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Chicago Fringe Fest Turns to Kickstarter to Expand 'Weird' Event

  The nine-day avant-garde and do-it-yourself performance art festival will run from Aug. 28 to Sept. 7.
Chicago Fringe Fest Turns to Kickstarter
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JEFFERSON PARK — The Chicago Fringe Festival is looking to amp up the weirdness at this summer's fifth annual fiesta of avant garde and do-it-yourself performance art — and organizers are hoping Kickstarter will help foot the bill.

Fringe Fest will return to Jefferson Park for a second year Aug. 28 through Sept. 7 for a festival featuring 50 shows and 200 performances in five venues throughout the neighborhood. Scheduled acts include a rap musical, a science-fiction radio play and a performance by drag entertainers from Utah.

"It is really exciting," executive director Vinnie Lacey said. "It feels so much better to be in a place that really appreciates us."

Heather Cherone explains why last year's Fringe Fest was a bit controversial:

The Fringe Fest spent its first three years in Pilsen, which was never a great fit, Lacey said.

Attendance at last year's festival in Jefferson Park was higher than the previous two years, a trend Lacey said he hopes continues.

In an effort to make this year's festival bigger than ever, organizers are hoping to raise $5,500 to double the budget for Fringe Central at Fischman's Liquors, 4780 N. Milwaukee Ave., and turn the fest's main box office and after-hours party spot into an art-and-performance filled hot spot, Lacey said.

"We really want to step up our game," Lacey said, adding that the event will try to live up to the festival's new theme of "Weirder. Theatre."

By expanding into Fischman's parking lot, where at tent can be erected, Fringe Central will be able to offer more food, more comfortable seating and transform into "fringetastic, one-stop-shop for all patrons and artists," organizers said.

If funded by midnight July 31, the money will also be used to "spread fringe fun and whimsy along the festival route" by sprucing up the alley that leads to the area behind Fischman's and between the festival venues.

"Our friends in Jefferson Park love our creativity, and we can’t wait to envelope the festival grounds with Fringe Vibes," according to organizers.

Plans could include "yarn bombing" trees along Milwaukee Avenue by essentially knitting them with brightly colored string, and lining the streets with banners and posters, Lacey said.

"We want to make it a cool space," Lacey said.

All of the venues — which have been renamed to honor Chicago — are in the Jefferson Park Business District 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.

The Congregational Church of Jefferson Park, 5320 W. Giddings Ave., will feature two Fringe venues — the Stinking Onion Stage and the Deep Dish Stage, Lacey said.

The Ketchup-less Stage will be at The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave., and the Lake Effect Stage will be at Youth Company Chicago, 5340 W. Lawrence Ave.

The location of the final venue — the Early & Often Stage — will be nailed down soon, Lacey said.

Earlier this month, Fringe Fest organizers resolved a dispute with the IRS that left the group's non-profit status in limbo, Lacey said.

An error forced the group to reapply for non-profit status, which took several months to be approved, Lacey said. The snafu prevented the group from applying for some grants, making the group's finances tighter than expected, he added.

Fringe Fest performers will stage "pop-up" performances at Jeff Fest on July 26 and July 27, organizers said. Last year, a group put on a fake protest at the festival at Jefferson Memorial Park.

A post on the Chicago Fringe Fest Facebook page promises more "hooliganism" at this year's fest.

Tickets for the Chicago Fringe Festival go on sale Aug. 1.

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