Behind the Mask: Charm City Fringe Founders Mike Brush and Zach Michel

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Founders of Charm City Fringe Mike Brush (pictured right), 30, and Zach Michel (pictured left), 31, talk about how theater in Baltimore has changed since Fringe started seven years ago, what makes a successful Fringe show, and the importance of theater as artistic expression.

Mike places his Buzz Lightyear book bag on the bottom step as he taps lightly on a window to signal Zach to let him inside his Charles Village apartment that doubles as the Charm City Fringe headquarters. It’s a cold January day, but Zach and Mike are already having weekly meetings to prepare for the seventh annual Charm City Fringe Festival in 11 months. The former high school classmates decided to start the festival after reconnecting as under-employed recent grads (Zach of UMBC, Mike of Towson University) with a passion for theater and some free time to create a place for new performances. Now, more than seven years later, both have full-time jobs – Mike is in arts education and Zach does marketing for a brewery – and the festival they started when they had time on their hands has grown so much that it requires year-round weekly meetings and a full board of directors.

What do you want the Charm City Fringe Festival to do for the Baltimore theater community?

Mike: Essentially, what we want to be able to do is take the theater community that already exists in Baltimore, and add to it. There are a ton of colleges in the area, most of which have theater departments. There's no reason for those students coming out of those theater departments to leave Baltimore.

How has Fringe contributed to the Baltimore theater community?

Zach: We've helped a number of artists produce their work for the first time and move on to produce again, to elevate their work, and to push themselves in new ways. I think, as a community, there's still a lot of work to be done. It's a challenge that we're looking to face this year and moving forward. It's how to unify the existing artists and companies and build out a larger, grander sense of community.

What makes Charm City Fringe special?

Zach: One thing we've done is cultivate a really welcoming festival atmosphere and experience. While we are a smaller, more modest-sized fringe festival, we do work really closely with the artists. And they've really embraced how much they can learn on the production side of things. This past year, every artist was written about. A number of them were featured on the news and things like that.

Side note: Charm City Fringe hosted its first international group, from Canada, this past year. Of the 23 groups in the 2017 festival, 13 were from outside of Maryland.  

Talk about the Bromo Arts District, the new home of the Charm City Fringe.

Zach: The Bromo Arts District was the historic theater district, so I think that's the natural place for Fringe.

Side note: The Bromo Arts District is anchored by the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower in downtown west Baltimore. You might have seen the clock tower – which is modeled after the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy – driving into town from I-95 as you pass M&T Bank Stadium and Oriole Park. The arts district is home to more than 30 artist galleries, theater collectives, and music and poetry venues. One of the 2017 Fringe spaces in the Bromo was actually used for training employees to work at CVS; before Charm City Fringe entered that particular space, it was set up to look like the store with red-orange walls and a fake pharmacy. Flipping the spaces around to be repurposed once again is one of Mike and Zach’s interest in working with the community.

What makes a successful Fringe show?

Mike: My perfect Fringe show would be one that leaves me feeling an emotion. That's super vague. It's a Fringe show, so I have no idea what to expect going in. I leave with a very real identifiable thought and emotion about what I just saw. It doesn't necessarily have to be good. It doesn't necessarily have to be the most incredible performance I've seen. But what's most important is it's making me think and it's making me feel.

Do you have any closing thoughts you'd like to add?

Mike: It's really interesting that the work in these festivals makes you kind of reexamine what you think about the medium on the whole. I think the biggest takeaway for me is when you go to a fringe festival — at least when you go to our fringe festival — you really have to let your guard down and take advantage of the things that are there to see. Because there's a really good chance that your mind will be blown, or your perception will change about what you're seeing.

About: Behind the Mask is a monthly Q&A with different members of the Charm City Fringe community. 


Posted on February 13, 2018 .

That's a Wrap!


Hello everyone, thank you for being a part of theatre in Baltimore. The festival finished its sixth year of fringe performances, and now we must set our sights on next year's events. But first we would like to take a moment to thank everyone for their support in helping our organization arrive at our mission of providing a platform for artists to reach new audiences with their work. You can check out some highlights from the festival in our gallery.

Charm City Fringe needs support from patrons of the arts in order to keep running smoothly. Artists keep 80-100% of the ticket sales, so we need generous donations from you in order to keep the Fringe alive. Your generosity comes at an opportune time, as we have plenty to offer in terms of quality fringe theatre in Baltimore. As we work to improve venues and contact artists for next year’s festival, your generosity of gifts of any size ($5-$5,000!) keeps this organization alive. We hope you will consider making a donation to Charm City Fringe.


