Letting the art happen: Elgin Fringe festival celebrates 5 years

 
 
Updated 9/15/2018 8:18 PM
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  • Keenan Wimms, 9, of Elgin channels his inner artist Saturday during the fifth annual Elgin Fringe Festival.

      Keenan Wimms, 9, of Elgin channels his inner artist Saturday during the fifth annual Elgin Fringe Festival. Barbara Vitello | Staff Photographer

  • Members of Fremont Street Theater Company perform "All the World's a Stage," in which the actors imagine themselves watching a play as part of the Elgin Fringe Festival.

      Members of Fremont Street Theater Company perform "All the World's a Stage," in which the actors imagine themselves watching a play as part of the Elgin Fringe Festival. Barbara Vitello | Staff Photographer

  • Stacy Wolfson, left, and Curtis Eller -- members of the dance-theater ensemble The Bipeds -- perform a version of the company's "54 Strange Words" Saturday during the Elgin Fringe Festival.

      Stacy Wolfson, left, and Curtis Eller -- members of the dance-theater ensemble The Bipeds -- perform a version of the company's "54 Strange Words" Saturday during the Elgin Fringe Festival. Barbara Vitello | Staff Photographer

Whatever happens, happens.

That was the motto Elgin Fringe Festival co-founders Sean Hargadon and Erin Rehberg embraced when they established the performance and visual arts showcase in 2014, and it remains the motto today.

More than 100 performers and artists -- including actors, musicians, dancers, storytellers, comedians, magicians and improvisers -- are participating in the festival, which began Sept. 8 and concludes Sunday evening.

"We want to give them a platform," said Rehberg of the participants who hail from Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Idaho and North Carolina.

Unlike other fests, Elgin's fringe is not curated, meaning organizers accept all artists on a first-come, first-served basis.

More than 400 people attended the first weekend, which consisted of a family fringe and a visual arts showcase, Rehberg said.

"A fringe is an excellent place (for performers) to develop new works and show them in a more intimate setting," she said of the event organized by Elgin Fringe Festival committee members in cooperation with downtown business owners.

The Elgin Cultural Arts Commission provides financial assistance, and proceeds from the sale of an admission button help with operating expenses, Rehberg said.

Money from ticket sales goes directly to the performers, whose "stages" include the top floor of an office building, the raw space above an art gallery, a pocket park, a cafe and a martini bar, among others.

"It's cool to support local artists, and it's such an eclectic mix," said Elgin resident Sarah Miller, 34, marking her second year as an Elgin Fringe Festival patron. "We've seen interesting acts."

Financial accessibility (tickets range from free to $10) and convenience (parking is plentiful and free and the venues are all within a couple of blocks) are among the Fringe's benefits, Rehberg said.

But the biggest draw is the work itself: contemporary, immediate and intimate.

"You're not going to get that at a big theater," she said. "You can hear the performers breathe. You see them sweat. And after the show you can shake the artist's hand."

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