While many view Macau as either a Portuguese colonial heritage site or casino paradise, creative residents have joined forces to expose a delightful, artistic side of the island enclave. Every year, the Macau Fringe Festival celebrates the best of alternative theatre, with dozens of performances erupting in out-of-the-way spots and non-traditional venues.
Photo courtesy of fifikins.
Macau theatre has evolved into a blend of Portugese drama and Chinese opera, bringing out the theatrics and splendor of both cultures into a completely new entity. In recognition of their own unique contribution to the international art scene, artistic residents launched the Fringe Festival back in 1998, with an audacious objective of setting up the city into one enormous stage. Several years later, the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau (IACM) took it upon themselves to develop the festival into a city-wide event. The festival is now a must-attend celebration that reflects the best Macau has to offer. Other local groups such as the Macau Music Force and Macau Folk Club extensively participate in the organization and put the bulk of their resources to making every festival a memorable success.
This year, event planners organized one hundred activities over several weeks. Experimentation and innovation continue to be driving forces for these art groups, as limited resources bring out creative solutions that overcome boundaries. Puppet shows, installation art, street mime, urban graffiti, literary theater and other performances will continue to push the envelope of stagecraft. Expect workshops, dances, concerts and dramas to be conducted outside the usual venues, such as old school buildings, parks, waterfronts, industrial sites, side streets and cafes. Examples of these off-theatre sites include The Stone Commune and Hiu Kok Laboratory. Furthermore, theatre lovers from all over the world will bring in their artistic vision and contribute to the ongoing celebration. Those who wish to perform during the occasion need only to submit their answer to the question, â€œWhat is theatre?â€; organizers will choose the yearâ€™s participants based primarily on this criteria, and will supply lights and sound equipment and other amenities to them.Â Volunteers are drawn from nearby high schools and universities, giving students valuable contacts and experience in the arts community.
Photo courtesy of kevinpoh.
The Macau Fringe Festival 2010 is being held from November 12 to 28, on the heels of Grand Prix season. One highlight was the Tap Seac Art Fair, featuring artists from neighboring Taiwan and Guangdong province. Tap Seac Square is also the location of a gallery dedicated to raising awareness about the cultural heritage of the island. You can still catch performances until the very last night, where a traditional parade will tour the city streets from the steps of St. Paul’s ruins. By staying in central Macau hotels, you can be close to the main events as they happen. While most activities are free of charge, a few may command a small fee to pay off additional props and talent, such as the India Modern Dance workshop or the concerts of Hong Kong sensation John Lee. If you can dress up in your flamboyant best, you can even join in the fun and walk with the other performers who celebrate their non-conformity.