Sunday, November 23, 2008

Guest Review: Ottawa Fringe Festival
By Guest Reviewer: Amy Salloway

Guest Festival Ranking: 4 Bow Ties out of 5.
Mr. Fringey’s Description: The Humid Panty Pantry.

The Sunny-side: (Give 3 reasons this fringe is the bomb)

1. The Ottawa Fringe is really well-managed. The staff (Artistic Director Kevin Waghorn and his crew) has a lot of fun together and creates a really congenial, comfortable, inclusive atmosphere for the artists -- it's clear they value the Fringe participants and want them to have fun and be happy. The staff members are good communicators, they welcome artists into the office, they're easy to get a hold of, they're not easily offended or ruffled, and they run a Fringe that's quite smoothly organized, and yet also isn't overly bogged down by rules and regulations. They also listen to feedback, and take suggestions for how to improve -- for example, the Ottawa Fringe used to have virtually NO web presence -- their website was awful, and no one ever updated it. Performers said, "Hey, um, you guys really need to move into the technological era", and this year -- TONS of web presence. The website is now interactive -- audience members can log in to write reviews, and folks can add interviews, links, photos, etcetera -- and there's a Facebook application.

2. It's a low-stress Fringe. The Ottawa Fringe has a dedicated audience. The city is easy to get around, and easy to poster. Audience members don’t mind being flyered while they’re in line. The technicians are all really nice and really competent. The theatres are decent and close together. There’s food and shopping two inches from the Fringe grounds (entirely surrounding the Fringe grounds, actually). The atmosphere is consistently cheery and relaxed.

3. It’s really social. It’s not a huge Fringe, so it’s a great place to get to know other performers and locals; there’s lots of hanging out at the end of every night, lots of really great conversations.

The Flip Side: (Give 3 reasons this fringe sucks or what makes it difficult)

There’s really no suckage. The entire festival has such a relaxed, endearing feel, I've never met anyone who didn't enjoy being there. I could say that, on the whole, you might not find
Ottawa your piece of cake if you're looking for a BIG Fringe with BIG moneymaking potential -- if you feel unsatiated by anything smaller than Winnipeg, yeah, you're going to be disappointed here. However, if you're not a size queen, there's little pain to put up with. Here are my minor gripes:

1. The volunteers have varying levels of competence, and it’s not unusual to have some box office discrepancies or ticket count errors.

2. The papers are VERY erratic in their willingness to review shows. This is kind of a pain — the Ottawa Sun and the Citizen used to be good about reviewing, but this past year, they were AWFUL — reviewed a handful of shows the first weekend and then quit giving the Fringe publicity altogether. Boo.

3. There's a wide variance in venue size, so if you were hoping for a 100-seat venue and you get one of the 60-seat venues, you might feel a little cheated at the reduced income potential.

4. ....Oh, and 3.5 HUMIDITY. Ottawa is a freakin' HUMID CITY in the summer. Yuck.

Your Money Sock:
How big of a money sock do you need here, based on food prices, and other expenses? (Choose one: A tiny sock, a men’s tube sock, a full blown stocking)
Men’s tube sock.
Ottawa’s relatively affordable.

How to Fill Your Seats: Whatâ•˙s the best way to fill your seats here marketing-wise?
Flyer, talk up your show...nothing unusual.

Is there a fringe central?
There is a “beer garden” on the lawn next to the Fringe's main building (The Arts Court), that contains the outdoor showcase/band/karaoke stage, tables to hang out at, port-a-potties (with hand-washing sinks!), one beer tent, and one food booth. It’s small and, uh, sort of homely, but everyone hangs out there anyway (and puts their sandwich boards up there too).

Ticket Prices:
Do you get 100% of door? If not, how much.

Do performers see other shows for free?
YES, with passwords.

Do you get paid each night? If not how? Were you paid on time if the money was sent to you?

Yes, you get paid after each show. If you forget to pick up your money, or if you're the last show of the night, you can get it in the office the next day. You get the advance ticket sale payout (the NON at-the-door sales) your last day in town, or you can have it mailed to you.

Is there a showcase for out of town performers?
There are showcases at the beer tent all throughout the Fringe, every night starting at
9 pm. They're often themed, like "Solo Performer Showcase!", "Musical Showcase!" etcetera. Some performers really like to participate in them, others feel that flyering and hanging out around the audience in the beer tent is equally good publicity, since it can be hard to get people to pay attention to stuff on an outdoor stage. Besides the showcase, there are also karaoke nights and dance nights at the beer tent, so you can always schmooze that way too.

Venue Location:
Can you walk to all the venues? If not how did you get around?
Yes, you can walk to all the venues.

Travel-in: What city do you fly into and how did you get to you
You can fly into
Ottawa and take a taxi or bus to downtown. Ottawa overlaps the last weekend of Montreal, so the Montreal performers take the bus or train from there, or drive.

Did you use fringe fest lodging? If so, how was the lodging? If not, who did
you stay with?
Yes -- the first year I did
Ottawa, I stayed with the festival director (Kevin); the following two years, I stayed with a volunteer four blocks from the festival grounds. Ottawa is good about finding people billets, though there's not always a lot of lodging super-close to the Fringe area. The University also rents dorm rooms close to the Fringe.

Fringe Specs:
Age in Fringe Years: That sweaty hip 12 year old with all the pimples.
Festival Dates:
June 18 - 28, 2009
Application Deadline: December 1, 2009
And: In 2008 The Ottawa Fringe gave over $80,000 back to the artists involved in the festival. Tickets sales increased by 10% and 12,000 tickets were sold.
Applying: Snail mail application.
Festival Cost: $577.70
Ticket Prices: $10-$12 or lower. You can also participate in the
2-4-1 opening night ticket deal, which almost everyone does to get audiences in the door.

About Mr. Fringy's Guest Reviewer: Amy Salloway
Mr. Fringey’s tag: Repping the Heeb Tribe on the fringe circuit since 1994.
Check her out at: and

What categories does your show fall under? (IE, comedy, women, religious, etc).
I have three shows, all semi-autobiographical solo comedy narratives -- "Does This Monologue Make Me Look Fat?" (written in 2003), "So Kiss Me Already, Herschel Gertz!" (written in 2005), and "Circumference" (written in 2006/2007).

How long have you been fringing?
I've been doing the Fringes in the cities in which I've lived (
Seattle and Minneapolis) since 1994, but I've been TOURING to multiple Fringes since 2004 -- that is, 5 years.

How many fringes do you do each year?
4-7 -- a mix of US and Canadian Fringes. I have never had a year in which I got into all the Fringe lotteries to which I applied. I usually apply to anywhere between six and nine, and usually get into three to seven!

(If it’s relevant, I've participated in:
Seattle (now defunct), Minnesota, Thunder Bay (now defunct), Atlantic (Halifax), Victoria, Vancouver, Cincinnati, Orlando, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, the Rogue Festival (which is basically a Fringe), the Berkshire Fringe (not a CAFF Fringe).)

What has been your favorite fringe?
Ottawa and Winnipeg.

What has been your biggest money making fringe?

What fringe did you make your most important contact?
Minnesota and Vancouver maybe, but really, I’ve made great contacts all over the place...

In one word, why do you fringe?
I would have said “opportunities”, but Cody Rivers took that one, so: “connections”. :-)

What's the name of the show (s) you are fringing this year?

Do you use your own tech person at your shows? If so, how much do you
pay them?
No, no tech person.

Any fringes to avoid?
I have answers to this in my head, but I don’t want them on a public website. :-) I try to think of everything as being a learning experience...

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