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Last updated: Mon. Aug. 11, 2014 - 01:19 am EDT

Fringe Fest a place to express self

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For a schedule of Fringe Fort Wayne, go to these websites:

Dan Swartz’s face is covered in a colorful blitz of pipe cleaners, so much so that only his black-rimmed glasses peek out and you can only make out little movements while he talks.

“It’s so hard to be serious in this,” he says.

It’s Sunday, and Swartz is about ready to kick off the second Fort Wayne Fringe Festival.

With him are these cast of characters:

A “lazy” princess, a ham, a taco, an “old-timey” swimmer and a pink, puffy … something.

It’s all very fitting for Fringe.

The festival celebrates performance art that might not be seen otherwise, including theater and music and even a professional pole dance team. It’s inspired by other Fringe Festivals across the country and in Canada.

Fringe Fort Wayne will take place this week at The Wunderkammer Company, a nonprofit art gallery headed by Swartz at the building that once housed the original Casa D’Angelo restaurant on Fairfield Avenue.

And that’s where Swartz was Sunday, kicking off the festival with a “FringeK,” a spoof on road races such as the 5Ks that are often held weekend mornings. Only with this, revelers dressed in costumes and there were contests, such as one for the best beard.

The main focus, though, was the festival and the arts. And the venue is great for first-time performers, said Swartz, who organized the festival.

One of those is Courtney Tritch, who will be performing a one-woman show involving “awkward photos, video tell-alls and snarky confessions,” according to the festival’s schedule of events.

Tritch is also vice president of marketing for the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, and Swartz said others with similar positions in the community might be a little hesitant to show off their artistic side in such a way.

But the Fringe Festival provides a venue that’s open and honest, and allows an artist to be himself or herself without harsh judgment.

“It can push people into feeling like they can do something,” Swartz said.

The last festival took place in February during four days in which it had to compete against a winter weather advisory and the Super Bowl. Still, it attracted more than 750 people over four days, Swartz said.

This year’s festival runs eight days, culminating on Sunday with kickball in Lawton Park and an open mic night.

Tuesday is a big day for the festival, as it coincides with National Vinyl Record Day. There will be drinks and art for sale at Wunderkammer, and the event will serve as a fundraiser for next year’s Fringe Festival.

And those participating in the open mic nights could find themselves part of the main event next year. Those nights are being used to spot possible talent for the next festival no matter how out there the performance may be.

“Our Fringe is very weird,” said Swartz. “Even amongst the other festivals.”

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