Fringing Out with Oahu Fringe

Written by: Ashley Onzuka, HNL Flow writer

Misa Tupou, the man behind Oahu Fringe, which opens up February 12 through February 15. Photo by Nicole Tessier.

The Oahu Fringe Festival is an arts and music festival held annually in Chinatown. Slam poets, burlesque dancers, and other underground artists gather for three days – three days that celebrate Honolulu’s distinctive arts scene. I got to sit down and talk to Misa Tupou, the man behind the Fringe Festival, and discuss not only what the Fringe Festival is, but also what it stands for.

Ashley Onzuka: For those who don’t know what a Fringe Festival is, can you explain to us what it is?

Misa Tupou: The Fringe Festival is a performing arts festival. We accept anyone with an act. So if you have stuff that’s in theatre, music, dance, anything that’s performative…You can participate. The origin set way back in Scotland. There was this art festival and people were not invited, some local artist were not invited and so these artist decided to create their own festival. So if someone says no to you, you don’t take that as the end. Rather you see that as an opportunity. So these artist decided to create their own festival and that was the beginning of the fringe festival. And how the word fringe became associated with all of this was, there was a writer, he coined this whole concept. When he went looking through all these events happening around the fringes of the town, that word fringe immediately was adopted by all these artist. What is tells me, is that the fringe festival can be anything you want it to be and that you’re not restricted. Often times if you want to go to a festival, you have to be invited. Rather in a fringe festival, if you want to be in it, YOU submit your application. And that’s what I love about the events that are open to everyone. This is our fourth year in Hawaii, so I’m excited.

AO: What is the purpose of the Fringe Festival?

MT: For me, creating a platform for the artist to showcase their work. That to me is very important. You can tell people what you are doing, you can tell them who you are. Because when people see your work, you start to form a relationship and I feel that’s very important for an artist. You’re not just going into one place and doing your work and then you leave. But having something consistent and people see you, and they see your passion, I think that creates the community feel. So I would say the purpose of putting on the Fringe Festival is to showcase to your community that we do have talented people here, and we do also welcome artist from places in the world that have come to Hawaii, so that’s exciting. It’s just about community awareness and showing what you have.

AO: What does each show offer? Or what can we expect from it?

MT: Expect the unexpected. Because we have such a big variety of acts, I don’t want to tell the audience what to expect because expect the unexpected…But just be open on what you’re about to go and see. From theatre you can move on to see a dance show, from the dance show you can move on and see an aereo arts performance, you can go in to see a circus clown act. So having a variety spices things up.

AO: What is your favorite part about bringing in new artists?

MT: I just love the community feel and the community energy. And seeing artist share their stories. Being able to show the community what you have, I feel every artist should be proud of what they have and to be able to share that with the community, to me is one of the most exciting things about putting on a festival. Just for me, being involved in a performing arts festival is exciting, I find that exciting. I wish we lived in a world where everyday was a festival.

AO: What is the passion or vibe you feel throughout all the artist/performers you have?

MT: It has to be excitement and dedication. An example of that is, these artist continuously communicate with me (by email) and most of the time they say “We’re very excited to be apart of this,” as they sign off. That, to me, is very genuine and it helps because I don’t see the artist until the day of the festival, so I talk to them only online and sometimes on the phone, so I have not yet seen their performance. So to have them sign off and say they’re excited to be apart of this or looking forward to it, that’s what gets it. For the artist, the excitement is what drives them.

AO: Why is performing arts such an important part of your life?

MT: I’ll tell a story. One day, my co-worker asked me to do a little acting, and my co-worker had some friends involved in the theatre production and I nonchalantly said “Oh sure, why not?” As soon as I stepped in, as soon as I got involved with it, I knew straight away that this was something I wanted to be a part of. One way I was so sure was, at the time I was playing rugby because I grew up in New Zealand. I was an average player but really enjoyed sports. Then I decided I’m going to stop playing rugby because the time and commitment you must have for the performing arts is huge. So I couldn’t do both. In the beginning I did both, I would play rugby and then dash to the theater. But I realized that the performing arts became home for me. And it’s still a home. Sometimes, when it’s hits you, you just know. I know this is it.

AO: Define the “fringe spirit” (website: having a go and creating something new for their audiences).

MT: As an artist you shouldn’t sit and rest on your butt and say “Oh yeah, I succeeded” or “Yeah, I’ve done it all.” For me, the fringe spirit is all about just saying, “Okay I’m done with this, I’m going to get out there and do something. I’m going to get out there and change the world. Why not?” One should always challenge themselves. Having the fringe spirit is about having a goal and doing it. Not being held down by any restriction. Not being afraid to challenge yourself and challenge your community. Being selfless is good and we as humans understand safety, and we need to have that. But you should also think about jumping out of your box and challenging yourself because life, to me, is far more interesting when you have that give-it-a-go attitude.

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