Get Frisky With Gutfest, Gainesville’s Underground Theater Festival
A group of young artists is determined to show the city of Gainesville that there is more to performance art than what people traditionally expect. They will be hosting the first Gutfest (Gainesville Underground Theater Festival) downtown on July 21, 22 and 23.
As its name suggests, this festival promises to be anything but conventional. Away from venues commonly associated with “old people theater,” Gainesville bars and performance venues like The High Dive, The Atlantic, The Civic Media Center, M.A.M.A.’s Club, Black C Art Gallery and the Boxcar at Depot Park are the chosen playground for this three-day celebration of theater, burlesque, music, comedy and creative storytelling.
“One of the fundamental principles of GUTFest is to show audiences something they haven’t seen before and to give artists the opportunity to perform risky, new, interesting work without having to worry about offending an audience or making a bad relationship with a venue,” said director Matt Bratko.
The festival is designed to empower performers, beginning with the main thing that distinguishes GUTFest from traditional fringe festivals – artists don’t have to pay an entry fee. The organizers recruited performers through advertisements around Gainesville and auditions, merely asking them to prepare something substantially different from their usual sets at other gigs or festivals.
Entry as an audience member is also free, giving fans access to 32 performances in six venues with no need to purchase tickets. This will be possible through a grant GUTFest received form the UF Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere with support from the Rothman Endowment, which helped cover the costs of booking venues, renting gear and hiring technical staff. However, Bratko hopes that free admission will encourage the public to contribute whatever they can to support the performers.
“One of the terrible things about performing in Gainesville is that a lot of the times you don’t get paid, and I think that’s devaluing for artists,” he said. Bratko is completing his master’s degree in acting at the University of Florida after finding his passion for theater at University of California, Berkeley.
Local artists, producers and playwrights will answer questions about how the city can become a more hospitable, supportive and lucrative place for the artists who shape its growth.
Donations will be accepted at the venues, where there will also be merchandise for sale. In addition, the organizers are accepting donations leading up to the event through their Indiegogo campaign.
GUTFest’s lineup includes Natasha Home (sound sculpture and vocal performance), Carly Shooster (stand-up comedy), Sally B. Dash (burlesque) and several guest artists from out of town, including surrealist country musician Dougie Poole from New York, Kolezanka from Phoenix and Akin Yai from Paris.
Something about late-night theater makes people feel free to take risks, Bratko said. For this reason and to accommodate people who get off work late, shows will start at 7 p.m. and end around 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Sunday’s programming will start at 1 p.m. with a community panel to discuss Gainesville’s role as an emergent arts center. Local artists, producers and playwrights will answer questions about how the city can become a more hospitable, supportive and lucrative place for the artists who shape its growth.