BorderLight International Theatre + Fringe Festival has returned to Cleveland

Theater lovers have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the international theater scene right here in Cleveland this weekend, as the BorderLight International Theatre + Fringe Festival returns this weekend, starting today, Thursday, July 21, and running through Sunday, July 24.

Un/Packing is an interactive, high-stakes, live multimedia, choose-your-own-adventure-style solo performance where the audience is enlisted to help trans actor Nicolas Shannon Savard survive a journey across space, time, and gender. There are 46 different shows at 12 venues with more than 140 performances around the city—at venues that range from Public Square  to Playhouse Square and every place in between.

BorderLight, which was founded by acting executive director Dale Heinen and Jeffrey Pence, started in 2019 as a biennial summer event with a mission to present visionary international theatre and build cross-cultural understanding.

It went virtual in 2021 because of COVID-19 concerns, and this year hosts a blend of 16 outdoor and indoor events. “We’ve made everything outside free,” says Heinen. Masks may be required at the indoor venues.

The four-day festival is a series of curated selections of international touring productions and is a collaboration between Cleveland organizations and international artists. The Fringe Festival covers all genres of theatrical performance.

With the soft opening on Thursday, Heinen says some of the events already are standing out as popular.

Above the ‘C’ As in Camping” features professional campers Grace and Kevin who perform their comedy circus act. “They’re a brilliant couple,” says Heinen. “They’re literally camping on Public Square in their RV and have it set up like it’s their front yard.”

Inspired by a true story, OASIS tells the story of Noel, a young Frenchman in the 1950’s sent for reserve military duty in the dunes of Algeria, very far from home.Amir Peter’s “Oasis” is a one-man show in the Helen Theatre (masks required) that tells the story of Noel, a young Frenchman in the 1950s sent for reserve military duty in the dunes of Algeria, where he is faced with moral and ethical dilemmas that cause him to embark on a surreal and dangerous journey through the Sahara Desert.

Khūrākī” celebrates the beauty of Afghan culture, music, and food through portraits of three strong women who have recently become Americans. Taking place at the Old Stone Church (masks required), this is a live culinary performance designed to challenge Americans’ perceptions about Afghanistan while supporting a group of Afghan female refugees who have been recently resettled in Northeast Ohio. The Afghan women cook boxed dinners for theater guests, prepared across the street at Cuyahoga Community College's Hospitality Management Center, to complete the experience.

“We’re hoping this might spark some food entrepreneurship opportunities in Cleveland,” says Heinen. “In Pittsburgh, the performances actually launched a catering business.”

Bees,” in the Cleveland Public Library Eastman Reading Garden features Inlet Dance Theatre dancers who portray three human-sized bees that busy themselves in the creation of a community alongside children who transform into bees as they play. The performance is geared toward children ages four to 11 and their families.

Heinen says there is truly something for everyone at BoderLight this year. While outdoor events are free, individual tickets are required to the indoor shows (prices vary). Ticket bundles, including All-Access Passes and Binge-On-Fringe four- and eight-show passes, are also available. The complete program guide can be downloaded here.

“There’s literally something fun for everyone,” she says. “People should follow their noses and see what’s out there.”

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.