Fringe Festival

KC Fringe Festival brings abundance of art for 11 days of performances

Ashwini Ganesh and three other members of the Nritya School of Indian Dance and Music of Overland Park performed a traditional folk dance that included tossing of pots one to another July 7 at the KC Fringe Festival preview at the Johnson County Central Resource Library.
Ashwini Ganesh and three other members of the Nritya School of Indian Dance and Music of Overland Park performed a traditional folk dance that included tossing of pots one to another July 7 at the KC Fringe Festival preview at the Johnson County Central Resource Library. Special to The Star

One playwright explores the racial divide along Troost through a game of bingo.

A Blue Valley teacher divulges his tormented years as a closeted gay man.

A Lenexa dance group hopes to bring the arts to new audiences.

Their shows are among the 425 performances and exhibits by local artists in the 12th annual KC Fringe Festival, starting July 21.

Executive producer Cheryl Kimmi founded the 11-day festival in 2004 to provide a space for emerging artists who had nowhere to test their works.

“At that time, if you didn’t fit in the box of the major (theaters), there wasn’t a place for you here,” she said. “I was like, ‘What in the world — we have all this talent but there’s no opportunity here.’ 

The idea for fringe festivals began in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1947, where performing groups were excluded from a festival because they weren’t traditional enough. They set up stages on the perimeter of the festival, a reporter wrote that there were far more interesting things happening on the “fringe,” and the fringe festival was born.

“This is an opportunity for artists to experiment with new works,” Kimmi said, citing the musicals “The Drowsy Chaperone” and “Urinetown” as shows that originated at fringe festivals. “Fringe festivals are the testing ground.”

While the KC Fringe Festival does offer experimental theater, Kimmi said there’s also plenty of fare for families.

And not all of the artists are adults, either. Kimmi said organizers encourage teenage artists’ work by hosting workshops, producing their theater and providing galleries for their art. The Coterie theater’s Young Playwrights’ Roundtable, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and the UMKC Conservatory’s Composition Department collaborate each year to produce “Words + Music,” which combines the young playwrights’ stories with music composed by UMKC students for a performance by the Lyric Opera at the festival.

New to the festival this year is a teen open mic night following “A Bird of Prey,” a play performed by teen artists. Teens can bring spoken word, slam poetry and songs to the stage at the Westport Coffeehouse. There’s no admission fee (just the fringe button), and it’s all part of the Teen Fringe, which runs the first weekend of the festival. The show will also be performed July 27 and July 29-30.

“Every year, it’s a ripple effect — people find out about it and share with more people and more people,” Kimmi said. “That’s our primary goal: to continue spreading the word so people can come explore and enjoy.”

The Star sat down with three local artists to discuss their fringe fest shows.

The racial divide

“Bingo on the Boulevard,” by playwright Donna Ziegenhorn, may hit close to home: It’s inspired by the economic and racial divide along Troost Avenue. Set during a bingo game at a community center, the play features diverse characters — including a female impersonator, a Kansas City blue blood and an undocumented immigrant — who come together to deal with a crisis.

“I really wanted to bring out the story of some people who live in that area and to give a human face to people who are not widely known or seen in the larger community,” she said. “Maybe (the stories) can dispel some of the negative images that exist and open up a wider perception of the richness and diversity that’s there.”

Ziegenhorn, who lives in Fairway, wants to draw on local experiences to bring awareness to a controversial issue. Her 2004 play “The Hindu and the Cowboy,” which premiered at the Kansas City Harmony luncheon, tackles Kansas City’s religious diversity. This is her first KC Fringe Festival entry.

“I’ve seen a lot of change in the midtown area myself, knowing the history of Troost, knowing the pain and the power of what it represents in people’s minds,” she said. “This is my community; this is my home.”

“Bingo on the Boulevard” plays at 6 p.m. July 23, 7:30 p.m. July 24 and 29 and at 4:30 p.m. July 30 at the Unicorn Theatre’s Jerome Stage, 3828 Main St.

