This year's Tucson Fringe Festival offers a little bit of country, literature, surrealism and, we're willing to bet, a whole lot of fun.
The festival launches this weekend with a new format and the opportunity for audiences to take in every play without running from theater to theater.
And you want to take them all in: Fringe Festivals offer new plays mounted by the playwrights, or in one case this year, a new production of a play by Anton Chekhov. You may see some turkeys, or you may see a brilliant new work at its beginning stages. Likely, you'll find both.
Fringe fests - there are about 200 around the world - are locally produced, totally democratic (they are selected by lottery), and they practically shimmer with bravery, creativity and a sense of adventure.
The festival is "about the process of making theater, and the energy and inspiration that goes into it," says Yasmine Jahanmir, co-founder of the three-year-old Tucson festival.
"It's about seeing the process laid bare."
This year's festival features a single venue - Club Congress. In previous years a variety of downtown theaters offered up multiple showings of the plays.
"Since every show has only one performance, (the festival) has the feeling of something new every day," says Jahanmir.
"You can't miss a show because it won't repeat."
We asked the playwrights to give us the low-down on what to expect. Their emailed responses:
"Slideshow Fairytales: William (the snowman)"
• When: 7 p.m. Friday.
• Playwright: Catfish Baruni.
• What it's about: "It's a tale of self-discovery, a journey through the metaphors, allegories and (something I've taken to calling) 'metagories' of life, but with a twist," says Baruni. "By the end of the story, the audience will learn William's fate, and whether or not he was ever actually a snowman, or if he even had a problem."
• Why see it: "Finally, a frozen (tale) that won't make you sick and kill you," says Baruni, revealing a bit of his surrealistic perspective.
"The Ship is Sinking Normally"
• Playwright: Bryan Robert Sanders.
• When: 8:30 p.m. Friday.
• What it's about: "The post-suicidal existence of the author David Foster Wallace," Sanders says. He has set the words of Wallace (a graduate of the University of Arizona creative writing program and author of "Infinite Jest" and "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men," among others) to music and video.
• Why see it: "What does it mean to be alive in the words you wrote but dead in the body that did the writing?" Sanders says. He did explain that the answer to this question was an "absurd pseudo-answer." Wallace would be proud.
"Storm Warnings," three short plays - "The Dangers of Tobacco", "Sniper" and "Landfill"
• When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
• Playwrights: Gavin Kayner, Michael Fenlason and Anton Chekhov.
• What they're about: Kayner's "Sniper" is a drama he was inspired to write after reading an article about Chris Kyle, author of "American Sniper" (Kyle was recently killed while working with a troubled vet on a shooting range). "On a certain level, 'Sniper' ... is a response to ongoing murders in our society and the gun control issue," says Kayner.
Fenlason's "Landfall" was inspired by Hurricane Sandy. "I wanted to write a play about people anticipating the almost mythological onslaught of a hurricane," says Fenlason.
Chekhov's farcical "The Dangers of Tobacco" concerns a man who is delivering a lecture on the dangers of smoking at the insistence of his overbearing and demanding wife. Naturally, it doesn't go well.
• Why see it: "Folks won't want to miss work that - while ephemeral in real time - will stay with those lucky enough to witness them well after the theater goes dark," says Kayner.
• When: 8 p.m. Saturday.
• Playwright: Joni Morris.
• What it's about: It's the 1920s and writer Dorothy Parker meets writer Zora Neale Hurston while the two are riding the Long Island Railroad. She dubs this piece a "fictionalized bio-play."
• Why see it: Parker makes you laugh, Hurston makes you think. "And they both enjoyed literature, the blues, and carousing and competing with men in male-dominated fields," says Morris.
"Skip Heller Plays Floyd Tillman"
• When: 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
• Songwriter: Floyd Tillman.
• What it's about: "Floyd Tillman's songs have been recorded by artists ranging from Ernest Tubb and Patsy Cline to Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Ray Charles, the Supremes and Perry Como," says Heller. The Los Angeles-based Heller is no slouch himself - his music has been heard in movies and television, and he has performed with the likes of Lalo Guerrero, Wanda Jackson and Phil Alvin.
• Why see it: "The songs are amazing, both in terms of quality and width of scope," says Heller.
Flaming Rainbow Spiritual Healer
• When: 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
• Playwrights: Alison Torba and Elisabeth Black.
• What it's about: "Two very opposite shamans, Flaming Rainbow (gets you what you want) and the Shamanic Seer (gets you what you need) vie for a reality TV spot in Hereford, Ariz., at Bob's Pork and Beans," explains Torba.
• Why see it: "You can lose weight while you laugh," says Torba.
"Twitterpated - a love story in 140 characters or less"
• When: 3 p.m. Sunday.
• Playwright: Maryann Green.
• What it's about: "Boy meets Girl. Boy and Girl attempt to navigate a stupidly simple relationship, made wildly complex by their inability to communicate old-fashioned desires in the 21st century," explains Green, who teaches drama at Rincon/University High School, and credits her students for inspiring the piece.
• Why see it: "It is at times frighteningly familiar, saccharine sweet and painfully awkward," says Green.
"Actualization: A Modern Apollo"
• When: 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
• Playwright: W.R. Heispascher (pseudonym of Taylor Rascher).
• What it's about: A man's attempt to grapple with the prediction of his own death," says Rascher.
"The play wrestles with the perception of destiny versus fate, and what man's level of agency is."
• Why see it: "You'll leave the show with your brain pulsating," promises Rascher.
If you go
• What: Third annual Tucson Fringe Festival.
• When: Friday-Sunday.
• Where: Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St.
• Cost: $7 per performance, with discounts available if tickets for multiple performances are purchased.
• Reservations/information: tucsonfringe.org
• Running time: Each program is 60 minutes or less.
Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at email@example.com or 573-4128.