By D. A. Blackburn
After a one-year hiatus, Lansing’s Renegade Theatre Festival returns Aug. 21 through 23, joining the festival circuit in the city’s Old Town district. In 2006, the inaugural Renegade festival drew some 1,000 patrons over three nights, but lacking East Lansing venues for a second engagement, the festival failed to launch in 2007. This year organizers have revitalized the festival, moving it to venues in Old Town Lansing, and expanding their theatrical offerings.
“Old Town, I think, has really been revived by festivals. It’s amazing how many festivals they have down there during the course of a year,” said Chad Badgero, founder of the Renegade Theatre Festival and artistic director of the Peppermint Creek Theatre Company. “We had hardly even approached them about it before they said, ‘you can have it here, here, here and here,’ and had found all these places for us.”
As luck would have it, Old Town’s various galleries and cafes provide a perfect setting for a festival of this type. The name “renegade” is a reference to the bare-bones nature of the productions showcased. With the normal trappings of the stage scarce in the area, productions are staged in a minimalist fashion.
“Audiences should know that it’s going to be minimally produced as far as lighting goes, or as far as sets go, because performers have to be able to set up their space in less than an hour, perform, and then take it down so the next group can perform in another hour,” said Badgero. “You’re not coming into some set elaborately designed or any really amazing light plot, but yet there’s still this really amazing energy and excitement about putting on all this theater all at once.”
That said, the festival schedule is anything but Spartan, including a diverse range of shows produced by some of the Lansing area’s best known theater companies. Badgero’s Peppermint Creek is joined by Lansing Community College, the BoarsHead Theater and the Williamston Theatre, among others. In all, some 14 producing organizations have joined the festival, nearly double that of the inaugural event.
Productions will include a number of single-act productions, improvisational works and staged readings. Badgero has adapted a collection of David Sedaris’ stories for the stage, and works by local playwrights Fred Engelgau and Sandra Seaton will also be showcased. The festival will include an open mic stage and organizers plan to host a group talk-back event where patrons can discuss festival events between shows.
Moreover, as a compliment to its three evenings of programming, festival organizers have added an afternoon of children’s programs on Saturday, Aug. 22.
Badgero sees the festival as a benefit to both patrons and area theaters alike.
“People can become very compartmentalized in the kinds of shows they go see and the theaters that they frequent, so I hope this will be good in bridging some of these gaps, and opening people up to things they might not otherwise see,” said Badgero. “It’s exciting, because it’s made sort of easy for the consumer.”
‘Renegade Theatre Festival’
At multiple venues in Lansing’s Old Town district for three nights (and one afternoon) of free theater. Performances are at 7 p.m., 7:30 p.m. & 9 p.m., Aug. 21-23; plus 2 p.m. & 4 p.m., Aug. 23. For information: 517-483-1488 or http://www.renegadetheatrefestival.org.