Back on the Fringe: Aspen’s annual festival set for June

Aspen Fringe Festival to host Tony winner Simon Stephens as playwright-in-residence

Nikki Boxer performing at Aspen Fringe Fest 2021. (Aspen Times archive)

What: Aspen Fringe Festival

When: June 10 & 11

Where: Wheeler Opera House

How much: $35-$70

Tickets: Wheeler Opera House;

The Aspen Fringe Festival improbably grew in scope during the pandemic, adding fall events in addition to its traditional June festival while also adding new elements like film and live music on top of the edgy theater and dance that have defined Fringe for the past 14 years.

The 2022 edition, coming to the Wheeler Opera House on June 10 and 11, will include a performance of Tony Award-winning playwright Simon Stephens’ “Heisenberg” and excerpts from Stephens other works with a cast of local actors including Tony nominee and Snowmass Villager Beth Malone of “Fun Home” fame.

Stephens will be in-residence for the festival, making good on an engagement long delayed since summer 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are celebrating his artistry and his plays for two nights,” said Fringe co-founder David Ledingham in a video announcement.

Tickets and two-day passes are on sale now.

Stephens, a London-based playwright who won the 2015 Tony for Best Play for “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” staged “Heisenberg” the following year on Broadway with Mary-Louise Parker and Denis Arndt in the starring roles. The Fringe production will star Aspen theater stalwarts Nikki Boxer and Mike Monroney, with Ledingham directing.

Simon Stephens (Courtesy Aspen Fringe Festival)

“It’s an incredible play,” Ledingham said of “Heisenberg.”

The production reunites the trio behind the memorable 2014 and 2015 Fringe production of “Venus in Fur,” which starred boxer and Ledingham with Monroney directing.

The excerpted works featured in the second night of the festival will include film, dance, music and theater works by Simons and local collaborators, including scenes from “The Curious Incident,” as well as short film “Sea Wall,” which includes a filmed performance by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet alum paired with Simons himself reading live an accompanying text he has written.

And, as has long been Fringe tradition, the festival will include workshop performance of new work from the playwright-in-residence, in this case a scene from Stephens’ new Off-Broadway play “Morning Sun.”

Aspen Fringe Fest 2021. (Aspen Times file)

Simons contributed to Fringe Fest programs over the past two years as it produced performances under the public health constraints of the pandemic.

In late September 2020, during the pandemic doldrums of the performing arts, the Fringe creative team staged its inaugural “Fall Fest” at the Aspen District Theater, with a distanced audience of about 50 people. Among the few live indoor events staged here in those pre-vaccine days, the two-night event included a new short piece by Stephens along with contributions from former Fringe resident playwrights John Kolvenbach and Sharr White.

Simons contributed again last June, when Fringe reopened the Wheeler Opera House after its 15-month closure, with an original experimental work titled “I Want to Wake Up” and the short film “She Left Home For a While.”

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