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Fifth annual Lake Effect Fringe Festival kicks off at Dog Story Theater February 1

Dog Story Theater, in partnership with GEM Theatrics and Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company, is kicking off the fifth annual Lake Effect Fringe Festival on Wednesday, February 1, 2017.

/Terri Foley

Pricing and information:

All performances take place in the black box performance space of the Dog Story Theater, 7 Jefferson SE, Grand Rapids, 49503. Tickets for all events can be purchased in advance on the Dog Story Theatre’s website. Tickets are $14/adults and $8/students and seniors. Comedy Outlet Mondays are $5. Support LEFF.

Comedy Outlet Mondays - January 30 @ 7:00 pm

Shadblow Theatre - Anatomy of Gray - February 1 and 2 @ 8:00 pm

Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company - Titus Andronicus - February 3, 4 @8:00 pm and 5 @ 3:00 pm

Bard to Go – Macbeth - February 4 @ 3:00pm and February 5 @ 8:00 pm

Comedy Outlet Mondays - February 6 @ 7:00 pm


The Brutal Sea – Love & Semiotics - February 8 & 9 @ 8:00 pm

The University Wits – God of Carnage - February 10 & 11 @ 8:00pm and February 12 @ 3:00pm

M.Y. Musical World - February 11 & 12 @ 7:00 pm  

Comedy Outlet Mondays - February 13 @ 7:00 pm


Art by Ellis – February 16 & 17 @ 8:00 pm

The Blue Star Players – 36 Questions - February 18 @ 8:00 pm and February 19 @ 3:00 pm

Comedy Outlet Mondays - February 20 @ 7:00 pm


Christopher van Der Ark – February 21 & 22 @ 8:00 pm

Midwest Stage Company – February 23 & 24 @ 8:00 pm

Commedia Del’Arte Troupe – February 25 @ 8:00 pm and February 26 @ 3:00 pm

Comedy Outlet Mondays - February 27 @ 7:00 pm


Stephen Douglas Wright – The Ghost of Jimmy Dean - March 1 & 2 @ 8:00 pm

GEM Theatrics – Chapatti - March 3 & 4 @ 8:00 pm and March 5 @ 3:00 pm


/Actors Alyssa Farrell, Kimberlee Griggs, and Jessi Towell in rehearsal for Titus Andronicus. Photo by Kat Hermes.

/Actors Alyssa Farrell, Kimberlee Griggs, and Jessi Towell in rehearsal for Titus Andronicus. Photo by Kat Hermes.

Lake Effect Fringe Festival stands by its motto, “Changing the forecast for live local theatre,” as many local West Michigan talent pull together to provide a wide variety of events that span over a month, from February 1 until March 5. Dog Story Theater is a black box theater that is available to rent for local playwrights and artists. The diversity of the festival is shown through its dynamic work and is embraced to the fullest.

Scott Lange, a board member of Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company, has been alongside LEFF since its inception in 2012. Scott is directing an all-female production of Titus Andronicus this year. Scott says that in a perfect world he envisions a “theatrical community where one could see a Broadway musical on one night, a Shakespeare tragedy the next, and fit in an avant-garde production along the way.  All without competing with each other for an audience.”

As Scott and the rest of the Pigeon Creek board were choosing which plays they would perform this season, Titus Andronicus had been a favorite of theirs for quite a while. He felt very passionate about directing this show, and decided to move forward with an all-female cast.

During Shakespeare’s era, it was customary for his performances to be composed of an all-male cast. Juliet or Lady Macbeth were all originally played by men. Scott shared that he finds it interesting to see what an audience can learn about a play when it is performed in one of two ways. One being by a single gendered cast, and another when the play is cast with the opposite gender than the role was written for.

Scott shares some of the experience he has had with doing this over the years. “When we did an all-female production of "Julius Caesar" it was startling to notice how many of the insults that characters hurled at one another were insults like "like a sick girl" or "be not womanish." Those things hadn't ever struck me as strongly when they were men saying them. With "Titus" it's been interesting to notice the ways that female characters are used and abused by male characters, but alternately how female characters can manipulate the male characters with their femininity.”

Katherine Mayberry is the Executive Director of Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company and one of the founders of LEFF. This year, she will be playing Tamora, Queen of Goths in Titus Andronicus. This is the third production that Pigeon Creek has done with an all-female cast. “In Shakespeare's own time period, the professional acting companies were all-male, and so cross-gendered casting was a basic part of theatrical performance. Acting really involves people being able to find something to identify with in characters who are different than themselves, to see the world through that character's eyes, and so this kind of casting adds a new dimension to that.”

In Titus Andronicus, there are only three female characters. Women auditioning are very limited in their options, and by opening up the roles as all-female or being gender blind, this allows an actor to stretch her abilities.

Scott plans LEFF every year, and is passionate about what LEFF means for our community. He said that, “the festival was formed not only as an opportunity for smaller local theater companies to do something sort of off the wall, but also as a way to band together to raise awareness in Grand Rapids of smaller theater companies. Grand Rapids has a fairly large number of well known, strongly entrenched community theater organizations. It can sometimes be difficult to get attention from the press and audience. By banding together, the smaller theater companies and small local venue can make a little bit of a bigger splash in the community; and keep our presence known. I feel like all of the local community theaters in Grand Rapids are extremely important, and have a strong purpose with what they do. But it's also great to have some small "offbeat" theater companies that can also thrive as an option in the city.”

Katherine Mayberry works alongside Scott in planning LEFF. Katherine said she is “always really happy to be part of the Lake Effect Fringe Festival. I love the cooperation between different theatre groups to bring attention to the work of so many local theatre artists, and to provide audiences with such a wide variety of performance events.”

Be sure to catch Titus Andronicus, along with many other performances and workshops! Full schedule in the sidebar. WYCE had the opportunity to talk about LEFF, listen here.

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