Mil­wau­kee Fringe Fes­ti­val re­turns Aug. 25–26

Wisconsin Gazette - - Opinion - By Michael Muck­ian Con­tribut­ing writer

Cut­ting-edge Mil­wau­kee per­for­mance artists and the com­mu­nity that sup­ports them will con­vene Aug. 25–26 for the third an­nual Mil­wau­kee Fringe Fes­ti­val.

The lineup of dancers, ac­tors, mu­si­cians, pup­peteers and ev­ery­thing in be­tween has never been fringier. But the over­all goal re­mains to en­ter­tain, ed­u­cate and en­lighten au­di­ences, says Eric En­gel­bart, the fes­ti­val’s di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions.

“We’ve been able to draw on a big­ger pool of tal­ent, both here at home and from other cities,” says En­gel­bart, a lo­cal film­maker and au­thor. “The fes­ti­val’s scope is grow­ing and the qual­ity of per­for­mances is get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter.”

The 30-plus per­for­mances will take place in the­aters and per­for­mance spa­ces in­side and out­side the Marcus Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts. Or­ga­niz­ers aban­doned their prior de­pen­dence strictly on out­door mu­si­cal con­certs to ac­com­mo­date a more eclec­tic sched­ule.

The 2016 fes­ti­val, which in­cluded 20 lo­cal bands per­form­ing at Pere Mar­quette Park, may have been too am­bi­tious, En­gel­bart ac­knowl­edged. The band per­for­mances, com­bined with per­for­mances at the Marcus Cen­ter, at­tracted 1,300 at­ten­dees, roughly half of whom showed up for the mu­sic.

In 2017, the fes­ti­val was pared back, elim­i­nat­ing the bands. It at­tracted about 700 at­ten­dees over two days.

Or­ga­niz­ers hope to in­crease that num­ber this year by of­fer­ing more di­verse pro­gram­ming in a more con­cen­trated space.

“We have more the­ater, more dance and less mu­sic than the first year,” En­gel­bart says. “We (still) have tra­di­tional bands and string quar­tets, so I feel our pro­gram­ming is bet­ter bal­anced than it has been in the past.”

THIS YEAR’S MOST UN­USUAL ACT

En­gel­bart says co­me­dian Tyler An­thony Smith’s R-rated per­for­mance is of Mein Comps, de­scribed as a gay fan­ta­sia about a cer­tain dic­ta­tor sell­ing dis­counted the­ater tick­ets.

Smith will per­form at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 25 in the Todd Wehr The­ater.

“His one-man Hitler show is pretty funny, but it’s prob­a­bly not one you’d want to bring the kids to,” En­gel­bart says.

WiG asked En­gel­bart and Fringe Fes­ti­val board mem­bers John Schneider and Se­lena Milewski to choose their must-see fa­vorites from this year’s lineup.

ERIC EN­GEL­BART

Pius XI High School’s Only We Know Best (Aug. 25, 1 p.m., Vo­gel Hall): The lo­cal Catholic high school’s show, staged in the form of a town-hall meet­ing, is a witty and in­ci­sive look at the modern po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment.

Michael Luc­ch­esi’s The Fall 1959 (Aug. 25, 1 p.m., Todd Wehr The­ater): A staged read­ing of Luc­ch­esi’s sec­ond show, the per­for­mance is a poignant pe­riod piece that cen­ters on the dis­so­lu­tion of a mar­riage over the course of an af­ter­noon filled with re­vealed se­crets.

Dream City Strings’ Un­wound (Aug. 25, 2:15 p.m., Todd Wehr The­ater): This string quar­tet per­forms mu­si­cal com­po­si­tions in bound­ary-push­ing fash­ion — ev­ery­thing from Led Zep­pelin to Vi­jay Iyer.

SE­LENA MILEWSKI

John Schneider’s WHERE OR WHEN: The Life and Songs of Lorenz Hart (Aug. 25, 3:45 p.m., Todd Wehr The­ater): Mar­quette Uni­ver­sity the­ater pro­fes­sor and The­ater X vet­eran John Schneider unites his dual pas­sions for the­ater and the Great Amer­i­can song­book. Lyri­cist Lorenz Hart, a pi­o­neer of Amer­i­can song­writ­ing, was a gay man liv­ing in a cul­ture that made him nei­ther safe nor wel­come. His story is tragic but in­spi­ra­tional. Mas­ter pi­anist Con­nie Grauer of Mrs. Fun ac­com­pa­nies Schneider.

In­de­pen­dent Eye’s Sur­vival (Aug. 25, 6 p.m., Todd Wehr The­ater): Given their strong ties to Mil­wau­kee’s ex­per­i­men­tal the­ater move­ment, In­de­pen­dent Eye coartis­tic di­rec­tors Con­rad Bishop and El­iz­a­beth Fuller — The­ater X veter­ans now based in Se­bastopol, Cal­i­for­nia — are sure to be an in­cred­i­ble ad­di­tion to this year’s fes­ti­val. Sur­vival fea­tures Fuller in a fas­ci­nat­ing dual role she de­scribes as “two halves of her­self,” one of them an “in­ner clown.”

An­gry Young Men’s Full Frontal Pup­petry (Aug. 25, 9 p.m., Vo­gel Hall): This unique pup­pet col­lec­tive has been en­ter­tain­ing Mil­wau­kee since 2007 with wacky, wild and even grue­some an­tics. Sim­i­lar in style and voice to Jim Hen­son’s Muppets, the An­gry Young Men’s pup­pets are dis­tinct for their adult hu­mor and ex­ag­ger­ated satire. This one is not for kids.

JOHN SCHNEIDER

Catey Ott Dance Col­lec­tive’s Ef­fer­ves­cent (Aug. 25, 3:45 p.m., Vo­gel Hall): World-pre­miere modern dance works in­spired by the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion at the Hag­gerty Mu­seum of Art at Mar­quette Uni­ver­sity and per­formed to the mu­sic of Louis Vierne and Brook­lyn com­posers Bora Yoon and Randall Woolf. The per­for­mance’s sub­ject is the need for pos­i­tive en­ergy when the coun­try is in chaos.

SueMo: A Dance Ex­pe­ri­ence’s New Works (Aug. 26, 3:30 p.m., Vo­gel Hall): This is a world pre­miere of con­tem­po­rary dance works by Melissa Sue An­der­son and Mor­gan “Mo” Wil­liams’ sen­sa­tional Mil­wau­kee-based reper­tory com­pany. Their work blends bal­let, modern and ur­ban dance styles, with dancers well trained in all­ndis­ci­plines.

Chad Piechocki and DIY Cham­ber Mu­sic’s Valen­tine 4: Happy, Hap­pier, Hap­pi­ness (Aug. 26, 4:30 p.m., Todd Wehr The­ater): This is a world pre­miere from Piechocki, a highly orig­i­nal per­for­mance artist. He gathers ex­cel­lent co-per­form­ers and co-cre­ates strange and stir­ring mul­tidis­ci­plinary shows. The DIY trio of Lau­ren Finn (harp), Olivia Dobbs (flute) and Mag­gie Iken (bass) will per­form the mu­sic of Mil­wau­kee com­posers Joshua Backes, Erik John­son and Riles Walsh.

SueMo: Aug. 26, 3:30 p.m., at Vo­gel Hall.per­forms

Tyler An­thony Smith por­trays Hitler as a dis­count ticket seller Aug. 25, 7:30 p.m. in the Todd Wehr The­ater.

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