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Fringe theater goes on parade with the 26th annual Abbie Fest

Mary-Arrchie's Yippie tribute features 72 hours of performances starting with a march from Daley Plaza.

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The 26th annual Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins Theatre Festival, a weekend of nonstop performances, kicks off this Friday with a 2 PM march from Daley Plaza to host Mary-Arrchie Theatre's home at Angel Island in Lakeview. Named for Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman, who was arrested and tried as one of the Chicago Seven, the festival harkens back to a time before the NSA monitored our phone calls and Miley Cyrus scarred our eye tissue. The onstage proceedings begin at 7 PM with an opening benediction from Mary-Arrchie artistic director Richard Cotovsky, who'll channel the late prankster, activist, and author.

This year's Abbie Fest features more than 40 theater groups and performers, from comedy to improv to mimes. Highlights include festival mainstays such as Arlene Cook's Gas Mask 101, set in the Vietnam era, and Matt Borczon's Wild Dogs, a drama with two men and a loaded revolver, both Friday. Just after midnight Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble offers a dance interpretation of T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland."

On Saturday night admission to Abbie Fest covers a special performance of Mary-Arrchie's current show, the Reader-recommended Hellish Half-Light, a collection of short Beckett works directed by Jennifer Markowitz. Sunday afternoon brings readings from Hoffman's 1971 book Steal This Urine Test and a musical performance by the Abbeys, among other happenings. Cotovsky resumes his role as Hoffman for the closing festivities, which end just before midnight.

With the exception of Hellish Half-Light, performances run no more than an hour, and both daily and weekend passes offer "come-and-go privileges." Hopefully Abbie Fest will offer, as Hoffman writes in Revolution for the Hell of It, "Energy—excitement—fun—fierceness—exclamation point!"

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