When I moved to Knoxville from Virginia at the beginning of last summer, I was intent on finding the places that creative people gather and make art. I was still riding the creative high from attending the first annual Shenandoah Fringe Festival; and so, when I heard about Knox Fringe, I knew it was a place I wanted to be.
Knoxville is a place the embraces makers of many types, but often the performative arts are overlooked as something people “make.” Maybe it’s the ephemeral nature of the beast – a song, a dance, a play exist in that moment, in the special interaction between performer and audience, and no matter how many times an artist performs a piece, it’s never exactly the same. Performers are often not seen as makers in the same way that someone who creates a tangible object is.
But, the performative arts are crafts like any other. They take dedication, perseverance, and cultivation (of course, talent helps, too!). And, even more so, they require the tenacity to find the right venues and audiences. Much like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a community to support the arts.
And, I found a community like that with Knox Fringe. At my first meeting, I felt so welcomed by the diverse group of burlesque performers, comedians, actors, dancers, singers, and performance artists of all kinds. And, best of all, it became clear immediately that this was a group of movers and (tassel) shakers bent on getting the fringe arts in the public eye in Knoxville.
And, boy howdy, were they! At the end of that first meeting, Salomé Cabaret (one of Knoxville’s amazing burlesque troupes) put out a call for performers. Their next show, in less than three weeks’ time, was going to be a Knox Fringe showcase and feature performers from all types of performance backgrounds. They invited all of us to submit acts for consideration for inclusion in the evening’s entertainment. So – of course – I couldn’t resist the opportunity.
Thus, last Saturday night, I found myself at The International alongside a group of performers ready to show our scruffy city what Knox Fringe has to offer. It was a smashing success! The night opened with comedy by Lance Adams and then continued with a full docket of performers from Salomé Cabaret, The Ooh Ooh Revue, and Marble City Performance Company, as well as a bellydancer, several singers, a clown (me!), and a – frankly – incredible jump rope number. The show was well-received by its audience, and they, I think, were surprised by the depth and diversity of talent that took the stage.
I might be biased, but I believe that Knox Fringe is going to change the face of Knoxville for performers. It will allow those who don’t fit into a traditional community theatre create art and for audiences to find something new in a city they already love.