Confessions

Max Brown, who taught drama at Blue Valley North High School for 42 years, says his life mirrors the first play he ever performed in: “The Ugly Duckling.”

His one-man show, “Life Laid Bare: Confessions of a High School Drama Teacher,” tracks his evolution toward accepting himself as a gay man as he served as a “surrogate father” and role model for his students. The play marks his play writing and fringe festival debut.

Brown, of Lee’s Summit, wrote “Life” at the urging of students on Facebook, where he had detailed his experiences as a teacher.

“When I was writing on Facebook, they told me often that I was the first gay person they had ever known, and I was just being a normal person,” he said. “I wasn’t any different from anyone else. They knew I was gay and that was important in their evolution of questioning whether they were gay or straight. I was suddenly a role model, and I didn’t even know it.”

While he said he’s honored to present his story at the festival, he’s full of nervous energy, partly because it’s his first play but also because it’s the first time he’ll tell his life story to the public.

“I kind of took this leap of faith, and I wish I could tell you right now that I was 100 percent convinced I was not afraid and was going to be fine,” he said. “It’s kind of scary, because there will be people I don’t know and people I do know. They told me, ‘Max, don’t be nervous. Just go out and tell your story and you’ll be fine.’ 

The show runs at 9:30 p.m. July 23, at 8 p.m July 25, at 6 p.m. July 27 and 29 and at 11 p.m. July 30 at the Fishtank, 1715 Wyandotte St.

“Beginning Tomorrow”

One of this year’s dance shows will be performed by a company that has never missed a year at the festival.

Seamless Dance Theatre, a nonprofit Lenexa dance company, marks its ninth year at the fringe fest. As a part of the company’s 10-year anniversary, it will present “Beginning Tomorrow,” which incorporates modern and jazz styles.

Erin Lustig, the company’s founder and artistic director, said she hopes to “give the gift of dance” to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience it. She offers free dance classes for children with disabilities, as well as scholarships for students to attend studios of their choice.

Each year, Seamless Dance also hosts “Spark” — two free dance shows for up to 1,000 children who may have never seen such a performance. Children get to talk with the performers about the show and how to get involved with the arts.

Lustig hopes to expand those offerings as Seamless gains more recognition. The fringe festival is key, she said.

“I think that (our show) is a great way to expose the art to people who wouldn’t normally seek out dance performance,” Lustig, from Olathe, said, “but they’re like, ‘Hey, I’m here. It’s part of the festival; I’ll come see what it’s all about.’

“They can find some sort of relation to what we’re dancing about and what we’re trying to say with our pieces.”

The show runs at 7:30 p.m. July 22, 6 p.m. July 25 and 28 and 9 p.m. July 30 at the Bolender Center, 500 W. Pershing Road.

And also …

Here are six other shows Kimmi recommends:

▪ Dances and Music of India”: The Nritya School of Indian Dance and Music will mix different genres of music, bright costumes and expressive traditional dances. 1:30 p.m. July 24, 7:30 p.m July 29, 3 p.m. July 30 at the Union Station City Stage, 30 W. Pershing Road.

▪ “Electoral Dysfunction 2016: Right Between the Ears”: The radio comedy show will tackle this year’s election with satirical tomfoolery. 9 p.m. July 23 and 28, 3 p.m. July 24, 6 p.m. July 25 and 7:30 p.m. July 30 at the Union Station City Stage.

▪ “Been Finn”: Playwright Phil Kinen, who won the “Best of Venue” award last year, returns with the third installment of his play cycle on Huckleberry Finn. 9:30 p.m. July 22, 1:30 p.m. July 23, 8 p.m. July 25, 6:30 p.m. July 27, 11 p.m. July 29 and 4:30 p.m. July 30 at the Just Off Broadway Theatre, 3051 Penn Valley Drive.

