Saturday, October 10, 2009

Why We Are Making a Fringe For Chicago

The argument can be made that a Fringe is unnecessary in Chicago. After all, aren't there plenty performance opportunities? Isn't the viable audience for theatre bombarded with opportunities to see a plethora of fringe companies? Isn't a Fringe just another example of over saturation? Hasn't Chicago tried to have a so titled "Fringe" festival before and failed?

These are questions we wrestle with. In coming up with a vision for the Chicago Fringe Festival, it was absolutely crucial that we answer these questions not only for the community but for ourselves. After all, why torture ourselves trying to produce something that isn't needed? That we don't truly want?

I believe that the key component of our vision that makes this festival necessary is the idea of facilitating a dialogue between diverse groups of performers and patrons. The diversity of the festival will be a multi-faceted affair. We will have geographic diversity by encouraging travelling artists from the U.S. and the world to perform in Chicago. Perhaps more importantly, we will encourage diverse artists from around Chicago itself to participate - the full array of race, of gender, of geography, of ability, of language. It is vital that we engage a full plumage of different artists within our city. It is essential that we break the traditional boundaries and engage with each other's work, despite which bus it takes to get there. Fear of the unknown has haunted our community for far too long. The Fringe movement defies that fear. The Fringe movement defies that fear as laziness.

This leads into my second point. Fringe will be a targeted set of days that are dedicated to the sheer voluminous production of a mass amount of diverse material. Hundreds of performance artists will converge in the Pilsen neighborhood from September 1 - 5th, 2010. Some will meet new friends. Some will be profoundly affected by a piece they see. Some will come to view a friend's show and end up seeing four other companies they'd have rare opportunities to catch, in part because they are so busy producing their own work. Additionally, some theatre patrons will take a chance on a company they've never heard of in traditional media. The Chicago Fringe Festival will be an opportunity to take a targeted risk. It easy enough to come to the conclusion as an artist or a patron that you'd like to engage with diverse performances. It's another thing entirely to try to balance that desire with modern life - a job, kids, commuting, desperately trying to hawk your own show, etc. Fringe provides the opportunity to spend a day wandering a few city blocks and take in as much performance as you can stand.

Our commitment to annually rotate the festival into an underrepresented neighborhood also serves a need. A large part of the theatre produced in Chicago takes place in the Loop and on the Northside. Awareness must be spread to the artists working on the West and South sides. We are producing the 2010 festival in the Pilsen neighborhood around 18th and Halsted streets to high light the work being done there and also to bring foot traffic to a truly exciting Arts District.

We continually meet new people who challenge us and ask important questions. Please - talk to us. Comment here. Write me at mikayla{at} Tweet us - Facebook us. We are producing Chicago Fringe for Chicago and need your thoughts. Nothing great was ever born without dissent.

To that end, please consider joining us at the Skylark Bar at 2149 S. Halsted on Tuesday, October 20th at 7 p.m. for our third Meet N Greet. As with the other meetings, we will have a conversation that answers existing questions about the festival, and also poses new ones that must be addressed.

Spread the word - Chicago Fringe is coming to Pilsen in September 2010.


  1. Hey, a quick question: if the Fringe is happening at the very beginning of September, when would you expect most participants to begin really rehearsing their shows? I'm just looking at scheduling with other summer theatre commitments, seeing what might fit. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR WORK!

  2. Participants would find out if they were selected about 6 months from the fest - so around March 2010. As for length of rehearsals - really depends on the piece! Hope that helps.

  3. How good it is that effort is being made to bring the Chicago fringe to wider attention. In these times I think all attempts to increase attention upon one-another beats any competition. I wonder if it would be helpful to consider cross promoting with "The Rhinocerous Theater Festival" Chicago's 21 year old fringe theater festival, which will be performing in the coming year January 22 - February 14, 2010.
    In case you aren't familiar here some previous press about this:

  4. Hi Stefan, nice to meet you. Yes, we have a relationship with Rhino Fest - had some coffee with the organizer and hoping to some cross promo :) They are truly great.