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This year’s festival was our biggest Fringe to date. Now, normally out of all the artists who plan to appear at the Fringe, five to eight of them have a complication come up and can’t perform. However, this year the Fringe hosted 23 out of 25 artists. This HUGE offering of talent was unprecedented and our biggest festival to date. With 10 of the artist groups being from Maryland, 12 from around the country, and one artist group being our first international guests from Canada, the sheer diversity of the performers running all 96 performances is something that we are glad you had a chance to experience. New this year, we were even able to subsidize hotel rooms at La Quinta Inn & Suites Downtown Baltimore (a total of $1,650 subsidized this year) for 7 of the traveling Fringe companies to stay comfortably and within walking distance of the festival.

Charm City Fringe Festival enjoyed lighting up the Bromo Arts District this year, and we would like to take a moment to say how thankful we are to the people who helped welcome us in our new neighborhood. The Bromo Arts District put up directional signage to make it easy to navigate to our 4 walkable venues in the neighborhood as well as being a gracious host. Downtown Partnership was especially helpful in welcoming the Fringe and its guests with our very own Star Walk of celebrities associated with Baltimore, hosting the Pop-Up Park, and helping us get the funds together to make improvements to the 322 N. Howard Street venue. All of our partners were incredibly generous this year.


In addition to the main festival, Charm City Fringe also hosts a variety of other events, ranging from entertainment to community support programs. This year, there were 11 Fringe After Dark events that showcased the talents of over 50 artists. It is also worth noting that Charm City Fringe hosted the first ever Family Fringe Day, a partnership with the Choice Program in an endeavor to focus on youth empowerment through creative self-expression. Family Fringe Day was packed with performances and gallery experiences designed by children and young adults for the local community to enjoy. In addition to celebrating creativity as a means of self-expression, panels of teens in Baltimore shared their stories with us all.

If you didn’t make it out to the festival for whatever reason, or if you simply can’t get enough of fringe theatre in Baltimore, then you are going to love hearing about the events we’re already planning for 2018. But don’t take your 2018 calendar out of its clear, plastic wrapping just yet. We’ll be sure to let you know when we have exact dates for these events happening throughout the year:

  • Nights of the Fringe: Last year over 200 people had a rare opportunity to see this modern take on vaudeville with aerial acrobats, monologues, puppetry, and more. Our Fourth installment of Nights of the Fringe will be in the same format, so be sure to check it out!
  • Pop-up Fringe: These free events are a way for audiences to preview the artists that will be performing at the Fringe in the fall. Last year, we had our first Pop-up Fringe at Mount Vernon Marketplace. We will be sure to remind you about it when it is time to see what types of artists will appear in the Fringe in 2018!

Keep a look-out for fun, new things coming to your inbox. If you like to hear the inside-scoop from artists about their unique craft, then get ready for a treat. This year we are treating our loyal fans to exciting interviews with Fringe award winners and more! You can also like us on Facebook or follow us on Instagram for the latest news from Fringe.


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Did you know that Charm City Fringe is a volunteer run organization? Everyone involved in planning and operating the festival each year does it for the love of fringe theatre in Baltimore. Volunteering is one of the best ways to show your support for the arts, theatre and your city. In 2017, CCF had 33 volunteers committed to putting on a memorable show. That’s 295 volunteer hours over 11 days of the festival, which helped artists get everything prepared and patrons ready to experience one-of-a-kind performances. The Charm City Fringe staff are already hard at work planning next year’s Fringe Festival. It is through volunteer support and generous donations that this unique theatre experience in Baltimore is possible.  

Thank you for being a part of our Fringe family. We look forward to providing a great experience for everyone involved. Until next time, we’ll see you on the fringe!

Posted on November 28, 2017 .

2 weeks till the Festival!


Just 2 weeks to go before the 6th annual Charm City Fringe Festival, November 2- 12th at venues across the BROMO Arts and Entertainment District; and we have some exciting events to announce both before and during the festival.

Can't wait that long for Fringe? Then join us at Pop-Up Fringe at Mount Vernon Marketplace this coming Thursday October 26th!
Pop-Up Fringe at Mount Vernon Marketplace - Thursday, October 12th
Tickets: Free!
Take a look at this year's Charm City Fringe Festival with us at 2017’s second Pop-Up Fringe: Mount Vernon Marketplace! Have a taste of the some of the city’s best performance art you can find while munching on delicious offerings like Pinch’s dumplings, Cholitas’s tacos, or Mi & Yu’s ramen.

It’s the perfect preview of this year’s Charm City Fringe Festival (November 2–12 in the Bromo Arts District). See the work of performers like QuaQuaQua, an experimental musical performance artist, the Hallucination Project, a troupe focused on dream-like experiences, and Rufus Drawlings' Smack ‘Em In The Snout, a knee-slapping scene from one of this year's Festival performances.

These performances are free! You’ll have the opportunity to purchase swag, tickets to the festival, and buttons.

And don't miss...

