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Austin’s Fusebox Festival serves up edgy, original performances

It’s a mashup of every type of arts festival.

The Fusebox Festival offers theater, music, visual art, dance, film, performance art and every conceivable fusion thereof. It brings in creatives from the farthest edges of the international avant-garde and yet also hands the spotlight to locals whose artistic experimentations sometimes get overlooked.

In its 12th year, Fusebox is arguably Austin’s edgiest and most sophisticated festival. Forget corporate-sponsored side parties.

And forget pricey badges or hard-to-get wristbands.

Three years ago, the nonprofit festival opted to make the entire lineup free. (Reservations are needed for many shows. See “How a free festival works.”)

“We’re really trying to set up multiple conversations,” says Fusebox artistic director Ron Berry. “Conversations between what’s happening locally and what’s happening globally. And then we invite everyone to take a deeper dive (into it) — for free.”

This year, Fusebox stakes out the historic Saengerrunde Hall as its headquarters where late night bands, karaoke sing-alongs, installations and other happenings happen — and yes, that’s all for free.

Fusebox compresses dozens of performances and events into just five days. Here are our favorites:

Fusebox faves: No reservation needed

“The Biodiversity of Texas.” 1 p.m. April 9. Fiesta Gardens Pavilion, 2101 Jesse E. Segovia St.

Whimsical art meets science education in this family-friendly, one-hour live show, a project of Austin artist Jules Buck Jones’ “Animal Facts Club.” Imaginative puppets, costumed performers, vividly illustrated backdrops, sound effects and a narrator combine in a live nature diorama show highlighting the wildlife and ecology of Texas. Journey through five Texas ecosystems and 100 million years of Lone Star State natural history.

“Estudio Sobre Triangulo (Studies On A Triangle).” Exhibit hours: 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, noon to 9 p.m. Thursday and April 8, 4 to 7 p.m. April 9. Museum of Human Achievement, 916 Springdale Road.

Mexican artist Daniela Libertad will use a warehouse arts space and various types of media to create a site-specific installation that explores all the various representations and ruminations of a triangle.

“Austin Revolutions Per Minute.” Come and go as you please, 2 to 5 p.m. April 9. Various locations (see below).

Celebrate Austin’s music legacy in a series of vinyl record listening rooms with playlists curated by prominent historians, record collectors, authors, artists and students of the city’s music history. Each of four locations offer a different genre.

For psychedelic sounds and country music, go to the South Austin Popular Culture Center, 1516 S. Lamar Blvd. Blues and jazz will be featured at the Historic Victory Grill, 1104 E. 11th St. At the Texas Music Museum, 1009 E. 11th St., it’s Tejano taking center stage. And at the Local Pub & Patio, 2610 Guadalupe St., punk music plays.

“Bat/Man.” 7 p.m. April 10. Bat Observation Lawn and the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, 305 S. Congress Ave.

Austin composer and sound artist Steve Parker stages the premiere of his latest: a piece for an ensemble of humans and the colony of Mexican free-tailed bats that live under the Congress Avenue Bridge.

Bat calls will be pitch-shifted in real time so they are discernible to the human ear. The bat calls will be accompanied by a conch shell ensemble, a megaphone choir and a funnel horn band.

“Nocturne.” Come and go as you please from noon to 6 p.m. April 10. Big Medium Gallery, Canopy, 916 Springdale Road.

In a haunting video and sound presentation that stretches over an afternoon, Hong Kong-based composer Samson Young uses household objects and percussion instruments to create ethereal sounds for a video montage of night bombing raids — mainly U.S. attacks on the Middle East, ranging from the Gulf War to ISIS. The found footage plays silently on a television monitor while Young creates an expressive soundtrack.

Fusebox faves: Reservation required

“Not A Sad Tale.” 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. April 10. Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Road.

Though she’s always created odd and surreal mechanical sculptures and animations, Austin artist Yuliya Lanina now takes her Russian folk tale-inspired imagery and presents it live in a 20-minute stage performance with electroacoustic music by Russian avant-garde composer Vladimir Rannev.

“Field Guide.” 9 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. April 8, 2 p.m. April 9, 4 p.m. April 10. Off Center, 2211 Hidalgo St.

It’s always an event when the Rude Mechs — Austin’s most vibrant theater-makers — premiere a new work. Collectively created by the ever-adventurous troupe, “Field Guide” mashes up the Brothers Karamazov and stand-up comedy in a surprisingly heartfelt consideration of what it means to be a good person in our narcissistic times.

Big Dance Theater’s “Short Form.” 7 p.m. Thursday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. April 8. Rollins Studio Theatre, Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive.

A stalwart of New York’s downtown avant-garde scene, Big Dance Theater celebrates its 25th anniversary with five short, intense dance pieces inspired by narratives in the short form: novellas, folk tales, diary entries and even pencil drawings and thumbnail sketches.

“Bronx Gothic.” 7 p.m. April 9, 2 p.m. April 10. Ironwood Hall, 505 E. Seventh St.

Okwui Okpokwasili’s critically acclaimed solo performance draws from a childhood in the Bronx and fuses Victorian-era novels and West African griot storytelling in a riveting 75-minute coming-of-age tale laced with humor, love, strangeness and bluntness.

Luis Garay’s “Maneries.” 9 p.m. April 9, 2 p.m. April 10. Salvage Vanguard Theater, 2803 Manor Road.

In a solo performance, Argentinian choreographer Garay leverages athletic physicality in an ironic mode to how we understand the human body in today’s rapidly morphing world.

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