Rhinofest — Chicago’s Longest-Running Fringe Festival

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Rhinofest — Chicago’s Longest-Running Fringe Festival

Chicago’s longest-running fringe festival is Rhinoceros Festival (a/k/a “Rhinofest”) is in its 26th year at Prop Thtr, 3502 N. Elston. This year it runs from January 10 through March 15, 2015.

What is a fringe festival?

A multi-day experience focused on the performing arts: theater, dance, film and visual arts. Shows are often kept brief, and technical requirements are kept simple. They started in 1947 in Edinburgh, Scotland, as an alternative festival that played concurrently with the International Festival. In 1948, Robert Kemp, a local journalist, came up with the term “fringe festival”. Such festivals can now be found all over the world and, in the United States, the concept has taken off like a rocket in recent years.

In the United States, no one organization or individual owns, controls or regulates the name “Fringe.” There are no national rules for how each individual festivals operate; the festivals’ content, finances and structure vary from city to city. Generally, however, all the festivals are committed to an open forum of expression that minimizes the financial risks for both artists and audiences. Fringes work hard to keep production fees and ticket prices low so that more people can participate in our festivals, and freedom from centralized control has led to a whole lot of festivals to participate in. The United States now hosts more Fringe Festivals than any other country.

Chicago Tribune writer, Doug George: “It’s been running for 26 years but still takes place in a theater so authentic it can’t afford vowels.” Prop Thtr was established in 1981 by artistic director Scott Vehill and technical director Stefan Brun. The space features two chamber theaters for productions by Prop Thtr, resident and guest companies including an annual new plays festival and more than 40 world premieres. The organization’s focus is on original or newly adapted works taken from literature, including Algren, Hecht, Burroughs, Brecht, Bukowski, Bradbury, Dick, Nin, Nabokov, Dostoyevsky, Salinger and others. Resident companies include Factory Theatre, The Brain Surgeon Theater Company and Tellin’ Tales Theatre.

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