Today’s prompt is, “What is the earliest memory you have?”
I have many. Here’s a list:
Seeing my dad pull up in his cream-colored station wagon when he got home from the newspaper.
Stubbing my toe and marveling at how the wound was a perfect brick red-colored circle.
Picking up pinching beetles for fun and marveling at their sheen.
My mom exercising throughout the house as she did chores. This is perhaps my earliest memory because she was back at work by the time I was in kindergarten. And not long after that, she ran for alderman. Didn’t win, but I am still so proud.
Having rotating art on the living room walls. Back then you could “borrow” a painting from the library.
My sister Rani performing as a grammarian dog in a play at Walker Elementary School. She and my mom sewed it and I also remember the roar of the huge sewing machine.
My mom saying “God bless America” when she was frustrated (still hilarious).
Singing “I’m a Rhinestone Cowgirl” into a handheld tape recorder while Glen Campbell’s song played either from the radio, a record player or 8 track. I think Rani was sending her friend Laura (who lived in Texas) a recorded letter. This predates mixed tapes and voice mail. Back then I think my sister would record a message onto a tape and then mail it to her friend.
My sister Rani blow-drying my hair followed by my grandma saying I looked like Farrah Fawcett but pronouncing it Faroo Fuh-rah. It’s worth noting that my very Italian grandma also liked the song Funiculi Funicula.
My brother David giving me that final push when I learned how to ride a bike. It’s worth noting that this was on Camp Avenue which means he had to keep me steady all the way around the block.
My sister Rani getting makeup secretly delivered to her in the mail. I believe she even sent cash (coins even!) to purchase it!
Ozark airplanes at the local airport that delivered our Morrison, Colorado loved ones to us (and sometimes us to them).
My sister Phyllis’s spellbinding performance in Clod Clown by Phyllis Ross. I can still hear her singing the title song:
Everyone calls me the Clod Clown
and I can't blame them cuz
every time I sit down, I fall down
every time I stand up, I fall down
and then when I walk up and down the stairs
I trip and fall and break my neck
My sister went on to write another groundbreaking song entitled, “Guess What America Is Eating Tonight?” If you’re wondering what the answer is, here’s a hint: She wrote and performed this song while popping popcorn.
Guess what America is eating tonight
Something light that you make at night
And when you eat it your pants won't get tight
All of these memories (and so many more) have obviously heavily influenced who I am today. I’ll write more about the “art” aspect of my childhood on the Rockford Fringe page later tonight. I had to write this quickly today. Thank you for reading!
Thank you for coming to the Rockford Fringe Festival! We have a fantastic lineup of unique, deep talent for you including theatre, music, comedy, drama, dance, stretch, radio plays, creative dramatics, parkour and poetry.
We hope you stay all day, but of course you are welcome to come and go as you please.
Our performers have been working incredibly hard. Please be respectful during their performances and give them your full attention. If you need to leave, please wait for the breaks before and after each act.
The Fringe is free but bring your own chair and snacks; and please remember if you pack it in you must pack it out. This includes your recyclables and litter. We want to leave Walker Park looking better than the way we found it.
With those housekeeping items in mind, please get comfortable and enjoy the Rockford Fringe Festival! -Connie Kuntz
The Rockford Fringe Festival Podcast, hosted by Connie Kuntz, is another way to get to know the artists. It’s free and available on Apple, Spotify, Anchor and Google.
Nick Barelli is an actor/director from Rockford. He studied at University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) under the tutelage of Yasen Peyankov, Zeljko Djukic, and Derrick Saunders. He gives his thanks to the Rockford Fringe Festival and to Carl Maronich for the awesome opportunity to be a part of these plays.
Rock Island native, Aubrey Barnes, also known as “Aubs.,” is a poet, spoken word artist, author, battle rap enthusiast, Emcee, teacher of the arts and podcast host of Black Thoughts Podcast. Aubs. has performed and taught workshops all over; from Chicago, Atlanta and outside the country such as Haiti. His third book It is Good, It is Written was published April of this year.
