In 1947, eight theatre companies showed up to the Edinburgh International Festival uninvited and performed for the crowds. In 2010, one liberal arts college was invited to participate in the Intercollegiate Theatre Festival in Scotland. From both of these was born a theatre festival that found itself on the fringe.

The Scotland Fringe Festival has now become the largest theatre festival in the world. For one month out of the summer every nook, cranny, apartment, hotel lobby and sidewalk in Edinburgh, Scotland becomes a venue for any actor, dancer, juggler or street performer to call their own.

In 2011, the Fringe Festival showcased over 2,500 shows including “The Cottonpatch Gospel,” a southern retelling of the story of Jesus Christ presented by the students, faculty, friends and alumni of Gannon University. To get into the spirit of the Fringe, members of the Schuster Theatre got together that spring to put on their own “mini” Fringe.

The idea was simple. There are four main stage-shows every year, why not take two weeks after spring break and try smaller, more adventurous pieces. But to pull off something this big, all hands had to be on deck. Suddenly, students and alumni were asked to act, direct, design and even create. At the end of the day, the very first Fringe Fest Erie was a success, and a new tradition began.

This March, Gannon University’s Schuster Theatre continues the tradition with assistance from other theatre companies in the area: Dramashop and All-An-Act Theatre Productions. From March 3-30, 10 productions will descend across Erie, including the annual Clemente Fundraiser, student directed pieces and open forums about stereotypes and original creations. Each production could easily take an entire crew in a large proscenium theatre, but instead opts for small casts and intimate venues like the Courtyard Café and Waldron 219.

The fourth annual Fringe Fest Erie is a testament to the ability of the theatre department to work together and pull off a massive undertaking. All the proceeds go toward the group of students who are taking the fall 2013 production of “Whimsical Grimm” to Scotland for this summer’s Fringe Festival.