Renegade enters 10th year
For ten years, the Renegade spirit has taken over the Greater Lansing theater scene for a weekend.
Now in Lansing’s Old Town, the three-night/one day theater festival is launching its decade celebration with new shows, more music and more children’s shows than ever before. It opens Aug. 13 at 6:30 and runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and then there is Renegade Kids and Teens during the day on Saturday.
“Ten years is a long time and not long at all,” says Festival co-Organizer and Founder Chad Badgero. “It gives us a nice handful of years of experience, to give us a sense of what totally worked and what crashed and let’s not do that again.”
This year will see 18 different shows in evening performances, 8 Renegade NOW shows, four children’s plays during Renegade Kids on Saturday morning, a teen workshop and teen coffee shop and 16 different musical groups. This is a growth from the first year when there were eight participating organizations.
“That’s a lot to see in three days,” says Melissa Kaplan, a festival co-organizer. “There are a number of participants who are performing two rather than three days and a couple shows that play one time only.”
There continues to be a strong interest in new works for the Renegade Festival. Theaters such as Williamston Theater are bringing a reading of a Joseph Zettelmaier work ,which they’ll perform fully later in their season. Then there is Renegade NOW, the festival within a festival of all new works.
“Renegade NOW continues to grow in terms of the quality of plays,” Kaplan says. “We have the same number of slots to fill, but we are receiving plays from much further afield. This year’s winning playwright, Deb Lacusta, is ‘Old Man in a Big Car.’ She’s from Los Angeles.”
Kaplan says driving interest in new plays is an important goal of the Festival as it goes hand-in-hand with how much theater gets produced in the Lansing Community.
This year the winner of the NOW Festival was announced before the festival so that play producers could come and see what the winning show was and make decisions about whether they would want to produce it.
There also continues to be a growth in the festival of independents putting on works. While most of the area’s theaters come out and participate in some way, there are also many individuals who want to be part of the festival and put up the money on their own to do that.
“That’s really exciting and noteworthy,” says Badgero. “The theaters have something to fund them, individual artists…I don’t know where their support is coming from, very likely their own pocketbooks.”
Renegade shows are free to the public, so producing organizations must come up with all the money on their own to put on their shows.
“We’re not offering them a lot,” Badgero says of what is offered to participants. “What we offer them today is the same thing we offered in the first year—it’s a venue and 50 chairs. The venues continue to change. Some are nice and carpeted, while others are gritty and outdoors.”
The participants pay royalties to present the shows with no compensation. Any donations go back to running Renegade. They’re doing it, said Badgero, because like so many professional and community theaters, they love theater.
Around five years ago, Renegade added Renegade Kids as part of their Saturday offering. This year. there will be four children’s shows and a number of events surrounding the show such as face painting, a dress-up photo area and a magician. “The kids’s section has really grown,” says Badgero. “We’re really passionate and excited about it.” Since adding the kids portion of Renegade, Badgero says there has been an outgrowth from it—kids who outgrow it but still want to participate in the festival.
“We’re now experiencing a group of Michigan kids who want to be presenting something themselves and they’re in between that area of kids and adult offerings,” says Badgero. “We’re offering a teen workshop again this year with Rico Bruce Wade where they come in the morning work all day in improv games and present in the evening.” There is also a youth coffee house, with teens presenting a jukebox of songs and skits.
This year saw a last-minute crisis in venue spaces. The agreement between the Festival and Old Town merchants is that they’ll get the space as long as it is empty. But if the owner is able to lease it out, the Festival loses that space. That happened in the last few weeks, and while it was resolved, the committee is looking at expanding beyond Old Town next year and having the Festival in multiple locations the way the Capital City Film Festival is organized.
For now, though, all of the performances are within walking distance of each other. There will be two musical stages, with one focusing on acoustic performers who will perform between theater acts.
People can come to Renegade and see multiple shows and maybe not have a plan. Traditionally, many have come to see one specific show, and then they stay and see other shows when they become aware of them. Says Kaplan, “There is something novel about that experience and that is part of what keeps Renegade going—the novelty, the community, the creativity and the dedication of the team of folks who organize it.”