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  WINDY CITY TIMES

SCOTTISH PLAY SCOTT Mapping out the Fringes
by Scott C. Morgan, Windy City Times
2011-08-31

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Fifty performance groups from 14 states ( plus Canada and the United Kingdom ) are set to perform in five venues in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood Sept. 1-11 as part of the 2nd annual Chicago Fringe Festival.

"The scope of this year's festival stems from your success in 2010," said associate producer Vinnie Lacey in a statement. "This year we've got more performers and show times slated. Our growth demonstrates how electrifying Fringe is for audiences and performers alike, and we're thrilled to turn Pilsen into the city's prime location for freewheeling and diverse theatrical revelry again."

The Chicago Fringe Festival aims to move around to different neighborhoods each year, but the festival returns to its first stomping grounds in part to build upon its previous success in the Pilsen neighborhood.

Unlike some other festivals that are juried by a panel or artistic director, the Chicago Fringe Festival touts its democratic selection process via a lottery system. Hence professionals are mixed in with amateur artists, while a whole range of performance styles are featured ranging from kid-friendly puppetry to adults-only burlesque.

There are also plenty of shows touching upon LGBT issues with both serious and comical approaches. Two shows with trans-identified performers include Chicago's own Rebecca Kling's No Gender Left Behind ( exploring the state of transgender discrimination in the United States today ) and New Yorker Roman Rimer's Evolution, which details his travels in the South to work with LGBTQ youth in Christian communities.

As with most fringe festivals, there are some very oddly named shows. Take, for instance, Robin Gelfenbien's My Salvation Has a First Name: A Wienermobile Journey, which details her time as a driver of the touring Oscar Mayer Wienermobile as a way of overcoming bullying. There's also Jesus, Shakespeare and Lincoln Walk into a Bar, a show from the Indianapolis-based Giants of Theatre troupe that imagines what kind of karaoke songs these three might sing.

The Chicago Fringe Festival's five venues are: The Doppler Stage, 1915 S. Halsted St.; Dream Theatre, 556 W. 18th St.; Human Thread, 645 W. 18th St.; Meridian Stage, 1932 S. Halsted St.; and Temple Gallery, 1749 S. Halsted. Tickets are available at Fringe Central, 2003 S. Halsted, which also hosts the festival's opening and closing ceremonies plus networking events. Performance times vary, but most shows are performed three to five times during the festival. Tickets to most shows are $10 ( ticket sales go directly to the artists ) , on top of a reusable $5 festival button. Other ticket/button packages are also available. For more information, visit www.fringechicago.org .

CCPA becomes a church?

Itinerant Windy City theater companies will probably have to scratch the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts ( CCPA ) off of their lists of rentable venues, since the arts complex at 777 N. Green is likely to become a church full time.

David Odd of The Edge Comedy Club alerted fans and members of the media about the arts complex's change to a house of worship via an email sent Aug. 23. Odd warned that The Edge Comedy Club's final shows might be on Aug. 25 and 27, and that its home at CCPA since 2007 "is no more" ( though Odd hinted that The Edge Comedy Club's shows at the Skokie Theatre on the first Friday of the month may continue ) .

A call to CCPA seeking more information was not returned. Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune later reported that City Church Chicago ( which rents out space at CCPA on Sundays and Mondays ) is the likely institution that will take over the complex in the fall. Jones then reported that Bailiwick Chicago, which had planned on staging its forthcoming production of Jeanine Tesori's award-winning 1997 musical Violet at CCPA, was now moving the show to the Mercury Theatre. ( For more information on Violet, visit www.bailiwickchicago.com . )

It will be too bad if the switch from arts complex to church goes through for CCPA. Congo Square Theatre Company and Bailiwick Chicago both did great work recently at the CCPA ( I thoroughly enjoyed their respective productions of The Colored Museum and Passing Strange ) . But despite CCPA's cozy theaters spaces and lovely lobby, its location of west of Halsted Street just off of Chicago Ave. wasn't exactly the easiest to get to and to attract audiences. At press time, CCPA's website at www.theaterland.com was not updated about any potential changes.

Moving Home

The Equity theater company known as The Artistic Home is on the move again. When it starts its 2011-12 season with Eugene O'Neill's A Touch of the Poet Sept. 30, The Artistic Home will be housed in an 80-seat space at Stage 773 ( which is in the midst of a major remodeling along Belmont Avenue ) .

"We could not be more excited to open our 13th season in this fabulous new space amongst such good company," said The Artistic Home's artistic director Kathy Scambiatterra in a statement. "Being part of the Stage 773 theater family opens our work to a much wider audience, namely more theatergoers and less Cubs fans, and makes us much more accessible than we were before."

The Artistic Home was previously housed at the former 70-seat Live Bait Theater at 3419 N. Clark St., and before that in a storefront space along Irving Park Road that is now Chemically Imbalanced Comedy. The Artistic Home's shift means that the former Live Bait Theater is now a new tenant. Let's hope that it continues to exist as a theater in the future. For more information on The Artistic Home and Stage 773, visit www.theartistichome.org and www.stage773.org .


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