For the City Times
The fourth annual ARTi Gras festival of arts is set to kick off in Wisconsin Rapids on Thursday, March 9.
This year’s festival mixes international guests, local artists, and a full day of Jane Austen in a ten-day feast of the arts spread across eight Central Wisconsin communities.
The line-up of guests begins with the Prague Shakespeare Company, British-born Pakistan comic Sajeela Kershi, Sarah Lawrence College with a children’s show, pianist Molly Roseman, Jane Austen expert Joseph Wiesenfarth, and Madison’s Atlas Improv. Joining them will be some of the area’s brightest stars, from musicians to poets, packing nearly 50 events into this dynamic, growing festival.
“ARTi Gras is really a unique offering in Wisconsin, a festival that spans the whole range of arts. We have everything from popular events like our comedy night to high-brow arts like our classical music concert, and something for every age group, from kids through seniors,” said festival director Cathy Meils. “We always make sure there’s time for the audience to meet the artists, which makes the whole experience more memorable. We have to give a big thank you to our local businesses and individual donors who underwrite the entire costs of the festival, so that most of the events can be offered free of charge.”
Several festival favorites will be returning this year. The University of Wisconsin Stevens Point professional musical theatre students are performing for the fourth year, along with the Blue Monday Band and the senior theatre company The Silver Foxes. The festival will host its third annual Poetry Slam with Wisconsin Poet Laureate Bruce Dethlefsen emceeing.
This year the festival is adding performances in Marshfield, Stevens Point, Amherst, Bancroft and Almond for the first time, while continuing to expand events in Wisconsin Rapids, Nekoosa, and Port Edwards. According to Meils, another new component of the festival is collaboration with area schools and the Boys and Girls Club which will host the children’s show “Lil Pea” with local students creating the art work for the show.
The festival will close with a Jane Austen Day, which starts with a book discussion, a film screening, a discussion led by Jane Austen expert and UW Madison Professor Emeritus Joseph Wiesenfarth, and a play reading.
The full schedule of events can be found online at www.wrctheatre.org/artigras, and brochures for the festival will be available at arts and cultural organizations and at Wisconsin Rapids Community Theatre. Many of the festival events are free of charge.
Tickets and reservations are available at WRCT, 715-421-0435.