After an exciting first year, Chicago Fringe Festival is back. Once again it is brought to the Pilsen neighborhood reaching out to the locals, new fans and those looking for something just a little different.

Chicago Fringe Festival 2011, September 1- 11, promises to continue breaking away from the traditional concept of theatrical performance in the city helping to put Chicago on the map as a major theatrical center in the United States. Mikayla Brown, Executive Director, and Assistant Producer Vincent Lacey, along with a staff of volunteers are responsible for bringing the fringe to Chicago.

Originating in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1947 as a way to promote the values of unity and bring people together after WWII, the festival allows performers to do something a little more avant-garde and bring in crowds they otherwise would have a hard time getting. Although the Edinburgh festival remains the biggest, Chicago is one of many cities in the United States to host this festival, with each city bringing its own unique perspective while maintaining the communal atmosphere.

So that begs the question:  what qualifies Chicago to be fringe worthy?

“It’s such a vibrant theatre town. There is already so much theatre here and it creates the need for something on the outside of that scene,” says Tim Mullhaney, Marketing Director for the Chicago Fringe festival. “It’s a perfect opportunity for both home grown Chicago performers and theater groups that already have a fan base here to reach out to new fans.”

The Pilsen neighborhood has a great representation of Chicago values: family, art, tradition, progressiveness and a good blend of people.

“It’s a magnet for new people coming to the city,” says Mullhaney. “It’s really an exciting location for the city to have a festival like this.”

The first fringe festival can be seen as a blueprint of what works and what doesn’t. Whether you attended last year or not you have much to look forward to. The festival has been extended over two weekends. More shows have been scheduled allowing more evening performances and for those getting out of work late, an opportunity to attend. Each show will be performed three to five times. There are approximately 50 performances chosen by lottery from Chicago, all parts of the United States, Canada and also the UK.

“We have a lot of New York City performers,” says Mullhaney.” One of them biked to Chicago from Brooklyn…it took him nine days. His name was Tim MacMillan and his show is Soul Mates Don’t Die. He did that (bike) ride to promote his show and raise money for it.”

Also new this year: the staff has put together an iPhone App. “People will be able to pull up the show schedules, the venue locations and there’s a way to check in via social media in terms of what’s going on with the festival at the given moment,” says Mullahney.

Expectations are high. The 2010 Fringe Festival had over 2,500 attendees and already 2011 ticket sales are on track with last year’s numbers. If you’re interested in attending, tickets can be purchased at Fringe Central located at 2003 S. Halsted, where you can also meet some of the artists, or purchase them online at www.chicagofringe.org. Tickets cost 10 dollars for a single show. Package deals are also available.

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