Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Fringe Festival Lottery System

“Savor obscurity while it lasts. Once you “make it,” your work is never the same.”

From “Ignore Everybody”-by Hugh MacLeod

When I asked a fellow fringe performer (one of the most talented on the fringe circuit) to suggest fringes I should apply to in Canada based on their money making potential she sent me her answer with a disclaimer that I not post it on my blog.

The reason? Well, she felt since the upswing in fringe application popularity and the fact that fringe lotteries are getting harder and harder to get into, why add fuel to the fire with making certain fringes even more popular with publishing it to my blog.

For instance, I have some friends that live in
Minnesota and haven’t gotten into that festival in over three years. How’s that for hometown love? Two years ago, when I applied to the Minnesota Fringe I was wait listed at # 119 (which means there were 119 acts in front of me vying for a coveted spot) and by the time the fringe lottery rolled around, I had moved up the waitlist to #18. Last year, I was waitlisted at 90 (out of about 165 open slots) and by the time the lottery rolled around I moved up to 78. Is the motion on the waitlist disappearing because performers are holding onto their positions tighter?

I’m not sure. I got into Montreal two years ago and cancelled out at the last minute. The same thing occurred for me with the Capital Fringe last year. Things come up. Life happens. I knew I’d be missing out, but I cancelled out anyway. It’s the fringe, it’s not Carnegie Hall.

I think every performer seeks the fringe for their own reasons. For me, it usually involves visiting a city I’ve never been to before, being a part of an artistic community of solo-performers, and balancing that with my ability in that particular city to recoup some of my costs.

If I post on my blog that everyone should apply to the Capital Fringe because it’s my favorite fringe, does it lower my chances of getting in? Does it skewer the application process? Am I shooting myself in the foot?

It reminds me of the same thing the surfing community went through about 10 years ago as surfing grew in popularity and technology made it easier for more people to find waves, and surf in conditions that had at one time been prohibitive. Wet suits were better surfboards were cheaper and more accessible and more and more surfers were exploring the world and telling others about their findings. Should magazines publish secret spots? Would publishing the whereabouts of an undisclosed location make it over-run with crowds?

In a world where everything is now on a Google Map, I’m not sure what to think about this anymore.

What are your thoughts of the lottery system and how it’s been working for you?


ASobler said...

Although I have been burned many times as a fringe performer, I am a firm believer in the lottery system. When you begin to jury a festival, you are no longer providing an un-biased cross section of theatre. It automatically becomes the result on one person (or group of people's) personal taste, and sorry, but thats just not the fringe. To jury the festival automatically changes the spirit, and in my opinion makes it something altogether different. I have nothing against juried festivals, they have their benefits and I have participated in many, but a fringe festival is its own animal, plain and simple.

Just my two (Canadian AND America) cents. :)

Mr. Fringey says: said...

I agree, the fringes without a lottery system - those that are juried - have a certain vibe to them, a certain cliquey feeling, that doesn't quite feel fringey to me.

Ever apply to NYC Fringe? It feels a little gross doesn't it?

If I want to be juried, I'll go back to grad school or commit a crime, I don't need it with the fringe.

Sarah Mikayla Brown said...

Thank you for this post - very interesting topic. We are going with lottery and it was a tough decision. It does present problems, especially with a small fringe like ours. We just want to be able to ensure diversity. Hopefully having a couple of sub lotteries will help with that. My hope is we will grow in the coming years to be able to accommodate more folks who'd love to show their work at our fringe. As for the notion of the pool increasing - we can only hope that as the pools of performers increase, the audiences grow too. Mikayla, Chi Fringe

Amy said...

I agree with Alix - I, too, have been burned many times by the lotteries (example: it took me FIVE YEARS -- five lotteries -- to make it into the Edmonton Fringe!), but I still support them as the fairest way to create the selection of Fringe shows. They're what make a Fringe a Fringe. I love juried festivals too, but I WANT there to exist, always, that even playing field where a totally inexperienced performer can perform an hour before a seasoned veteran and both have access to the same audience, reviewers, publicity, etcetera. I do wish, though, that there wasn't as great a disparity in "degree of competition" to get into various Fringes -- for example, it's a lot harder to get drawn in the Edmonton lottery when you're one of 500 applicants than it is to get drawn in London, ON's lottery where there's maybe 100 applicants. But that would mean the "B" Fringes making a huge effort to up their game to better compete with the popularity of the "A" Fringes, which is a whole different conversation. :)