▪ “MacDuo”: A husband and wife take on a two-person adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.” 3 p.m July 24, 7:30 p.m. July 26 and July 30 and 6 p.m. July 28 at the Mesner Puppet Theater, 1006 Linwood Blvd.

▪ “Into the Sea”: Short films explore the marine life and coral reefs of the oceans in a visual experience for the whole family. 8:30 p.m. July 26 and 29 and 1:30 p.m. July 30 at Musical Theater Heritage, 2450 Grand Blvd.

▪ “Gilda: A Tribute to the Beloved Comedian Gilda Radner”: The homage to the “SNL” comedian was selected as one of the top 10 shows to see at the Hollywood Fringe, and proceeds go to the local Gilda’s Club Kansas City. 7:30 p.m. July 22, 4:30 p.m July 23-24, 6 p.m. July 26, 9:30 p.m. July 28 and 8 p.m. July 30 at Just Off Broadway Theatre.

Kate Miller: 816-234-4077, @_Kate_Miller_

KC Fringe Festival details

All events during the 11-day festival require a $5 fringe button (free for youth ages 12 and younger). Most event tickets cost $10, and the visual arts components are free.

The opening night party on July 21 starts at 5:30 p.m. with a red carpet at the Folly Theater. Two-minute teasers from 50 shows will start at 7 p.m.

Following is a schedule of shows. Many have multiple performances. See kcfringe.org for ticket information and a complete schedule.

Cabaret

“Bumps and Grinds: The Golden Age of Burlesque,” Kansas City Cabaret

Opens 11 p.m. July 23; Just Off Broadway

“Burlesque on the Rocks: Queen,” Bohemian Cult Revival

Opens 10 p.m. July 22; Buffalo Room

“There Will Be Boobs,” Rhythm and Boobs

Opens 9 p.m. July 25; Phosphor Studio

Comedy

“Baddest Auditions,” Whim Productions

Opens 9 p.m. July 22; Musical Theatre Heritage

“Electoral Dysfunction 2016,” Right Between the Ears

Opens 9 p.m. July 23; Union Station City Stage

“Oh Susanna,” Lucky DeLuxe (West Hollywood, Calif.)

Opens 8 p.m. July 22; Westport Coffeehouse

“Script Tease,” KC Improv Company

Opens 6:30 p.m. July 22; Westport Coffeehouse

“Script to the Bone,” Micro Budget Productions (Leavenworth)

Opens 8 p.m. July 23; Just Off Broadway

“Selfless,” The Living Room Theater

Opens 3:30 p.m. July 23; Living Room

“Stackers,” Steve Karol

Opens 9:30 p.m. July 23; Just Off Broadway

“Ten Things You Really Shouldn’t Do With Puppets,” Mesner Puppet Theater

Opens 7:30 p.m. July 23; Mesner Studio

“That Really Funny Improv Show,” Awkward Attic Ensemble (St. Louis)

Opens 9 p.m. July 22; Mesner Studio

“The Treasure of the Golden Monkey King,” Byrd Productions

Opens 3 p.m. July 23; Unicorn Jerome Stage

“A Very Special Episode Comedy Retrospective,” Cinemasochists

Opens 6 p.m. July 23; Buffalo Room

Dance

“Beginning Tomorrow,” Seamless Dance Theatre

Opens 7:30 p.m. July 22; Bolender Center

“Belly Dance on the Fringe: A Cinderella Story,” Gaziyeh Enterprises & 1001 Arabian Nights

Opens 3 p.m. July 23; Bolender Center

“Dances and Music of India,” Nritya School of Indian Dance and Music

Opens 1:30 p.m. July 24; Union Station City Stage

“Echo and Narcissus,” Cirque de l’air Cascades

Opens 6 p.m. July 22; Bolender Center

“Feet to the Fire: Young Dance Artists in the Midwest,” Katarina Fitzpatrick & Rachael Gnatowski