Kate Blair is delighted to be part of this year’s Fringe Festival. She has enjoyed learning Nikki’s choreography & collaborating with both Nikki and Emily in preparation. She currently works as Outreach Coordinator & Instructor at Rockford Dance Company. She is certified in Movement Fundamentals®, a holistic movement/dance training.
Rebecca Ann Carver (host) is a Chicago-born actress, model and comedian. She’s been seen (and worked on) shows for MTV, Netflix and Amazon. She’s modeled for large companies like Staples and Shure to small local and women-run businesses. She performs regularly throughout Chicago and the suburbs. Rebeccaanncarver.com
Emmy Daniels (she/her) is a rising senior Music Theater major from Naperville, IL. Past productions include June by the Sea, Spring Awakening (Ilse), Jesus Christ Superstar (Disciple/Judas u/s). Being queer herself, she is excited to tell a queer story that is both lighthearted and unabashedly honest. No more hiding!
Alyse Dionne is a Chicago-based actor with Promote Talent Agency playing Josephine “JoJo” D’Angelo. A member of the ComedySportz Rec League, Alyse played Helena in a virtual adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the radio play Emperor of the Moon on Spotify. Insta: A.M.Dijon
Robbie Ellis is a comedy songmaker who’s birthed one album with a second on the way. He performs at Chicago shows like The Paper Machete and Tuesdays@9; he’s been an improv music director at The Second City and The Annoyance; he’s a composer; and he presents classical music radio on WFMT Chicago. Robbieellis.net
Tera Flores writes, “I am honored to be making my directorial debut in Lady Balls. It has been a blast and I am truly honored to be working with such a collaborative group.”
Allison Fradkin has a ball creating satirically scintillating stories that (sur)pass the Bechdel Test and enlist their characters in a caricature of the idiocies and intricacies of insidious isms. An enthusiast of inclusivity and accessibility, she serves as Literary Manager of Violet Surprise Theatre, curating new works by queer playwrights; and as Dramatist for Special Gifts Theatre, adapting scripts for actors of all abilities. Allison’s auxiliary activities include vintage shopping, volunteering, and tending to her thespian tendencies.
Gerri Hood writes, “I am 50-ish. I am the mother of 6 children and 15 grandchildren with 2 more on the way. I’ve been writing most of my life but didn’t read my work publicly until February of 2020 when I read a poem for the City of Rockford’s Black History Month celebration.”
Emily Klonicki works, plays and creates in Rockford, IL. She is the executive director of Alignment Rockford. She loves to dance and create other kinds of art in her free time. She has two children who are also young artists.
Angelo Kuntz is going into 7th grade at West Middle School in the Creative And Performing Arts Program. He enjoys reading, volunteering at the Burpee Museum of Natural History, running and playing chess. Angelo danced at Hubbard Street Youth Dance Program and later at Ruth Page Center for the Arts and is excited to lead Creative Dramatics with Fern.
Connie Kuntzloves producing safe, inclusive and unique art-based public events. Some favorites: Now What Pop-Ups; Winter Solstice Poetry Caroling; The “On Your Mark” 5K; and the “March for the Arts” Parade. A former WNIJ environment reporter and host of State of the Artist, now Connie’s a playwright, Rockford Fringe podcast host, the music and comedy director for Naked Angels Tuesdays@9 Chicago, and a sometimes-instructor or moderator at Chicago Dramatists. She says, “Thank you to everyone who took at chance on the Rockford Fringe Festival.”
Essamuel Kuntz will be a sophomore at Guilford this fall where he is part of Scholastic Bowl and runs track. Sam enjoys volunteering at the Burpee Museum of Natural History, reading, making music and editing / creating videos.
Fern Kuntz will be a freshman at Guilford in the fall. She enjoys volunteering at the Burpee Museum of Natural History, and playing cello and chess. Ferm danced for several years at Hubbard Street Youth Dance Program and later at Ruth Page Center for the Arts.
