In 2004, a group of local artists launched the Cincinnati Fringe Festival with a mission to celebrate the experimental — and weirder — side of theater. 15 years later, Cincy Fringe is an opportunity for local artists to explore their craft, push the envelope and above all, collaborate within the creative community. The collaboration and creative freedom the festival provides are priceless to those within the arts, but even to the region overall, Cincy Fringe is a treasured asset.

There are many Fringe Festivals around the world, and each one has a unique way of doing things. This year's iteration in Cincinnati will bring artists from 12 states to the region. Visitors from around the country will be coming to the region just for Fringe. Many have reached out to festival organizers to express their enthusiasm. Jay Gillman, artistic director of Minneapolis Fringe, is among them. He'll be attending with a mind to implement some of Cincy Fringe's ideas into his own work. From its humble origins, Cincy Fringe is on its way to becoming a creative leader in the festival circuit.

That leadership deserves at least some credit for Greater Cincinnati's growing reputation as a place where experimental creative work can find a home. Professional artists like festival participants (and Know Theatre partners) Erika Kate McDonald and Paul Strickland of Theatre Mobile have made this region their home because it offers them a space to grow their work.

The same can be said for area students. This year, two of Cincy Fringe's Primary Lineup titles are part of Fringe Next — shows that are entirely written, directed and produced by high school students. Know Theatre has cultivated a word-of-mouth network with various arts education groups and drama teachers in the region to encourage students to submit their work. Student groups follow the same process as any other production and will be eligible for the same honors. Whether or not these students continue to gravitate toward the arts, Fringe Next is a powerful exercise in skill-building that will continue to serve them well into their futures.

This year's lineup will feature some of the most innovative, diverse voices our region has to offer. The producers make a concerted effort to find representation of as many local voices as possible so that Cincy Fringe is not just a showcase of a segment of theater on the edge, but a holistic look at every form of "weird."

The 15th Annual Cincinnati Fringe Festival will occur in 16 unique venues at 11 locations throughout Over-the-Rhine. For a time, it was the only early-Summer arts event in the neighborhood. As Fringe has grown, OTR has grown with it. Much has changed as part of that urban renaissance, and more change will undoubtedly come. But for the foreseeable future, Cincy Fringe will continue to a be "Kinda weird. Like you!"


See the full lineup for Cincinnati Fringe Festival at