Opens 4:30 p.m. July 23; Bolender Center

“From This Pointe On,” VidaDance

Opens 7:30 p.m. July 23; Bolender Center

“Klusterf$*k,” Bobby Ray Entertainment

Opens 9:30 p.m. July 22; Unicorn Levin Stage

“Orlo: Boundaryless One Acts,” Lucia Aerial Performing Arts

Opens 4:30 p.m. July 23; Union Station City Stage

“A Silent Majority,” Kacico Dance

Opens 9 p.m. July 22; Bolender Center

Film

“30 Stories in 30 Days,” Alden Miller Alchemy

Opens 8:30 p.m. July 25; Musical Theater Heritage Cinema

“Across the Broads: Films From a Female Perspective,” Meagan Flynn

Opens 8:30 p.m. July 27; Musical Theater Heritage Cinema

CinemaKC

Opens 6:30 p.m. July 25; Musical Theater Heritage Cinema

“IFCKC Presents: Live at the Fr!nge,” Independent Filmmakers Coalition of Kansas City

Opens 6:30 p.m. July 26; Musical Theater Heritage Cinema

“Into the Sea,” Ziggy Livnat / For the Sea

Opens 8:30 p.m. July 26; Musical Theater Heritage

KC Women in Film & TV Showcase

Opens 6:30 p.m. July 27; Musical Theater Heritage Cinema

Music

Animal Antics, Summerfest

Opens 6:30 p.m. July 22; St. Mary’s Episcopal Church

Been Broken

Opens 9 p.m. July 22; Arts Asylum

Br. John Sings Sam Cooke: Memoirs of the Father of Soul

Opens 9 p.m. July 23; Musical Theatre Heritage Stage

Eddie Moore and the Outer Circle

Opens 10:30 p.m. July 23; Arts Asylum

An Evening With Jelly Rose

Opens 10:30 p.m. July 23; Musical Theatre Heritage Stage

Fall in Waves

Opens 6 p.m. July 23; Arts Asylum

Hao Music Live

Opens 6 p.m. July 22; Buffalo Room

Louder Than a Sound

Opens 9:30 p.m. July 23; Westport Coffeehouse

Midnight Voyage

Opens 9 p.m. July 22; Unicorn Jerome Stage

Progressive Alternative Jazz, River Cow Orchestra

Opens 7:30 p.m. July 22; Union Station City Stage

Songz of Earth’s Mother, Yeshimebet the Mama Lion

Opens 4:30 p.m. July 23; Phosphor Studio

Suzette: The Elegant Lady

Opens 6 p.m. July 22; Musical Theatre Heritage Stage

Trick’s Adventure Jazz

Opens 7:30 p.m. July 24; Union Station City Stage

Vibralux: Dance of the Dolls

Opens 10:30 p.m. July 22; Arts Asylum

Words + Music, Lyric Opera/Coterie/UMKC

Opens 6 p.m. July 23; Union Station City Stage

Spoken Word

“55 Minutes of Sex, Drugs and Audience Participation,” 2Lorens (Minneapolis)

Opens 6 p.m. July 25; Buffalo Room

“Barry Manilow Is in My Closet,” National Storytelling Network, Debbie Weston From and Tracy Sue Walker (Georgia)

9:45 p.m. July 23; National Story Tellers Conference

“A Different Type of Magic: The Unfolding Story of Harry Houdini,” National Storytelling Network, Kevin D. Cordi (Ohio)

9:45 p.m. July 22; National Story Tellers Conference

“Facing the Dark: The Devil in the Green Coat and the Berserker’s Daughter,” National Storytelling Network, Cooper Braun (Colorado)

9:45 p.m. July 21; National Story Tellers Conference

“Fairy Tales for Grownups,” Laura Packer

Opens 6:30 p.m. July 23; The Fishtank

“Impenetrable Innocence,” Jamie Mayo

Opens 6:30 p.m. July 22; The Fishtank

“Kafka: Metamorphosis,” National Storytelling Network, Margaret Meyers (Minnesota)

9:45 p.m. July 22; National Story Tellers Conference

“Life Laid Bare: Confessions of a High School Drama Teacher,” Max Brown

Opens 9:30 p.m. July 23; The Fishtank

“MamaLogs,” Debbie Weston From (Cleveland, Ga.)

