BY KAILENE NYE, STAFF WRITER
Many events have gone virtual, but Scranton Fringe Festival is transporting audiences into a virtual reality.
The festival will host a weekend of “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” game-inspired performances, and hopefully raise money for local artists along the way.
The Scranton Fringe “Animal Crossing” Festival will run from Friday, Feb. 26, to Sunday, Feb. 28, on Facebook Live, YouTube and Twitch, and features a variety of performances from local artists and some special guests. Audiences won’t see the performers themselves but rather their “Animal Crossing” avatars. The videos are streams from the Nintendo game with voiceovers added by the artists.
Conor Kelly O’Brien, Scranton Fringe co-founder and executive director, said he was inspired to organize this event last summer when he saw other fringe festivals, such as Australia’s Melbourne Fringe, host something similar. After receiving a small budget from a private donor and 80 to 100 applications from local artists, O’Brien and his team narrowed it down to a seven-act lineup.
“We thought it would be a really great creative outlet for our artists,” he said.
The festival will feature an array of performance styles including musical cabarets, plays and monologues. Comedian and Mayfield native Samantha Ruddy, who has appeared on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and in videos for Comedy Central, will headline the event. Ruddy, a digital producer for “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” will perform a stand-up set along with appearances from Janell Banks, Lili Fox-Lim, Glen Tickle and Ellen Doyle.
Since “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” debuted in March 2020, it became a welcome distraction from the real world and the coronavirus pandemic for many players. Even famous artists such as actress Brie Larson and comedian Jenny Yang have taken to the game in order to entertain and stay connected to their audiences during the pandemic.
“Once we saw all these performances, we thought we can easily do this, and we can make it our own thing,” O’Brien said.
All the events will be live-streamed on Scranton Fringe’s Facebook, Twitch and YouTube accounts. For more information on the events, visit the festival’s event page on Facebook.
Each event is free and open to the public, but donations via Venmo, PayPal and Scranton Fringe’s website will be accepted throughout the weekend. The proceeds will go toward more funding for similar events and paying the performers.
O’Brien hopes the festival will serve as creative inspiration for those who attend.
“If anyone takes away anything, I want it to be that with the right work and creative forces, there’s always a platform for the creative arts to come through and entertain, engage and educate the public,” he said.
He also hopes to bring more awareness to the struggle people in the performing arts industry are going through thanks to the pandemic.
“While we’ve been able to help as many as we can, there are still so many people in our industry in need, who are not getting a ton of support,” O’Brien said. “So, while I hope this weekend will be fun and enjoyable, we’re also going to be using it as a constant reminder to people that the need is still there.”
Scranton Fringe ‘Animal Crossing’ Festival events schedule
All events will be live-streamed via the Scranton Fringe Festival’s Facebook page and Twitch and YouTube accounts. One does not need a Nintendo Switch or “Animal Crossing” account to view performances.
All events also are free and open to the public, though donations will be accepted via @scrantonfringe on Venmo and PayPal or by visiting scrantonfringe.org/support.
Friday, Feb. 26
7:30 p.m.: “Stand-Up Comedy with Samantha Ruddy and Friends,” featuring sets by Ruddy, Janell Banks, Lili Fox-Lim, Glen Tickle and Ellen Doyle
Saturday, Feb. 27
3 p.m.: Art discussion with Everhart Museum curator Francesca Saldan
6 p.m.: Andrea Rose Cardoni’s monologue
6:30 p.m.: “Once Upon a Time – The Reality of Living in a Fantasy World,” a musical cabaret
7 p.m.: “To Wake Up and Choose Violence,” a short play showing a villager’s descent to madness at the complacency of his neighbors
7:30 p.m.: “Cartography,” an original theatre piece on “Animal Crossing” by D.T. Burns
8 p.m.: “K.K. Slider and Amanda DeLalla’s Duets Spectacular”
Sunday, Feb. 28
7 p.m.: “Fringe Focus,” a live interview with some of the weekend’s artists