‘Intimacy’ key part of Fringe Festival

New Orleans is unique among American cities, with its blend of cultures, people and traditions creating an experience for residents and visitors alike that is unavailable anywhere else.

Just as singular as New Orleans itself is the city’s annual Fringe Festival, a celebration of the city and its people.

A growing part of the festival is the “Unroute: Intimacy” performances presented during the event.

“Unroute” is a “contemporary cabaret of theatrical vignettes” that blends live music, poetry, storytelling, opera and puppetry on Nov. 15 and 17 as part of the fifth annual New Orleans Fringe Festival.

“Unroute” organizer Reese Johanson said she is excited by the potential feeling of closeness of this year’s festival performances.

“People will feel like they are becoming intimate with a bunch of strangers on Elysian Fields, and everybody will get a chance to dance with each other after the show,” Johanson said.

Johanson, a performer, creative leader and executive director of Artist Inc., the non-profit presenting “Unroute” at the New Orleans Fringe Festival, described “Unroute’s” show as surreal. It features a live dancer on stage interacting with film clips, short Italian opera pieces, mini plays, a musical puppet show and more than a few surprises.

Even the “Unroute” location is unique. New Orleans artist Michalopoulos loaned the group 7,000 square feet of his 527 Elysian Fields art studio for the “Unroute: Intimacy” performances.

“He has this studio that’s this sprawling warehouse space,” Johanson said. “We have a main stage and a couple of satellite stages where vignette performances will pop up.”

The aim of “Unroute” is to shake up the artists’ approaches to their crafts and take the audiences along with them on an unpredictable ride.

But don’t think that the intimacy theme of the show will be strictly sexual, because Johanson says there is much more to explore and they go for it all.

“It’s something that can go in many directions. One can play with the yearning for it or the loss of it, or all the different aspects of intimacy everyone can relate to in their own lives.”

Johanson has spent more than 20 years performing and producing theater, so she knows how to offer intriguing hints of what “Unroute” performances will do in the intimacy-themed, cabaret-style show.

“There’s a scene in an elevator, in a kitchen, there’s another scene in a taxi. Different people in the company use the intimacy theme to create a dance piece or a theater piece or whatever.”

Johanson is thrilled to have assembled a winning team for the 2012 “Unroute: Intimacy” performances.

Performers include Tatianna Macchione, Alex Wallace, Aztec Economy, Craig Leydecker, Sundog, Mary Carol Chenet, Jamie Neumann, Daneeta Jackson, Ross Hamlin, Jennifer Hicks, Dana Reed and Reese Johanson.

“Anybody coming to see our show should know that they’re going to have a blast! It’s definitely not formal theater. It’s cabaret,” Johanson said. “There will even be a bar right in the studio space.”

While Johanson is a fan of the entire New Orleans Fringe Festival, she promises that the “Unroute” performances are a must-see experience, no matter what your taste.

“We touch upon everything. You will see film, puppetry, poetry, dance, live music, theater, opera – “Unroute” is a true variety show,” she said.

“Unroute: Intimacy” will be held at Michalopoulos Studios, 527 Elysian Fields on Nov. 15 and 17.

Tickets and info about the New Orleans Fringe Festival and the Unroute event are available at: www.nofringe.org.