Peter Bakely has been an actor for years, performing in venues all over the Kansas City area. During the past couple of years, he decided to add playwriting to his talent pool and his play Jet Propulsion was a featured show at the Unicorn Theatre’s Jerome Stage last year during the 2011 Fringe Festival. This year, Skillet Tag will be on the main stage at the Unicorn as part of the 2012 Fringe Festival. The festival runs July 19-29.
The play will have five performances during this year’s festival. “If you are a local playwright, the Fringe Festival is where your works need to be seen,” Bakely says. “When I attended my first Fringe Festival here in town, I knew within minutes that I needed to have a show. The other benefit is for the theater venues. They get a chance to show off their spaces. How many of us would be able to rent a space like the Unicorn?” Bakely, whose plays lean toward darker subjects, says the festival is the right place for his shows. “There is a freedom that we can stretch as far as possible,” he says. In the 2011 Fringe alone, 455 primarily local artists appeared in more than 368 original and uncensored performances.
Bakely’s play, Skillet Tag, has four men and four women participating in a corporate team-building retreat that goes “horribly, horribly” wrong. “When the boss shows up, he is nuts and really inappropriate. When he is accidentally killed, the play spirals down pretty quickly.” The play runs for about 60 minutes. Last April, Bakely won the Rockhurst University Plays in Progress script-in-hand contest. “Almost all of us have had the experience of team building through work and have laughed at the sometimes diametrically opposed ideas such as shouting ‘teamwork’ and ‘competition.’ Sometimes the idea of group-think throws everyone off. It can make the situation bad and within the play, it just gets worse and worse.”
Skillet Tag is produced by Play On … Productions. The show is 11 p.m., July 20; 6:30 p.m., July 21; 2 p.m., July 22; 8 p.m., July 25; and 9:30 p.m., July 27. The show is directed by Kelsey Marjorie Kallenberger and Sam Slosburg. The cast is Aurelie Roque, Laura Jacobs, Kenna Hall, Matt Leonard, Kyle Wallen, J. Will Fritz, Kyle Dyck and Chelsea Tighe. Jay Akin is doing our fight choreography and Tess Roam is doing makeup.
Bakely’s show is just one of hundreds that will be part of the 8th Annual KC Fringe Festival. The 11-day festival is full of theater, dance, performance art, visual art, spoken word, puppetry, storytelling, film and fashion. Twenty venues and more than 360 live performances are slated for 2012 creating a slight increase over the 17 venues and 358 live performances in 2011.
Beth Byrd-Lonski is another Fringer. She has been with the festival since the beginning. Her group, the Flock, will have six performances of an original piece. The venue is the 1730 Broadway and the shows are 10:30 p.m., July 20; 3 p.m., July 22; 9 p.m., July 23; 6 p.m., July 25; 7:30 p.m., July 26; and 7:30 p.m., July 28. “Cheryl was on the board for Just Off Broadway. We knew from the beginning that the festival was a good idea. The Fringe Festival is a real audience builder. It’s about taking that artistic shot and perhaps not knowing anything about theater, but picking a show or two and trying it out. The festival is a chance to explore and have some fun. It is inexpensive and a chance to see lots of shows. If you like an artist, it is a chance to start following that artist or artists.”
“The growth in the festival this year is in content,” says Cheryl Kimmi, executive director. “We are retaining our numbers and strength in theater but bumping up our participation in other components. YOUth Fringe submissions alone have almost tripled this year from 9 in 2011 to 25 in 2012. We’ve also developed strategic partnerships with many arts organizations throughout the city and our artistic peers recognize our value to the community. As we enter our eighth year I feel confident in saying that the KC Fringe is Kansas City’s cultural arts festival.
Two new components added to the festival this year are the KC Fringe Experimental Music Showcase and Teen Fringe. The KC Fringe Experimental Music Showcase is a new music mini-festival produced in collaboration with the Kansas City Electronic Music Alliance (KCeMA) and Charlotte Street Foundation’s Urban Culture Project at La Esquina on July 26, 27 and 28. Fourteen composers and music groups will present original works in a format of 20-minute sets organized into three-hour concerts. The showcase is designed to promote new and experimental music and sound art, at the fringes of standard practice. Submissions include music that incorporates new technologies, performance practices, aesthetics, interactivity, free improvisation, and other experimental features.
Teen Fringe is an expanded component of YOUth Fringe created as teen submissions to the festival have increased each year. Award-winning teen playwright, Zachary Weaver, will work with Jeff Church the Coterie Theatre to create a Young Playwrights Group that will be a teen mentoring program linking teen artists to established artists in the Kansas City community. Fashion on the Fringe will open with a Teen Fashion Show.
In 2012, the KC Fringe partners with new venues that help raise the festival’s profile to new audience members including the KC Ballet’s Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and the Spencer Theatre in the UMKC Performing Arts Center. Returning venues include City Stage at Union Station, Fishtank Performance Studio, Screenland Crown Center, the Plaza Branch of the Kansas City Public Library, Just Off Broadway, Metropolitan Ensemble Theater, Off Center Theatre, Unicorn, La Esquina, Westport Coffee House, Your Classic Ride and Vulcan’s Forge.