Opens 9:30 p.m. July 22; Westport Coffeehouse

“Mama’s Boy,” Blake Friis

Opens 5 p.m. July 23; The Fishtank

“The Mosquito Radio Hour II: The Itching Continues ...,” A Swarm of Tellers

Opens 8 p.m. July 23; The Fishtank

“My Old Man: True Tales From My Dad’s Life,” National Storytelling Network, Julie Moss (Colorado)

9:45 p.m. July 23; National Story Tellers Conference

“Nique Poetry,” Nique (Lawrence)

Opens 6 p.m. July 23; Musical Theater Heritage Stage

“Pissing on the Great Wall,” Maximum Verbosity (St. Louis Park, Minn.)

Opens 6:30 p.m. July 23; Westport Coffeehouse

“A Sleep and a Forgetting,” National Storytelling Network, Wendy Gourley (Utah)

9:45 p.m. July 21; National Story Tellers Conference

“Strange But True Civil War Stories,” National Storytelling Network, Mike Lockett (Illinois)

9:45 p.m. July 21; National Story Tellers Conference

“A Thousand Nights and One: Tales From the Arabian Nights,” National Storytelling Network, Jane Ogburn Dorfman (Maryland)

9:45 p.m. July 23; National Story Tellers Conference

“Transactors: A Gender Journey,” National Storytelling Network, Sean Buvala (Arizona)

9:45 p.m. July 22; National Story Tellers Conference

“The Trickster Show,” Priscilla Howe

Opens 9:30 p.m. July 22; The Fishtank

“An Uncommon Core: The Daring Spoken Word Journey of One 8th Grade Classroom,” Core Theatre 102 (Madison, Wis.)

Opens 7:30 p.m. July 22; Unicorn Jerome Stage

Theater

“Asphalt Mosaic,” Andrew Rolston

Opens 11 p.m. July 23; Westport Coffeehouse

“Audience,” Negative Space

Opens 6:30 p.m. July 22; Musical Theater Heritage

“Barrymore,” Central Standard Theatre

Opens 6 p.m. July 23; Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre

“Been Finn,” Phil Kinen’s Big Show Productions

Opens 9:30 p.m. July 22; Just Off Broadway

“Bingo on the Boulevard,” Donna Woodard Ziegenhorn

Opens 6 p.m. July 23; Unicorn Jerome Stage

“A Bird of Prey,” The Coterie

Opens 3:30 p.m. July 23; Westport Coffeehouse

“Boxes & Ashes,” Vicky Burnett

Opens 7:30 p.m. July 22; Phosphor Studio

“Bug Hunting,” Hayden Popp

Opens 6 p.m. July 22; Phosphor Studio

“Chasing Nureyev,” Christie Kennard

Opens 10:30 p.m. July 22; Phosphor Studio

“Crazy Horse: A Dream of Thunder,” Central Standard Theatre

Opens 9 p.m. July 22; Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre

“Dancing With Crows Feet,” Arts and AGEing Kansas City

Opens 7:30 p.m. July 22; Musical Theatre Heritage Stage

“Desperate Acts,” All Good Things

Opens 6 p.m. July 22; Just Off Broadway

“Drop Dead Gorgeous: The Musical Parody,” Beth Benedict Borders

Opens 10 p.m. July 23; Buffalo Room

“The Fall of the House of Usher,” Central Standard Theatre

Opens 6 p.m. July 22; Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre

“Fangirls (An Improbable Cosplay),” Brick Street Theatre

Opens 7:30 p.m. July 22; Mesner Studio

“Freak Up the Street,” Billy Blob

Opens 11 p.m. July 22; Unicorn Levin Stage

“Gilda: A Tribute to the Beloved Comedian Gilda Radner,” Helena K. Cosentino

Opens 7:30 p.m. July 22; Just Off Broadway

“Hacks,” Friend Dog Studios

Opens 6:30 p.m. July 22; Living Room

“The House of the Devil Is a Hot Mess,” CrumbleCake Productions

Opens 6:30 p.m. July 22; Unicorn Levin Stage

“The Islander,” Relevance Productions

Opens 8 p.m. July 22; Unicorn Levin Stage

“Jason and the Argonauts,” Olive Juice Theatre (Chicago)

