A Tampa Fringe Fest veteran shares 10 can’t miss shows happening this weekend

click to enlarge 'Spooky & Gay' comes from award-winning Orlando-based playwright and performer, Bruce Ryan Costella, who describes the show as, 'a queer horror storytelling cabaret.' - Photo by Bruce Ryan Costella
Photo by Bruce Ryan Costella
'Spooky & Gay' comes from award-winning Orlando-based playwright and performer, Bruce Ryan Costella, who describes the show as, 'a queer horror storytelling cabaret.'
After covering Tampa International Fringe Festival (TIFF) for five years, I have a system. My TIFF begins a week or two before the official start date. I search my emails for press releases, explore the festival website, and scroll down Tampa Fringe’s Facebook page looking for tasty TIFF morsels to share with readers.

Tampa Fringe—set for July 28-Aug. 7 at Hillsborough Community College in Ybor City—features 22 shows this year, including comedies, musicals, cabaret, storytelling, magic, drama, horror and satire. For perennial Fringe fans like myself, the goal is to see as many as possible before crashing.

Don’t have time to see them all? We hope our list of 10 shows we can’t wait to see at Tampa Fringe helps you find something that fits into your schedule.
Tampa International Fringe Festival July 28-Aug. 7. $10-13/show or $250 all access. Hillsborough Community College Ybor City Campus Performing Arts Building. 2112 N 15th St., Tampa. tampafringe.org

Into the Night
Theatre Exceptional tells the story of Benny Fallon, a young man with Down syndrome whose dreams go unnoticed by most of the people around him. Safety Harbor actor Ryan Prince, who plays Fallon, also has Down Syndrome. "Once I read the story, it was like me," Prince told Bay News 9. Award-winning Tampa actress Nicole Jeannine Smith plays Fallon's mother in the play. For fans of coming-of-age stories, inclusivity, and learning about people who are different from them. Saturday, July 30, 3:15 p.m.; Sunday, July 31, 8 p.m.; Mon. Aug. 1, 8:45 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 6, 1:30 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 7, 8 p.m. $10. Studio

Strange Girls Tampenos Bridget Bean, Laila Lee, Dawn Truax and Madison LeVine star in "Strange Girls,” a show for fans of horror and comedy. “The Strange Girls Project presents four disturbing tales of obsession featuring women who, although a little warped, are just longing to belong to something—no matter the cost,” the show’s creators, Bean and Truax, wrote. Thursday, July 28, 8:45 p.m.; Friday, July 29, 7:15 p.m.; Saturday, July 30, 7:15 p.m.; Thursday, Aug. 4, 8:45 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 6, 4:30 p.m. $12. The Coop

Vincerò: The Italian Opera Experience Starring vocalists Diana Silova, Germán Gholami, Asuka Uchida, and Natalja Sticco, with a guest appearance by Clearwater guitarist Greg Smith. Ascend Classical's "Vincerò" plays like a medley of the world's most beloved Italian arias. You may not know the songs' names, but you'll probably recognize the melodies in this concert-style performance. The show won Pick of the Fringe when it premiered at Hollywood Fringe in June 2022. At $12 a ticket, this is the most accessible award-winning opera concert you'll ever see. Friday, Aug. 5, 7 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 6, 1 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 7, 6:15 p.m. $12. Rehearsal Hall

Going to the Top Lutz’s Matthew Belopavlovich premieres his new one-act romance. Inspired by real events in the ‘70s and ‘80s, follows gay couple Thomas and James as they navigate discrimination and discover the power of community. Recommended for fans of LGBTQ romance. Thursday, July 28, 9:45 p.m.; Friday, July 29, 9 p.m.; Sunday, July 31, 3:30 p.m.; Wed. Aug. 3, 8:15 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 7, 3:30 p.m. $10. Studio

Oh Gasparella! Amidst all the articles questioning whether or not José Gaspar, Gasparilla's namesake pirate, ever existed, St. Pete-based musician and composer Tom Sivak asks a different question: What if Gaspar was a woman? “Oh Gasparella!” a musical fairy tale written by Sivak and directed by Stageworks’ Karla Hartley, is sure to tell Tampa’s fake pirate legend in a way you’ve never heard it before. Friday, July 29, 9 p.m.; Saturday, July 30, 2:45 p.m.; Sunday, July 31, 5:45 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, 9 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 7, 12 p.m. $10. Rehearsal Hall

