2006_08_arts_fringelogo.JPGIn case you haven’t been counting down, today marks the beginning of the New York International Fringe Festival, the country’s largest theatre festival! Though ten years is typically the amount of time people say one needs to be in New York before being a “New Yorker,” the Fringe Festival has had such an impact on the downtown Broadway theatre scene that, were it a human, it probably would have attained resident status without anything near such a delay. But this year is its tenth anniversary, so it’s official, and there are tons of great-looking shows to see to celebrate. Not only are there the usual 200+ new plays and musicals showing at 21 different venues below 14th Street, they’ve also brought back a number of Fringe “alumni” – favorites from years past such as The Bicycle Men (a musical comedy from LA that was in the ’04 Fringe), The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett… (a riff by Chicago’s Neo-Futurists that won raves in 2000), and Daniel MacIvor’s play Never Swim Alone, of ’99 vintage. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be bringing you brief reviews of as many shows as we can possibly see, as well as reports on various extra Fringe happenings (there are panels, free outdoor performances, and speed painting) and some glimpses behind the scenes, but you should definitely go to the festival’s website and check out the listings (programs are also available at Borders stores in the city). With shows like Corleone: The Shakespeare Godfather, The Fartiste, Muscle-Man vs. Skeletonman: A Love Story…The Musical, The Happiness of Schizophrenia and Walmartopia, we can’t imagine you’ll have any difficulty finding something to spark your interest, even if you’re not normally much of a “theatre person.” Lower Manhattan will be overrun by Fringe-goers for the duration of the festival, so give in and join the madness!

The Fringe runs through August 27. Tickets are available online through the show listings (be warned, no purchases online on the day of the performance). You can also buy them at "Fringe Central," 27 Mercer Street; or at the show itself, 15 minutes before curtain (cash only). Tickets are only $15, and we highly recommend getting a pass to see 5 or 10 which both gives you a little discount and the chance to just wander around at your leisure and see a good smattering of shows.