Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Guest Review: Saskatoon Fringe Festival

By Guest Reviewer: FIELY A. MATIAS

Guest Festival Ranking: 5 BOWTIES OUT OF 5.

Mr. Fringey’s Description: Benjamin Franklin meets Will Rogers in drag.


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

1. THE STAFF: I loved the Fringe staff at the Saskatoon Fringe Theatre Festival! Very friendly, very helpful and everyone of them came to see my show. I'm still friends with them! I was billeted, all my questions were answered in a timely manner whenever I called, I was paid on time and always treated with a friendly smile!

2. THE AUDIENCE: They came out in droves! I was scheduled into a 160-seat venue and had several sold out performances! The audience was fun, welcoming, playful and numerous! Very friendly city!

3. THE MEDIA COVERAGE: The media coverage at the Saskatoon Fringe was amazing! From the newspapers to the radio to the television stations (big and small) -- the coverage of this Fringe was so well-rounded and complete! My show (and my ugly mug!) appeared several times in the StarPhoenix, I was interviewed by two radio stations, and appeared on two television programs (one national, one local). Lots of press -- it was great!

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

1. FRINGE CONFUSION: There are two Fringe festivals of sorts in Saskatoon. The street fair (buskers, live music, dry ribs and tons of carousing teenagers) and the theatre festival. In one sense this works, the street fair brings people to your venue area but many seem unaware that there is a theater festival going on -- they're there for a burger and some drinks. So, there are plenty of folks to whom you may attempt to sell your show but many times they are happy simply catching a busker show or two, eating and leaving. And the newspapers/media are covering the theatre festival while printing about the street fair. The drawback - sometimes the theatre festival gets lost amongst all the food carts and buskers. This can make it difficult to sell your show -- but not impossible. Keep plugging away with your press, flyers, posters and chatting people up -- the good people of Saskatoon are very open to hearing about your show!

2. HOT GYMNASIUMS: I hesitate to even mention this as my venue was a hot gym and I had the third highest selling show of the fest in 2007. It's clear, the heat doesn't keep audience away! Hot venues and sweating are to be expected at many Fringe fests but in July on the plains in Canada -- kids, it gets hot!

2. AGAIN, THE DRY RIBS: I loved and hated dry ribs - all at the same time! If you have never had a deep-fat fried beef rib, you can't begin to imagine the agita involved! Love the taste, hate my waist! Get ready to gain weight on all the yummy street fair food! :)

Ease of Filling Seats:

What's the best way to fill your seats here marketing-wise?

Like any Fringe -- get out on those streets and chat people up! Whether it's postcards or giant posters attached to the top of your backpack (my personal fave that worked well for my show!), talk and talk and talk and have fun and talk some more! Get your press out on time with great, colorful professional photos, go see other Fringe shows -- be seen! Make yourself as accessible to the press, the potential audience and other Fringers as possible. PS. Really, in my experience, flyers are a bother to audiences waiting in line. Be creative and that will get you more audience than shoving flyers in people's hands that end up in garbage anyway.

Is there a fringe central?

Yes, there are Fringe offices where the staff works/lives -- :) -- and tickets are sold. Signboards for each show are displayed outside of these central offices. PS. In 2007, a performer could sign up for a free sandwich board for the entire fest. Decorate it as you wish!

Is there a showcase for out of town performers?

Not that I'm aware of. There were press/marketing opportunities but not outright one-night-only showcases for either local or out of town performers. Edmonton and Vancouver have this down pat -- I would love to see this event take hold in Saskatoon!

Potential to Make Money:

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

Do performers see other shows for free?

Not in 2007. We all used 'passwords' that immediately put us on a 'Comp ticket' list and got us into shows. Oops -- was I not supposed to mention that? :)

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

No. I think I was paid twice -- once half-way through the fest and a final payment the day after the fest closed. I was paid on time and correctly by check.

Navigation of the City

What city do you fly into and how did you get to your destination?

