Twilight of the Fringe

Actually, as I write this, it's looking more like the Apocalypse.  Monster thunderstorm, lightning over the Baldacchino, etc.

So, we're winding down, eh?  Which seems like a good time to start asking big-picture questions.
So tell us:

How did Fringe — not the shows, but the festival itself — work for you as an audience member this year? As an artist?

What are your thoughts on the venues? On the schedule?

On the artists who participated, and on those who didn't?

On the Baldacchino, and the bar staff, and the dreaded Button?

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  • Zippy

    DC Fringe 2008 was awesome. Many thanks to all of those who worked so hard to make the festival come together.

    A few random comments/suggestions/rants (in no particular order):

    - No late seating? Duh! This policy is all over the web site, stated several times in the festival guide, and printed in bold at the top of every printed ticket confirmation. Some of these venues are the size of my walk in closet and some shows were only 45 minutes long. Get to the venue on time!

    - Buttons? Get over it. It was $5. Buy a button, take it with you to every show, and take advantage of the merchant discounts before and after shows. FYI: Comp tickets and press passes didn't require buttons.

    - Baldochino? A great idea that didn't seem to come together as well as hoped. Tweaks? Serve beer/wine past 11pm on the weekends (I realize that this was a DC permit issue, but someone should have some contacts that can find a way around this). Have a band / open mic night / improv / preview session every evening.

    - More midnight shows! We don't sleep and would like to see more shows.

    - Less rain. OK... that is Bob Ryan's fault. I'll petition him for less rain next year.

    - I would love to see a show day/time matrix somehow built into the program. I spent a lot of time flipping back and forth through the program trying to figure out what shows I could see on a particular day at a certain time.

    Thanks again for a great DC Fringe 2008. I am looking forward to next year already.

  • M

    I missed that there were no early weekday shows this year. Last year I caught a couple shows on a Friday at 3 and 4 in the afternoon. Most M-F start times this year were around 6:30pm. I would prefer at least a few offerings around 4 or 5pm (this year there were NONE) so I could see a couple of shows after work before heading home.

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  • STS

    Note for 2009: No venues that are not air conditioned!
    The Shop needs vents for hot air exhaust to supplement the poor excuse for A/C that simply could not cope. The UU church was bad both for heat and acoustics.

    I don't think the button is such a bad thing. If you see a lot of shows, the $5.00 adds little to the toal cost. Next year, button-haters will be used to the idea, and by 2010 it will be a given.

    Although it often seemed that lot of things I wanted to see were at the same time, the schedule was fine. I liked it that there were some different choices during the two weeks - fewer conflicting time overlaps that way!

    The program needs to give times and locations in the day index. It was difficult, to the point of impossible, to come out of one show and figure out if there was another show nearby to go to. The website helps somewhat, though it too did not have location,date,and time in the same place, but the internet is not much use when you're on the sidewalk with a few minutes before another show you might want to see. Location codes would be handy for this purpose, giving area and specific theater. AM1, AM2, for instance, to indicate Adams Morgan and NY1, NY2, etc the 7th and NY Ave cluster, DC1,DC2 etc for the venues in the Dupont Circle area, Studio, Source, Cole, Universe.

    The Baldacchino was mostly dreary whenever I was there, but I was never there for a performance, so maybe it was livelier sometimes. It did not strike me as an inviting place to hang out between events in the 7th and NY area, which is what I'd hoped it would be.

  • Jack Grossman

    Pest. There was a great site that offered incredible Fringe coverage-and that was DC Theatre Scene, and they had young reviewers cover the "young shows." CP did a great job, so thanks to everyone who covered the festival.

  • Maggie

    Pest, don't be ridiculous! The "picks" are all about how much you can twist your friend's arms to register in a website they are never going to use again. Who wants to do that? I know of TONS of friend that wanted to vote but refused to be part of that scam. So, really, those picks means nothing, NOTHING AT ALL!

  • Pest

    Let's take a moment to discuss the Twilight of the City Paper.

    The WashCP was the champion of fringe audiences before there was a festival. What happened? The majority of the audience "best picks" were either tersely dismissed or ignored by you and your team. There's something wrong with that.

    Mr. Graham, with all respect, please release your grip from the CP and move on. No one can deny that you are a gifted critic, but you are out of touch with us. You would be a perfect fit for Metro Weekly, maybe even The Times. Please pass the CP torch to someone else and give the groundlings our paper again.

    To give due credit, the overall scope of coverage did improve this year. The guest reviewers were a nice touch when they weren't trying to channel your "wit." Monkey see, you know. We all understand it's your house, they just live here.

    We need that voice for the young and the new. F&P should take the lead in setting a positive and inclusive tone for creativity, experimentation, breakthrough, mindless fun, success, failure and everything else that the fringe festival encompasses. WashCP should capture that spirit all year long.

