Arts & Leisure

By Jasmine Agnes T. Cruz, Reporter

An uncensored arts festival

Posted on February 11, 2015

A BARE-CHESTED MAN in a long white skirt with a white-painted face and a frizzy brown wig was walking around the Fringe Manila press conference with a spaced-out look on his face. He then took to the stage and opened up about how he just went through a break up. Suddenly, this odd-looking man became accessible, and the crowd laughed heartily at his candidness. He then presented colorful rubber strings that were tied together at one end, and then he explained that this was his heart, and if those present could be so kind as to share the burden of his heartbreak.

RUSS LIGTAS performs during the press conference announcing the Fringe Manila fest.
He began distributing the loose ends of the strings while he held the end that was tied together. When all the strings were fanned out, he placed the tied end into his mouth, and proceeded to entwine himself in the strings. As he danced towards entanglement, the strings began cutting into his skin while others snapped into his flesh as they were tugged away from audience’s hands. By the end of his performance, the crowd was floored.

This performance by Russ Ligtas is one of the shows that will be featured at Fringe Manila, described as an “open access, artist-driven, uncensored arts and community festival that will showcase fresh, daring, and groundbreaking work.”

“We don’t choose if the act is valid or not valid for Fringe,” said Brett D. McCallum, Fringe Manila executive producer, at a press conference on Jan. 28. The organizers don’t decide if an act is good or bad -- what they do is ask the artists what they need and they’ll help the artists negotiate with venues and create partnerships. The only restrictions that can come about is if there are rules at a venue, then the show cannot be held there.

“A lot of festivals have a theme and they ask artists to respond to that, but we don’t want that,” Mr. McCallum said. “We want artists to create what they want to create.”

Fringe actually began in Scotland’s Edinburgh, and has spread to 200 countries around the world.

Now from Feb. 12 to March 1, the festival will be held at the city of Manila, specifically at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, College of Saint Benilde, De La Salle University, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Sev’s Café, Fo Guang Shan Mabuhay Temple, 1335Mabini, and more. The festival includes theater, music, dance, visual art, film, performance art, and comedy acts.

Festival Director and co-founder Andrei Nikolai Pamintuan began toying with the idea of bringing the festival to Manila after he worked for the New York version. He said he witnessed the creativity of those artists and the potency of collaborations.

“I know a lot of artists here are dying to be heard,” said Mr. Pamintuan, and so with the help of a small team, they steadily worked on this project for two years.

Then they held an open call where any artist could present their shows to Fringe Manila. For six months they held registrations where they sat down with the artists, explained what Fringe is, got to know the nature of their shows, found out the things that the artists needed in order to mount their shows, and assisted them with suggesting collaborations and looking for a venue that was suitable for what they wanted to do.

At the time the press conference was held, Fringe Manila had a total to 90 shows, but Mr. McCallum said that the festival might add more acts.

They picked February for the festival because it is Arts Month. “If there are lots of events in one month, it excites the audience,” said Mr. McCallum. They are targeting to have an 18-day festival every February in the future.

All the works at Fringe Manila are produced by the artists themselves, which means they are the ones who figure out how to finance their shows, how to market them, and what ticket prices are set. This is why some acts are in 500-seat venues while others are in cafés or even a private residence. The prices range from P200 to P300, and there are others that are free or ask for donations.

Event schedules do overlap so Mr. McCallum advises audiences to plan ahead.

“Take a risk,” is his other piece of advice.

He’s hoping that some people say: “Since I’ve enjoyed my experience with Fringe so far, maybe I’ll watch something that I’ve never seen before.”

The complete festival schedule is found at Tickets are available at TicketWorld (891-9999, For further details, contact Follow Fringe Manila on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @FringeMNL.