scenario – an audio-guided walk in parks, a staged walk in supermarkets or timed interactions on riverbanks. In every city, voices, sounds, and music turn familiar places into sites and landscapes into stages step by step through storytelling, dialogical situations, choreographic discoveries, or musical and rhythmic variations on walking. The title of every walk indicates where or how to do it: “Walk for a cemetery,” “Walk along the water,” or “Walk around a roundabout.”
THE WALKS is a production of Rimini Apparat.
Funded by the Federal Foreign Office, Goethe-Institut and Kulturpolitische Gesellschaft e.V.
Trainwreck is a devised puppet/object theatre piece which provokes and pokes fun at the archive of literary dead white guys and their objectification of women’s bodies. This performative literary review fires back at the canon, makes some serious feminist revisions, and asks really important questions like: Why can’t Sherlock Holmes find any women? Why is everyone a sad orphan? Is being locked in an attic advanced hide and go seek? Does Anna Karenina have good orgasms? Do we have to sit through 54 chapters of emotional abuse to find out that expectations are not, in fact, so great? Are we willing to re-envision a canon?
Under the Sycamores
BorderLight International Theatre + Fringe Festival and Radio on the Lake Theatre present the world premiere of "Under the Sycamores, A Secret Path Audio Experience in Cleveland’s Historic Erie Street Cemetery."
Written by Les Hunter and directed by Jimmy Noriega, "Under the Sycamores" invites you to choose your own path through a hidden gem of downtown Cleveland: Erie St. Cemetery. Grab your phone and your earbuds, pass through the Gothic gateway, and explore the stories that intrigue you! Through this immersive listening experience, you will meet European settlers, Native American chiefs, an early civil rights leader, a famous Beat poet, and more from Erie Street’s 200-year history.
Wait! There’s More!
Wait! There’s More! A solo performance featuring multiple circus skills simultaneously combined, forming a kinesthetic compilation far greater than the sum of its parts. Balancing, spinning, juggling, hula hooping, teetering on unstable surfaces - all at the same time! A multitasking marvel, a human “Cat in the Hat”!
Dan Wasdahl is a medical school professor, national champion race car driver, and performer and juggling coach with Wizbang! Circus Theatre.
Web of Deceit
Val Fuego is a fire ant, former baseball player, and now private eye. She works in the gritty world of Larva Lane, a slimy back-alley full of shady dealers, organized crime, and the gum-covered shoe that she calls an office. One day a beautiful spider comes to Val with a plea: find her missing lover before her murderous husband does. Val’s investigation uncovers a growing threat that could tear the whole alley apart. Will she find this missing centipede and save the day? Or will she get caught in a Web of Deceit? This 45-minute piece combines elements of classic radio plays and graphic novels into a unique theatrical experience, complete with live foley. The performance is accompanied by over 200 illustrations by Sam Dee that dramatize Val’s journey.
What Do I See Before Me?
The Carnival is in town! Explore the secrets of these traveling characters as they weave their tales in this self-guided virtual and augmented reality production, and all while taking a few selfies along the way. This tech-driven production is unlike anything you’ve seen before. So download the app, grab your headphones, bring a friend, and experience a storytelling adventure that is so unique you have to see it to believe it.
Women Like a River Falling from the Sky
A story that is part myth, part made up: High up on a mountaintop a beautiful woman in a floor length orange skirt dances with the Zopilote, a Latin American symbol of death and rebirth. When the dance is complete, the Zopilote dies, the woman becomes the Zopilote, and a new woman appears. They dance and the cycle repeats again and again and again. In this audio play, the audience, referred to as "you," starts on a journey accompanied by Zopilote, and encounter Hortensia, Azucena, and Ana -- three women who are at the crossroads of their own deaths, and each know acutely what it feels like to accumulate pain and to fade a little bit with each new sorrow in this unending dance with mortality.