Jesse Kuntz is a freelance technical director and production manager for live events. When Connie learned about the City of Rockford’s “Forward For Fun” initiative, she thought about producing a writing event but Jesse said, “You need to go bigger and it needs to be theatre.” They walked over to Walker Park and immediately envisioned the Fringe. The Rockford Fringe is an awesome collaboration but it is Jesse Kuntz who made it possible for us to see, hear and experience this safe, beautiful day of original performances.
Jocelyn Kuntz will be a senior at Guilford in the fall and is currently part of the International Dance Experience at Ruth Page Center for the Arts. Prior to Ruth Page, she trained at Hubbard Street Youth Dance Program for several years. Jocelyn is the past youth poet laureate for the City of Rockford and enjoys boxing and Muay Thai.
Jim Lichtscheidl is a creator, director, choreographer and performer from Minneapolis. He enjoys writing, tennis and playing competitive Scrabble. Other shows Jim has created include Huh?, The Hoopla Train, Knock!, and archie and mehitabel: life in lowercase.
Mannarzm says his mission is to inspire and impact people. He is also a media producer (music for spoken word artists, scoring for film or television), video production and post production. Mannarzm is the founder of the open mic Metaversez.tv.
A playwright with a background in radio, and plenty of experience shopping in small town grocery stores, Carl Maronich combined these interests to create Sack Merriweather – Bag Boy, Do-Gooder and All-Around Nice Guy. The radio play originally aired on WKAN in Kankakee in 2015. Audio Biography is a radio feature that never quite made it onto the air, but has been called brilliant…or probably would have been if anyone actually heard it. Carl’s writing career started in journalism, including a dozen-year stint with the Dixon Telegraph, a few miles south on the beautiful Rock River.
Sharon Nesbit-Davis is the author of the memoir Intended: A Marriage in Black & White and the past executive director for Rockford Area Arts Council.
Rich Rankinis a Chicago-based musician, producer, audio engineer and photographer. He has produced, recorded and performed on numerous albums, performs live, and also scores and produces ad music, audio branding and sound design. His photo work captures inspired people; musicians, dancers and artists of all kinds.
Rockford Writers’ Guildis an international writing organization that nurtures and publishes writers of all levels. The Guild has been around since 1947 and puts out two editions of The Rockford Review every year. They also publish the monthly newsletter Write Away, host monthly meetings, regularly promote their writers and maintain a lively social media presence. Rockford Writers’ Guild is the official sponsor of the Rockford Fringe.
Nicole Rundall-Royal writes, “As a dancer, I believe in the power of the arts to evoke emotion and passion. As a social worker and therapist, I find inspiration in the music of artists who use their craft to bring social justice to the forefront. The life of Nina Simone and the music that she has created through her love, anguish, and courage inspired me to choreograph a piece to the song “22nd Century.” There are many layers and elements in this lengthy piece of music and it lends itself to different stories being told through movement. I am so very thankful for the two creative souls who have supported, collaborated and danced alongside of me on this piece. We are very excited to be a part of Fringe Fest.”
Karen Saari is an award-winning playwright who enjoys getting a chance to perform once in a while. Residing in Madison, WI, she recently played Mrs. Chumley in a Madison College production of Harvey. Other favorite Madison acting credits include roles in Bonnie and Clyde and The Sound of Music (Music Theatre of Madison), The Odd Couple (Alley Stage), Cat’s Paw (Strollers Theatre) and You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Mystery (Mercury Players). By day she works in PR and teaches Speech at Madison College. She sends love to Dave, Max and Ginn. Don’t mind this shameless plug for the world premiere of her musical (book and co-lyrics) Ten Days in a Madhouse, Aug. 19-27 at Wisconsin Union Theatre! (Learn more at mtmadison.com)
Kim Schultz is a writer, actor, improvisor, storyteller and activist. She has worked at many national theatres as an actor and writer. In 2009, she was commissioned to travel to the Middle East to meet with Iraqi refugees. Out of that came the solo show No Place Called Home and the memoir, Three Days in Damascus. (Palewell Press, 2016). Up next: a new play she wrote called The Root Beer Lady. It is the story of a maverick woman who lived alone in the Boundary Waters for 50 years being performed at the History Theatre in St. Paul, MN, January, 2023.
