Our Story


The Milwaukee Fringe Festival is co-founded  by a team of enthusiastic Milwaukee artists and business professionals who believe in the transformative power of the arts. The event aims to invigorate Milwaukee’s culture, inspire artists, attract artists from outside of Milwaukee to our city, and create a sense of community for artists of all ages, ethnicities, and disciplines.

Co-founder John Schneider brought together fellow co-founders Katie Rhyme, Karen Raymond, Matt Kemple, Eric Engelbart, and Brian Rott to create Milwaukee’s first Fringe Festival in August of 2016.

Schneider met separately with Kemple and Rhyme & Raymond to learn of their desire to create a Fringe Festival in Milwaukee.

Kemple’s venture in years past ended up turning into the Milwaukee Comedy Festival.

Rhyme & Raymond had created a variety show that was essentially a miniature Fringe Festival, entitled MKE Follies. They were looking to extend this series into a full-on Fringe Festival. Schneider, Rhyme and Raymond began to discuss the idea and pushed it forward.

Another key member brought to the team by Schneider is Eric Engelbart, who was a journalist who worked with John Schneider at local alternative newspaper The Shepherd Express. Engelbart used his event management skills to market and brand the fringe and secure grants.

The final member of the original team was Brian Rott, artistic director of local theatre group Quasimondo Physical Theater.

The board of Nice Plays, Inc. agreed to put on the festival as a nonprofit to enrich and strengthen Milwaukee’s arts community. The festival would serve as a way to integrate artists from different areas and walks of life, while also introducing artists to professional companies and generating national attention for Milwaukee’s arts scene.

MKE Fringe will continue to grow to be a national and international event in years ahead, and help to establish Milwaukee as an arts destination to help the arts community to retain its most talented artists, while attracting more visitors to Milwaukee’s vibrant arts community.

Our Team Today

Many of our original co-founders still serve on the Milwaukee Fringe Team today. Check out who we have working with us to make the Milwaukee Fringe Festival great:

John Schneider — Artistic Producer & Co-founder

Katie Rhyme — Managing Producer & Co-founder

Karen Raymond — Programming Producer & Co-founder

Janice Jennings — Accounting & Bookkeeping

Kelly Coffey — Fringe Friend

Don Russell — Fringe Friend

Eric Engelbart — Fringe Friend & Co-founder

Krissy Rhyme — Graphic Design

Contact the Fringe!

For the fastest response please email info@mkefringe.com OR leave a message for our production team by calling (920) 819-5468 or (414) 218-5857.