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  • Writer's pictureKristin Guglietti

Fringe Festival returns, and Hammonton loves it


Kristin Guglietti/THG Sidestory performed live music during the New Jersey Fringe Festival kickoff party on Aug. 18. See article and more photos inside on pages 12-14.

HAMMONTON—Live music and theater performances were a big hit at the New Jersey Fringe Festival on Aug. 18-20.


Jim Donio, Eagle Theatre board president and co-founder of New Jersey Fringe Festival, said the festival began with a kickoff party that went well.


“Our goal was to have a kickoff party and enjoy ourselves. We did. We’re actually pleasantly surprised because that’s a soft opening,” Donio said.


After those Friday previews, Saturday and Sunday was when people got the full Fringe experience. Along with performances throughout town, there were craft vendors, a tarot reader, live painting and more on South Second Street.


Dr. Johanna Johnson and Retired Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson were the first attendees to arrive for the Friday night preview.


“We’ve enjoyed the Fringe every year that it’s been,” Dr. Johanna Johnson said.


One piece she was excited to see was “Chapters” by Allegory Dance Theatre. Pieces from the presentation included Of Lilith, Dancing Past the Dark, Women’s Ink and Impulsive.


“We love the arts. We love the theater. We love music,” she said.


For New York actors Alex Bellina and Elias Morris, this will be their first performance at the New Jersey Fringe Festival. Bellina plays as Maxwell and Morris plays as Carter in “Is Everything Okay?”


“I’ve never been to a play festival or a theater festival, so this is fun. I like it so far,” Bellina said.


Bellina, who grew up in Wisconsin, said he hasn’t seen any theater festivals in the Midwest.

Samekh Resh, writer, director and producer of the play, explained what the story is about.


“‘Is Everything Okay?’ follows two individuals, Carter and Maxwell who have just finished having a rather polarizing hookup,” Resh said. “Carter feels quite satisfied with his performance while Maxwell is left hiding his feelings, so Carter a self-proclaimed gentleman, probes Maxwell for a truth he feels is unnecessary to share. What follows is an ego-fueled examination over what is considered the truth between two men.”


“Is Everything Okay” premiered for the first time during the New Jersey Fringe Festival.


Resh told The Gazette earlier that one of the shows he was excited to see was “Johnny Depp! (A Retrospective on Late-Stage Capitalism)” by Jenna Kuerzi.


“I’ve seen Jenna Kurzi’s Retrospective on Johnny Depp,” he said. “I saw it in 2019, so I’m really interested to see how it’s changed and developed since then and especially with everything that’s happened with the case and how that case has developed as well.”


Resh was also interested to see “Destigmatized: Our Bodies, Our Rights, Our Stories” by Colleen Renee Lis.


According to the Fringe website, “‘Destigmatized: Our Bodies, Our Rights, Our Stories’ was written in response to the leaked [Supreme Court of the United States] draft that accurately indicated the imminent overturning of Roe v. Wade. These are true stories and researched pieces covering the topics of: abortion, pregnancy scares, sexual assault, contraceptives/birth control, sexual education, cost of health care in the United States, the history of gynecology and adoption.”


“Those are the two I’m really excited for and interested in, but I’m intrigued by all of them. I’m somebody who really likes to watch theater,” Resh said.


Some festivalgoers such as Hammonton sisters Jean Schoell, Carol Kennish, and Marilyn Santora enjoyed the festival food trucks.


Kristin Guglietti/THG Jewelry maker Sierra Cassaday (left), tarot reader Ali Strahan (middle) and painter, poet and astrologer Julia Clancy pose for a picture at the Fringe Festival on Aug. 19.

“I’m just interested to see what’s going on in Hammonton because I live in Philadelphia now,” Kennish said.


Some of the food trucks included Big Man’s Authentic Kielbasa, Lexylicious, Mary’s Mobile Diner, Matty G Dogz, Motleyque and Rosa de Oro.


During the Fringe kickoff party, Miss Hammonton Pride Maddy Milan thanked the volunteers.

“We want to give a huge thank you to all the volunteers who are helping today and throughout the weekend. We couldn’t do it without you,” Milan said.


During the previews, Hotspurs! did some “Fringe Unhinged” improv and took suggestions from the audience.


After the improv, Die-Cast performed excerpts from “Planet of the Bored Apes.”


According to the Fringe website, “ ‘Planet of the Bored Apes’ features a night of stories and songs inspired by the world of NFTs, Crypto, Metaverses, Chatbots and other digital wonders that make us ask: Is any of this real? Wait, what is real actually? If a tree falls in a digital wood, does it make a sound? And other gnawing questions.”


There were six venues for performances over the weekend including The Eagle Theatre, Allies in Caring Con-Vivir Wellness Hub, Town Hall, Paul Morris DanceXplosion, St. Joseph Academy and the Hammonton Family Success Center.


“There’s a lot of talent here. Lots of talent,” Milan said.


Other performances during the festival included the following: “The Profession” by Walter Wykes presented by Atlantic City Theatre Company, “Comedian Elected to Town Hall in New Jersey” by Joey Novick, “The Melodymakers Present: Carole King’s ‘Tapestry’” by The Melodymakers, “I Know it was the Blood: The Totally True Adventures of a Newfangled Black Woman” by Tara Lake, “Joey Novick’s Story Slam” hosted by Joey Novick and Physical Imagination and Writing Intensive Masterclasses with Die-Cast.


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