Arts & Entertainment

Lake Effect Fringe Festival calls 'exploratory' performances to stage

January 30, 2013
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Lake Effect Fringe Festival calls 'exploratory' performances to stage
The Lake Effect Fringe Festival features contemporary performances developed by local and regional playwrights.

The West Michigan theater scene is getting a fringe festival.

The Lake Effect Fringe Festival will debut on Thursday, Jan. 31, and run through Sunday, Feb. 24.

During that time, 17 different performances will be shown at Dog Story Theater in downtown Grand Rapids, the venue for the festival, and more than 100 people will participate in some way to pull it off.

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“Many cities have fringe festivals,” said Katherine Mayberry, executive director of The Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company and co-founder of the fringe festival. “The most famous in the world is probably the Edinburgh Fringe.”

Mayberry quoted the website for the Capital Fringe in Washington, D.C., to explain a fringe festival: “Our mission is to connect exploratory artists with adventurous audiences by creating outlets and spaces for creative, cutting edge and contemporary performances. . . . 

“Capital Fringe’s vital programs ensure the growth and continued health of the local and regional performing arts community by helping artists become independent producers, while stimulating the vibrant cultural landscape in our city.”

Four theater groups in West Michigan came together to create the Lake Effect Fringe Festival: Dog Story Theater, GEM Theatrics, The Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company and Stark Turn Players.

“Collaboration and cooperation between arts organizations is extremely important for a number of reasons,” Mayberry said. “First, each organization has developed its own loyal audience following, and by publicizing the festival to all of these different audiences, we create the possibility for each group to reach potential audiences that may not have seen its productions before.

"A festival can also attract media coverage that a single weekend of performances by one group might not receive," she said. “Having theater groups working together also gives us the chance to share ideas and practices about our artistic processes and also about the organizational operations of small theatre companies.”

Works were chosen for the festival through an open submission process, and the final lineup will include works by local and regional playwrights. Several of the playwrights chosen will see their works performed for the first time.

The festival will include new works as well as new interpretations of classics. The organizations presenting performances at the festival are Cangue League, GEM Theatrics, Grand Valley Shakespeare Festival’s Bard to Go, No Outlet, Southside Theatre, Stark Turn Players, The Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company and the University Wits.

“For people who have been to other fringe festivals, Lake Effect is similar in that it allows audiences the chance to see a wide variety of theater, from improv to Shakespeare, in a short space of time,” Mayberry said.

“Some performance evenings actually feature multiple works," she said. "For example, The Stark Turn Players are presenting the winners of their 10 minute playwriting contest, so audiences can see six different plays on a single evening.”

Mayberry said that the festival celebrates performance-driven theater. The intimate setting of the Dog Story Theater provides a unique opportunity for attendees to be up close with the performers.

Another fun aspect of the festival is the 24 hour theater project.

The 24 hour theater project that Southside Theater Company will present creates plays, from the script writing through the final performance, in the course of 24 hours.

Playwrights start writing scripts at 8 p.m., and at 8 a.m. the following day, a group of directors and actors start rehearsing those plays. The project culminates with a performance of these brand-new works at 8 p.m. on the second day.

Mayberry noted that the festival has gained broad support from local theater organizations, performers and playwrights.

Tickets to all festival events are $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors and are available at the Dog Story Theater website, along with performance times.

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