Last year, I wrote a column advising first-time IndyFringe-goers. It's reprinted below, with some updates.
By now, you’ve probably at least heard about the Indy Fringe festival, the annual summer event that continues to grow even as it continues to baffle the uninitiated.
That bafflement is understandable, given Fringe’s free-wheeling nature. Whereas most arts companies have someone at the helm to determine what gets seen and what doesn’t, Fringe Executive Director Pauline Moffat has nothing whatsoever to say about the content of the shows she presents. If a show’s producers pay its entry fee on time, it’s part of the festival, be it a stand-up comedy act, a cabaret concert, an original play, or a guy portraying Buffalo Bill. (Full disclosure: I’m one of the writer/directors this year but I won’t mention the show here. It's not the one about Buffalo Bill, FYI).
The festival runs Aug. 14-24.
So how do you “do” Fringe? Depends on the kind of person you are.
“I’m a planner type.” Then grab a copy of the Indy Fringe program or look through the offerings online (www.indyfringe.org). Pick out a few shows that strike you as potentially worth $15 and an hour of your time.
“I like to be spontaneous.” Then just head down to the Mass Ave area where the shows start every hour and a half from 1:30-10:30 p.m. on weekends and 6-10:30 p.m. on weekdays.
“I just want to go to the really good stuff.” That’s tougher. Your masterpiece might be another person’s yawner. But you can gauge the hits and flops by talking to folks who’ve seen shows, by seeing what’s being said on Twitter (#Fringe14), and by listening to bloggers and reviewers (Nuvo’s comprehensive review section comes out Aug. 20).
“That’s all well and good, Lou, but will you recommend something already?” While I haven’t seen any of this year’s shows, expect crowds at the work of Three Dollar Bill Comedy, ShadowApe Theatre, and NoExit Performance. Now stop pestering me and take some chances. You can find the full list here.
“Hey, those are all local groups. I want to see performers I otherwise can’t see in Indy.” The program outlines those coming in from out of town, many of whom make the rounds to fringe fests around the country. I can’t vouch for any of them, but applaud your adventurous nature and/or sense of Hoosier hospitality.
“Will the hottest shows sell out before I get there?” Fringe shows do often sell out. And this year, that may happen more often since 100% of the seats are now available for online presale. (In previous years it was 50%.
“Between shows, will I be bombarded by desperate performers shoving fliers into my hands trying to get me to their productions?” Yes. Deal with it. And remember that if a performer handing you a flier makes you cringe during a 20-second street encounter, you probably don’t want to spend an hour at his show. You’ll also find street entertainers along Mass Ave to enjoy during downtime. And there’s the Beer Tent, too.
“You said there’s no gatekeeper deciding who gets in and who doesn’t. Can a festival be built without artistic standards?” Apparently, yes, given the popularity of fringe fests around the world and the fact that Indy’s version is now in its tenth season. The theory is that, free of a gatekeeper, artists will create what they want to create—and that freedom breeds exciting productions. And it actually sometimes works that way.
“What’s it going to cost me?” $15 per show, $12 for students/seniors and $5 for kids under 12. A fiver pass gets you five adult tickets for the price of four.
“I looked at the schedule. What’s this 800 BLOC Theatre?” It’s a new space, conveniently located near the new Yats. Just keep heading up Mass Ave. and you’ll find it.
“Where do I park?” There’s lots of free parking around the Cook. Things aren’t bad around Mass Ave, either, if you stay north of St. Clair. If not, prepare to feed the meter between shows and be thankful you aren’t in Chicago.
“What about food?” May I suggest that you try at least one of the street’s newbies, which include Pizzology, Nine Irish Brothers, or Union 50? Or course, that can be a challenge if you are booking a full day of shows with only a half hour in between. Many of the restaurants will be offering special menus to accommodate fringers.
“What happens if I’m late for a show?” You won’t get in. •