Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Guest Review: Phoenix Fringe Festival

By Guest Reviewer: David Gaines

Guest Festival Ranking: 3 out of 5 bowties.

Mr. Fringey’s Description: A thick safety net performance festival hiding under the title of Durham flour spaghetti. (Do you even need spaghetti when there’s so many other options out there?)


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

1. Seriously dedicated Production staff who bent over backwards to make their fringe (and my visit to it) a great experience.

2. A really interesting place, at the intersection of fancy high-rise building city, ASU college world, and a dedicated artist-scene that occupies funky spaces around parts of the city landscape that are like a cross between Paris, Texas, and Santa Fe. (Imagine, say a café that serves really nice soups and sandwiches, run by a mellowed ex-biker, next to a scrap-yard sculpture garden with really quite nice pieces in it.) Etc.

3. This fringe is just in its infancy, but it will grow. It has good people at its helm, backed by committed funders, and I saw some really good work there – from Moving Melvin Brown (who taps, shuffles, tells personal anecdotes, and sings like everyone from Nat Cole to James Brown) to the best of the “horror movie turned into a musical” plays I saw all year!

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

1. Location,

2. Location,

3. Location. It’s a long way from most other places that the usual fringe suspects live. So it’s a bit of an investment to travel there from the East Coast. Audiences are still small, so you won’t make a pile of money, but you will have a good time (at least I did), and it’s a great opportunity for a road trip (or a fly-trip) to the southwest of the country. Heck, if you fly into Vegas (which is cheaper) and rent a car to drive the 5 hours to Phoenix, you can see a show and lose money, and start having fun before you even get there!

Ease of Filling Seats:

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

This is the difficulty. We didn’t fill the seats, but were never empty. There are few people strolling the streets, as it’s so hot and we didn’t find any “piazza-walking-strolling” sort of area in town. However, there is a “First Friday” festival that was great for carding people. Lots of streets blocked of and teeming with strolling folk checking out open-late shops and galleries, stalls in the streets, etc. That was great carding. But of course, as with all marketing, who knows if that’s who came?

Is there a fringe central?

Yes. It’s a café (with GREAT coffee) attached to one of the performing spaces, and there were a couple of couches there, a laid back attitude (former San Franciscan ran the place), nice rough art on the walls, and a bit of an “If there’s nobody here, we’re not open, but you’re welcome” attitude.

Is there a showcase for out of town performers ?

No, there was not a showcase, which is too bad for both out of town and in town performers. But they did try to work with out of town performers (as much as their budget allowed) to try and make it feasible for them to come to perform in the fringe.

Potential to Make Money:

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

When I did it (2009) tickets were $7, and you got $6 of each ticket.

Do performers see other shows for free ?

As I remember it, yes.

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

You get paid after the festival, when they do the final accounts. This wound up meaning I got a check – I don’t know – a few weeks after the festival. That doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.

Navigation of the City

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

I (we) flew into/out of Las Vegas and rented a car to drive the 5 hours to/from Phoenix. It made for a nice weekend before it, and the flights and car rentals are both cheaper to/in Vegas than Phoenix . That said, it’s probably cheaper to fly directly to Phoenix if you aren’t going to rent a car.

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

You could, but the venues were basically in two hub areas, and the walk from one area to the other was quite long. We drove, but a bike would probably be the perfect method.

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

The fringe got us a great deal to stay at a lovely hotel in the middle of town, near our theatre cluster. Others stayed in other hotels and maybe in people’s houses around town.

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)

I would say disregarding the cost of travel and accommodation, a tiny sock. But if you can’t find cheap accommodation and travel, I’d have to say the tube sock of a man with really fat feet. That is, a lot of cost up front, and then skinny towards the back end.

Fringe Specs:

Age in Fringe Years: 2 tiny toddler years

Festival Dates: April 2nd - 11th, 2010. Performances will be on the following dates April 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, and 11.

Application Deadline: XXX

And: It’s vague enough to be a sort of juried process, but vague enough to sound like a lottery. (Mr. Fringey has heard this one before… uh… from….NYC?)

Applying: http://phxfringe.org

Festival Cost: $35 application fee + $300-$525 participation fee.

Ticket Prices: $7 per ticket (plus 3% if using a credit card)

About Mr. Fringy's Guest Reviewer:

Mr. Fringey’s tag: The future world title contender for the heavy weight fringe festival performer belt.

Check her/him out at: www.davidgainesperformance.com

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

Comedy, clown, mime, cartoon, movement theatre, mask

How long have you been fringing ?

This is my second summer. Started in DC in July, 2008.

How many fringes do you do each year ?

2008: 1

2009: 5

2010: ? (maybe 5…)

What has been your favorite fringe ?

“Which of your children do you love the most ? ” I have had a great time enjoying the different flavors of each fringe. Orlando’s big, Cincinnati is warm and loving, Indianapolis is a big Dame-Edna hug, Phoenix is an inspiring little engine that could, the DC fringe gave me my start, and Philadelphia … well Philadelphia didn’t really open the door and invite you in, but once you were there, they were very nice to work with. But with having to book your own performance space, and not providing accommodation, they didn’t make it easy for an out-of-towner.

What has been your biggest money making fringe ?

I think maybe Indianapolis .

What fringe did you make your most important contact ?

No easy answer to this. I’ve met people that have delighted me at each of the festivals (except maybe Philly, where I was commuting, so I never saw any of the other artists) – mostly the other artists and the festival workers. But I have not yet met a guy with a cigar in his mouth and a wad of $100’s in his bulging pocket saying, “Let me take you away from all this and make you a star…” Maybe at the next one.

In one word, why do you fringe ?

The sense of comraderie with the other performers. A jamboree with “my people”, and the chance to have real contact with the audience members after the show.

And, of course, to sell T-shirts.

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

“7 (x1) Samurai” – (pronounced “Seven by One Samurai”)

Do you use your own tech person at your shows ? If so, how much do you pay them ?

No. I have only four simple cues, so I rely on the venue tech.

Any fringes to avoid ?

I would say no. (At least I haven’t hit it yet). But be forewarned – for Philly, you have to do all the venue finding, negotiating, and producing yourself.

Photos by:

Promo photo art by: Jonathan Benham

Mask-switching photo by: Aude Guerrucci

Photo of me in Phoenix fringe dressing room: Susan Thompson-Gaines

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