Puppet karaoke? Yes, this year’s Fringe Festival has puppet karaoke

Sep 18, 2019 at 1:00 am
This year's Detroit Fringe Festival has plenty of puppet programming.
This year's Detroit Fringe Festival has plenty of puppet programming. James Abbot

Another local festival that has continued to grow is the Detroit Fringe Festival, which is celebrating its sixth year, kicking off on Thursday with four days of performances.

The festival is run by executive producer Carrie Morris through her organization CMAP, who says this year's event is on track to be the biggest yet, featuring the work of more than 200 artists and 17 performances across five venues in Detroit and Hamtramck.

Given Morris' background in puppetry — she is a puppet artist and served as a puppet arts curator at the DIA — much of this year's programming involves puppetry.

"I have a knowledge of a large national network of puppeteers," she says. "We bring in puppeteers from all over the country to do free programs for Detroit youth. So this was a special way for us to receive some funding from a national source, from the National Puppet Slam Network, and be able to focus it in on the development of new public pieces, specifically from Detroit artists."

That programming also includes puppet karaoke. Yes, puppet karaoke.

"Part of the hilarity of it is that whether the songs are old-school karaoke songs that everybody knows or they're super new top 40, the puppets and the karaoke singers don't have to worry about being super polished," she says. "We're all in it together, and so we'll all sing along and help each other out."

The festival kicks off at 8 p.m. on Thursday at the Jam Handy with a soft launch of Volume 7 of Emergency INDEX!, an annual performance publication from Ugly Duckling Presse. To celebrate the launch, a group of Detroit-area artists will re-interpret works made elsewhere last year.

The festival continues 4 p.m. Friday at Hamtramck Public Library with Cloud Spinner: An Environmental Fairytale by the Black and Brown Theatre, billed as "a live fairytale that encourages children to think about ways they can protect the environment." Starting at 8 p.m., Hamtramck's new venue, the Film Lab, will show a musical performance using homemade instruments like the Guicella (a 6-string guitar-cello hybrid) and the Novello (made up of toy piano rods and clock chime rods). Then there's There Will be a Test, a performance by the troupe Thank You So Much for Coming. "Their work is funny and profound all at the same time," Morris says. "People should know of them, they're really great. They're ones to watch."

Other highlights include a traditional Aztec ofrendas workshop followed by a traditional Aztec dance performance on Saturday at CMAP, as well as the Fringe 24-Hour Fest at Light Box, which shows a series of short works written, designed, rehearsed, and performed within 24 hours based on an assigned prompt. Festivities continue with more theatrical performances on Sunday at the Jam Handy.

The Detroit Fringe Festival runs from Thursday, Sept. 19 to Sunday, Sept. 22 at various venues in Detroit and Hamtramck. See detroitfringefest.com for the full schedule. Tickets start at $10.

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