JEFFERSON PARK — The 2013 Chicago Fringe Festival will transform a church, liquor store and several empty storefronts in Jefferson Park into performance spaces for experimental, avant-garde and do-it-yourself exhibitions.
The nine-day festival from Aug. 29 to Sept. 8 will feature 200 performances from 50 groups and individuals at five locations throughout Jefferson Park, including Fischman's Liquors, 4780 N. Milwaukee Ave., and the Congregational Church of Jefferson Park, 5320 W. Giddings Ave.
Festival organizers have been overwhelmed by the sheer enthusiasm that has greeted the festival's move from Pilsen to Jefferson Park, executive director Vinnie Lacey said.
"It has been 180 degrees from last year," Lacey said. "We're so pleased we found a new home. Everyone has been super nice."
But Lacey said organizers have heard some grumbling from people reluctant to travel to the Far Northwest Side for the festival, which will feature an aerialist dance company, a group that roasts characters from fairy tales and an avant garde theater company devoted to presenting fantastical realism and challenging the definition of gender and sexuality.
"We have had an 'if we build it they will come' philosophy," Lacey said. "We feel like the festival would have gotten lost in the noise of a neighborhood like Wicker Park or Logan Square."
All of the venues — which have been renamed in keeping with the festival's theme of "Pack a Lunch" — are within walking distance of the Jefferson Park stop on the CTA Blue Line, as well as the bus lines that run along Milwaukee and Higgins avenues.
"It is a nice central location," Lacey said.
During the festival, the Congregational Church will be home to the Spilled Milk Stage, which will feature acts such as "Lil' Women," a rap musical by the March sisters who promise "to spit rhymes, drop sick beats and kick it old school-house."
Other venues include the PB&J Stage, 5338 W. Lawrence Ave.; the Lunch Box Office & Art Exhibit, 5340 W. Lawrence Ave.; the Picnic Stage, 5342 W Lawrence Ave.; and the Hold the Pickles Stage, 5415 W. Higgins Ave. Performances will also take place at the Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave., one of the festival's sponsors.
Several special events will take place at Fringe Central, otherwise known as Fischman's Liquors. Those events range from the serious — a panel discussion about the festival's place in Chicago's arts community — to the freaky, including an air sex competition and a match featuring the Chicago League of Lady Arm Wrestlers in the Ald. John Arena Arena, named after the 45th Ward honcho himself.
There is a $5 cover charge for the festival, and individual performances are $10. Tickets, as well as passes for multiple performances, are available on the group's website.