  • Anita

    Our shows were delayed briefly to let in latecomers, so depends on who is managing--perhaps overall policy is needed. In other shows, the placement of the stage makes coming late difficult. You would have to cross the stage area, as at Flashpoint, unless management was willing to sneak you through the dressing area.

    The purpose of the buttons needs more explicit explanation, perhaps the reason so much controversy and disappointment was generated. Every ticket/button buyer should be made aware immediately of the businesses that participate in the year-round discounts available to fringe participants. Lists should be available at the door of each performance. Audience members could use the buttons for food and drinks before or after the show at the least. I overheard one person asking about restaurants in the area, and the ticket seller didn't have a clue. Sure, the booklet and website do offer explanations, but this information shouldn't be buried in the literature, but have high profile. I think many buyers simply tossed the buttons after the show. Fringe buttons are good advertisements and reminders all through the year, increasing fringe awareness throughout the community while encouraging local economy.

  • Julianne


    Wow! What an energizing few weeks we all just had! The bad shows to excellent…we had ourselves a Fringe. Boasting a record 41 sell out shows…I will let tell Trey tell the rest of the numbers…our third year has given us growth, the hiccups and a sense of purpose to continue on. This is no easy task for us as we forge in path of creating an outlet for visiting and local performing artists. We sooo appreciate the artist that produce their works in the Fringe and the patrons that take the chance on them! We get some things so right and others…we will grow into communicating better and crafting to suit the artists and patrons that support Fringe. We think there is a place for Fringe here in the nations capitol…all we are doing is getting it started. We believe DC is a great city. We are more than just a three week fringe festival – watch us grow…and once again July 9 – 26th, 2009 we will roll out the welcome mat for visiting and local artists and patrons. We are not going anywhere – we are getting bigger, better and more toned each year. If you have comments about the festival I suggest you contact the Festival ( email, phone…). We are here to make this event for you! We love to hear what worked and what didn’t…it only makes us better.

    Again, thanks to all those that live right here and those that come to play with us in July for making this a record year for Capital Fringe!

  • Rosanna

    "Diamond Dead" won Best Musical, but nobody from the City Paper reviewed it? What's up with that? I didn't get a chance to see it (though I wanted to) and I'd like to know what I missed.

    Someone I talked to at the Closing Night party thought it would be a good idea for the Fringe to have more child-specifc programming, and have one venue that is designated for this type of performance.

    I have to admit, the Button was a real sticky point, especially when I was drawing a comp for a critic/reviewer. To have such a person show up, expecting to walk right in, only to be stopped to shell out an unexpected $5 for the button -- I didn't think that would make for good relationships between the artists and critics, so I attempted to buy these buttons online for them, only to be told after the fact that I couldn't! There has to be a better way.

    That point aside, I was delighted for this unparalleled opportunity to make a real "swing for the fences" in my new career as a rock opera composer. I am incredibly grateful for the dedication of all the Fringe staff for making this possible for people with big dreams. Having done it now, who knows where it'll lead?

  • Nick

    Between the nazi no-late-seating policy (I was turned away at 9:55 for a 10:00 show!) the poorly structured guide, and the @#?%$ buttons, it was prohibitively difficult to see a show at the last minute. There were many days when I would have stuck around to see a show after work, but it was just too difficult to even figure out where to go- and I work in Penn Quarter!

    But the training factory was great...

  • Josh

    Getting a call Wednesday Afternoon about volunteering Wednesday Night. Show up in two hours. 24hr notice people!
    Volunteers getting nothing but free admission to a not sold out one hour before curtain show.

    Providing volunteers only with a button is a better idea, they are interested in fringe and will be going to shows anyway, instead of the "last minute" free ticket makes more sense.

    Better rules, exemptions, freebies, explanations about time sign ups for volunteers on the application form not a later memo. A Group affiliation category on the volunteer application might make it easier to fill whole day/night Fringe shifts with like minded people.



  • Jen

    Having to pay a bunload of cash for seeing multiple shows (artist pass only helped defray the cost on the slight), and ending up spending more between other show tickets and parking than we will make back from performing.

    But that being said, I had a great time, and thanks to everyone for making us best musical!

  • Sean

    I think the committee did a great job. If the intent were to make another stop on the fringe circut, then yes, a more compact festival in time and geography would make sense. But that was not the intent of this festival. The intent was to involve the whole city, and bring out local talent, while also welcoming those from the outside. In my case I hadn't performed for 5 years but the opportunity to use a small space and build a local following over the space of three weeks worked great - and a lot of the people attending my shows were going to their first ever fringe show. My only gripes would be the ticket policies that hindered taking this interest to the next step - the dreaded button acted as an impediment to getting those first timers through the gate, cause now it wasn't just $15 I was asking people to pay, but $20 - a pretty steep ticket for 45 minutes. Also I agree with the posts about performers viewing other shows. Saving $5 but having to risk sellouts by only being able to purchase at the door made me a lot less likely to use my artist pass then if there was a steep discount - say $5 - which in most cases the performers would have welcomed because it would have put more butts in seats. All in all though, a great time and great for the District.

