BACK IN THE DAY.... Co-Founder Chad Swan-Badgero had been involved in the local Lansing theatre community his entire life. Then, one fateful day in 2005, he looked around and realized that Lansing boasted a thriving festival scene, but nothing that offered a chance for theatre artists to celebrate together. So Swan-Badgero and Louis di Nolfi, with the support of Jean Golden and Sharon Radtke from the City of East Lansing, set out to bring as many theatres in the area together to present a free festival of plays over a three day weekend.
That first year, 8 theatres gathered in East Lansing in alleys, old coffee shops, abandoned buildings, and in art galleries to perform plays that they had always wanted to produce during their regular season, but couldn't seem to find a slot. Renegade provided the opportunity for theatre companies in the region to explore, expand, and explode their typical programming, and to try out new stuff they weren't sure could survive (or bring in a profit) during their regular season.
The Renegade Theatre Festival grew up for two summers in downtown East Lansing (2005 & 2006), and then took a hiatus for a year when finding performance venues became difficult. Then, the clairvoyant and exceedingly creative Melissa Kaplan approached Swan-Badgero with the idea of bringing Renegade to the Old Town Lansing district. The two took an informal walking tour of the vibrant and welcoming arts district nestled next to the Grand River in North Lansing, and suddenly the festival came to life again! The Festival made Old Town its home for the next nine years.
In 2017, with Old Town at a capacity for spaces, Renegade took the next step in growth and expanded its footprint. This new model gives the festival a chance to impact more audiences throughout the region, and to grow in new and exciting ways!
WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT Performances at the Renegade Festival include comedy, drama, musicals, children’s theatre, performance art, puppet theatre, readings of new works by local playwrights and improv, all presented by some of Lansing’s most prominent theatres, as well as by independent producers.
WHERE IT ALL HAPPENS In 2017, Renegade spread its wings to five different neighborhoods in Lansing: East Lansing, REO Town, Eastside, Downtown, and Old Town. And in 2018, the Renegade team, in an effort to explore its growth model and doing so in a logical, sustainable manner, kept the festival to one week, and solely focused on New Original Works. 2021 will keep its feet firmly in Old Town (the 2020 festival was cancelled due to COVID-19) with a focus on new works and a return to the Renegade Showcase, where local theatre companies can bring their most daring, gritty, and interesting productions to the festival.