Friday, February 12, 2010

Fringe Fest in Greensboro

The Carolinian talks Fringe Festival with 2010’s organizer Todd Fisher

By John Sanford Friedrich
Published in the Carolinian: Wednesday, February 10, 2010

JOHN SANFORD FRIEDRICH: What exactly is the Fringe festival?
TODD FISHER: It’s a live art festival that is basically a marketing concept – based on the Edinburough Fringe Fest in Scotland. We are pooling resources, with each artist producing their own show but more press attention for everyone. We borrowed the model and applied it Greensboro. Three or four theater groups started it eight years ago. They are making art anyway, we are providing a venue and marketing. Artists don’t have to pay a submission fee. This may be the only Fringe that is absolutely free to artists.

JSF: What makes a piece of art eligible to be considered Fringe?
TF: It has to be original to Greensboro or the Triad. It has to be performed live. So movies and visual art aren’t eligible because there are other film festivals and galleries for those sorts of work. The Fringe is strictly performance art so movies can only be used if they are mixed with a live performance. Out-of-area entries are considered but are informed that they will be the last to be accepted.

JSF: Do you feel the Fringe demonstrates that Greensboro has a desire for this kind of art that simply isn’t being met by the permanent venues?
TF: Great question. Yes, I do feel that there is an audience out there for this type of art and people do want to support it, just by the amount of submissions from people who are wanting to put work into the Fringe. We are inspiring artists to stay in Greensboro and do art here because they have at least one opportunity to display their work on stage.

JSF: Would you consider creating a permanent venue for this type of art? Is anyone else talking about the idea?
TF: You have to create the scene you want see, absolutely. You can’t sit back and let it happen because nothing happens that way. I think all local theatres should do one new show per year. It is difficult to do on a professional level but there are ways around it. There is some banter about this. Everybody says Greensboro needs a medium-sized theatre, with most venues currently around 100-200 seats, or the Carolina Theatre [that] has over a thousand but we need something with around 500 seats. We take what we can get. People volunteer their venues, such as the Roach, Triad Stage and this is more of a service for the community – we’re non-profit and don’t have plans to build a new theatre but we wish someone would! Universities have that medium size capacity – UNCG and A&T both have those. But this is an educational setting not just to entertain. You can have both though, and it would be nice to see the universities play a stronger role.

JSF: A lot of readers of this paper are involved in the Artistic community of UNCG. What advice do you have for those just getting out there and trying to have their own work seen by audiences?
TF: Take it off campus. Try ideas out on campus first, certainly. Submit, submit, submit. It is so much easier now for playwrights because now you can email your script- and filmmakers can send a DVD.
 Look for ways to create opportunity off campus, this sort of experience speaks miles on a resume.

JSF: The Fringe Festival runs through this coming weekend. What sort of programs do we have to look forward on the final days of the festival?
TF: Five shows are left, “Chasing Suburbia” is a musical taking the myth of Perseus and putting it in modern times. This was written by Tommy Droll, a UNCG alum’ like myself. Its campy and funny. Regarding contemporary dance, UNCG graduate student Loren Groenendaal has a creation entitled “Soup” with dance and music and fun. There’s also the “Evening of Short Plays” produced by Greensboro playwrights including seven different short plays. Most are around ten minutes and involving up to thirty people. With shorter works you get a wide array of thoughts and feelings. We’re all volunteers, including myself.

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