Charm City Fringe Festival Opening Party at Le Mondo - Thursday, November 2nd
Doors: 7:00 Performances: 7:15
Tickets: $15
Come out to Le Mondo on November 2nd, and help us kick off the festival with host Aaron Henkin (WYPR)! The cost of entrance will get you a drink ticket, festival button, plus light fare provided by Modern Cook Shop and refreshments. At 7:15 festival artists will treat you to a preview of their performances to come, followed by an evening of dancing.

Charm City Fringe Festival Closing Party at Le Mondo - Sunday, November 12th
Doors: 7:30
Tickets: Free!
Come spend one last evening with Fringe! Mingle with the artists, enjoy live music, and watch our festival awards ceremony! This event is FREE and open to the public!

Fringe After Dark performances at Le Mondo - FESTIVAL BUTTON NOT REQUIRED

Dewmore Night: "Coming Home - Friday, November 3rd
Doors: 7:15 Performances: 7:30
Tickets: Pay what you can
The national award winning spoken word collective made up of Slangston Hughes, Lady Brion, Black Chakra, Grim Jackson, Mecca Verdell and Kenneth Something will do a feature set on the beauty and ugliness of being black-plus (woman, queer, man, youth etc) in America.

Broadway Live with CJay Philip - Friday, November 3rd
Doors: 9:00
Ticket: Pay what you can
This Broadway themed party has music, games, improv, an open mic, lip-sync battles and lots and lots of Jazz Hands! Hosted by Broadway veteran CJay Philip and featuring the talented theater companies, singers and actors of Baltimore, Broadway Live is a fun new night out for Broadway Lovers. Come see the show or sing a show tune for the open mic. All are welcome to #BmoreBwayLive

Fifth House Events Collective Presents: "As Above, So Below" - Saturday, November 4th
Doors: 4:00-6:00
Ticket: Free!
Experience the opening of this otherworldly lounge experience that aims to embark participants in the impossible quest of finding transcendent love in inner and outer space. This installation references the nostalgic way we look at outer space, the stars, and multidimensional planes. After this event, the installation will remain open and available for free for the duration of the festival. 

Scorpios Rise: The Dance Party - Saturday, November 4th
Doors: 9:00
Tickets: $5 online, $8 at the door, FREE for Scorpios (no joke)
Everyone warns you that Scorpio Season is coming up. You all dread it, you see it in the horizon, you shiver, it gives you goosebumps, your heart beats faster...and you love it! Fifth House Events Collective and The Charm City Fringe Festival present: SCORPIOS RISE, a night of dancing, friends, passion, and because we're Scorpios; regret.
Dare to delve into the deep oceans of your soul as we celebrate our Scorpio Siblings with light installations, video projections, and a lineup of DJs and performances. A Scorpio-themed drink special will be served at the bar. Costumes, extravagant attire, and outlandish accessories encouraged! We go all out or not at all!
DJs and Performers TBA
Mark your calendars people, as this is going to be a wild night. Everyone is welcome! You don't need to be a Scorpio to party, but you'll get in for FREE if you are.

Rufus Roundtree and Da B'more Brass Factory - Thursday, November 9th
Doors: 9:00
Tickets: $15
Formally trained musicians, Rufus Roundtree and Da B'More Brass Factory infuse the essence of the New Orleans brass band sound that defines the mardi gras experience with a hometown contemporary flare; recreating versions of R&B and hip-hop songs with funk, neo-soul and jazz elements... guaranteed to keep the crowd dancing. This is not the traditional band, this is truly an invigorating experience.

Short Films and “Carnival of Souls” with Live Score Performance - Friday, November 10th & Saturday, November 11th
Doors: 7:00 Show: 7:30
Tickets: $10
Area filmmakers will present short films before a screening of psychological thriller and cult classic “Carnival of Souls,” with live musical accompaniment performed and written by Adam Sterr.

One Last Dance: Charm City Fringe After Party! - Friday, November 10th
Doors: 9:30
Tickets: $5
Two DJs will spin music for a dance tournament between eight of Baltimore Club’s best dancers, which will be followed by a dance party for all.

Fringe After Dark Comedy Night - Saturday, November 11th
Doors: 9:30
Tickets: $8
Join us for a comedy night hosted by Dark Mark with headliner Larry Lancaster! Other comedians featured include Archie Jameson, Valance Michael, Ivan Martin, Maria Sanchez, and T Mooney.
Comedian, Actor and Model, Larry Lancaster is one of the most dynamic, young personalities in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. BET’s Man on the Street is known for his political commentary and wittiness on issues related to race, culture and class.

Keep an eye out for more Fringe After Dark Performances! For the most up to date schedule, check out our ticket page.

Posted on October 19, 2017 .

SO MUCH FESTIVAL! Are you ready?

