Fringe Festival set to shift to Jefferson Park
by BRIAN NADIG
Several thousand visitors are expected to attend the fourth annual “Chicago Fringe Festival,” which will feature 200 performances from theater groups from throughout the Midwest at venues in the Jefferson Park shopping district.
Last year’s festival was held in the Pilsen community and attracted 2,300 attendees, but event organizers anticipate a larger crowd this year. “Coupled with the transportation access for visitors from Chicago and the suburbs means this year’s festival will be a great success,” said Alderman John Arena (45th) said.
The festival gets its name from the fact that the performances are held in several locations along the “fringe” of the city instead of in a single playhouse in Downtown Chicago, said Cyd Smillie, Arena’s art liaison. I will be held from Aug. 29 to Sept. 8.
Plans call for the performances to be held primarily along Milwaukee Avenue between Gale Street on the north and Sunnyside Avenue on the south. Locations will include the Gift Theater, 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave., vacant storefronts and possibly the fieldhouses at Wilson Park, 4630 N. Milwaukee Ave., and Jefferson Park, 4822 N. Long Ave.
“The idea is that it will be no more than a – minute walk from one place to another,” Smillie said.
A portion of the festival will coincide with the annual “Taste of Polonia Festival” at the Copernicus Cultural and Civic Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave., which attracts up to 35,000 visitors each Labor Day weekend. Smillie said that the events should complement each other since they will feature different types of entertainment and that only one of them will offer food and beverages.
“We are looking forward to partnering with Jefferson Park restaurants and businesses to make this year’s ‘Fringe’ the best yet,” festival executive director Vinnie Lacey said. “With an already-thriving arts scene at the Gift and Filament theaters, we are excited to contribute to the arts renewal in the 45th Ward.”
“As a Jeff Park native and resident, I’m ecstatic that my neighborhood will get to see some of the most exciting, strange, alternative and beautiful fringe theater in the country,” Gift Theater artistic director Michael Thornton said.