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East End Fringe Festival draws artists to Riverhead

Debbie Slevin, left, Bob Barta, Jim Kingston and

Debbie Slevin, left, Bob Barta, Jim Kingston and Cindy Clifford prepare for the East End Fringe Festival. Credit: Miranda Gatewood

When Debbie Slevin walked into Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in 2012 for the first time, she says, the historic venue spoke to her.

“It said: Fill me with theater,” Slevin says. “All I wanted to do was fill it up with performance, music and creative people.”

It took a few years, but Slevin, who has produced theater for 25 years, will do just that beginning July 26.

Slevin partnered with local voiceover artist Cindy Clifford to produce the East End Fringe Festival, which runs through Aug. 6 at the Riverhead music hall, featuring local performers and playwrights, and students from Hofstra University.

“The shows are simply done, presented in what I like to call guerrilla fashion — one right after the other, pared down with minimal sets,” Slevin says. “Each fringe festival has their own particular personality.”

Long Island’s includes a New Orleans-inspired jazz brunch at Dark Horse Restaurant in Riverhead (July 30) and poetry from two Suffolk County poets laureate (Aug. 1).


Fringe festivals are held all over the country and around the globe. The grass-roots theater event began in Edinburgh, Scotland, more than 50 years ago.

The East End’s inaugural event features writers and performers from the North Fork, Southampton and Westhampton. Guest poets were also selected by submission.

Susan Dingle and Maggie Bloomfield are among the headlining playwrights. The women, who are both poets and therapists, will perform their play, “Break Out!,” which takes a funny but poignant approach to their firsthand experiences with addiction and recovery. Bloomfield and Dingle are in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction.

“Our idea was that creative writing makes it possible for people to access well-being and to enhance and strengthen their recoveries,” Dingle says.

Each of the Fringe plays is being produced and cast separately.

“Those actors are all either professional, experienced New York regional actors or theater students,” says Clifford, the festival’s production director.

The lone exception is the TheaterExpress series of shorts that is being performed Thursday, July 27, at Riverhead’s Alive on 25 street festival by a troupe of East End actors. The shows vary in length from 40 to 90 minutes.

“That’s the beauty of Fringe: We are able to present good theater at reasonable prices because we do not offer grand production elements,” Slevin says. “Fringe theater is different in that way, that we are taking a chance on new projects that are still in their developmental stage.”


Clifford and Slevin say the motivation behind this event is not only for people to enjoy themselves and be well-entertained but to recognize the East End as an incubator for culture. Fringe theater is different from the East End’s big theaters that bring in well-known properties that already have a following.

“We want to lure local audiences to support our artists,” Slevin says. “It’s an opportunity to be in on the ground floor of great theater that will grow and develop into properties that can then move on to the broader public.”

East End Fringe Festival

WHEN | WHERE July 26-Aug. 6 at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, Riverhead and other participating venues.

INFO 631-241-6402,



5, 6:15, 7:30 and 8:45 p.m. Thursday, July 27, at Riverhead’s Alive on 25 street fair


New Orleans Jazz Brunch

11 a.m.-1 p.m. July 30 at Dark Horse Restaurant, 1 E. Main St., Riverhead

COST $45

Project Poetry

7 p.m. Aug. 1 at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, Riverhead

COST $10

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