"To Infinity and Beyond..." the St Lou Fringe takes a big leap forward

Wow. What an incredible year.

When I think of all the changes that have happened, both for me personally and for St Lou Fringe, it’s no wonder my first year here has flown by. In addition to joining the team as the new executive director, the Fringe staff, board, and I spent considerable time reflecting on the first five years of the festival. There are so many wonderful memories and truly incredible events that pop to mind! I’m pleased to say that, as we move forward, we’re retaining much of what’s worked in the past and adding to and building on the success we’ve had.

In keeping with the spirit of the original Edinburgh Fringe Festival, we’ve refocused our mission and positioned the festival as a “test kitchen” for new and in-progress works. We’ve also refined our selection process to ensure we’re presenting a wide mix of voices, with a consistent level of quality. These efforts solidify St Lou Fringe’s standing as an innovative, new-work promoting festival for arts lovers and the community, as well as a can’t-miss theater event.

This year’s festival takes place at five different venues in the Grand Center Arts District as well as on the outdoor stage and community areas in Strauss Park. We’re featuring three headline acts at the newly renovated Grandel Theatre, two of them are premier productions, and I know St. Louis audiences are going to want to be among the first to see and provide feedback on these exciting new shows.

In addition to the headliners, the Fringe has invited a number of local performers and companies to return to the festival, including Elizabeth Townsend (last year’s FringeMeister for her commanding one-woman show), long-time fan favorite Joe Hanrahan, and the always thought provoking Tesseract Theatre company.

When you add up the headline acts, invited performers, and lottery-selected acts, the 2017 Fringe will feature 31 producers and over 100 performances. Plus, Fringe Family is back again this year with a full day of free, family-oriented theater and activities. That’s a lot of shows for a two-weekend festival, and we’re excited for you to see every one of them.

Before I sign off, I want to tell you just a little bit more about the headline acts, as the three shows are the most vibrant example of our long-term vision for St Lou Fringe. The first, our national headliner, is ‘A Song for Vanya.’ This musical interpretation of one of Anton Chekov’s best-known plays is set in the deep south and features an all-local cast. And, did I mention, the show is headed to New York? In development for the last few years, this musical is on a fast track and St. Louis audiences are among the very first to view and respond to the show as it goes through its final tweaks. How exciting is that?

We’re also thrilled to be working with local headliner Equally Represented Arts, aka E.R.A., on their new interpretation of ‘Snow White.’ No spoilers here, but I can tell you that the show will have you on the edge of your seats. Finally, long-time festival favorites the Ashleyliane Dance Company returns as our late-night headliner. The troupe never fails to mesmerize with their graceful and athletic dance.

I am so excited to share the 2017 St Lou Fringe Festival with St. Louis and to continue to put our city on the cultural and theatrical map. I hope you’ll join me there!

MATTHEW R. KERNS, executive director, St Lou Fringe: A professional actor, educator, and motivational speaker, Matt is constantly spreading the news about our vibrant city and thriving arts community. This spring, he was honored to make the connection between art and innovation during his first TedX talk.

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