Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The United States Fringe Festival Conference USAFF

For the past four years there’s been a secret fringe festival meeting going on in October…. in secret…. sort of. (It’s only a secret if you’re not the producer of a fringe festival). So, for dudes like me and performers like you… it remains….a secret. The producers get together like I guess senators and heads of states do and discuss the STATE OF THE FRINGE.

Mr. Fringey caught up with Beth Marshall, the Producing Artistic Director of the Orlando Fringe Festival and the host of this year’s STATE OF THE FRINGE MEETING and asked her to fill me in on all the fringe secrets.

Q: What’s the official name for your meeting?

A: The United States Fringe Festival Association Conference.

Q: How long have you been meeting?

A: 5 years.

Q: Is it in the same place every year?

A: No, it’s hosted by a different festival each year. Next years it’s in Kansas City. Last year it was in DC.

Q: Who showed up this year?

A: MN, Indy, KC, Frigid, NYC, New Orleans, Delaware, Chicago and Washington D.C.

Q: Wait! If I take the first letter of each of the words of your conference it stands for USAFF. Does that mean the USAFF is the same as the CAFF?

A: Hardly. The CAFF or Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals has a mandate that says what a fringe is.

Q: Yeah, when I visited the CAFF website (http://www.fringefestivals.com) I kind of got the idea that the Canadians had the whole fringe thing down. When I went to the USAFF website – http://www.fringefestivals.us. It seemed like what a fringe is in the US was all over the map.

A: Exactly. There’s a real strong challenge here in the US determining what a fringe is.

Q: What does Canada say a fringe is?

100% of $ from ticket sales go directly to the ARTISTS involved!

Q: That’s what I always thought a fringe was, but the New York Fringe is juried, the Cincinnati Fringe only gives you 50% of the door, etc. It seems like every city has it’s own rules.

A: Which is why the USAFF is only an organization in theory. Until there’s an agreement in terms of what guides a US fringe festival it will remain but an idea. Until then there’s no legal authorization for the use of it.

Q: We can barely agree on healthcare, I doubt a bunch of artists are going to agree on something like this. It seems pretty simple though.

A: Exactly. There is a reason that the festivals overall are doing well in Canada and that’s because you don’t mess with a business model that works. We’re now the longest running fringe festival in the US. In 1997, we were $45,000 in debt and we still decided to give 100% back to the artists.

Q: So, what do you do at your secret fringe meeting?

A: It’s a producer’s conference.

Q: So, you have brainstorming sessions on what the fringe is?

A: We hold the meetings so we can act as Fringe Mentors for the new fringes. We require that new fringes attend a Newbie day as a requirement to belonging to part of the secret club. That way we can use our own established reputations to help new and emerging festivals gain recognition around the nation.

Mr. Fringey's disclaimer: Beth doesn't really say "exactly" all the time, it's just that Mr. Fringey couldn't read his notes from the interview


Amy said...

That was really cool of Beth to do an interview with you! The Orlando Fringe is the US Fringe that has run itself MOST similarly to Canadian Fringes for the longest amount of time (Indy now also runs itself like Canadian Fringes), and it therefore attracts more Canadian Fringers than any other US-based festival. I've noticed that a lot of Canadians kind of, um, laugh at the idea of doing US Fringes that don't give the artists 100% of the box office, or that are juried or partially juried, and I get that...if you can go to festivals where you don't have to divide your box office with anyone at all, why would you settle for 60%, or even 50% (Cincinnati)? I kinda wish the US Fringes that have eschewed the Canadian model would rethink this. It would be so nice to have "fringe uniformity" in the States...it would sure make it easier to explain what the heck a "fringe" is, and what "fringe" means. :)

Anonymous said...

I wish Orlando could teach some biz lessons to the rest of the US fringe world. The other fringes really are clueless when it comes to embracing the traditional fringe business model.

debbydoll said...

Long Island Fringe Festival is doing it's best to embrace the essence of fringe.

We are accepting 2010 applications NOW! We hope to see many of you there. Chosen by lottery.

We are learning as we go. We hope we do fringe proud.

debbydoll said...

....and I guess if anyone was looking for fringe festivals, they might search for one on Long Island.

The bucolic setting for this fringe is a breath of fresh air, held in Brookville, NY, off the beaten path. September 24-25-26-2010 -

Why don't you join us this year.

Fringe in style at Tilles Center for the Performing Arts. Applications are available online.
Just GOOGLE Long Island Fringe Festival.

Boulder International Fringe Festival said...

The Boulder Fringe is also 100% unjuried, 100% uncensored, 100% accessible and 100% of the box office proceeds go to the artists.

We're accepting applications for the 2011 Fringe now through January 30th, online at www.boulderfringe.com

Huzzah for Fringe!