Milwaukee Fringe Festival returns Aug. 25–26
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.
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.
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.
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.