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Fringe Festival featuring poets, playwrights coming to Riverhead

Fringe Festival at Vail Leavitt in Riverhead

Clear your schedules, theater lovers, because the Fringe Festival is coming to Riverhead this summer.

The international festival will last 10 days and feature never-before-seen plays, poetry readings, a jazz brunch and more.

Hosted at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, the event will present mostly indoor performances. The exception will be TheatreExpress, a compilation of plays running less than 10 minutes each, which will be performed for audiences during Alive on 25.

“It’ll be free, short theater pieces all night long,” co-producer Debbie Slevin said. “People can get a good idea of what the Fringe Festival is. It’s fun and it’s about giving back to the community.”

Another major festival event is called Project Poetry, during which renowned poets will do readings. In addition, local poets can submit works they wish to read and students from across Suffolk County can apply to perform.

The biggest draw, however, is the multiple plays that will be presented during the Fringe Festival, set to run from July 26 to Aug. 6. Each play chosen for production will be performed three times, co-producer Cindy Clifford said.

“A lot can be new playwrights who are just getting started,” she said. “It’s very exciting to get that chance … to get into the Fringe Fest and start to get some publicity for [their show]. They can see if it works and how the audience feels about it. It gives them opportunity.”

Ms. Slevin said that she and Ms. Clifford have already received “wonderful” submissions from around the country and the world.

The festival requires that the playwright and cast provide everything — from sets and props to costumes and music or sound effects — necessary for their production.

“We’re giving them a blank slate and they’re going to fill it up,” Ms. Clifford said.

This is the second project for the friends, who along with Diane Tucci and Megan Heckman put together the Apron Strings Project in 2014. That series comprised short scenes, monologues and musical pieces centered on a collection of 21 old-fashioned aprons and the women who once wore them.

That show, also held at the Vail-Leavitt, is what inspired the women to bring the international festival — held famously in New York City, Scotland, Michigan, Prague and more — to the venue this year.

“The first time I walked in it I noticed it was a theater dying for life,” Ms. Slevin said. “It wanted theater to come in and bring it alive, and I thought the Fringe Festival was the perfect thing.”

“Riverhead is a place that’s responsive to all kinds of arts,” she continued. “It’s looking for things to pique the interest of the residents, to stimulate discussion and conversation. I think it’s a wonderful place.”

All submissions are due by March 16. Entrants will be notified by mid-April if they have been selected. To submit works for the Fringe Festival or see a tentative schedule of events, visit eastendfringefest.com.

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File photo: Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)