- Fringe theatre
Fringe theatre is theatre that is not of the mainstream. The term comes from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which name comes from Robert Kemp, who described the unofficial companies performing at the same time as the second Edinburgh International Festival (1948) as a ‘fringe’, writing: ‘Round the fringe of official Festival drama, there seems to be more private enterprise than before’. The term has since been adopted by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and thence by alternative theatres and alternative theatre festivals.
There are also many unjuried theatre festivals which are often called fringe festivals. These festivals, such as the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Adelaide Fringe Festival, permit artists to produce a wide variety of works.
History of fringe theatre festivals
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (founded 1947) is the largest arts festival in the world. Though many shows at the Edinburgh Fringe could be considered fringe theatre, its remit also covers mainstream theatre, comedy, music and many other genres.
The second-largest fringe festival in the world is the Adelaide Fringe Festival. The Adelaide Fringe evolved in the early 1970s as a reaction against the establishment and the then 'mainstream' Adelaide Festival of Arts. Today, although the two events are now inextricably linked, the Fringe Festival has overtaken the main Festival of Arts in terms of attendance. The Adelaide Fringe is renowned for its innovation, spontaneity and carnival atmosphere, and is widely regarded[by whom?] as one of the best events of its kind in the world.
The largest fringe festival in North America is the Edmonton International Fringe Festival, followed closely by the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. Founded in 1982 and 1988 respectively, Edmonton and Winnipeg are the premier stops[weasel words] on the Canadian fringe tour, a semi-official series of fringe theatre festivals that permit performers to travel east to west, from June to September. Canada now has more Fringe Festivals than any other country in the world and each Canadian Fringe festival strongly adheres to the philosophy that a "Fringe Festival" be unjuried, return 100% of box office proceeds back to the participating artists and remain affordable and accessible to all. The oldest and largest Fringe Festival in the United States is the Orlando Fringe.
The oldest and largest fringe festival in England is the Brighton Festival Fringe, which has provided Fringe activity alongside the main Brighton Festival since its creation in 1967.
Fringe festivals are becoming more common, with many major cities throughout the world now conducting their own Fringe Festivals of sorts.
Fringe theatre festival organization
The mechanics of a Fringe festival are fairly simple. The most important element in the administration that creates a Fringe festival as opposed to a "normal" arts festival is the unjuried nature of the performances. Some festivals, notably the New York International Fringe Festival, stray from the original concept in that they pick their participants using a jury-based application process.
All performers are welcome to apply, regardless of their professional or amateur status. No restrictions are made as to the nature, style or theme of the performance. (Some festivals have children's areas, with an appropriate content limitation.) Many[which?] festivals find too many applicants for the number of available spaces; in this case, applicants are chosen based on an unrelated criteria, such as order of application or a random draw. The one common limitation of a Fringe festival is a geographic one; applicants may be divided into groups to ensure a mix of local, national and international talent.
Fringe festivals typically have a common organising group that handles ticketing, scheduling and some overall promotion (such as a program including all performers). Each production pays a set fee to this group, which usually includes their stage time as well as the organizational elements. The organising group and/or the venues often rely on a large pool of volunteers.
Ticket pricing varies between festivals. In most UK fringe festivals, groups decide their own ticket prices, but other festivals sell tickets at fixed rates in one or two tiers, or in groups of 5 or 10.
Although it is unusual for the organising group to choose any winners of the festival, other organisations often make their own judgements of festival entries . Productions can be reviewed by newspapers or publications specific to the festival, and awards may be given by certain organisations. Awards or favourable reviews can increase the tickets sales of productions or lead to extra dates being added[original research?].
Elements of a typical fringe theatre production
The limitations and opportunities that the Fringe festival format presents lead to some common features.
Shows are not judged or Juried, but are accepted in the order received until all performance spaces are filled.
Shows are typically technically sparse; they are commonly presented in shared venues, often with shared technicians and limited technical time, so sets and other technical theatre elements are kept simple. Venues themselves are often adapted from other uses.
Casts tend to be smaller than mainstream theatre; since many of the performing groups are traveling, and venues (and thus potential income) tend to be fairly small, expenses must usually be kept to a minimum. One-person shows are therefore quite common at Fringe festivals.
Fringe festival productions often showcase new scripts, especially ones on more obscure, edgy or unusual material. The lack of artistic vetting combined with relatively easy entry make risk-taking more feasible.
While most mainstream theatre shows are two or three acts long, taking two to three hours with intermissions, fringe shows tend to be closer to one hour, single-act productions. The typically lowered ticket prices of a fringe theatre show permit audiences to attend multiple shows in a single evening.[original research?]
- List of fringe festivals
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