The Chicago Fringe Festival 2013 has been moved from the Pilsen neighborhood to Jefferson Park for the first time since kicking off in 2010. The venue change notes a significant shift in Jefferson Park's relatively recent transition from a sleepy residential neighborhood to burgeoning cultural hub. The Fringe Festival appears to have been relocated due to a necessity for community support. "It was getting harder and harder to produce in Pilsen for many reasons," said Vinnie Lacey, the festival’s co-founder and executive director. "Without enough traction, we decided with the input of our staff, patrons and artists that we might want to look for another neighborhood." Jefferson Park offered an artistic haven with The Gift Theatre Company, the Youth Company Chicago, Filament Theatre, an independent non-profit arts organization (Arts Alive! 45) and, oddly enough, Fischman Liquor & Tavern, which will be "Fringe Central" for the festival.
Earlier this year, I wrote a feature on the Northwest Side, citing affordability, a booming real estate market, entertainment and the growth of shiny new businesses in Portage Park and Jefferson Park as attractions for potential new residents. Additionally, Jefferson Park has been progressively earning the title of the new theater district. Lacey was impressed by the amount and quality of art, such as the plentiful murals around the neighborhood and the focus on the performing arts at outdoor festivals like Jefferson Park Fest, and seems to agree with the new title. "You can't have folks like Filament Theatre and Gift Theatre producing Jeff-awarded works and not see a trend. I've also heard that artists are moving into the neighborhood precisely because it is affordable and still accessible," said Lacey.
All of the Fringe Festival's art and performances are self-reported by the artists and warning signs are posted at the doors to make sure patrons know what they are getting into for any particular performance. While the entire festival is not advertised as family-friendly, there are several shows among the 50 performances that are clearly listed in the program as kid-appropriate.
Lacey professes that "what you are seeing before you at the Fest is a slice of the general 'zeitgeist' of theatre from around the world." The "uncensored festival" is steeped in history. The Fringe Festival movement began in the late 1940's in Edinburgh, Scotland and spread globally, with Fringe Festivals hosted in major cities all over the world. The Chicago Fringe Festival has received assistance from other U.S. Fringes in getting started and while it is still fairly young, Lacey sees only a positive outcome from the move to Jefferson Park. "By finding a welcoming neighborhood and getting the support of neighborhood leaders, we are creating a bigger and better Fringe experience for artists and patrons."
If you are interested in attending Chicago Fringe Fest 2013 or learning more about it, you can find information, purchase an admission button for $5 and purchase performance tickets here.