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Chicago Fringe Festival tries a change in scenery

Magician Edd Fairman recounts his experiences entertaining children’s birthday parties “Drinking With Dads.”

Magician Edd Fairman recounts his experiences entertaining at children’s birthday parties in “Drinking With the Dads.”

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Chicago Fringe Festival 2013

When: Aug. 29-Sept. 8


† Fringe Central: Fischman’s Liquors and Tavern, 4780 N. Milwaukee, which is stocking up on craft beers, will be a major hub for hanging out and ticket purchases, although tickets will be sold at all venues

† The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee

† Spilled Milk Stage (in the gym of the Congregational Church, 5320 N. Giddings, and one of several whimsically “re-named spaces” inspired by the theme of “Pack a Lunch”).

† Hold the Pickles Stage, 5415 W. Higgins

† PB & J Stage, 5338 W. Lawrence

† Picnic Stage, 5342 W. Lawrence

† Lunch Box Office and Art Exhibit, 5340 W. Lawrence

Tickets: $5 one-time “button pass” plus $10 (single ticket); $45 (5-pack); $80 (10-pack); $175 (unlimited).


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Updated: September 27, 2013 6:03AM

The spirit and content will not change. But the location is different.

That’s the essential news about the 2013 Chicago Fringe Festival, this city’s still-fledgling but hugely ambitious answer to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and to a slew of other “at- or off-the-edge” celebrations of all things theatrical.

For the first three years of its existence, the Chicago Fringe planted itself in Pilsen, but the roots never really took hold. Now, for its fourth season, it hopes to find more fertile soil in the Jefferson Park neighborhood — a place some have dubbed the city’s newest theater district.

“We just couldn’t get things going in Pilsen in terms of support from the businesses and the local politicians,” said Vinnie Lacey, the festival’s co-founder (with Sarah Mikayla Brown) and executive director. “So last year we approached Deb Clapp at the League of Chicago Theaters about the problem, she arranged a meeting with two officials at the Department of Cultural Affairs — Julie Burros and Angel Ysaguirre — and they came up with some ideas for a place that might be a logical fit. And once we started exploring Jefferson Park, it just seemed like kismet.

“We met with the area’s alderman, John Arena, who has a special arts liaison, Cyd Smilie. And I emailed Michael Patrick Thornton, artistic director of the Gift Theatre [the principal storefront in the area], and got a response from him in about three minutes. Then all the other pieces just began falling into place — with seven performance and meeting sites and the Blue Line’s Jefferson Park L stop all located within about a four-block radius.”

A few festival statistics: It will present a total of 50 different “shows” (with runs of three, five or seven performances each, and seating for at least 50 people at each venue). The artists are from Chicago, around the U.S. and abroad. The offerings run the gamut from monologues and musicals to performance art and movement-based works. And this year, thanks to a grant from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the generosity of Gift Theatre and lower rents for some of the vacant storefront venues, there will be more money for marketing and enhanced lighting equipment.

Following is a very brief sampling of what will be offered:

“Drinking with the Dads”: Edd Fairman, a skilled magician, recounts his adventures traveling around the city as a birthday party entertainer, trying to navigate the varied traditions of different ethnic groups while also politely refusing to drink with the men at these many family events.

† “Lil Women — a Rap Musical” (Nobody’s Sweetheart Productions): A mashup of the Louisa May Alcott classic “Little Women” and old-school hip-hop. Deemed “suitable for all ages,” the show arrives here in the wake of sold-out houses at the Orlando Fringe Festival, where it captured the title of “best new musical.”

† “Our Fair City: A Live Post-Apocalyptic Audiodrama” (HartLife, NFP): This piece takes the form of a radio-drama variety show and is set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian future run by an all-powerful insurance corporation.

† “Naked in Alaska” (Legendary Hearts Productions): Valerie Hager tells of her career as an exotic dancer in clubs from Mexico to Alaska and California. There will be live pole dancing plus suggestions of more than a dozen characters who either danced in or frequented these clubs.

† “Caged In” (Inappropriate Theatre): This New York-bred show imagines Nicolas Cage entering a coffee shop and realizing the entire world is afraid of him. Feeling lonely, he wishes upon a shooting star and gets an exact clone of himself. But then he gets all fired up for Lisa Marie Presley. Need I go on?

† “Icicles” (Christine Hands Choreography): A dance piece takes the audience on a journey through the seasons, “exploring the temperature of external forces in order to convey the transformations of the heart.”

† “Phenomena” (Genesis Ensemble): This Chicago company’s work will muse on relativity, time, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, devotion, work, belief, space, art and much more.

† “Surviving Love”: The story of an isolated gay youth who escapes Vienna, Ill. (“the real America”), and eventually finds himself in Vienna, Austria, during the onset of the AIDS epidemic. The show features songs by William Bolcom, John Bucchino, Michael John LaChiusa, Adam Guettel and Brian Lasser.


Twitter: @HedyWeissCritic

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