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LI Fringe Festival Brings The Avant Garde To Massapequa

Annual showcase for Long Island's artistic talent holds preview performance.

With all the shopping malls and restaurants that Long Island is known for, one might overlook the fact that it also has a very strong community of artists, poets, and thespians. But the Long Island Fringe Festival is determined to introduce them to you, one town at a time.

The Fringe Festival is an annual event featuring diverse acts by local performers and artists consisting of dance, music, spoken word, poetry, and the visual arts. At its preview event, held this week at in Massapequa, Producer Deborah Ann Kasimakis spoke of the deep history of the Fringe Festival, whose roots can be traced back to pre-World War 2 Scotland.

"It was called the International Theatrical Performance Festival in Europe," she said. "So many people descended upon the site of the Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, that there weren’t enough venues for performers. So, the performers started performing on people’s lawns, and in parks, and taverns, and a newspaper article said that there were more people performing around the fringe of the festival than the festival proper. And the name stuck.”

According to Kasimakis, eventually the festival spread over Europe, and eventually found its way to the United States about 25 years ago. New York City itself has a Fringe Festival to call its own, and Kasimakis, determined to highlight what she perceived to be Long Island’s underrated artistic community, sought to create an offshoot of the Festival here as well in 2009.

“Long Island, of all places, is a hotbed of creativity,” she said. “I mean, Billy Crystal, Rosie O’Donnell, the Baldwin brothers...the list is endless of the people who have come from here who are creative. I thought, how did we not have a Fringe Festival?”

For the last three years, the Long Island Fringe Festival has been held at C.W. Post College in Brookville. But this year, in an attempt to broaden its scope and recognition, Kasimakis is taking the Festival on the road.

“We’re doing it in little towns all over Long Island this year,” she said. “Massapequa is out last preview performance. From here, we’ll be heading to Huntington, Amityville, Sea Cliff, Hauppauge, Greenlawn, Southhampton, and Brookville.”

Alli Berman is a member of the Fringe Festival, and specializes in a unique form of interactive art known as “puzzleart,” which she pioneered and has refined over the years.

“It was very exciting to bring my puzzleart to Fringe, because I knew it would be a crowd pleaser,” she said. “People can go to a wall of my abstract art, and they can start moving the pieces around and create their own art. I have puzzleart that ranges in size from 12 pieces to over 120.”

Dave Norstedet, a guitar player, brings an original musical element to the Fringe Festival.

“I play my own finger-style compositions,” he said. “They’re kind of contemporary, folk, edgy, fast finger-picking tunes that I think are pretty unique. I enjoy doing this...it’s my hobby if you will. The Fringe Festival shows that Long Island has talent, and allows us to showcase it.”

Kasimakis hopes that the Long Island Fringe Festival can help expose Long Islanders to its profound artistic culture; culture she is clearly quite passionate about.

“I hope people take away the fact that there’s more the Long Island than rows of houses and that they have to go to Manhattan to experience some culture,” she said. “There’s so much culture right in your own backyard...all you need to do is open your eyes, and share what we have to offer.”

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Long Island Fringe Festival, including performance dates and venues, you can visit their website.

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