SigFreed (Parkour) is a group of parkour athletes, explorers and artists traveling and creating content while documenting their adventures. They are based out of Beloit, Wisconsin. Members: Nathan Sill, Max Saladar, Devon McIntyre and Evan Rusmisal.
Christopher D. Sims is a Rockford born and raised writer of poetry, performance spoken word poet, and a hip-hop MC and recording artist. Heavily engaged in and committed to the 1980s rap genre and the 1970s Black Arts Movement, his poems and rhymes either educate, inform, or uplift. As a poet, he covers social justice issues to continue the conversation and push this country towards justice and equity. A multi-threat artist, Christopher D. Sims is all about entertainment and education.
Schann Stewart currently performs in nursing homes but is striving to take her show into other venues. Originally from Nebraska, she now lives in Freeport, Illinois where she is pursuing her dream of being a voice actor. She hopes to be in animation someday.
Kankakee, IL is where Bill Yohnka hosts the morning show on X-Country 106.5 FM, is the voice of the Kankakee Farmers Market and works in community engagement for Kankakee School District 111.
The Rockford Fringe Festival was made possible by the City of Rockford’s Forward for Fun initiative.
We’ve been cranking out the content on the Rockford Fringe Festival Podcast! You can listen and subscribe via Apple, Google, Spotify and Anchor or just listen from my blog. Here are the latest episodes.
Episode 4: My 10-minute interview with rap artist Aubs.
Episode 5: My 5-minute interview with poet Gerri Hood.
Episode 6: My four-and-a-half-minute interview with parkour performers Nathan Sill and Max Saladar of SigFreed.
Episode 7: My 13-minute interview with playwright Carl Maronich.
Episode 8: My 8-minute interview with comedy songmaker Robbie Ellis.
Episode 9: My 6-minute interview with comedy jazz artist Schann Stewart.
Episode 10: My 8-minute interview with Minneapolis artist Jim Lichtscheidl.
Episode 11: My 9-minute interview with college student Ethan Watts.
Episode 12: My 6-minute interview with Chicago actor Alyse Dionne.
Episode 13: My 7-minute interview with Rockford dancer Kate Blair.
Thanks for listening and see you at the #RockfordFringe on Saturday, July 9, 2022 from noon to 6:00 p.m. at Rockford’s Walker Park. Bring a chair or blanket for sitting. Pack a picnic. It’s a rain or shine event, so consider wearing a hat, sunscreen and packing an umbrella. It’s also an environmentally friendly event so if you pack it in, pack it out. We don’t want to leave even a hint of litter at the park, plus the park only has one garbage can so in order to keep the park clean, we ask you to pack neatly and if you have any garbage, dispose of it at home. Thanks for keeping the earth clean and healthy! -Connie
Get to know a little bit about the Rockford Fringe Festival host here. Then come to the #RockfordFringe on Saturday, July 9 from Noon-6:00 p.m. at Walker Park in Rockford, Illinois. It’s a free celebration of theatre and the performing arts and it will take place rain or shine! Thanks for listening! -Connie
I interviewed the ever-evolving poet and spoken word artist, Christopher D. Sims in this five-minute podcast. Listen here or the various podcast formats: Apple, Spotify, Google and Anchor FM. Thanks and see you at the #Rockford Fringe! -Connie
The Rockford Fringe Festival is Saturday, July 9, 2022 from Noon-6:00 p.m. in Walker Park; 1500 Myott. It’s a free event that celebrates theatre and the performing arts.
The Rockford Fringe Festival has a podcast! I’ll interview artists and share Fringe info every week in short, fun episodes.
Meet the talent and the team by listening to our first episode here. I edited the audio from the Community Info Session that was broadcast on Facebook Live into a delightfully informative and entertaining 14-minute podcast.
After you listen, let me know if you’d like to be on the podcast.
If you are comfortable doing so, please like, rate and / or subscribe to the Rockford Fringe Festival podcast. We greatly appreciate it! -Connie