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The Daily Wildcat


New talent arrives with the Tucson Fringe Festival

Jadon Rivas
Amber Bjork performs “All We Are Left With Is Hope” at the Tucson Fringe Festival on Jan. 28. The festival aims to give performing artists an opportunity to display their talent without fees.

Perhaps one of the hardest parts of a young artist or performer’s career is being recognized enough to be picked up by a theater organization, which is where the annual Tucson Fringe Festival comes in. The festival has an average of 20 shows on weekday dates and as many as 60 shows on the weekends. 

The purpose of the five-day festival is to be an uncensored and open performing arts festival where artists have an opportunity to show their talent off without any money being asked of them. It’s designed in a way to have very low venue costs, and the festival only takes 0-20% of each artist’s show sales. 

The festival maintains a non-selection policy that allows anyone to perform who may be in an underrepresented group. The festival maintains that people of color, LGBTQ+ persons, women and marginalized genders are especially welcome. The festival is also located at four different places throughout the weekend to allow the most people to perform. 

“The more opportunities, multiple venues, more artists showing their talent,” James Pack, acting president and treasurer of the festival, said. “We hold the event yearly to allow new people who arrived in Tucson to show their skills. We have a lot of people from Minnesota this year, actually.” 

One of these Minnesotans is named Amber Bjork, an actor who is relatively new to theater. Her show is named “All We Are Left With Is Hope” of which she is the only actor. The show revolves around a woman who believes in the existence of spiritual beings that she has control of. Bjork plays the role of a Victorian goth woman from that era. As the show goes on, however, she slowly loses her mind as strange circumstances continue to happen. 

“This show I made in only the last few weeks,” Bjork said. “I practiced and memorized it in the studio in my garage; it took me four days.” 

The actors involved with the festival aren’t just from far and wide, however. Maddie Natoli is a 26-year-old theater student from Scottsdale, Arizona, on a mission to make a name for herself. 

Natoli also plays the lead role in her show, “Death of the Swan: The Tragedy of Pavlova,” which explores themes of isolation, grief and loss from a young girl’s perspective. The girl comes face to face with Death himself, and through her experience, she realizes death is just as important of a topic as life. 

“I have always been surrounded by death; people I grew up with passed away. Death is a scary subject, and I want people to be less scared of it by showing it’s normal,” Natoli said. 

Natoli views this show as an important first step in her career, and her purpose of being at the festival is to show people why they should pay attention to those in theater who don’t have formal credentials such as a college degree. On the side, she works at her local community college, but has always wanted to start her own theater company. 

“This is the beginning of my future theater company. Being here is the first step in establishing it and showing people what I’m truly capable of,” Natoli said. 

She views being included in the festival as an honor, and when asked how she felt after her performance, she said she felt “over the moon.” The 2025 Fringe Festival dates will be announced soon and will be posted on the Tucson Fringe website.

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