What does it mean to be fringe? One might say that it means pushing the edge of normalcy off the cliff until it is as far from the mainstream as it can possibly be. Others say it is an art, a unique form that pushes boundaries and sometimes, eliminates those boundaries altogether in order to create something different. Something alternative. Something provoking. Something on the borderline.
The NMU theatre and dance department will be performing a variety of alternative moves and theatrical performances in the “Fringe Festival: Fighting for the Arts” beginning at 7:30 p.m. next Thursday, Oct. 4, at the James A. Panowski Black Box Theatre.
Though this is not the first Fringe Festival (FF) to be put on by the department, this production is going to look different from previous ones, said director and choreographer Jill Grundstrom. This year, the theme is “Fighting for the Arts” or rather, “art on the fringe,” Grundstrom said.
“This is a great opportunity for us to collaborate in our three little pieces and come together and push some boundaries a little bit,” Grundstrom said.
After conducting auditions just a few weeks ago, the cast of 18 actors along with the crew worked diligently to prepare for a flawless performance, Grundstrom continued. Though this production allows for more improvisation, there is still a technique involved. She said with a smaller cast, it was easier to work together with everyone and it hasn’t been stressful when there are people who know how to pull things off in a timely manner.
The idea of the Fringe Festival came about when eight theatre groups were shunned from performing in the 1947 Edinburgh International Festival. Inspired by rejection, they decided to stage their own productions, leading to the birth of the “fringe” concept which is now one of the largest theatre festivals in the world. The Forest Roberts Theatre is following the same concept, yet on a smaller scale, Grundstrom said.
The main inspiration comes from William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” The production will be segmented into 12 different rounds. In between each piece, a boxing match fight bell will ring to signify a “ match” and to carry out the theme, she said. All of the sections will be “interwoven” with elements of dance, music and drama, she added.
The production will also feature a new music ensemble of four NMU students who comprise the group called Open Mind (OM). The relationship between the musicians, dancers and actors is like a “collaborative laboratory” where not everything has to be “classical” and “prescribed,” Grundstrom noted.
“When he [the percussionist] runs the drumstick on the radiator, that makes the best noise. It’s so cool and so creative. There are no limits, no boundaries which is really cool,” Grundstrom said.
The diversity factor was just one of the reasons Shannon Stilwell–junior, theater major and dance minor–joined the production. Stilwell, who’s also choreographing her dance piece, described this production as “weird” with lots of “experimental moving.”
“When Jill asked me to do the piece for Fighting for the Arts, I was automatically stoked about it. And it went to my heart, I felt. It really made me feel like Fighting for the Arts to me is like fighting for the mind,” Stilwell said.
“People should come to Fringe Festival if they are looking for something that’s missing in their life. I feel like Fringe can offer a type of curve in their everyday view because it’s so different [but] it’s worth it,” she said, “It means a lot especially with me and my dancers. It’s a very personal thing. Let us show you how we care about it because we’re fighting for it.”
Not only will the audience be pushed to the edge, but the performers as well, she said. All of the performers have taken on this responsibility to show how serious and important the arts are to the global community, she noted.
“The reason we fight is so we can have the beauty the arts brings to our world. Even when things can be really ugly, they can still be so beautiful,” Grundstrom said, “Even if it opens one person’s mind, we will have been successful.”