Fort Wayne is teeming with artistic talent, but it's not always in front of people's eyes. Jason Markzon and other local arts cheerleaders are hoping to change that through the Fort Wayne Fringe Festival.
Rewind to a few years ago. Markzon, a musician himself in the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, wanted to “think of a way to contribute to the arts scene and bring that community together.” He became acquainted with singer-songwriter Fernando Tarango, who shared a mutual passion for fostering the arts. The pair then collaborated, tossing around a few ideas and consulted with other area arts advocates.
Local artist Dan Swartz's name consistently came up in the conversations, so Markzon knew he had to approach him to join forces. The timing couldn't have been better, as Swartz had recently secured a building to house his Wunderkammer Co. art gallery. The conversation continued, and the concept of a local Fringe was born.
The festival will take place today through Sunday at the Wunderkammer Co., 3402 Fairfield Ave. Swartz remodeled the former Casa d'Angelo restaurant building into an art gallery — perfect for a performance venue.
In general, The Fringe is a showcase for the performing arts, particularly theater and comedy, although dance and music are also represented. What makes it unique is that it is not a juried festival: With no selection committee, any type of performance may participate.
“I hope the festival will highlight local performers and attract regional ones to Fort Wayne,” Markzon said about his objective.
Another bonus: Local artists can interact with guests, which can inspire creativity. Speaking of creativity, the nature of the Fort Wayne Fringe acts runs the gamut, from a multimedia performance to a fire poi artist.
And staying true to the nature of the Fringe, there is no artistic director, and artists were selected by a lottery system. This means the organizers were not involved in influencing the art, and there is no censorship.
Yet there is no improvisation, Markzon says. That's because “we know the gist of the show before they apply.”
The artist is truly the epicenter of the festival. And Markzon and his crew are putting their money where their mouth is. That's why one hundred percent of the ticket revenue goes to the artists.
“We're here for our community and the arts,” he said. “We want to do as much as we can for them.”
The multiday format allows them to maximize the amount of exposure artists receive. Acts are short, which allows for more artists to be showcased. The festival will present 10 groups, each performing twice, for a total of 20 performances. Artists hail from Fort Wayne, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Mich.; Columbus, Ohio; and Atlanta.
Patrons can pick and choose which acts they want to attend over the four days, but Markzon is hoping people will “come for a particular act and stay for others.”
Most shows can accommodate about 100 people each, he said. Audience involvement, such as photography, is permitted and encouraged.
Tickets for each performance are $5 and can be purchased online at www.fwfringe.tumblr.com and at Wunderkammer Co. A schedule of the day's performances can also be found on the website.
The festival is made possible through support from the Carlie Cunningham Foundation.