“Bold, Innovative, and Outrageous Creativity”: SOU’s Oregon Fringe Festival

Last week, Southern Oregon University hosted the eleventh annual Oregon Fringe Festival. The purpose of the event was to give emerging artists —particularly Southern Oregon students— a chance to make their voices heard and interact with more established, professional artists. The Fringe Festival revels in the niche, embracing its identity as a platform for the obscure and weird. It could be viewed both in person in Ashland and online, and in the near future it will be releasing archives of its 2024 activity.

A celebration of all that’s imaginative, in the Oregon Fringe Festival’s eleven years it has hosted art from all sorts of mediums. This year’s Festival provided a diverse slate of pieces that included theater, music, the visual arts, film, dance, and poetry. It aligns more broadly with “The Fringe” movement, an international push to promote and platform art that isn’t featured by larger institutions. The Fringe’s roots are in the theater of World War Two’s immediate aftermath. Originating from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1947, The Fringe embraced private and niche pieces. In America, it gained momentum during the Vietnam War Era, when it became a popular vehicle for political expression and protest. Today, Fringe Festivals are active in many parts of the world, including Ashland. They can be juried, where judges weigh the merits of submissions, or unjuried, which are open to everyone.

While The Fringe is intrinsically connected to the theater, most Fringe Festivals, including Southern Oregon University’s, delight in the eclectic diversity of the art they offer. Of particular focus this year was film. Southern Oregon students of all identities and backgrounds offered submissions over the weekend, entirely of their own imagination and design. Films that were featured ranged from over an hour to just a few minutes. The creator has full discretion in all creative decisions, allowing each artist to unleash the peculiarities of their voices.

One such creator is Jake Drahota, whose film “Sleep/Paralysis” was shown on April 28th and explores themes of insanity and absurdism. For Jake, it’s all about communicating as much as possible with as little as possible.” It can be interpreted in many different ways,” he says, “and to some, it feels like a depiction of claustrophobia, isolation, and mental anxiety.” The film is currently available on YouTube, and like others will soon be featured on the Fringe Festival’s website.

“This film’s depiction of anxiety is based on my inability to finish it in a timely manner,” Jake admits freely. “I had to piece together three weeks of work from scratch because I forgot to save. On the day of my final, I pulled an all-nighter and Adobe Premiere deleted the entire thing.” He concludes: “In a way, this video I think highlights what it’s like to go through depression.”

In four days, the Fringe Festival showed the world that art at Southern Oregon University isn’t exclusionary. It’s open to everyone, happy and proud to hail so many creators of so many different backgrounds and unafraid of the weird and the obscure.

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