Fort Wayne Fringe is back for a second year, and it's obvious the creative juices in the Fort Wayne art scene are flowing.
Organizers pulled out all the stops, making the festival as big as ever. This year, the event is eight days opposed to four, starting Sunday and running through Aug. 17 at Wunderkammer Company, 3402 Fairfield Ave. The event boasts 17 acts in addition to other events. The event will also have food trucks and a bar hosted by Calhoun Street Soups Salads and Spirits. Money from ticket sales for each show goes directly to the artists, per Fringe traditions.
“When you are going to these performances, you're directly supporting the artists,” said Wunderkammer Company owner and Fringe organizer Dan Swartz.
Fringe starts with a “FringeK.” A spin-off of the popular color runs, the creative “FringeK” is about a 10-block race through alleys in the 46807 ZIP code. The race is not about who is the fastest, however; it about who has the most creative and fun outfit. The race is followed by open mic night. On Tuesday, National Record Store Day, Wunderkammer is having a Fringe fundraiser, which features drinks, music and an art sale.
Thursday, however, is when Fringe kicks into high gear with a full lineup starting with Jirk Comedy, followed by Keegan Warren's "Experimental Euphoria for the Soul,” and The Identity Itch: Relying on Cheese, Booze and Superpowers, and lastly Polymath Five's "Ian's Epiphany."
Alec Johnson, of Polymath Five, was intrigued by Fringe last year, and seized the opportunity when organizers were looking for applications.
Johnson, and four other artists, will showcase a multimedia performance that mixes live music, animation, dance and projection. The musical took Johnson two months to write, then it was to the drawing board with the other artists to come up with a moving and compelling story.
“To be honest," Johnson said, "the original idea for the project came from when I went to the grand opening of the Black Box Theatre at the Auer Center (300 E. Main St.), I started thinking about how as a musician how can I use that space with projection mapping. When the notification came out about Fringe, I knew that was the opportunity. I also knew there had to be a story; you can't just play music along with animation for an hour and keep people's interest. I knew there had to be a plot and some type of connection, something that people can become invested in.”
And he did just that.
Ian's Epiphany is a heart-wrenching story of a discontented alien searching the galaxy for something, someone or someplace to fill the empty hole in his heart. The music is performed live by Alec Johnson and C.T. Michel, the original animation is by Lyndy Bazile, and the art and video direction is by Shad Igney and John Hartman.
Swartz said it was one of the most unique performances in Fringe this year.
“It's interesting to see five artists randomly getting together to construct a project. It's music, but it's not all about music. It's animation, but it's not a movie. It's theater meets music meets animation. That performance allows people to think differently about what types of performances there are at Fringe,” he said.
In addition to the great acts, the audience gets to play a part in the action, too. This year organizers decided to add a voter's choice “Best of” award. Folks can vote for their favorite act with $1. One dollar equals one vote; it's a simple as that. It's not a competitive thing. However, the goal is to celebrate and recognize great work.
And that's what Fringe is all about. It's to highlight the talents of local artists and performers by providing a stage to showcase the projects. From dance to comedy and even a one-woman show, Fringe, in its nature, is unique because the performers are unjuried, meaning all applications are accepted. It's also typical that the performers are chosen based on a lottery system, and the festival also allows the artist to have all creative control.
The concept of “Fringe” originated with the first Edinburgh Fringe Festival, back in the 1940s, but today the label “Fringe” serves as sort of a loose term for these types of events.
Last year, despite the record-breaking winter and the fact that the event was in January on Super Bowl weekend, the festival welcomed more than 750 people and raised nearly $4,000.
While the style of festival is popular in larger cities, Swartz said Fort Wayne's art scene is exploding with talent that needs to be recognized.
“We want to highlight the fact that, yes, Fringe is popular in larger cities because the market is bigger, but it's not like that type of art is not being done here, they just didn't have the outlet for it before. This is a testament to the talent we have here in Fort Wayne,” Swartz said.