Faux/Real bows with Ben Mintz at helm
By ALAN SMASON, Exclusive to the CCJN
From the ashes of the New Orleans International Fringe Festival has risen the phoenix that is Faux/Real, a three-week celebration of theatre, food, drink and performance art across the city. At the helm of this endeavor is publisher and arts enthusiast Ben Mintz, part entrepreneur and part free spirit.
“This is actually the first time in two weeks that I’ve smiled,” said Mintz as his photo was shot in a popular Bywater nightspot. The weight of transforming a five-day series of events into a three-week festival with arcs revolving about theatre, dance, literature, food and drink and burlesque, has had its toll on the jovial Mintz. As Faux/Real executive director, the responsibility for carrying it off has been solidly resting on Mintz’s shoulders over the course of the past several months and he is clearly glad that no matter how it turns out, it is happening now.
From now through November 22, the festival will unveil in three main sections of town listed as Uptown/Warehouse, CBD/French Quarter/Treme and Marigny/Bywater. The previous concentration of Fringe Festival shows was typically centered in the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods with some spillover into the Central City area along Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. Now with Faux/Real, the number of venues has exploded into areas as far away as Gentilly and Freret Street.
As was the case with the Fringe Festival, entrance to all Faux/Real events requires a button that must be purchased, the proceeds of which go directly to the event planners. The cost of a button has risen to $5.00 this year, but each come with additional perks. Many participating restaurants and bars around the city are offering specially-priced, prix-fixe dinners or secret drinks on their menu for button holders.
Theatre lovers know that some of the most innovative and original works have been produced during the Fringe Festival time and Mintz has seen to it that the number of quality performers has been maintained and increased to accommodate the additional two weeks of activities.
Mintz cited Southern Rep and their production of “Song of a Man Coming Through” and the recently opened Theatre at St. Claude with Rebecca Mwase’s show “Looking at a Broad” as examples of the kinds of excellent partnering he has aspired to.
Faux/Real also includes a series of outsider producing mini festivals under its aegis. These include Dancing Grounds’ eDGe Fest, a dance festival that changes weekly and Nerdlesque Fest, a burlesque dance festival with performances culled from science fiction, comic books, video games and similar themes.
Russ Mercado, the owner of Bar Redux, 801 Poland Avenue, is another Jewish Faux/Real participant. He and his wife Janya, who moved here from Hoboken, N.J., will be offering a series of shows in conjunction with this year’s Faux/Real. Opening tonight at 8:00 p.m. is “Little Miss Sunshine of the Bayou,” a series of drag show/talent events inspired by the film. Late Saturday night at 11:00 p.m. another burlesque offering at Bar Redux is Cabaret de L’Enfer, a decidely darker side burlesque show.
Mintz recruited restaurateur and bar expert Neil Bodenheimer (Cure and Cane and Table) to line up his food and drink opportunities. Bodenheimer has contracted with a number of food trucks to bring in a variety of offerings throughout the three-week period. Each week is to have a theme attached such as Beans.
Marcus Jacobs, a chef with Sparklehouse Grill will be firing up his unique offerings of wok and grilled items at Kajun’s Pub on Sundays at 5:00 p.m. Although Jacobs hails from a Jewish background, his menu offerings of pork leg and shrimp are hardly in keeping with kashrut. Jacobs doesn’t mind a bit, though, noting that none of his customers have indicated any problems with his fare.
Free nightly readings of poetry and other works of literature are also featured in a series at the Café Faux/Real on weeknights. In addition, a number of Marigny and Bywater bars will hold late night parties on weekends.
“Frankly, we want this to happen in order to prepare for next year,” Mintz concluded. What he and his team learn this year will help pave the way for an even better and more regionally-focused festival next year, he indicated.
To learn about more and to download a copy of this year’s festival program, click here.