Every September, for the last eight years, the Exit Theater has been hosting a two-week tromp through the Tenderloin known as the Fringe Festival. The title is kind of vague: Even if you know that cities from Edinburgh to Adelaide hold annual festivals of hourlong plays collectively known as Fringe, you may have no idea why -- or where all these people come from. Actually, most of them come from Canada. Nineteen Canadian cities make up the largest true Fringe circuit in the world, and Fringe means no curating -- the first 50 or so performers to get show proposals across the transom, from anywhere in the world, receive a place onstage. Almost without exception the results are really, really weird.
Solo performer Annie Larson channels family angst through Arthur Miller and Benny Goodman in Flying Home, one of over 50 shows playing the 1999 Fringe Festival.
This year Popcorn Anti-Theater brings the first-ever stageless play to the Fringe; audiences board the group's Mexican Bus and ride across the city to see skits in different neighborhoods. More conventional shows like Moog Bandits Gave Me the Clap ("apocalyptic Queer-o-vision" comedy) and Bardo "A" Go Go (Tibetan shamanic theater) alternate for 10 days among five downtown theaters: Tickets, like theater space, are sold on a first-come, first-served basis 30 minutes before each show; ticket prices never exceed $8. The festival's opening night party begins at 11:30 p.m. Thursday at the Exit Theater, 156 Eddy, S.F. Admission is free. Shows run Monday through Friday at 7, 8:30, and 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 1, 2:30, 4, 5:30, 7, 8:30, and 10 p.m. through September 19 at the following venues: Exit Theater and Exit Stage Left (156 Eddy), Shelton Theater (533 Sutter, lower level), Il Teatro 450 (449 Powell, third floor), Lorraine Hansberry Theater (620 Sutter), and the Mexican Bus -- viewers board outside the Exit Theater. For a complete schedule and description of shows, call 673-3847 or visit the festival's Web site at www.sffringe.org.