I drove. I was touring the CAFF across Canada. Driving around Saskatoon was easy -- there's one road in and one road out if you're heading east to west. :)

Can you walk to all the venues? If not how did you get around?

Absolutely! I found that all the venues were centrally located and within easy walking distance of each other. And you can always get some dry ribs from that street fair along the way!

Did you use fringe fest lodging? If so, how was the lodging? If not, who did you stay with?

Yes, I was billeted by the Fringe at a volunteer's house. I loved it! The billetors were wonderful people, I had plenty of room and privacy (a private upstairs apartment to myself), located very close to the Fringe. Thanks, Saskatoon!

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)

A tiny sock. I didn't find Saskatoon expensive.

Fringe Specs:

Age in Fringe Years: 37 (Wow!)

Festival Dates: July 30 - August 8

Application Deadline: September 2, 2009

And: The "Best Little Fringe" in Canada.

Applying: On-line application form

Festival Cost: $650.

Ticket Prices: $12 or under.

About Mr. Fringy's Guest Reviewer: Fiely Matias (17 Fringe fests)

LOUNGE-ZILLA! (Orlando, San Francisco, Atlantic/Halifax, Ottawa, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Vancouver Fringes) THE NAKED GUY (Orlando Fringe) SQUARED, THE GAME SHOW (Orlando Fringe) NOT SHIRLEY MACLAINE (Seattle, Kelowna, Sudbury Fringes - none still in existence)

Mr. Fringey’s tag: The freest fruit on the tree.

Check her/him out at:: fielymatias

What categories does your show fall under? (IE, comedy, women, religious, etc).

Comedy, cabaret

How long have you been fringing?

17 years! I'm that old! My first Fringe was in 1992 (Seattle and Vancouver if I remember correctly) and I have performed at the Orlando (4 times), San Francisco, Vancouver (twice), Kelowna (defunct, I think), Seattle (defunct, I know), Edmonton, Saskatoon, Ottawa, Sudbury (defunct?), Atlantic/Halifax - if you include non-CAFF Fringes like the FringeNYC (twice) and Prague, I have performed in 17 Fringe fests.

How many fringes do you do each year?

Varies -- some years one or two, some years I tour, some years not at all.

What has been your favorite fringe?

Oh gosh -- you're asking me to pick my favorite child. No can do. Let's just say, I've never met Fringe that I haven't liked. There's been many great experiences at each Fringe in which I've participated!

What has been your biggest money making fringe?

Top 4: Orlando (biggest), Edmonton (second biggest), Vancouver (third), Saskatoon (4th) -- all fairly close in dollar amount!

What fringe did you make your most important contact?

Orlando Fringe (Beth Marshall). Among oher contacts, she invited us to perform at the CAFF member annual meeting which introduced me to all the other Fringes. Thanks, Beth! PS. I have made alot of great contacts in all the Fringes.

In one word, why do you fringe?

FREEDOM! If you allow me more than one word: I Fringe because it's an artist's dream come true in that it is a non-censored, non-juried playground for theatre performers to express their creativity however they like. And if you saw my shows, you'd understand why this appeals to me! :) Bonus: I have made some great, lifelong friends over the past years Fringeing around North America!

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

I'm writing a new show this year so look for me in 2010 with several shows: 'LOUNGE-ZILLA!' - we have yet to perform in Montreal, Winnipeg, among others -- 'Bitches of The Kingdom', a new musical in which the storybook princesses comically bemoan their treatment and exploitation in the Disney animated films -- 'The Naked Guy', a live sitcom hit that played to sold out houses at two separate Orlando Fringe fests (100-seats sold-out for entire run & 250-seats sold-out run)!
Do you use your own tech person at your shows? If so, how much do you pay them?

No. I use the Fringe-provided tech and have had great experiences!

Any fringes to avoid?

The ones I'd tell you to avoid are already gone! :)

Photos by:

Eric Esteban, Orlando Florida

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