Opens 6 p.m. July 22; Mesner Studio

“John and Leslie Are in the Copy Room Again,” Mike Rice

Opens 9 p.m. July 22; Phosphor Studio

“The Last Michigan,” Diane Hightower

Opens 8 p.m. July 22; Buffalo Room

“Luciano for Me!” Mindy Moritz and Steven Eubank

Opens 6:30 p.m. July 24; Unicorn Levin Stage

“The Lupus Chronic(SLE),” Ryan Hruza

Opens 9 p.m. July 23; Unicorn Jerome Stage

“MacDuo,” 3 Crazy Sons (Orange City, Iowa)

Opens 3 p.m. July 24; Mesner Studio

“Mannequins,” Jonathan Robertson

Opens 6 p.m. July 22; Unicorn Jerome Stage

“Mimi Dafoe: Confessions of an Aging Starlet,” Whim Productions

Opens 7:30 p.m. July 23; Musical Theatre Heritage Stage

“Performing Annie Oakley: Shooting Is a Gentle Thing,” Central Standard Theatre

Opens 7:30 p.m. July 23; Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre

“The River’s Trembling Edge,” Central Standard Theatre

Opens 7:30 p.m. July 22; Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre

“Rumors of Shadows,” Kinetic Fusion (Minneapolis)

Opens 6 p.m. July 24; Union Station City Stage

“Second Ladies,” Heidi Van

Opens 8 p.m. July 22; The Fishtank

“Seneca: A Journey Through Space and Time,” Amanda Davison

Opens 10:30 p.m. July 22; Mesner Studio

“Shadows: The Life of Anne Boleyn,” Central Standard Theatre

Opens 1:30 p.m. July 23; Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre

“Shrew’d,” Teresa Moore (Concord, Calif.)

Opens 10:30 p.m. July 23; Mesner Studio

“The Story of the Century,” David O. Hill

Opens 8 p.m. July 23; Unicorn Levin Stage

“The Table,” The Living Room Theater

Opens 8 p.m. July 22; Living Room

“Take Flight: An Adventure in Cirque,” Imaginez Ensemblez (Chicago)

Opens 9 p.m. July 22; Union Station City Stage

“The Toymaker,” Jesse Ray Metcalf

Opens 11 p.m. July 22; Just Off Broadway

“Two by Tennessee Williams,” Home Grown Theatre Co. (New York)

Opens 7:30 p.m. July 23; Arts Asylum

“Upskirt/CEC: Two Plays by Pete Bakely,” Kansas City Peep Shows

Opens 7:30 p.m. July 22; Arts Asylum

“Wicked Creatures,” The Living Room Theater

Opens 8 p.m. July 23; Living Room

“Young Black Victorian,” Heidi Van

Opens 11 p.m. July 22; The Fishtank

Variety

“Meter, Beat and Feet,” River Cow/Kacico Dance/The Writers Place

Opens 1:30 p.m. July 24; Bolender Center

“Questus: The Zero’s Journey,” Cirque du Risque

Opens 10:30 p.m. July 22; Bolender Center

“Rev. Al Presents Mysterious Bulls#*! and Other Oddities,” KC Magic Cabaret

Opens 10:30 p.m. July 22; Union Station City Stage

Visual Art

Union Station Grand Hall

On display through July 30

Aquarius Gallery

On display 4-8 p.m. July 22-30

Dan Kelly, dkelly@kcstar.com

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