A storage shelf in Christian Cantrell’s room with various musicals on March 14. Cantrell is a lyricist and composer in the SF State Drama Department. (Avery Wilcox / Golden Gate Xpress) (avery wilcox)
A storage shelf in Christian Cantrell’s room with various musicals on March 14. Cantrell is a lyricist and composer in the SF State Drama Department. (Avery Wilcox / Golden Gate Xpress)

avery wilcox

Fringe Festival takes its second virtual curtain call

April 28, 2021

Marley Carter’s dance, “Trust in the Force,” took inspiration from Order 66, an executive order Emperor Palpatine made in “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.” As a lover of dance, film and a fan of the movies, Marley Carter, SF State cinema major, couldn’t help but see this beautiful “ritual-like dance of the jedi.” 

Initially, she envisioned a choreography for a full stage production of multiple dancers. However, readapting her project to video opened possibilities such as implementing lightsaber animations, holograms and blaster beams. 

Carter’s goal was to mimic the special effects in the films as closely as possible. She said some editing days were met with tears.

“But that’s like dealing with any art project,” Carter said with a laugh. 

Special effects editing in her dances wasn’t something Carter had in mind, but now it’s just as important as pointing a toe.

Both students and educators alike have adapted and navigated distance learning, putting together ensembles such as Fringe Festival, a more than 26-year legacy showcase of student-written plays and, for the first time this year, a collaboration with the dance department. This year’s Fringe Festival was held from April 13 through April 19; however, the festival will be available to stream until May 5. 

“Three technique classes were taken because they were under-enrolled. And then there were classes last fall also that were cancelled due to low enrollment. So just to give you a background, this is not typical,” said Ray Tadio, instructor for the New Moves course and director of all the dances in the Fringe Festival. 

Nonetheless, the show must go on. Tadio said he’s impressed by the students’ dedication. 

This will be the Fringe Festival’s second virtual outing. This year, students’ use of programs like OBS Ninja and Adobe Premiere allowed more possibilities. But the absence of a stage is still largely felt. 

The festival was broken up into two phases and spent time showcasing the department. 

“It was huge for me to be able to say, ‘we are still here, we’re still creating theater, we are still providing the joy and the happiness that comes from being on a stage and and that comes from telling these stories.’” theater department senior Christian Cantrell said. 

Christian Cantrell, lyricist and composer in the SF State Drama Department, speaks about his journey in music and theater on March 14. (Avery Wilcox / Golden Gate Xpress)
(Avery Wilcox)

 Cantrell remembers the theatre’s stage well, in fact he composed multiple plays that debuted there. The experiences he had and the people he met during that time were inspirations for the lyrical valentine “Golden Gate Dreams” that he debuted at Fringe this year. 

Graduating theater majors, dreaming of seeing their names spelt out on the marquees of Broadway, recognize the reality that those marquees have been dark for over a year. 

“How does theater shift? How does theater come back? And I think that a lot of that’s going to dictate which path I take,” Cantrell said. As of now, that path is unclear, but moving to New York this fall is his first step. 

Johan Casal, an SF State sophomore double majors in film and dance now, is inspired by Beyonce’s visual albums, finds that the transition to virtual learning has strengthened “different muscles,” opening his eyes to larger possibilities in the industry. 

“This is like a great stepping stone for me to practice seeing dance in a film setting. Seeing how else I could further manipulate it, and just see where it goes from here,” Casal said. “I’ve learned so much within this one semester, and I’m ready to continue moving on, even after this class is over.” 

His film utilizes a drone to produce industry level images to capture him performing his choreographed routine. Prior to this class, he said he only had a basic understanding of iMovie. Now, a semester later, he is confident in his skills and feels they are strengthening his future in both the dance and film industry. 

Tadio sees the students as drivers of their own success. “They are the performers. They are the choreographers. They are the cinematographers. And they are the editors of their own film,” he said. 

The greatest struggle for Director of the Fringe Festival and SF State Theater Arts lecturer, Terry Boero hasn’t been a lack of talent, production value or participation, but rather a spatial disparity among students, the stage they need to perform. 

“One of my student actors has 18 inches between her bed and her computer table. That’s a range of motion — she only has 18 inches. Other people have a basement or garage they can go into,” Boero said. “It just bothers me that we’re all working at an advantage or disadvantage.” 

Boero has found computers to loan out, mailed equipment and sent props to students through Amazon. She said that access is still not equal across the board. 

“It hasn’t been easy,” Boero said. “But what we have noticed is that the people who are brave enough to do this kind of work are really passionate about it.”

It hasn’t been easy. But what we have noticed is that the people who are brave enough to do this kind of work are really passionate about it.” ”

— Terry Boero


Some of the student plays contained themes alluding to the emotional struggles playwrights are experiencing with the absence of in-person creating. 

The play, “Two Fucking Oranges,” by SF State student Jo Rhoades, opened up with a shot of The Daly City BART station. 

Actors Avalon Lone and Aaliyah Gilliard played the role of SF State the School of Theatre and Dance students catching the train after a long rehearsal. With the virtual background behind them, it mimicked as if they were actually sitting in the train’s plush seats. 

On the train, the two shared clothes, then shared opinions on fellow castmates, and realized that they drunkenly shared fellatio with the same person one night — fellatio with a partner whose size was comparable to, well, two oranges. 

Their shared laughter and rendezvous is cut short, Gilliard’s character is woken up, realizing that this had only been a dream because Covid was real and would have prevented it. 

Having rehearsal for a play, attending a party to hook up and enjoying maskless train banter with a close pal couldn’t be possible. Awaking from her dream, Gilliard’s character fumbled to log onto Zoom and used substances to cope with reality with her camera turned off. 

Angelina Tolbert, SF State creative writing major wrote two plays, “High Yella” and “A Cat” that both debuted at the festival. Tolbert believes that her love for plays comes from the “special energy” they hold. She finds that this time was meant for artists like herself and other contributors of the festival. 

“I think even if we haven’t seen it all yet, when we look back on this time, I think we’re gonna see a lot of beautiful art in all genres. You know, because that’s what artists do. They translate the emotion,” Tolbert said. 

She found that the adaptations to Zoom by the tech crew “amazing,” but couldn’t change the fact that editing recordings for Zoom is a fundamentally different medium than what a play is supposed to be.

“Fringe was created for the stage,” she said.

Tadio said that according to the planning currently being done for the live performances next fall, performers being on stage may be a possibility. 

“We want to do it in person without the live audience.” Tadio said. “We want to go into the theater, costume, and light – definitely light! And then record it and stream it live.  I’m crossing my fingers that it will happen. It’s doable, from my part and I’m very excited to do it.” 

All the performances from the Fringe Festival will be available on demand on the Department’s website until May 5.

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