We cannot contain our excitement anymore... the 2017 Charm City Fringe Festival will have the largest number of performances since our inception six years ago. We've worked really hard to provide artists with spaces to share their craft and, each year, it's getting better and better. With 26 shows and more than 90 performances during the 11-day festival, this year we've moved to a centralized two-block campus in the Bromo Arts District between November 2-12, 2017.

Our line-up includes performers from all over the North America, who will come to Baltimore to present new and experimental work. This year’s shows include a thriller on roller skates, a rock opera, and a one-person show starring “All Things Considered” host Emil Guillermo. Check out the full line-up with info on each performance. We'll announce the schedule and tickets in the next few weeks but, in the meantime, you can buy passes! Once you take a look at the line-up, we know you'll want to see more than one show...

Festival venues are conveniently located within three blocks in the Bromo Arts District, with the new Le Mondo space serving as the festival headquarters and location of Fringe After Dark performances and parties. Additional venues include the 14 Karat Cabaret at Maryland Art Place, Downtown Cultural Arts Center, and 322 North Howard Street.

As previously announced, this is the first year Charm City Fringe is partnering with the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore and the Bromo Arts District, which is providing financial and programming support. Charm City Fringe is also made possible with support from the Maryland State Arts Council.

Special programming leading up to and during the festival includes Fringe After Dark events at Le Mondo of live music, spoken word, dance parties and more; a pop-up gift shop; and the “Baltimore Star Walk” honoring 20 Baltimore legends, including Billie Holiday, Babe Ruth and Tom Clancy. More programming details will be announced soon so save the date in the meantime!

Posted on September 12, 2017 .

New spaces, new places: some important announcements

Alright y’all, this is gonna be a big one. We’ve got two big announcements for you, but before we get to that, let’s not forget about this year’s Nights on the Fringe!

This year’s Nights took place June 2nd and 3rd. Here are the highlights:

  • Aaron Henkin, Umar Khan, and Josh Kuderna set the stage for the night with witty banter and great chemistry!
  • All artists were great!  Some standouts were Cagesafe Production’s multi-media presentation of their web series Blue Light and Grim Jackson’s high energy, and thought-provoking slam poetry.
  • House band, Telepathic Dog, kept the evening moving with sweet jazz tunes.
  • Awaiting patrons outside of Baltimore Theatre Project were stilt walkers, jugglers, accordionists, and more!
  • We wish Katie Kopatjic luck as she makes her way to Scotland for the 70th Edinburgh Festival Fringe!

You can relive Nights on the Fringe by checking out the full gallery of photos.

This year’s theme

Our city hosts incredible venues like the Hippodrome, Everyman Theatre, Center Stage, and a myriad of performing arts groups. Baltimore has hosted, and continues to host, an array of famous performers and artists throughout the years. Fringe helps cement newer artists and give them a chance to show their work to our city.

Fringe is just one part of Bird City’s theatre community, but we aim to make it one where all kinds of performance arts can show their work, whether they’re mimes, poets or an acro yoga troupe. It’s not just for artists — it means that our city’s residents get a taste of a variety of performances.

This year, we will also bring the performing arts directly to Baltimoreans outside the walls of our venues, through promotion, direct interaction, and performance. All of these ideas are summed up neatly in this year’s theme: “theatre without boundaries.”

The arts deserve a chance to enrich everything. Let’s show Baltimore City all sorts of performances and create opportunities for artists, and bring the arts into nontraditional venues. These ideas will wind throughout the festival, in the selection of performances, the venues, and the way we promote the arts in Baltimore.

We’ve found a new home

Charm City Fringe has been around for 5 years, and in all that time we’ve bounced between venues in northern Baltimore, often in buildings that are kind of far from each other. This year, however, you’ll be able to attend the whole festival in one place at one time.

This year, we’re heading downtown to the fast-growing Bromo Arts District. It’s host to performing arts organizations like Everyman Theatre, EMP Collective, The France Merrick Performing Arts Center, and more. We’d like to thank the district and the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore for providing programming and financial support.

Our festival will run from November 2–12, all across Bromo in locations like the Maryland Art Place, the Downtown Cultural Arts Center, and Le Mondo. This move is going to let attendees see the festival all in one location, and walk from venue to venue with ease, all while being near downtown’s amenities. We hope to see you there!

One more thing…

Fringe has a lot of moving parts, and pulling off the festival off every year takes a lot of work. We can always use help with things like ticket-taking and concessions. If you want a chance to help out there, or anywhere on the Fringe team, join our Charm City Fringe Volunteers group. We’ll post whenever we have volunteer opportunities, or when we find cool stuff. Can't volunteer but still want to help? Consider donating to Fringe so we can keep giving artists a venue to showcase their talent.

Posted on June 28, 2017 .