Mini-Fringe Festival to spice up Women's Expo

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Rosanna Tufts poses for a portrait in a Cinderella costume at the Barn Theater on the Catonsville campus of the Community College of Baltimore County. The Catonsville resident is coordinator of theater programing, for the annual Women's Expo on the school's campus this weekend.

For the past 10 years, the annual CCBC Women's Expo has attracted 1,200 to 1,500 people per day for a weekend of motivational speakers, workshops and booths for and by women.

This year, organizers want to give the number a boost.


"We've been pretty consistent," said Patsy Anderson, on the steady stream of visitors who come to the Catonsville campus of the Community College of Baltimore County for the workshops, speakers and more than 100 booths showcasing companies run by and for women.

"What would be better would be for the numbers to go up," said Anderson, a Catonsville resident who has organized each of the previous 10 events. "But we haven't figured that out yet."


This year's expo, which runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 10 and 11, has expanded its horizons.

For the first time, the event will feature a series of eight 45- to 60-minute performances collectively known as the Mini-Fringe Festival.

Catonsville resident Rosanna Tufts modeled her event after the Capital Fringe Festival, a 6-year-old annual performing arts platform inWashington, D.C.

The style of the Capital Fringe Festival appealed to Tufts, she said, because it gives performers an opportunity to perform original work.

"It's going to add a whole new dimension to the concept of women in business by bringing in performers," Tufts said, noting the performances will also appeal to men. "In order to be a performer, you need to be an entrepreneur these days."

Tufts, a motivational speaker and musician, said performers must have some business acumen in order to promote themselves and find gigs.

Among the eight acts of plays and rock, country and a cappella music, seven are original works, Tufts said.

The exception is a performance of "Cendrillon" by the Baltimore Vocal Arts Foundation. Tufts selected that performance for the festival, she said, because a woman composed it.


Concluding the two-day festival, Tufts will perform portions of her rock opera "The Passion of Persephone."

Just as the Women's Expo supports women in business and helps them make connections that facilitate the growth of their business, the Mini-Fringe Festival will do the same thing for the performers, Anderson said.

A newly formed country pop duo, "The Menopause Outlaws," will perform together for the first time at 4 p.m. on March 10, the festival's closing act on the first day.

Belinda Huesman, of Pasadena, and Sherry Lanzino, of Severna Park, are both experienced musicians in their 50s and formed the group to inspire women.

Huesman said that women often put their dreams on the back burner as they raise a family.

"Our focus is to inspire women to be the best version of themselves and have a second act," Huesman said. "That's who we want to talk to and say, 'It's not too late to get back to singing or painting or whatever your outlet was.' "


Anderson noted that many of the performers, including the Menopause Outlaws, will participate in the Women's Expo as exhibitors.

"What our system says is that they're the contributors. They're the ones that are paying into the system," Anderson said. "They're the ones who should be on stage."

Tufts noted that she hopes to sell out the Barn Theater, which she said has about 75 seats, for each of the performances.

"We want to make it an annual thing," Tufts said. "For now, it's something of an experiment."

Anderson said it likely will take at least a year for the festival to sell out all its shows but added she thinks it is possible.

"If she does it year after year, she'll be successful," Anderson said. "Hopefully, she'll be successful. I think it's really cool."


Representatives from the CCBC Enterprise Institute, which took over sponsorship of the expo last year, will also be at the event. Proceeds from the expo help fund scholarships for the institute's award fund.

The school's admissions department, health professions, psychology club, entrepreneurs will also be represented this weekend.