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August 28, 2012

An Exercise in the Unorthodox at Chicago Fringe Festival

By Erin Schumaker | Festivals

An Exercise in the Unorthodox at Chicago Fringe Festival
Amy Bolger

Called “an elaborate exercise in organized chaos and on-the-edge expression” by the Chicago Sun-Times, the third annual Chicago Fringe Festival (August 30 to September 9) delights in the unconventional. Held in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, home to many of the city’s artists and writers, the 11-day event is a mecca for performance art. The shows cover a wide range of genres—from theater and dance to puppetry and spoken word—and organizers praise the festival for its inclusivity (performers are selected by a lottery and include both professionals and amateurs).

Fringe has a long-standing history: In 1947, eight uninvited theater groups arrived to perform at the Edinburgh International Festival in Scotland. They did their thing despite crashing the party, and the next year even more uninvited groups tagged along. Journalist Robert Kemp dubbed the interlopers “the fringe,” and the movement was born. Chicago’s fest kicks off with shows like The Alembic by Terra Mysterium, a haunting musical about a goddess and an alchemist, and Handshake Uppercut by Jay Dunn and John Leo, a meandering mash-up of 1920s silent-film style and rock 'n’ roll hijinks, as seen through the eyes of two gentlemanly (to a point) brawlers. August 30 through September 9; performances are held at various venues; 773-428-9977 for more information; 866-811-4111 for tickets; chicagofringe.org.