Aug. 14 2013 12:00 AM

Theater festival back with new features


Lansing’s Old Town district transforms into a giant stage this weekend at the 8th Annual Renegade Theatre Festival. Actually, it’s more like 11 stages, featuring classic and new works from nearly every theater company in town, along with music performances and storytelling events, but who’s counting.

Co-founder Chad Badgero credits Renegade’s longevity to Lansing’s “festival town” atmosphere, as well as the growing sense of connectedness in the theater community.

“We were much more disparate and isolated when we started,” Badgero said. “People did their show and they left. But over the last eight seasons, we’ve seen a change.” He said part of that connectedness comes from performers sharing equipment and spaces, which is absolutely required for a micro-budgeted festival like this to function. He said he feels that the cooperative spirit seems to have spread to all the area theater companies throughout the year.

Although the overall number of offerings remains the same, there will be some upgrades. (A full schedule is in the center of City Pulse.) This year will feature some new performance venues around Old Town; there will be a “Moth Radio Show”-esque storytelling performance in addition to the plays and staged readings; there will a playwriting award for best new script; and for the grand finale of the festival, Badgero and Renegade co-founder Melissa Kaplan will co-produce City Pulse’s annual Pulsar Awards ceremony, which honors the best in local theater.

Paige Dunckel, organizer of Renegade N.O.W. (New Original Works), is interested in a new category this year; four 10-minute plays on the theme of “Redemption.”

“It was very interesting this year to get these individual playwrights’ views of redemption,” Dunckel said. “The four that we ended up selecting were all very different, all different styles and genres and all really interesting material.” Dunckel is directing one of those segments by local playwright Oralya Garza: “Interview with a Dead Woman.” Ultimately one of the new scripts in the Renegade N.O.W. portion will be selected for a fully staged production in Peppermint Creek Theatre Co.’s upcoming season, which will be announced at the Pulsar ceremony. Dunckel sees another bright side to the Renegade N.O.W. section: nurturing young talent.

“What’s really cool about the Renegade N.O.W. portion of the festival is not only is it open to nurturing new playwrights, but it’s also a festival that lends itself to promising young directors who might not get a lot of opportunity to direct,” Dunckel said.

Another addition to Renegade (although not to the Lansing arts scene) is Dedria Humphries Barker, a writing professor at Lansing Community College. She’s also a veteran storyteller, and one of the event’s three spoken word performers. She’s been honing her material over the past five years at a Lansing coffee house, performing original works and pieces by storytelling icons such as David Sedaris.

Badgero said the event appeals to live theater fans and newcomers to theater.

“Sometimes people just feel intimidated by going to the theater,” he said. “Renegade is probably the most unintimidating approach to theater that anyone will find.”

Renegade Theatre Festival

Aug. 15-17

Various locations around