Elgin hosts the annual Fringe Festival September 2-11

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It’s often said that expect the unexpected at the Elgin Fringe Festival. This includes words you would never expect to be associated with, like “burlesque clown”.

“It’s clown and burlesque fused together,” said Nick Mataragas, artistic director of the festival. “Which is kind of a crazy idea.”

Sobby the Clown will perform “Reject Sense, Embrace Silly” at this year’s festival, which runs September 2-11 in downtown Elgin. The annual celebration of the visual and performing arts includes performances commonly associated with fringe festivals — one-man shows, stand-up and improv — as well as more unusual shows, like “Lifeline,” a hybrid of game show and play and ” . gif Theater”, which takes the popular animated GIF image format and brings it to life on stage.

“There will be a performance aspect to what we normally think of as something we see on our phone screen, which is pretty cool. I can’t wait to see how it works out, because it’s such an idea mad,” Mataragas said. “It’s one of the great things about the Fringe Festival, it gives artists the opportunity to take risks and go in different directions and do something that you never had seen before.”

At this year’s festival, visual art opens September 2, Family Fringe September 3, and live performances September 8-11.

Now in its 9th year, the festival will feature 22 producer artists performing live over four days, September 8-11. Previously, artists were selected on a first-come, first-served basis, but this year artists were selected by lottery.

“It’s a bit more fair, just across the board,” Mataragas said. “No matter when you find out about the festival in the registration window, you have an equal chance to participate.”

To help encourage productions by local artists, this year Side Street Studio Arts and the Elgin Cultural Arts Commission created The Elgin Group, a separate organization that helps three local equity-seeking producers create Fringe shows for the first time.

“They are guided by the members of the Elgin Band to help them build their shows,” Mataragas said. “They were given rehearsal space and guidance on how to navigate the comings and goings of a Fringe festival.”

Featuring a mix of local and overseas artists, this year’s festival will see the return of Captain Ambivalent, Ghostly podcast, The Bad Taste Crime Podcast, Elgin Theater Company, Your Silent Partner and Memoriam Development. Several artists new to Fringe are also joining this year’s lineup.

To attend any of the Fringe shows, purchase of a $3 Fringe button is required. Individual performances cost $7 or $12, with a few requiring no additional ticket. The $75 Festival Pass includes a Fringe button and allows admission to all shows.

“We increased ticket prices this year, so every show is free, $7 or $12,” Mataragas said. “So we’ve increased it by $2 for each of the tiers due to inflation and the cost of putting on a show has gone up and we want to make sure our artists are making money.”

Performers receive 100% of ticket money, which can be purchased online and collected at Fringe Central, 15 Ziegler Court, Elgin.

The festival begins with the Visual Art Opening Reception at 3-7pm on September 2 at the Side Street Studio Arts Gallery, 15 Ziegler Court, Elgin. Admission is free with the Fringe button.

“We have an incredible group of artists. They will be on display for the duration of the festival,” Mataragas said. “It’s a very interesting mix of artists. One of the coolest things about the visual aspect is, just like the performance side, you never know what you’re going to get from the artists, and sometimes that’s pretty amazing.

Works by 15 visual artists will be on display, including works by featured artist, Andrew Vo, who designed this year’s Fringe Festival button and poster.

“He basically created mascots for the festival,” Mataragas said. “It really sums up that Fringe spirit. There’s a fun energy and feel to it that just works for the festival.

The popular Family Fringe returns to the Elgin History Museum, 360 Park St. this year. The free event runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on September 3 and includes games, a bouncy house, performances and more.

A full schedule of artists performing September 8-11 is available on the festival website, along with venue information. Venues include The Lab, Theater and Backspace at Side Street Studio Arts, Elgin Art Showcase, Blue Box Café, Martini Room and Elgin Public House. Not all sites are accessible, see website for accessibility information.

While this year’s lineup features plenty of family-friendly shows, some are for adults only. Shows intended for an informed public indicate this on the festival website.

“Honestly, I think we have more shows for all ages this year than we’ve had in the past two years,” Mataragas said. “I’m excited about it.”

Elgin Fringe Festival

When: 2-11 Sept.

Where: Fringe Central, 15 Ziegler Court, Elgin

Tickets: $3 Fringe Button; plus $7 or $12 tickets; Festival pass $75

Information: elginfringefestival.com

Kathy Cichon is a freelance journalist for the Courier-News.

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