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Milwaukee Fringe Festival Returns for a Genre-Bending Arts Event

Aug. 22, 2017
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Illustration by Jean-Gabriel Fernandez

Milwaukee’s own Fringe Festival is back for its second edition. The two-day multi-disciplinary performance and visual art festival will swing the spotlight onto local artists of all kinds, proving once again that Milwaukee’s art scene is uniquely gifted.

“I can’t think of any other event where you can see such an amount of work over the course of a weekend,” says one of the event’s organizers, Shepherd Express assistant A&E editor and Marquette theater instructor John Schneider. “You can see music, theater, dance, diverse performances back to back to back.”

Do you want to see a modern dance performance on a staircase? This year’s Fringe Festival has it. Are you curious how a poet can capture your essence in words using only a typewriter and her wit? You guessed it, the Fringe Festival is the place to be. Many of last year’s artists are returning, alongside new talents, to bring Milwaukee audiences more than 25 live acts to enjoy over the weekend.

Milwaukee’s Fringe Festival was born when founding members Karen Raymond and Katie Rhyme went to the Minneapolis Fringe Festival. “It is huge compared to ours,” Raymond explains. “It lasts 11 days in so many theaters throughout the city. It was so much fun! We thought ‘Milwaukee needs this!’” So Milwaukee got it, through the hard work of the team working on the project.

“Last summer was a huge artistic success. There was no way not to continue it,” Schneider says. “It was just what Milwaukee needed, but it was too expensive.” The 2017 edition will be less spread out, more focused. Unlike last year’s edition, the festival will be limited to the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts and will not spread to the neighboring Pere Marquette Park. The organization has also been fine-tuned to give audiences the best possible experience; starting times are scheduled so that people can see the greatest number of shows and also enjoy some time off to wander between events.

The event will take place Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 26-27 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Ticketed shows will take place in the Wilson Theater at Vogel Hall and the Todd Wehr Theater. There will also be free performances in the outdoor Peck Pavilion and the grounds of the Marcus Center.


2017 Lineup

After being transformed into a female of a different race and talking to dinosaurs with keen dance moves, time-traveling adventurer Valentine has to find a way to fix his travel device to go back to the present. That is the plot of the Fringe Festival’s opening play, Version 3 of Valentine The Physics of Time Travel, An Act of Transgenracialization, presented by The Battery Factory. Self-described as “an organic theatrical experiment,” the play will kick off the festivities in the Todd Wehr Theater, on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Other artists are nothing to sneeze at either. The Fringe managed to attract more than its share of talents. “We have artists who come from Minneapolis, others who come from Chicago,” Raymond says.

Minneapolis’ Bollywood Dance Scene has been a favorite at that city’s Fringe Fest. Their performance, Love You Zindagi, along with Minneapolis Ballet Dancers’ highly acclaimed Ambiance, will be part of this year’s Milwaukee Fringe Fest. Also from out of state is Chicago’s Salty Lark Dance, presenting Parachutes in Our Pockets, a modern dance performance about voyage and navigation.

Among locally based artists, creativity is plentiful. Audiences may enjoy the comedic genius of the Angry Young Men puppeteers, for instance. They may also take a moment to look at the performance of Project Non-Violence, a group that works with inner city youth. The kids come up with the script, so adults get to understand teenagers’ perspectives.

More importantly, the public will be able to transcend artistic boundaries between disciplines and genres. If you are into dance shows and go see them around the city, maybe you don’t have the chance to look into theater. If you love music, maybe you don’t know all that much about visual art. Those barriers are what the Fringe intends to kick down. Montauk Project represents that ideal, by mixing music and dance into a one-of-a-kind performance.

Performances and artists are far too numerous to all be named here, although they all deserve it. Thankfully, audiences confused by this amazing blizzard of options may enjoy the outdoor performances of roving artists—whose creativity is not restrained by time or by a stage—at their leisure. A simple tip: Look carefully at statues, one of them could be Alice Wilson! The famous living statue performer is back—but nobody knows what she’ll look like for this year’s Fringe, so keep an eye out!

For tickets, more information and a complete list of performers, visit mkefringe.com.


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