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Second Annual Fringe Festival Would Have Made Even Paris Proud

Aug. 29, 2017
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A wide variety of genres and talents were brought together by Milwaukee’s second annual Fringe Festival, creating a magical weekend full of artistic wonders. As a Frenchman, I am no stranger to culture, but I wish Paris had what I had the privilege to witness at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. With more than 20 shows over the course of two days, including dance, music, theater, writing and even puppeteering, the Fringe Festival was everything I was hoping to see. The Marcus Center’s Vogel Hall, Todd Wehr Theater and Peck Pavilion were barely enough to contain the explosion of talents brought forth.

Setting the tone, the festival started with Valentine 3: Etymology (and a comedy), a deliciously absurd theater experiment devised by members of The Battery Factory. “I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order,” poet Wisława Szymborska wrote. Following in her tracks, the actors of Valentine 3 offered the public a surprising mix of dance, acting and music while constantly breaking the fourth wall. Renowned New Orleans pianist Davell Crawford wrapped up the piece with songs as beautiful as they were unexpected.

The first day of the festival went on with performances centered around dance and theater. Parachutes in Our Pockets, from Chicago’s Salty Lark Dance, offered a breezy, airy modern dance performance, accompanied by the melancholic recordings of Belgian singer Jacques Brel (1929-1978). A few meters away, Minneapolis Ballet Dancers were offering a more traditional, but no less breathtaking spectacle.

“This festival can actually help somehow those who need help right now,” founding member John Schneider said. I could only agree with him as I saw, wide-eyed, Love you Zindagi, by Minneapolis’ Bollywood Dance Scene, whose catchy music made you itch to jump out of your seat and dance along with the artists. While the story of Aisha, uprooted and battling with depression, was interspersed with songs in the purest Bollywood fashion, the troupe also spiked the dancing segments with flamenco and even tap-dancing.

After a mix of performances from artists too numerous to name, the day ended with two excellent shows. In one venue, people could see Fruition of a Delusion, Cooperative Performance’s take on the energy crisis and a musical play bringing together dead scientists and a stuffed cat mounted on a remote-controlled car. In another, Angry Young Men’s puppeteers were performing the irreverent and hilarious Full Frontal Puppetry, starring undead puppets, adorable monsters and singer Molly Roberts from local band Tigernite.

The second day’s performances were no less interesting, such as Selena Milewski’s poignant movement piece, The Dance of Moons and Buckets, and a subsequent dance show by Lake Arts Project. Outside, the tempo was set by the virtuosic music coming from Peck Pavilion as played by the Maya No Maya Trio, Gabriel Harris Group and saxophonist Nick Zoulek. The music only stopped long enough for Summit Players Theater actors to perform a particularly enjoyable Comedy of Errors.

While listening to music, audiences could admire roving artists like local dancer Kristin Reidelberger or stop by writer Anja Notanja Sieger’s booth. The author, old-fashioned typewriter at her fingertips, would create a letter that reached down into your very soul—pouring forth a true reflection of your personality and feelings, whether you asked for a sweet love letter, a letter of playful insults or even a letter to your pet.

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