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The FRINGE-y 5: MATTHEW MARCUM's Existential Take on The Fringe

It's the most wonderful time of the year for Nashville's theater community: 2017 Sideshow Fringe Festival opened last week, packed to the rafters with some of the most adventurous offerings ever for theater-goers and as the action picks back up this week for another full calendar of events, anticipation is reaching a fevered pitch. And if the crowds for last weekend are any indication, this week's Sideshow promises to be one of the most sought-after tickets in town.

Today, our FRINGE-y 5 spotlight focuses on internationally recognized performance artist, producer and educator Matthew Marcum, whose work combines text, sound, movement, and optics to create contemporary theatre productions, live art events, conceptual installations and educational workshops. Marcum holds a dual MFA in Theatre Performance Making from The University of Chichester in the U.K. and the California Institute of Integral Studies as well as an MA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Columbia College Chicago.

An integral part of Sideshow Fringe since 2012, Marcum's 2017 offering - The Existential Emporium - is an immersive live art exhibition that explores mindfulness as performance and allows the audience members to engage in a series of "existential exercises" designed to bring awareness to aspects of traditional meditative practices such as concentration, visualization and mind/body connection

Today, Matthew Marcum talks about his experiences on the Fringe and what audiences can expect experience in The Existential Emporium and he offers up what other Fringe events he is most looking forward to this weekend. It's all in today's installment of The FRINGE-y 5; we'd suggest you reserve your tickets sooner rather than later so that you'll be able to catch him in the act of creation this weekend.

What was your first Fringe experience and how did it inspire you as an artist? My first Sideshow Fringe was in 2012. I had met Jessika Malone when I auditioned to be a producing artist for Sideshow at Actor's Bridge and I couldn't have been more excited for the opportunity to join - it was literally exactly what I was looking for. I created a theatre piece called The Sum of Some Parts which was a collage of conceptual art pieces, spoken word poetry, and songs that was performed at the Belmont Black Box Theatre. I had only been in Nashville a few weeks at the time and it was my first major show in town. My work is experimental by nature and I am really into breaking things on stage which sometimes gets a little tricky. The backdrop for this particular piece is a large window that I smash with a board as part of an excerpt called "Window Pain" and glass tends to go everywhere. It's a little dangerous, pretty unexpected and I had never done it before. At my first tech rehearsal with Mitch Massaro I explained it to him and was totally prepared to cut it from the show if it seemed too risky. Without hesitation, he said "That's why we have a shop vac" and I've been breaking things ever since. That's what inspires me so much about Sideshow - they believe in risk. They believe in tearing down walls and shattering glass ceilings. They believe that if the ceiling remains they should probably bring in an aerial act. They believe in the power of possibilities which is the ultimate inspiration.

What makes Sideshow Fringe so special? It truly is a spectacular event and something I look forward to every year. It's an avenue for local artists to push themselves in new directions and to bring something completely unique to the table. It is one of the major events that has allowed Nashville to redefine itself in the last couple of years as not only a town for great music but also for cutting edge theatre and performance art. It gives the theatre community a place to come together and collaborate in ways that produce long standing and supportive friendships as well as a chance for artists from around the country to experience first-hand the magic of performing in front of Nashville audiences.

How would members of the theater-going public know you? What are some of your biggest/best/brightest and most infamous credits? Aside from The Sum of Some Parts, I wrote and performed Tales of a Goldfish for the 2012 Sideshow Winter Fringe, The Reinventionalist a collaboration with musician/producer Andrew Adkins for the 2013 Fringe, The Bathing Suit in 2014, and The Guardian: I Am Edward Snowden in 2015. I wrote and directed Surreal Estate in collaboration with The Sideshow Ensemble which was an immersive theatre exhibition in partnership with The Cumberland Gallery as part of Nashville's Artober Festival, and performed as part of curator Jason Brown's exhibitions Voices: Readings from the Brehman Collection and The Mail Art Show. I also released two albums while I was there and produced and hosted It's A Happening a series of interdisciplinary art events billed as "Nashville's Hippest Underground Art Party."

Besides your own project, what Fringe offering most excites/intrigues you this year? I'm really excited for Britt Byrd's production of Marian, Or The True Tale of Robin Hood and Diego Gomez's The Backpack. I've worked with both of these artists before on different projects and they are both amazingly talented. I'm so proud of them for the work they are currently making. I think both of these projects are very brave and important to a larger conversation that we all need to be having right now.

Why Should people come and see the Existential Emporium? I developed this work over the past two years while in residency at The California Institute of Integral Studies and The University of Chichester in the U.K. It premiered as part of The New Experimental Works Festival in San Francisco in May and I'm very excited to bring it to this year's fringe. The Existential Emporium is an immersive live art exhibition that explores mindfulness as performance and allows the audience members to engage in a series of "existential exercises" designed to bring awareness to aspects of traditional meditative practices such as concentration, visualization and mind/body connection. It is installed and coordinated with the help of the incomparable Shannon Spencer and marks my eighth project with Sideshow at Actor's Bridge.

