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A smorgasbord of art happened in Rockford Saturday

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Yvonne Boose
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Robbie Ellis

A nontraditional theater experience took place in Rockford Saturday at Walker Park.

This was the first Rockford Fringe Festival. It included a variety of performers.

Connie Kuntz, the producer of the festival, said she’s performed, directed, and produced for fringe festivals when she lived in Minneapolis. She said she wanted something similar in Rockford.

“I wanted there to be a variety of inclusivity in a public place that was smart and creative and funny and sometimes just plain interesting,” Kuntz explained.

The noteworthy aspect of a fringe festival is that audiences get to see a smorgasbord of art.

There was poetry, comedy singing, plays, dance and other types of performances.

Robbie Ellis was the opening act. He is originally from New Zealand, but he moved to Chicago seven years ago to perform music for comedy. Ellis said he’s done fringe festivals around the world but this one was different for three reasons.

“One, it's its very first year. That's excited to be part of. And two, it's in one single venue,” he said. “A lot of other fringe festivals around the world have multiple theaters going on. You know, lots of different shows running at once. And three, what's different about this? It's entirely free.”

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Yvonne Boose
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The audience took part in a stretching session led by Jocelyn Kuntz.

Jim Lichtscheidl is an actor, writer and choreographer.

He explains how this isn’t the typical Fringe that he is used to.

“The fringe festival that I've performed at usually takes place over two weeks or so. Everyone gets a time slot. And this chunk of time during one day is unique.”

Lichtscheidl said he especially enjoyed the spoken word performance and the parkour demonstrations.

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Yvonne Boose
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Christopher D. Sims

Rockford poet Christopher D. Sims took the crowd on a journey with his rhythmic words. Not only did he perform some of his written work, he let the audience give him a word and from there he did what is called freestyle. That’s when a poet comes up with lines and recite them on the spot.

Kuntz, who also wrote a play for the festival, said she is delighted with the turn-out.

“I've never seen anything like this,” she said, “where there's so many intelligent acts one after the other from so many interesting people, mostly local, but some visitors from Chicago and Minnesota. I'm very proud.”

This was the first fringe festival in Rockford, and it may not be the last. For now, we will have to wait and see what comes of the creative ideas brewing in Kuntz’s mind.

The Fringe Festival is an underwriter for WNIJ, and Christopher D. Sims is a contributor to our Poetically Yours segment. 

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.
Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.