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Four-day event offers a smorgasbord of performing arts
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
During my talk with Jason Markzon, one of the organizers of the Fort Wayne Fringe Fest, I’m trying to avoid using the word “eclectic” to describe the line-up of festival performers.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with the word, and it’s certainly accurate enough to describe a performing arts festival that includes a percussion group from Ann Arbor, a tap dancing troupe from Chicago, and a one-act comedy play from Atlanta, just to name a few. There are also a handful of Fort Wayne artists like musician Hope Arthur and dance company dAnce.Kontemporary in the mix. Oh, and there’s a fire troupe, too…
…so when it comes to Fringe Fest, there’s something too “stiff pinkie finger” about the word eclectic, too evocative of china cups and cozies to capture the spirit of the event. So I try a few synonym(ish) words and phrases as substitutes, like “diverse” and “…a wide array of genres…” and “a collage,” before finally giving up and stealing a phrase I’ve heard before — it’s a performing arts smorgasbord.
“Well, the line-up is eclectic,” Markzon says. “That’s the point.”
He adds: “I’d say the Fringe Fest is a celebration of performing arts and an opportunity to experience a whole range of performance in one location, and it’s an opportunity for independent performers to present their art.”
So, Fort Wayne Fringe is a four day festival, with 10 acts, some from Fort Wayne, others from Chicago, Atlanta, and Ann Arbor. Each act performs twice during the event for a total of 20 performances. The festival runs from Thursday, January 31 through Sunday, February 3 at Wunderkammer Company, 3402 Fairfield Avenue. There are two stages at the venue, and all the performances are relatively short (see shcdule below).
Markzon and Fort Wayne singer/songwriter Fernando Tarango began kicking around the idea for a Fringe Festival in Fort Wayne about a year ago, inspired by “Fringes” they had seen in other cities. Markzon remembers seeing the Philly Fest in Philadelphia several years ago (he moved to Fort Wayne five years ago to take up the principal percussionist spot on the Fort Wayne Philharmonic) and was impressed with the event and the overall quality of the performances.
The name “Fringe” serves as sort of a loose brand for these types of events — the concept originated with the first Edinburgh Fringe Festival, back in the 40s — but the name isn’t as much a franchise as it is a network.
Markzon and Tarango reached out to other Fringe organizers for advice — the directors of the Indianapolis Fringe even hooked them up with Lawrence Brown and Tara Cantrell, two former organizers of the Indy event who now lived in Fort Wayne — and eventually got together with Dan Swartz, director of Wunderkammer Company (and FWR’s arts columnist) who agreed to help them out with a venue and other logistic issues. “It’s a natural fit for Wunderkammer Company, given our mission of revitalizing communities through contemporary arts,” Swartz says. “It’s also a great way to stir things up in the performance communities and cross pollinate our city's many performance-based audiences."
Andy Mobley and Brian Lewis, who designed the poster, are also a part of the organizing team.
Markzon explains that while there aren’t a lot of “rules” to putting together a Fringe Fest line-up, there are some general guidelines. “There are two main principals of most ‘Fringes,’ definitely ours,” he says. “The first is that the performers are un-juried. For Fort Wayne Fringe, we asked for applications, and then chose performers based on a lottery system. The second is that they’re uncensored, in that we don’t tell them what to perform.”
And for the Fort Wayne Fringe, there was a third guideline — the show had to be a premier in Fort Wayne.
While no two performers in Fort Wayne Fringe are exactly alike, the “Fringe” name attracts a certain type of performer, usually independent and sometimes (but not always) experimental. The Traveling Tap Dance Super Show from Chicago is, like the name says, a tap dance troupe that takes its cue from jazz-age variety shows. “We do a little sketch comedy, a little original music, we have characters, but it’s all focused around tap dance,” says Tristin Bruns, the group’s director.
“For what we do, it’s all about creating your own opportunities,” he says. “We have to find creative ways to get out there, and a Fringe Fest event like this is all about taking it to the audience, making it more accessible.”
Amina McIntyre is an Atlanta-based playwright whose work has been produced in several different venues, including a few “Fringe Fests.” Her one-act comedy All Is Fair in Jewels and Dresses will be part of the Fort Wayne Fringe. “I tell people it’s like Spy vs. Spy, but lady-style,” she says of the piece.
“Fringe events are great opportunity for artists who are typically independent, or newcomers, to perform, show their work, and find an audience,” she adds.
Plus, the Fort Wayne Fringe event is also a good deal for a struggling artist — thanks to a small grant from the Charlie Cunningham Foundation and some generous donations, 100% of the ticket revenue goes directly to the performer. “They’re the artist, and we like to support them as much as we can,” says Markzon.
“We wanted to try to give as much respect to the performers as possible, so anyone attending is really supporting the individual artists themselves, not the concert hall like most other performances,” adds Swartz.
Though Markzon and Tarango are musicians, neither one of them are performing at Fort Wayne Fringe. For his part, Markzon says he’s eager to see the shows. “The out-of-town performers we haven’t met yet,” he says. “We’ve done a little research, but I’m looking forward to seeing their performances as much as the audience.”
Fort Wayne Fringe
January 31 – February 3
3402 Fairfield Ave
Drinks by Club Soda
Food by Food Truck
Tickets available in person at Wunderkammer Company and the Downtown Deli
Or online at fwfringe.org
Showtimes and directions also available at fwfringe.org
Thursday, January 31, 2013
8:45pm The Hand Inside You
10:00pm The Hope Arthur Orchestra
Friday, February 1, 2013
7:00pm Identity Cubed
8:15pm The Hand Inside You
9:30pm All’s Fair In Jewels and Dresses
Saturday, February 2, 2013
2:00pm All’s Fair In Jewels and Dresses
3:15pm Hunting for Mushrooms
4:30pm Identity Cubed
5:45pm The Travelling Tap Dance Super Show
7:00pm Pyroscope Entertainment
9:30pm O.G. Productions
Sunday, February 3, 2013
12:45pm The Travelling Tap Dance Super Show
2:00pm O.G. Productions
3:15pm Hunting for Mushrooms
7:00pm Pyroscope Entertainment
8:15pm The Hope Arthur Orchestra