About 2017 Sideshow Fringe Festival Seventh Annual Sideshow Fringe Festival - billed as Nashville's Progressive Performing Arts Event, presented by Sideshow @ Actors Bridge - gathers hundreds of local artists for what promises to be its largest endeavor in its seven-year history. Sideshow Fringe runs July 27 through August 6 at various Nashville locales.

Named as one of CNN's Most Intriguing Festivals in its "Best of the US" compendium of events, Sideshow Fringe Festival gathers some of "the most exciting performing arts Music City has to offer" for two full weekends of "electrifying, gravity-defying performances."

The 2017 edition of Sideshow will include a wide variety of performance styles including circus, comedy, dance, theatre, performance art, storytelling, puppetry, aerial arts, improv and clowning.

"Nashville is growing by leaps and bounds all around and the Fringe Festival is, too!" says Jessika Malone, program director for Sideshow Fringe. "We are excited to expand to two weeks in our seventh summer of celebration to meet the demand for the most adventurous performing art our city has to offer. The fringe is my favorite time of the year because it's all about expressing yourself courageously, embracing eccentricity, and celebrating authenticity in all its forms."

Individual tickets for paid performances are $15 each. Sideshow also has a Triple Play package for viewers to pick any three shows for just $35. Audience members can also explore all of this year's eclectic performances with an All-Access Pass, which covers everything the festival has to offer for $150. Free pop-up performances and other programming will be available in various locations throughout the Festival, including Richland Park.

The Sideshow Fringe Festival is a program of the Actors Bridge Ensemble led by co-founders Jessika Malone and technical director, Mitch Massaro. Daniel Jones joins the team this year as creative producer.

Tickets: Tickets are $15 and 50% of all box office proceeds go to participating artists. Tickets are available at and at all festival venues. All Events will be held in one of the festival's four main venues: The Black Box Theatre at Belmont university, The Darkhorse Theatre, The Actors Bridge Studio in Darkhorse Chapel and Richland Park.

Highlights of the 2017 Sideshow Fringe Festival include:

High-Flying Aerial Thrills This summer features five aerial offerings in the Black Box at Belmont including: FALL's special encore presentation of A Bending Of Its Own Kind, which debuted to a standing-room-only crowd at Oz Arts Nashville in June 2017 and features an all-new invented aerial apparatus based on the x-rays of artistic director Rebekah Hampton Barger's spine; New Altitude, featuring mother/daughter pair Thérèse Keegan and Lizard Walker, returns with Lines Interrupted - an all-new family-friendly aerial spectacular; Suspended Gravity spotlights the legendary women who have made music history in an original circus celebration Women Who Rock; and Chimerical Circus will make their fringe debut with an exploration of the identity of the performer and their many masks.

New Local Plays Nashville playwright Nate Eppler (Osborn Award Winner, Nashville Rep's Playwright-in-Residence) pairs with fringe favorite puppet troupe Sailors & Maidens for an Nine Exits; Britt Byrd, winner of Nashville Scene's Best Actress Award, makes her directorial debut with the patriarchy-smashing and gender-bending Marian Or, (The True Tale of Robin Hood); and Diego Gomez presents a world premiere workshop of The Backpack, an experimental performance format integrating traditional and forum theatre practices.

Returning Fan Favorites #ThrowbackThursday kicks off the 2017 Sideshow Fringe with the hottest, sexiest, most awkward tradition of them all - an interactive open mic where brave audience members can dust off their teenage diaries and reveal the inner thoughts of their younger selves hosted by Cassie Hamilton and Mallory Kimbrell of Sailors & Maidens / Meryl & Joyce.

Fringey Fun Sideshow fan favorites Conway Preston and Kara McLeland are back with an interactive comedy fantasy adventure, The Lost Medallion of Gondalor: A Choose Your Own Adventure, and filmmaker and puppeteer Madeleine Hicks will pop up her Sixty Second Cinema at select and secret locations throughout the festival and present your favorite films in a new format that gets in all the goods in under a minute!

Spinning Yarns abrasiveMedia presents an interactive live podcast Mixer Live: For the Love of Loving; Josh Campbell of Spillit Memphis returns to the Fringe to host both a free storytelling workshop and a new format story slam, The Nerve Slam; and F. Lynne Bachleda shares her tales of learning about life while driving for Lyft in Stories From The Backseat.

History of Fringe Fringe theatre is a term used to describe theatre and related performing arts that are not of the traditional two- or three-act play format. The term has been adopted by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and by alterNative Theatre festivals internationally.

About Actors Bridge Actors Bridge Ensemble is a professional theatre company and actor-training program now in its third decade serving Nashville. Our mission is to tell the stories that impact our community by producing provocative and socially relevant theatre, creating new theatrical works, showcasing emotionally authentic ensemble acting and fostering a nurturing environment where theatre artists at any stage in their development may train and assist in the production of professional theatre.

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From This Author - Jeffrey Ellis

Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 35 years. In 1989, Ellis and his partner l... (read more about this author)

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