FronteraFest brings in national theater talent


by JESSICA VESS / KVUE News & Chief Photojournalist SCOTT GUEST

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Posted on January 12, 2014 at 11:53 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 13 at 12:00 AM

AUSTIN --  The Austin arts are growing as the 21st annual FronteraFest begins this week. The festival brings in theater writers, directors and actors from across the nation.

The festival unfolds inside Central Austin’s Hyde Park Theater. It's the oldest and largest fringe festival in the Southwest.

“We like to say expect the unexpected,” said artistic director at Hyde Park Theater Ken Webster.

Webster’s been with FronteraFest from the first year.

“It's a great combination of old, established people in the arts scene and people who are brand new to the scene,” he explained. “Audiences can see people who have been around forever, who've won lots of awards, written lots of plays, performed in lots of plays and exciting brand new talent.”

FronteraFest is where many theater companies, actors, directors and writers get their start.

“Just about anybody who's been in Austin for the last five, 10, 15 years has probably done a FronteraFest piece,” said Webster.

The pieces are unique.

“Some will be amazing. Some will just have you scratch your head,” said Webster.
The works are never screened. Anyone who signs up to participate at FronteraFest can perform whatever style of show they want, from drama to dance and improv.

“Just the feel of the fest sort of drew us in,” said Pete Betcher, member of The Back Pack theater production group.

Betcher and his small theater company are performing at FronteraFest for the second year in a row.

“We've been looking forward to this since we ended last year it was like 'What are we going to do next?'” said his partner, Katie Kohler.

The group is new to Austin. They all recently moved from Montana.

“We didn't have any expectations, but it was so much fun and we met so many cool people, our work was really well received,” explained Kohler.

The fest has opened new doors for their company and the entire austin art scene. In the years since FronteraFest began, the number of shows has more than doubled from just three weeks to now five weeks. The Hyde Park Theater has also taken on a new look. What were once coffee can lights are now professional grids. The seating is upgraded. There's now a dressing room and an updated director’s booth.

The booth is littered with memories. Scrawled on the walls and ceilings are favorite lines from past shows and features at FronteraFest.

FronteraFest 2014 will run from Tuesday, Jan. 14 to Saturday, Feb. 15. Go here for more information.