Spooky & Gay Cabaret It’s just not Fringe without a cabaret act. There are three this year, and I hope to see them all. “Spooky & Gay” comes from award-winning Orlando-based playwright and performer, Bruce Ryan Costella, who describes the show as, “a queer horror storytelling cabaret.” According to Orlando Weekly’s Seth Kubersky, who reviewed the show at Orlando Fringe, the show features a suburban legend, a tribute to the phantoms of gay bars past, a few impressions and at least one amusing original song. Friday, Aug. 5, 7:15 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 6, 10 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 7, 6:15 p.m. $13. The Coop

Cannonball Cabaret Tampa Bay’s Cannonball Cabaret describes itself as a “vintage vaudeville cabaret company.” For those unfamiliar with vaudeville, it’s best described as a variety show where anything can happen—song and dance, comedy, circus acts. The group rates their performances from PG-13 to R(isque). I’m hoping for the latter. These types of acts are Fringe staples, so if you’ve never fringed before, you should definitely check this one out. If you’re a Fringe pro, this show is probably already on your list. Saturday, July 30, 9 p.m.; Sunday, July 31, 4 p.m.; Mon. Aug. 1, 7 p.m.; Thursday, Aug. 4, 10:15 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 7, 7:45 p.m. $10. Rehearsal Hall

Vulva Va-Voom: Hollywood Psychic for the Golden Age Neo-vaudeville cabaret performer Vulva Va-Voom returns with “Hollywood Psychic for the Golden Age.” This year, she adds a new supernatural talent to the usual song and dance—contacting the spirits of long-gone Hollywood stars and starlets. “In Vulva’s signature ‘very much R-rated’ style, expect sexy seances, cerebral historical minutiae, and highly inappropriate song-and-dance numbers,” the official blurb reads. “Will anyone (apart from diehard cinephiles and Turner Classic Movies subscribers) catch half of Vulva’s obscure references? Absolutely not. That’s where the sophomoric jokes, low-cut brassieres, and booty shorts come in.” Friday, July 29, 10:15 p.m.; Saturday, July 30, 8:45 p.m.; Sunday, July 31, 4:45 p.m.; Wed. Aug. 3, 9:45 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 6, 6:45 p.m. $10. Studio

Tithonia: A Lesbian Space Opera Sometimes I only have to read a show’s title to know that it’s for me, and that’s the case here. I’m not a big fan of mainstream opera, but a lesbian space opera from Asheville, North Carolina…well, that’s a different story. I know, I know. A gay sci-fi musical might not appeal to everyone, but it’s definitely my kind of Fringe show. You don’t have to come see this show with me, but I am going to need you to at least read their amazing blurb: “Traverse the galaxy aboard the Starship Tithonia with a morally upright – and uptight – captain and a lovable mechanic in a new, original musical from Skysail Theatre. Trapped in a malfunctioning spaceship with an Artificial Intelligence interface gone rogue, our protagonists’ survival skills and budding romance are put to the ultimate test. Original music, a romantic comedy of errors, and a race against time come together to create a story that soars beyond the stars. Introducing a musical for the ages – Tithonia: A Lesbian Space Opera.” Thursday, Aug 4, 7 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 6, 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 7, 1:45 p.m. $10. Studio

El Diablo of the Cards This Brazilian card act is racking up awards all over the world. Best Solo Show at Storefront Fringe in 2017, Best Performer Award at Swindon Fringe in 2018, Pick of the Fringe at Halifax Fringe in 2019, and Audience Choice at the Kansas City Fringe in 2020. If someone can win this many awards playing with cards for an hour, well, I’ve got to see that. Friday, Aug. 5, 7 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 6, 3:15 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 7, 4:45 p.m. $10. Studio

About The Author

Jennifer Ring

Jennifer studied biology for six years, planning for a career in science, but the Universe had other plans. In 2011, Jen was diagnosed with a rare lung disease that sidelined her from scientific research. Her immune system, plagued by Scleroderma, had attacked her lungs to the point of no return. She now required...
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