As you’ve hopefully heard by now, we are launching our first ensemble-created piece, Juniper Street, this August. Originally we were going to present the piece as part of the FringeArts Neighborhood Fringe Festival. However, we realized that, as a newborn company with a miniscule budget, registering for the Festival would provide poor return on investment.
We are mounting our show in the weeks immediately preceding the Festival in what we call the fringe/fringe Festival, spearheading the launch of a new platform to promote young and new artists creating original work. We would like to return to the roots of what Fringe once meant – encouraging artistic leaps outside of the mainstream theater organizations for little to no cost to the artist. There is no more Live Arts Festival for the Philadelphia Fringe to be on the fringe of; the new names “Presented Fringe” and “Neighborhood Fringe” claim that every show is Fringe. If everything is Fringe, nothing is.
Free. fringe/fringe costs nothing for artists to participate, and we do not take any percentage of box office sales. We recognize that young and new artists do not have the same financial resources as more established groups. To encourage artistic risk-taking, we try to minimize financial risk and maximize exposure. Artists must cross-promote the festival and/or other fringe/fringe shows in their own marketing. The inaugural festival is funded by the participating companies.
Equal. fringe/fringe promotes all artists equally, no matter the scale of the project or clout of the artist. We want to amplify new voices while strengthening existing ones.
Accessible. All fringe/fringe shows are Pay What You Can. We encourage audience membership from all walks of life. Financial circumstances should not prevent people from experiencing art. Artists can suggest donations of any amount, but nobody is to be turned away due to lack of funds.
Are you trying to take down FringeArts? Not at all! We love FringeArts and think it does wonderful things for the city, its artists, and its arts scene. It just isn’t right for us and it probably isn’t right for other companies too. We want to piggyback off of its momentum to give companies that can’t afford its cost a chance to show their work without worrying about going into debt. We want to lower the stress on the artists and encourage even more artistic output. We want to put the Fringe back in FringeArts.
Bad investment? Where’s the math? At its lowest, FringeArts registration is $275. We knew our show Juniper Street was likely going to be performed in an apartment, limiting audiences to ten or fifteen. We also knew that we would have a fairly low number of performances since many of us are current students and scheduling is difficult. With ticket prices hovering around $10 and $15, to break even on the Fringe Guide investment we would need at least half of our audience members to choose to see our show from the Guide (without an ad).
This is a nearly impossible task for newly-formed and young companies. The name recognition isn’t there, so most of your audience will be friends and people they know. Word-of-mouth and personal networking are the real drivers of ticket sales for companies that can’t afford full-page ads in the Fringe Guide. Swift Shuker ([redacted] Co-Artistic Director and director of Juniper Street) wrote and produced a show, XY Scheherazade, in the 2013 FringeArts Festival. They even bought a 1/8-page ad in the guide ($230 for the 2014 Festival). Approximately 8-10 people showed up over the course of the run because they had seen the show in the guide. At $15 a pop, that’s a net loss of at least $355. Even if they hadn’t gotten an ad, the show would not have broken even.
Of course, Fringe registration nets you more than just a few lines in the Guide. FringeArts has a great reputation beyond the city. The administrative team behind the scenes is awesome, and FringeArts provides great press resources. You get a sandwich board. You get a box office (though they keep 10%). You get a membership and Artist Rush – the ability to see any show for $5 if you show up 5 minutes beforehand. These resources are wonderful, but there are alternative solutions without spending $300, and that’s what fringe/fringe wants to do.
How exactly do you plan on doing that? We can form a network of young companies and pool our resources to provide everything the FringeArts Festival can provide for no cost to the artists. We can market our shows together, show them to each other for discounts, and devise the most effective box office strategy for us. We won’t charge for registration or take any percentage of box office sales. Everything will be promoted equally, not privileging any show over any other.
What does FringeArts think? Well, we don’t know. We’ve passed the message on to them but have not yet heard a response. fringe/fringe is not in opposition to FringeArts. It is a new platform, seeking to move in concert with FringeArts to promote young companies in this city. As the movement grows, we look forward to working with FringeArts to establish how best to be Fringe in Philadelphia.
fringe/fringe is accepting submissions from artists until July 20th. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to join us.
Love and art,
[redacted] Theater Company & fringe/fringe