  • Maggie

    What I think is ridiculous, and a total scam, is that people has to create accounts in theater mania in order to vote for a show. What a tricky way to get people’s email. So not fai! I also agree that the button is bullocks and that even though the participant artist benefited from the machinery that is fringe, the publicity, etc. this does not feel like a community at all. Also agree that the scheduling was done poorly, some shows were just the first week while other only the second week.

    Having said that I still think that this IS a great opportunity for artists to show their work and althoguh there is room to improve I think overall is good to have fringe.

  • Larry

    As a performer I have to say there are many things about this fringe that make it less than ideal.... and it's not only because the Cap fringe is only 3 years old - it's because I don't see these kinks being worked out for the benefit of the performers any time.... well, ever.

    Had the planning committee put actual fringe performers with fringe experience on their staff, perhaps many of these issues might one day be addressed - but the sad fact remains, this fringe will most likely turn into well known and successful local theater festival that uses the fringe name to it's benefit while not being an actual fringe.

    Here's why:
    1) The comp system for performers sucks because it's akin to using snail mail over e-mail. Pushing the comp system through ovation for the sake of "tracking" ticket sales, takes the fringe back thirty years. Come on Guys! Make it easy for performers to see other performers shows, period.

    2) Performers have to purchase a button? What the?

    3)Performers have to pay three bucks for a bottle of water at fort fringe... what the?

    4) Performers are only getting 60% of the door at some venues... what the? and on top of that your festival program advertising costs make it out of reach for those with such a low promise of return?

    5) If you want the fringe to grow there needs to be space for community. This fringe is as cold as a fish in some ways.

    a) You expanded the festival dates but didn't look at how this might effect the performance community. This year it was actually 2 fringes - many performers were just coming into town, while other ones were leaving. It makes this years festival seem like a theater factory.

    Those on the fringe circuit return to fringes because of the community created and that can only happen with a concentrated number of dates - expand the festival running time and you've shot yourself in the foot making things like cross marketing shows, building a fringe buzz and things like "award ceremonies" unimportant.

    b) How important is "fringe central" when you offer lip service to preview nights (four were actually advertised at Fort Fringe once the fringe started) but don't follow through with them.

    6) It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out you only need to make people feel comfortable at Fort Fringe to make a central gathering place. Did the festival committee just move to DC? Don't they know sticking a few tables and chairs under a hot tent isn't going to bring people in? Don't they know sticking two sofas in an empty room inside isn't going to have the desired effect?

    It doesn't take money to do this... it takes someone who knows a thing or two about hospitality, community and comfort.

    7) Awards for this fringe are mathematically based... and like last year aren't based on anything except the number of arms you can twist to get adienece members to vote for your show. Are we back in high school?

    Come on CapFringe committee, you're more creative than this. Why not throw your traditional judging values out the window and come up with interesting categories like .... most cigarettes smoked in a show..... best wig in a show.... most likely to forget her lines in a show.....??

  • nofat

    tickets were just a little too pricey for some of the shorter interesting-but-not-great stuff. I saw four shows this year, but I'd have gone to twice as many (and "fringier" ones) if they were only $8 a pop.

  • gg

    thoughts for this year:

    1. More weeks of Fringe. While overwhelming, this extended schedule allowed for more word of mouth to spread. Well-reviewed (or talked about) shows accumulated much better audiences for their final two or three performances.

    2. Photo blog! I love it. Those guys are great and I know it's a boon for artists who didn't have a chance to get someone to come in and take pictures.

    1. The button. What can I say? The idea is nice but in practice it is like something the MVA would do to you. Expensive, time-consuming, and irritating. As an artist, I knew when accepting a Fringe show that there wouldn't be much money in it. I'd rather the ticket price be the total and no add-ons, button optional. Anyone with an artist's pass should not need a button.

    2. Last year, the printed guide included a daily schedule by timeslot. It was IMMENSELY helpful, because you could be standing in DC at 5 on a Friday and find out what was playing in the next hour without having to look back and forth at all the titles. No idea why this wasn't included this year, it was on the website but not in the guide.

    1. Some of the venues seemed way out of the loop - but I don't know if they had difficulty getting audiences to come out or not.

    2. Blog fights. I'd like to say I get riled up by bad poorly written reviews or teeth-gnashing commenters, but in general it's just faintly amusing. Hey, we all need something to do on the internet at work. Everyone loves a good battle.

  • Inquiring Minds

    So, who won the Pick of Fringe awards? I heard there was a ceremony last night?

  • Ms. Dangle

    THANK YOU DANNY! The zombies will be back, full force this fall...

  • Danny

    Diamond Dead was a revelation! It was the only show I went to twice! Nobody was writing about it, but the word must have gotten out; the show was, like, packed each time I went!

    Warehouse was the perfect venue for it; it was dirty, nasty, and kinda risen from the grave, just like the Diamond Dead! I hear they're coming back in the fall--can't wait!