“I’ve been really inspired lately to see other young people bringing things to the valley. It’s almost like a changing of the guard or a generational shift is taking place and everyone’s getting comfortable with a new way of seeing and doing things.” – Sarah Fulton
The Lehigh Valley has a lot of festivals. A LOT. But never before have we been some to something quite like this. The ALLENTOWN FREAK OUT Fringe Fest is the first of it’s kind in our area (another nod to the way young people are getting out and changing the scene of the whole Valley!).
What makes this fest different is the key word “fringe”. FREAK OUT is a true art festival, bringing in acts and artists that don’t quite fit into the Art Festivals held on Main Street. Among the acts are fire performers, burlesque shows (one of them by “conjoined twins”), improv comedy, a lot of live music, special gallery exhibits, drum circles, and film screenings.
PHEW. Read on to see how two Allentown residents are about to turn the Valley’s arts culture on it’s head, and let their freak flags fly.
I don’t even know where to start! I’m freaking out! Which is in this case is a good thing. Consider it preparation for the FREAK OUT. Now, tell me what the FREAK OUT is.
Allentown Freak Out is a new fringe festival coming to downtown Allentown on June 18 and 19 that features avant-garde arts and entertainment. There’s music, theatre, art, fire performers, sideshow acts. Basically, it’s a fringe festival that’s free and open to the public.
How did the idea for this come about? Had you been to something similar elsewhere? How is this unlike the Valley’s other festivals?
My husband Matt Lewis and I had the idea in fall of last year. It began merely as a conversation that this would be something fun to have in Allentown (since we live there) and that Allentown was a fitting place for a gritty, fringy festival. Philadelphia has a huge fringe festival and there used to be one in Jim Thorpe where Matt and I lived at one time. I think this festival is different from ALL others in the valley in that it will bring offbeat entertainment that is outside the mainstream to an area where the public often doesn’t have a chance to experience such things. Also, it’s completely FREE! Something we’re very proud of.
You’re someone very tied into the arts of the LV. Tell us about your film work, and the Chen Arts Group.
Well, thanks for asking. Matt and I own Post Sputnik, a video production business. We do marketing and promotional videos and some regional TV work but we also produce documentaries. We’ve completed three in the last several years with our partner Bob Ross of Jim Thorpe.
Most recently we finished “On Joy & Sorrow – The Glass Prism Story” about a ’60s psychedelic band from Scranton that is credited with one of the first concept albums. They basically used the poetry of Poe as the lyrics for their entire first album. It was a fun story to put together and we’ve had some successful screenings. We also make short films just for fun and have shown them at Allentown Chen Arts Group events. I am the current “communications” person for the arts group and some artists in the group are planning another show in August.
What types of people will the FREAK OUT cater to?
I think the event caters to people who love unsual and interesting entertainment – particularly anyone who ever considered running away with the circus! But really, there is something for everyone at this event. Families will feel welcome and comfortable and will be invited to participate but at the same time adults can enjoy live music or burlesque in a bar with a Freak Out drink special. We’ve really tried to cover our bases.
Can you explain the various happenings? What types of art and performances will people see? Are they local?
Whew…we have quite a schedule but I will try to condense things. (You can always visit www.allentownfreakout.com/schedule.html)
Friday is our opening night ceremony with a DJ, interactive drum circle and fire performance. There will be fire poi, fans, hoop and staff. Saturday is really busy. There are nine bands all performing for free, so the people out there who love indie music should definitely come out and enjoy.
(Bands include – At PPL Plaza Green: The Subtle Experience, Voodoo Automaton, Pleasant Corners, Eww Ya Boo and The Big Dirty. At House of Chen: Bob Lewis, The Locksmiths and Tavern Tan. And at Art-N-Soul: The Great White Caps)
There’s two art exhibits – Chen Arts Group with 13 cubes in the Arts Park and a graffiti mural and “Buffet of Lowbrow” at Art-N-Soul Studios – for people who enjoy fine art. There is theatre – a dark, Poe piece for the adults and an interactive family play called “El Coqui” – by Allentown Public Theatre. We also have burlesque and comic sideshow acts by Bella Deluxe and the Darwin Sisters and improv comedy by Associated Mess.
There’s a film screening of “Rock N’ Roll Circus” starring the Stones, Who, Lennon, Yoko and more under the big top. Happy Hooper Lehigh Valley will have a hoop village set up for public participation and enjoyment. Plus, there will be fire performances both Friday and Saturday after dark on PPL Plaza Green, which is an amazing sight to see, so please come check it out.
How were you able to make this a free event, and how do you think that will affect the turnout?
We figured a free event would be the best way to attract the broadest audience. You really have nothing to lose by coming to check it out. We’ve had thousands of hits on our website in the last month, and even more in the last two weeks, so we’re hoping for a great crowd.
We were able to keep things free by finding sponsors. Pulse Weekly gave us a great advertising sponsorship and our friend Peter Lewnes (7th Street Development Committee) really liked what we were doing so he offered to support it. Otherwise, a committee of us sold ads in our festival program and made some trades with area businesses and organizations to raise the money to put this on. The City of Allentown is sponsoring this by printing our program.
What has the reaction been of locals that find out about this fringe fest?
I am amazed at how many people know about this festival everywhere I go. It’s almost scary to think there may be hundreds of people coming this weekend, but I would honestly love it. The local reaction has been positive. People are excited to hear about something new and entertaining happening in downtown Allentown. Some even giggle at the name “Freak Out” because it will probably bring the local freaks out. But it’s all in good fun.
This has been a work of passion on your part. What are your personal feelings on being able to hold an event like this in the Valley?
I’m really excited to feel like I’m a part of improving downtown Allentown. There’s still so much negative perception, but I live here, in Center City, and I really enjoy it. It’s not how people think it is. I think Allentown is like a clean slate sometimes. There’s so much opportunity, especially for us motivated young people, to come up with ideas and execute them and make a difference. The city is supportive of new events like this happening. I hope we surprise everyone with this event and make it something to look forward to every year.
What will this event bring or show the arts community of the Valley? Do you have any thoughts on how young people are really injecting their own style to Valley events?
I hope this event shows the rest of the arts community that there are comrades out there, in the sense that, you/we are not alone. There are other creative, inspired and motivated people to meet up with and you can make things happen in the valley and in Allentown. I’ve been really inspired lately to see other young people bringing things to the valley. It’s almost like a changing of the guard or a generational shift is taking place and everyone’s getting comfortable with a new way of seeing and doing things. I’m glad to be a part of positive change.
SO MUCH TO SEE AND DO/INFO:
- Friday, June 18th from 7:30 – whenever you get tired of fun
- Saturday, June 19th Noon – Midnight
- FREE FREE FREE!!! Everything is FREE!!!
Please check out the FREAK OUT WEBSITE for a detailed schedule of times and places to see entertainment and art.