Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fringe Storm Oct 2011

First Fringe Storm - an open fire, pabst, marshmellows, convo.  Great insights, great support.

Steve, having previosly coordinated a now highly respected event, has wonderful insights aso to foot work. Who will back you?  he asks. 

Joe, a previous Fringer himself, is curious about the acts.  Who will you draw, and who will help you? he wonders.

Robert, now working with a major arts organization, seems healthfully skeptical.  What is the festival, truly and succinctly? he speculates.

Good questions, and deeply considered moving forward.

Robert also points out another simultaneous Fringe effort STL!  Luckily, as I have worked with one of its lead coordinators previously, I am excited about the potential for complimentary efforts.

Many hoped to attend and were missed.  Hopefully, they will be able to come to future Fringe Storms, and we can delve all the more deeply into details.

Upcoming: meeting with potential site, and date determinations.

Until then, onward and upward with the questions, speculations, and fervor.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Too Legit to Quit: The Recognition of USAFF

One week ago today, I was eagerly absorbing the world of fringe, mind melding with  cultural leaders of the country like the avatar cat people do that freaky hair-meld with their beast pets.  I found myself in Minnesota, surrounded by all shades of fall, 80 degree weather, and ideas ideas ideas.

That's right...member festival, first year re-running!

I came to the conference through my own inquiries to USAFF, and at the recommendation of the ED of Chicago's Fringe Fest (enjoying a successful sophomore season this year).  I came with questions, and left with more.

I came with questions for the group - seeking the sagacity of these well-seasoned pros.  I left with questions of logistics for our own Fest, confident that YES! this is what StL has been asking for in its own special way and YES! we can listen to and meet its need.

Armed with pages of notes and a brain murkey-crisp with an ocean of ideas, I returned to Fair Lou and now leap forward with planning.  The past week was spent recruiting a crew of artists and administrators, drafting outlines, analyzing the notes.  This weekend, our founders will meet and hash out details so that, sooner than later, we can be added to the USAFF website and national network of Fringe Fests.

The recognition of USAFF is a great step.  Our mentorship continues with a whole sorority of sister cities - each unique, each still growing, each so tuned with their own city's needs.  We also share a network of support and collaboration.  We can share artists.  We can coordinate dates to help with touring acts.  We have a whole wealth of resources.  And soon, I am so confident, we will be able to bring as much to the national scene (both the fresh-faced and and established) as we now draw.

The Festival Legacy

Here we are, delving again into the World of Fringe.  St. Lou holds no strong reputation as a Festival Town, but there is a deep spirit that appreciates and celebrates community and culture, and we see established festivals and fairs grow year by year, consistently accompanied by emerging efforts.

Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis seems to be on an ever growing incline, and their Shake38 has proven an outlet for the passionate Shakegeeks to stretch themselves creatively over the past two years. Companies like HotCity and First Run commit themselves annually to new works festivals, and other regulars on the theater zip have provided opportunities as well.  And Grand Center has been living up to its reputation as the Intersection of Art and Life, when it transforms itself every First Night and literally has people Dancing in the Street.

There's old favorite like TG's Festival of Nations; FP's African Arts, Earth Day and Great Balloon Race; Rib America and Fair St. Louis downtown; Clayton's Art Fair; MoBot's Japanese Fest, LouFest...

And new kids on the blocks of the Grove and Midtown Alley. 

So where will Fringe fit?

This summer, I meandered through live music fests and stumbled upon live acts without even meaning to.  I wandered from corners of live drum corps to intersections with fire spinners.  In the early 2000's, a comedy and improv-centric Fringe Fest charmed for a while - but from what I understand, it wasn't the right time for that fest.  I think the living, thumping, fiery street corners are requesting a brave return.

As far as I know, this will be the first 100% unjuried, 100% uncensored, 100% accessible performing arts festival in the Lou. 

Are we ready?  Yes.

Are we set?  Gettin' there, closer by the day.

Let's go!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


So...What's The Fringe, you say?

The United States Association of Fringe Festivals does a darn good job explaining just that.  I'm not going to reinvent the schpeal.

"Very generally speaking, Fringes are...
  • Focused on the performing arts: Theater, dance, puppetry, spoken word and the like make up the Fringe core, but festivals often may include film and visual arts elements. Fringes don't have a focus on a single discipline or genre, but are a performing-arts smörgåsbord
  • Uncensored: No one gets too fussy about swears or nudity but squeaky-clean content isn't marginal or discouraged, either
  • Easy to participate in: Ticket prices are low for audiences and production fees are low for artists. Show selection varies from festival to festival but is generally quite open to participation by the gamut of amateurs to professionals
  • Festivals: They last from just a few days to a few weeks and involve boatloads of people at multiple venues
  • Original: Fringes feature a huge array of original material—sometimes by design, but usually because that’s what Fringes naturally do well
  • Rapid-fire: Typically, tech is minimal and time is a factor at our festivals. Shows are often kept brief (Fringes most frequently have shows right around 60 minutes in length) and technical requirements kept simple (minor sets, streamlined cues, nothing elaborate)
It all started in 1947 in Edinburgh, Scotland, as an alternative festival that played concurrently with the Edinburgh International Festival. In 1948, Robert Kemp, a local journalist, gave it the name Fringe: "Round the fringe of official Festival drama, there seems to be more private enterprise than before..."

...In the United States, no one organization or individual owns, controls or regulates the name “Fringe.” ...There are no national rules for how each individual festivals operate; the festivals’ content, finances and structure vary from city to city. Generally, however, all the festivals are committed to an open forum of expression that minimizes the financial risks for both artists and audiences. Fringes strive to keep application fees and ticket prices low so that more people can participate in our festivals."

Breaking out...

It's about the artists. It's about the audience. It's about St. Louis.

It's time for St. Louis to create opportunities for artists and audiences to connect.  They are very much alive, lurking amongst the fringes of the mainstream arts community.  They create surprising works.  They are offer vivacity and vital experiences.  They are mighty!

I say we give them more.