New acts, more artists add depth, variety to Elgin Fringe Festival
Variety and creativity are the hallmarks of the Elgin Fringe Festival, which runs Thursday, Sept. 15, through Sunday, Sept. 18, in Elgin's downtown district, featuring dance, music, theater, and visual arts.
Now in its third year, this year's festival features more artists due to a change of policy within the organization, according to Erin Rehberg, artistic director and co-founder of EFF.
"In years past you had to do four performances and pay the production cost. This year we offered one, two, three, and four performances," she said. "There are artists that are coming from all over who are doing one or two performances because that's what fits in their schedule, which increases the number and variety of performances we have."
Nearly 200 people will present 120 performances, the most in EFF history, in a wide variety of genres, from the hard-to-define to Imaginez Ensemblez -- a Cirque-inspired aerial show -- to storyteller and Broadway musical performer David Boyle.
Boyle, who lives in Chicago, will offer two shows, a Friday night performance of Broadway music and a three-night storytelling of his experiences growing up.
"I'm singing songs by Jacque Brel and some other Broadway composers and I'm doing another show called, 'Everyone Knows You're Gay, David Boyle;' personal stories of growing up in the 1970s and 80s as gay," he said.
A veteran of the Fringe Festival, Boyle will have performed at all three shows when he winds up his time at this year's production.
"My friend suggested Elgin. It was my first taste getting out of a comfort zone, out of town, even though its only Elgin, but still to me it was going out of town," he said.
Fellow veteran Carrie Gant travels from Nashville to participate with her dance company, Titterglitz.
"This is my third year performing in it and my second year bringing work to it," she said.
"We started as a party dance company that incorporated anyone who wanted to dance; we've evolved with more dancers coming into the company," she said. "We do a lot of multimedia and a lot of different genres."
Both artists look forward to their return to EFF.
"The artists that we work along side with are very welcoming and the people put Fringe together, it's a very well-run Fringe Festival and the community supports it so much," Gant said.
"They were all so wonderful: the staff, the audience, the whole size of the town," Boyle said. "I just fell in love and hope to keep coming to Elgin every ear. I just love the energy there."
The festival has some new venues this year.
"We're returning to The Elgin Arts Showcase, Next Door Theatre, Blue Box Café, Elgin Public House and Imago Studios, those have been donated venues from the beginning," said Rehberg. "First United Methodist Church in downtown Elgin has a theater space and they've donated that to us and this year we've added The Pit from Hemmens Cultural Center, a grassy area outside of the Hemmens. That is going to be our live music venue."
The area will serve as the venue for an expanded Family Fringe Festival and a two-day music event.
"Elgin Fringe has a lot of great local music and that part of Fringe has grown to the point where we need a music-specific venue, so on Thursday and Friday, the pit at Hemmens is that venue," Rehberg said.
"On Saturday that becomes the Family Fringe area. It's between Hemmens and the city hall," Rehberg added. "We have Fringe artists who donate their time to the Family Fringe and it's all free and open to the public. There are bouncy houses and arts and crafts and all those sort of things as kind of a 'thank you' for bringing all this craziness to town."
Performances by magician/storyteller Cody Clark, the Olive Juice Theater, Robert Frosty Theater Company and Captain Ambivalent are also scheduled for Family Fringe.
EFF, as with all Fringe Festivals, purposefully flies by the seat of its pants when it comes to booking acts.
"One of our mission points for the Fringe is that we are uncurated and that means, when we open the call, which happens around January or February, we take those performing and visual artists who submit on a first-come, first-served basis, until we're full," said Rehberg.
Under that arrangement, EFF can only hope for variety, although it hasn't been disappointed yet.
"We take dance, music, theater, comedy, stuff that can't be defined; we have burlesque," Rehberg said.
"You don't have a panel of people judging whether these people should be in the show or not," she added. "It's absolutely what's submitted and what goes up in these venues."
"We not only want to bring these weird, cutting-edge; weird, wonderful performers and even more traditional performances to this area," Rehberg said. "But make it accessible for the artists to bring productions here."
For details, visit www.elginfringefestival.com/.
Elgin Fringe FestivalWhat: The third annual fest features dance, theater, comedy, film, visual arts and music performances
When: Performances take place Thursday, Sept. 15, through Sunday, Sept. 18
Where: Multiple location throughout Elgin's business district; see schedule for details
Cost: $3 for admittance to all shows, which range from free to $10, or an all-festival pass for $60