fringeHorizRunboyrun16'Underground Episodes' won awards at the 2016 Fringe; Runboyrun Productions returns this year with 'Mississippi Smiles'. Photo Provided/Ithaca Fringe Festival

The fourth annual Ithaca Fringe Festival of performance-based arts is coming to town Thursday-Sunday, April 20-23, sponsored for the second year by Tompkins Trust Company. It has an eclectic lineup of acts featuring performers from as far away as Scotland, as well as home-grown talent.

The festival will get underway on Thursday, April 20, 7pm at Fringe Central — the Visitors Center on the Ithaca Commons, at an event open to the entire community. The Fringe Kickoff Party will feature delicious donated by Manndible Café, music by area artists, and sneak previews of some of the Fringe shows, which will be performed over the next three days at Cinemapolis, Circus Culture, Community School of Music and Arts, the History Center, and Lifelong.

Ithaca Fringe, which gives 100% of ticket sales to the artists, is unjuried: Eligible submissions are pulled out of a hat (truly).

"It's all the more exciting, because you never know if you'll get plays, comedies, dances, monologues, puppetry, vaudeville, storytelling, mixed genres or something else," said George Sapio, producing artistic director. "It also eliminates bias and makes the experience more inclusive. Who am I, or some committee members, to judge what is and what isn't good art? Everyone has different tastes."

Sapio pointed out, "We've been fortunate in our first three years to have had a lot of very good acts, and some truly extraordinary and ground-breaking ones."

The festival relies on dozens of volunteers, who sell tickets, assist audience members, run errands, and act as house managers and venue technicians. Out-of-town acts are billeted with area residents who open their homes and hearts — sometimes making lifelong friendships in the process.

Although the Fringe hopes that all the artists walk away well compensated, they keep ticket prices affordable.

"Our prices are well below average theatre ticket prices," said Sapio, "so that everyone in the community can see a show or two, or all eight."

Fringe Central, at the Visitors Center, 117 The Commons, will be open for audience-artist mingling throughout the festival, thanks to the generosity of the Community Arts Partnership, Downtown Ithaca Alliance, and Ithaca Visitors Bureau.

Besides the community kick-off event on Thursday evening, Fringe Central will be open all weekend long for networking, games, entertainment by local musicians, and food donated by other area restaurants including Ithaca Bakery, Northstar House, and Istanbul. The first-ever late-night Fringe Video Showcase will be screened at 10 pm Saturday, and Audience Pick and Andrew M. Dixon Awards will be given on Sunday at 5 pm at the Fringe wrap party.

The lineup of shows:
  • Delirium; Martin Dockery, Brooklyn, NY
  • Important Nonsense; Wolf’s Mouth Theatre Company, Ithaca, NY
  • Kara Sevda; Now What Theatre, Sebastian, FL
  • The Lightning Gap; James Comfort II, Ithaca, NY
  • Mississippi Smiles; Runboyrun Productions, Philadelphia, PA
  • My Lack of Social Life; Bad Idea Entertainment, Norristown, PA
  • Spy in the House of Men; Penny. For Your Thoughts, Rochester, NY
  • The World Will Stop If We Make a Mistake, New Village Ensemble, Scranton, PA