Nothing screams KC Fringe Festival quite like rappelling down a 10-story building in the heart of Midtown, said organizers of a weekend fundraiser to help bring professional arts advocates — laid off because of the pandemic — back to the payroll.
“To me, this fundraiser really speaks to what the Fringe does — which is create new spaces and new ways of thinking about interactions, both for the performers and for the audience,” said Ilan Salzberg, the Denver-based developer behind the Netherland building near 39th and Main streets, a longtime supporter of the Fringe, and one of the organizers of Saturday’s rappelling experience.
“This event is ‘Fringe’ at its core because there will be performers coming down the building, and it’s really a rethinking of space in a building,” he continued. “You don’t think of the busiest intersection in Kansas City as a place where people are dropping from the sky.
“It is something that you can feel beautiful doing, feel safe doing and feel a little scared doing — all at the same time.”
KCMO city council members Eric Bunch and Ryana Parks-Shaw are set to rappel on Saturday, as well as City Manager Brian Platt, activist Justice Horn and other prominent community members, organizers said.
It’s the first fundraising event for the KC Fringe Festival — the largest performing arts gathering in Kansas City — which is partnering with Over the Edge, a professional rappelling organization based in Nova Scotia, Canada, to send individuals down the Netherland Saturday.
“Because of COVID, [the Fringe] had to lay everyone off. We all have still been working, but we’re working as volunteers to keep it going,” said Cheryl Kimmi, who serves as the executive director of the KC Fringe Festival. “Now, we need the funds to get back to live theater. This event is going to be our first step back to in-person events, and hopefully, this will be the kick off to our live festival in 2022.”
The organization, which in the past has premiered such award-winning musicals and films as “The Drowsy Chaperone” and “The King’s Speech,” held 49 virtual shows so far this year — a steep decrease from typically hundreds of in-person performances, Kimmi said.
“The Fringe gives artists the opportunity to share who they are and what they’re feeling. It can open the hearts and minds of our theater community and encourage them to try something new,” she said. “We’ve been looking at this rappelling [fundraiser] for several years because it is also a fun way to encourage people to step outside their comfort zone.”
About 40 individuals have pledged to “go over the edge” Saturday in support of the Fringe, leaving 35 open spots. Participants who want to participate are required to raise a minimum of $1,000, and businesses can raise $2,500 to “toss the boss.”
Registration was set to close Monday, Aug. 23, but in typical artist fashion, Kimmi said, she extended the deadline to Wednesday, Aug. 25 to accommodate any last-minute signups.
Click here to register for KC Fringe Festival’s fundraiser with Over The Edge.
“Over The Edge is an incredible group, and within their 19 years of operation, there has not been a single accident,” Kimmi said, reassuring those who are on the fence and worried about safety. “They are extremely professional and have put the building through rigorous tests to make sure that everything is secure. They won’t put anyone at risk.”
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“We will have a DJ MC announcing everyone as they go over — and we may have a little surprise for our council members,” Kimmi teased.
For those who wish to stay on the ground, the Landing Zone Party is set for the southeast corner of the building, where rappellers will be descending.
“We will have music [featuring DJ Leo],” Kimmi added. “We have a couple artists who will be doing live painting. The Unicorn and Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre will be there with information about their upcoming seasons, and I believe the Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre will have some performers. Also, everyone will be masked.”
Rappelling begins at 9 a.m. and will go until the final person has descended. With the current number of participants, Kimmi estimated that rappelling will end at about 2 p.m.
Organizers hope this year’s fundraiser will be the inaugural year for what they see as a Kansas City tradition in the making, they said.
“I am completely positive that three years from now, we’ll be on Year 4 of going over the edge,” Salzberg said. “It’s just a matter of time until Paul Rudd and Jason Sudeikis join us! We’ve got some serious Kansas City talent, and Ted Lasso definitely needs to fall off a building.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.